Working with Track Changes

Comments are invaluable when you or your reviewers want to make observations about the text in a document. But when it comes to line-by-line editing changes, Word offers a better tool: Track Changes.

With Track Changes turned on, you can edit a document normally, and Word keeps visual track of all the text you add and delete by color coding the changes based on the user making them. Then, you (or your colleague) can walk through the changes?deciding which to accept, which to reject, and which to modify.

The quickest way to start tracking changes is to double-click the TRK button in the status bar, or press Ctrl+Shift+E. If the Reviewing toolbar is open, you can also click the Track Changes button. (When Track Changes is on, you can use any of these methods to turn it off.)

No matter which procedure you use to turn on Track Changes, Word starts tracking changes in your document. By default, Track Changes behaves in the following manner:

  • In all document views, new text you add appears in color, with underlining.

  • If you are working in Normal view, existing text you delete remains visible but is formatted in the same color, with strikethrough applied. If you are working in Print Layout view or Web Layout view, existing text you delete is displayed in balloons at the right edge of the editing window. You can see an example in Figure 26.10.

    Figure 26.10. With Track Changes turned on, new text is underlined, and deletions are marked with balloons.


  • In all document views, new text added and then deleted by the same user doesn't appear in the document at all.

  • In Print Layout view and Web Layout view, deletions are also marked with triangles pointing down. Formatting changes are marked with triangles pointed up.

  • In all document views, wherever an editing change is made, a vertical line appears in the document's left margin. This makes it easier to find and focus on changes, especially in printed documents.

As discussed earlier, in the section "Introducing Word's Reviewing Toolbar," you can change several aspects of how Word displays tracked changes. For example, using the Display for Review drop-down box on the Reviewing toolbar, you can display the final document with all markup hidden. Or, using the Show button, you can display only the changes associated with a single reviewer.

As is covered later, in the section "Options for Controlling the Track Changes Feature," you can also adjust where balloons and changed lines appear, which colors are associated with changes, and other aspects of how Tracked Changes appear.

Tracking Revisions in the Background

If you're making extensive, line-by-line revisions, you may quickly find all these marks to be distracting; in fact, they can make a document very difficult to read. If so, you can hide them while you continue to mark the document. You therefore see how the document looks with the changes made?and Word continues to store the revisions in the background, so you can decide later whether you in fact want to keep each change.

Display the Reviewing toolbar if it is not already displayed. Click Show, and clear the Insertions and Deletions and Formatting check boxes. Word continues to mark all the changes in your document, but you don't see the change marks until you toggle these check boxes back on.

Options for Controlling the Track Changes Feature

You've already learned that you can control which sets of comments and tracked changes appear in your document through the Show button of the Reviewing toolbar, and that you can control whether markup appears in your document by making selections from the Display for Review drop-down box.

Using the Track Changes dialog box, you can also control several other aspects of how tracked changes and comments appear throughout your document. For example, you can control

  • How insertions and formatting changes are formatted

  • Which color is used to mark changes and comments

  • Whether changes and comments are displayed with balloons in Print Layout view and Web Layout view

  • Where balloons appear, whether lines are used to connect the balloons to text, and how large the balloons are

  • Whether balloons are printed

  • Whether changed lines appear in margins, and if so, where they appear and what color they are

There are many scenarios in which you might need to utilize these controls. For example:

  • If your document already contains extensive underlining, you might want to distinguish change marks with double underlining.

  • If you don't want to see reviewers' comments presented in different colors, you can specify the color Word will always use to display insertions, deletions, comments, and formatting changes on your computer. Even if you specify a single color for review on your computer, when others open your files, change and comment marks will be displayed based on the settings used by their computers.

  • If you want to check a reviewer's formatting changes, you can specify that Word display all formatting changes in color, just as it displays Insertions, Deletions, and Comments. (By default, while Word does track Formatting changes, and does display them in balloons and in the Reviewing pane, it does not mark them with color in the document itself.)

  • If you print interim drafts for distribution in three-hole binders, you can specify that changed lines always appear on the right margin, making them easier to see. Or, if you print documents on both sides of the paper, you can specify that changed lines always appear at the outside margin, away from the hole-punch.

To display the Track Changes dialog box, click Show, Options on the Reviewing Toolbar. The Track Changes dialog box appears (see Figure 26.11).

Figure 26.11. Setting options for how tracked changes appear.



The new settings you establish in the Track Changes tab are global and apply not only to the current document but also to any others you open and use while these settings are in place.

The following sections cover the various features and controls found in this dialog box.

Controlling How Inserted Tracked Changes Are Formatted

By default, when Word's Track Changes feature is turned on and markup is displayed, all tracked changes are shown as underlined text. To change the formatting Word applies to inserted text, choose different formatting from the Insertions drop-down box. You can instruct Word to format inserted text in bold, in italics, with double underline, or with color only. You can also specify (none)?in which case Word won't add any marks to indicate inserted text.

Specifying How Deleted Tracked Changes Are Formatted


For the first time, Word 2003 also lets you control the appearance of text you delete while Tracked Changes is turned on.

By default, when Word's Track Changes feature is turned on and markup is displayed, all deleted tracked changes are shown as strikethrough text. To change the formatting Word applies to inserted text, choose different formatting from the Deletions drop-down box. You can instruct Word to format inserted text in bold, in italics, with underline or double underline, with color, as hidden text, or with either of the following symbols: ^ or #. You can also specify (none)?in which case Word won't add any marks to indicate deleted text.

Controlling How Word Assigns Colors to Reviewers

By default, Word assigns colors to reviewers automatically. If Word runs out of colors, two reviewers have to share a color.

This system usually works well. However, you might want to permanently assign colors to individual members of your team so that you can tell at a glance who made each revision?especially if you're looking at a document printed on a color printer. Although Word can't assign a specific color to a specific reviewer, it can assign a specific color for all changes tracked on your computer.

In the Track Changes dialog box, select the Color drop-down box and choose a color. Or, if you prefer that reviewed text appear in the same color that Word uses by default for other text in the document, choose Auto. This change is saved when you click OK.

Specifying How Formatting Changes Are Marked

Word's Track Changes feature can track formatting changes as well as content changes. When you make a character formatting change to bold, italic, or underline, or a paragraph formatting change to bullets or numbering, Word inserts a vertical line in the outer margin, just as it would if you made a text change. In Print Layout view and Web Layout view, Word also displays a small down arrow at the point where the formatted change was made.

If you change the font, font size, color, or paragraph alignment, no vertical line appears. Even more strangely, a border applied to characters is shown as a change, whereas a border applied to a paragraph is not.

By default, Word does not add formatting (such as underlines) to indicate where a formatting change has been made. The rationale is simple: Users may find it hard to tell which formatting has been applied by the reviewer and which was added by Word to indicate the presence of a change. Word does, however, describe the formatting change in a Track Changes balloon.

Some users prefer to mark formatting changes with underlines or other formatting. To do so, return to the Track Changes dialog box and click the Formatting drop-down button. Using this list, you can specify that formatting changes be marked in boldface, italics, underline, double-underline, or strikethrough, or with color only.

You can also specify which color to mark formatting changes with. Click the Color drop-down box to the right of the Formatting drop-down box, and select the color you want to use.

Specifying the Appearance of Changed Lines

As you've learned, Word inserts a black vertical line at the outside border of any line of text that contains a tracked change. This is called a changed line. To control changed lines using the Track Changes dialog box, follow these steps:

  1. From the Changed Lines drop-down box, choose the location where you want changed lines to appear: Outside Border, Left Border, or Right Border. If you choose None, no changed lines appear in your document.

  2. To use a different color for changed lines instead of black, select it from the Comments Color: drop-down box. By default, Word uses a different color for each author.

  3. Click OK.

Specifying the Presence and Appearance of Balloons

By default, Word marks comments and tracked changes with balloons that appear in Print Layout, Web Layout, and Reading Layout views. You can control several aspects of how these balloons appear. Use the Track Changes dialog box to make the changes you want:

  • Choose when you want to see balloons through the Use Balloons drop-down box. If you always want to see them in Print, Web, and Reading Layout views, choose Always (the default setting). If you never want to see them, choose Never. If you want to see them only for comments and formatting, but not for other changes, choose Only for Comments/Formatting.

  • By default, balloons are formatted as 2.5" wide; if necessary, Word automatically adjusts document margins to accommodate this width. To change the width of your balloons, set a new width using the Preferred Width scroll box. For example, if you have relatively few changes and you intend to print your document with wide margins, you may want your changes to appear narrower but deeper (see Figure 26.12).

    Figure 26.12. Balloons adjusted to a narrower width (1.25") instead of 2.5").


  • By default, balloons always appear in the right margin. If you prefer to place them in the left margin, choose Left from the Margin drop-down box. (Word offers no option for placing balloons in inner or outer margins, as might be useful in booklets.)

  • By default, balloons are always connected to the location in the document where the change or comment was made, via a dotted line. If you don't want the dotted line to appear, clear the Show Lines Connecting to Text check box.

  • By default, Word preserves your current paper orientation (portrait or landscape) when you print a draft containing balloons. Word does so even if it has narrowed your margins to accommodate the balloons. If you are reviewing drafts, you might want to switch to landscape mode to make more room for the balloons (and for handwritten comments on hard copy). To switch to landscape, choose Force Landscape from the Paper Orientation drop-down box. If you want to give Word the option of switching to landscape if that will make the document more readable, choose Auto.

    Part I: Word Basics: Get Productive Fast
    Part II: Building Slicker Documents Faster
    Part III: The Visual Word: Making Documents Look Great
    Part IV: Industrial-Strength Document Production Techniques
    Part VI: The Corporate Word