Tracking changes in Microsoft Word is one of those topics that gives so many people so much trouble. The Track Changes in Word feature is great for checking what changes other team members are making to a document you are sharing, and if you are the owner of the document, for accepting or rejecting them. The problems start when people don’t realize that they have Track Changes turned on – particularly dangerous when a document contains sensitive information.
When collaborating with other people on a document, it is useful to see exactly what changes people make to your original copy. It is possible to get Word to record all the deletions, edits, inserts, and formatting changes made by different people working on a document by using tracking changes. When this feature is enabled you can then to go through each change one by one, accepting or rejecting the modifications.
Here’s how to turn on Track Changes in Word
- Click the Review tab.
The Tracking group is displayed:
- Click the icon on Track Changes to turn the track changes on or off.
- Click the drop down arrow on Track Changes to change the track changes options.
- Make any changes you wish, or distribute the document to others to review.
- Turn off Track Changes (you can use any of the ways it is normally switched on with) after all changes you wish to record have been made.
The problem with this approach is that it is not always obvious that the changes are being tracked at all. The only indicator is that the Track Changes button turns orange in Word 2010, blue in Word 2013. However, if you don’t have the Review tab open you won’t see this.
There is another way of indicating when you are tracking changes and that is to set the option to show the Track Changes button from the status bar. All you have to do to enable this feature is right-click on the status bar and tick the appropriate box. Now the button will be visible whichever tab you have visible from the ribbon.
You can now click the icon on the status bar to turn the track changes on or off, and you will always be aware that you are tracking changes when it is switched on.
After you enable Track Changes in Word, every modification to the document is recorded. The way the changes are displayed can be changed, but they will be highlighted on screen in all cases and colour-coded according to who made the change. By default, deletions will also be formatted as strikethrough, insertions will be underlined and all changed lines will be marked as such by a line on the left hand side of the text.
Any formatting changes are shown in balloons on the right margin, but if you prefer you can also display deletions in balloons and formatting changes in the text. To change how the changes are displayed, just click the Show Markup button in the Tracking group and choose balloons – then add the options you want.
Track Changes in Word 2013
The main features are the same in Word 2013, the only difference being that the colour of the button on the review tab is different to that of Word 2010. The Track Changes feature only ever affects the active document; changes in any other open documents are not tracked.