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How to track changes in Microsoft Word without going insane

Michael Ansaldo | Feb. 5, 2015
If you've ever opened a document that had more strikeouts than a beer-league ballplayer, you're familiar with Microsoft Word's "track changes" feature. It's one of the most useful tools for collaboration, but in practice a marked-up document can quickly overwhelm with its tangle of additions, deletions, and comments all displayed in multiple colors--one for each contributor. It's enough to make you want to put a big red "X" on the whole thing.

To add comments, first determine how you want the them displayed. The options are Show Revisions in Balloons, which displays comments in a balloon to the right of the document); Show All Revisions Inline, which highlights the text inside the paragraph between vertical lines followed by the initials of the editor; and Show Only Comments and Formatting in Balloons, which displays the comment text on the right connected by dotted lines. Click the preferred option (you can change them at any time), and you're ready to add comments.

Next, highlight the text where you want the comment inserted, then click the New Comment button under the Review tab. Word opens a Review Screen panel on the right side of the page with a vertical line that connects your selected text to a comments box. Enter your comments in it, then press the Esc key to exit when finished.

To edit or reply to another user's comment, click the appropriate balloon on the right side of the page adjacent to the highlighted text. To edit, just make the changes and click the X to close. To reply, click the page curl icon at the top right, enter your reply, then click the X to close.

After the comments are reviewed, you can easily delete them with a few clicks. Toggle the Show Comments button until the balloons appear on the right. Right-click the comment balloon you want deleted. When the comment box appears, place your cursor anywhere on the commented text, click the Delete button, and then select Delete from the list box. If you want to wait until you've reviewed all the comments, click the Delete button, then select Delete All Comments in Document from the list box. They're all removed in one easy step.

Once you get familiar with the capabilities of Track Changes, you'll probably develop your own workflow. Share your favorite tips in the comments, and stay tuned for more Microsoft Word tips.


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