What Is Track Changes?
We will assume you have been living under a rock if you’re asking this question. But we respect all kinds of homes and life choices (in fact, given the current state of the world, we salute you), so we wanted to make sure we covered the basics.
Track Changes is a built-in Microsoft Word feature that lets you track any edits made to a document. Hence the surprisingly witty name.
The Benefits of Using Track Changes
This little baby could save your life. It probably won’t, but the power of editing should never be underestimated. If you’re not sure when to use Track Changes, here are some great use cases:
- When you’re working on multiple iterations of a document over a long period of time.
- When your boss wants to see that you incorporated their edits in the spiffy report you wrote.
- When you’re working on a document with way too many other collaborators, and you need a way to track who did what and where.
- When you don’t trust one of your collaborators, so you want a way to approve everybody’s edits but theirs.
- When you’re working on a document with a teammate in real time and you need to keep edits straight without losing content or your mind.
- When you’re working on a document with a teammate in a staggered approach and you want to be sure they agree with the edits you made.
- Whenever you’re in a content writing approval process and send a document out for feedback.
- When you want to feel less lonely, so you create an alter ego named Janet and have “her” edit your document (you reject most of her changes; what does she know?).
The Basics of Track Changes
You can view and toggle Track Changes options under the Review menu in the Tracking box.
The basic options are:
- Turning Track Changes on and off and choosing to whom it applies
- Choosing how you want to view edits (simple, all, no, original)
- Choosing the way tracked changes are displayed (by type of edit, by person/reviewer, inline/balloon)
- Positioning your reviewing pane (horizontal/vertical)
The “Changes” box to the right is used to navigate tracked changes and accept or reject them (one at a time or all at once). You can also use it to turn Track Changes off (probably because once you’ve accepted or rejected a bunch of edits, you’re fed up with the document).
The Top Reason People Hate Track Changes
I’ve encountered a number of people from every demographic, field, and job level, who hate Track Changes with a fury. I’ll give you three guesses as to why:
- They feel paranoid about “tracking” anything. What’s next? An FBI van on the corner?
- They think editing documents is a waste of time. One and done, baby.
- They don’t know how to use Track Changes effectively.
It’s number three. At least, based on their specific complaints, I’m pretty sure it’s number three. “How do you work this thing?” “I can’t get it to turn off!” “I don’t know what’s going on or who or when or how!” “There are a million edits!” And the pièce de resistance—the most-common complaint: “How do I view the document with changes incorporated so I can tell whether it reads well and actually ‘see’ the document as it will be?”
That one’s a doozy. Arguably the most important aspect of Track Changes, and the greatest frustration if you don’t know what to do.
One Simple Trick to Make Track Changes Easy
How do you view the document as if all changes have been approved? Let me make your life 17.429% better:
“No Markup” hides all edits and shows the document with changes incorporated.
Don’t worry: No pending edits are approved. No pending edits are lost. You’re simply using the Magic 8 Ball code of Microsoft Word to view the document as it would look if all changes were accepted.
I’ll even do you one better. It’s annoying to navigate to the Review menu and the Tracking box, then select “All Markup” and scroll to “No Markup.” By that time, you’ve forgotten what you’re doing, much less what you’re looking to compare in the document.
So take it from me and create a custom keyboard shortcut for yourself. With a handy-dandy shortcut, you can toggle back and forth between the original and full markup versions instantly. Sometimes I switch back and forth just for fun, to feel powerful.
Now go rip apart someone’s work, with Track Changes as your trusty partner! We’re cheering you on!
Do you want a deeper dive into Track Changes options and use cases? Let us know in the comments. We love helping our readers write better, for themselves and their businesses!
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- How to Make B2B Writing More Compelling Part 1
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- The Danger of Proofreading Your Own Work