If you collaborate with team members on projects, it is likely you might also work on technical documents together from time to time. For such scenarios the built in Track Changes feature in Microsoft Word can bring some sanity to the process. Even if you are not working on complex projects such as an acquisitions and merger contract or authoring a best seller; Track Changes can be just as useful for small group projects, such as school assignments.
Since we last covered this feature in Microsoft Word 2010, there have been major improvements that make Track Changes even more powerful. With the availability of Office Online, users can perform real time collaboration on a document and that is one of the exciting new features we look at in this article.
Enable and Use Track Changes in Word 2016
Step 1: Starting Content
You will need to start off with some content within the document you are collaborating on. This part of the document is being written by a different user. The first paragraph was written by me.
Step 2: Enable Track Changes
To start tracking changes, go to the Review tab and click Track Changes in the Tracking group (you can also press CTRL + SHIFT + E).
When Track Changes is enabled, you will see a balloon for each author at the right hand side of the screen.
Step 3: Editing
Track Changes in Word uses color coordination to avoid confusion. The first author is blue and the second is red. When additional authors make edits, they will also be assigned a unique color.
When edits are made to the document, a vertical line appears next to the paragraph to indicate the changes that have been made to the document. Notice the first paragraph does not have this because Track Changes was not enabled until further into the document. When you click the Show Track Changes bar, it immediately activates a highlight of all the edits that have been made to the document along with their commentary. If you keep it enabled and you make edits, you will see the changes in real time as you type and delete.
Step 4: Comments, Balloons & Additional Editing Tools
If you want to add a comment on a word or paragraph, highlight it then select the Review tab and click New Comment in the Comments group. Your comments will then appear on the right side of the document, when the document is finalized you can turn them off.
One of things you’ll notice when you apply special formatting such as Bold, Italic or Underline, a comment is automatically added to the track changes called Formatted.
You can also customize how you want balloons to appear on the document. For instance, if you want to see all the revisions that have been added to the document by each author, click Review tab > Show Markup menu > Balloons > Show revisions in balloons.
The Reviewing pane (Review > Reviewing pane) lets you review all edits by each author which you can view vertically or horizontally on screen. You can click a word or paragraph in the Revisions pane and it will automatically navigate to that part of the document.
Step 5: Accept or Reject Changes made to document
If you agree with the changes that have been made to the document, you can Accept or Reject them. Click the Show Track Changes bar highlight changes made by the other author then go to the Review tab, click the Accept button to confirm.
You’ll now notice the changes are applied immediately.
Step 6: Compare Or Combine Documents
Another handy feature authors can take advantage of is the ability to version track a document. For instance, if two authors fork the same documents into two copies and continue working on them separately, they can later compare the two versions and combine them. As long as they are similar in structure, you can combine the two create a final document.
To compare and combine changes, select Review tab click Compare then select the original document in the field box then select the revised version then click OK
Microsoft Word will then present a three pane view of the document showing the main screen as the final document with combined content, the original and alternate copies in a mini window pane. When you scroll through, you can compare the changes. This is preferably done on a screen with enough screen resolution.
When you are ready to combine the documents into a final copy, go back to the Review tab click Compare then click Combine select the original document in the field box then select the revised version then click OK
You will then see combined document along with the changes made by other authors in another color.
Integration with Office Online
One of the killer features of Google Apps have been its real-time collaboration tools. Microsoft has finally caught up thanks to its Office Online suite which features a web based version of Word. A new feature in Word 2016 is the ability to Share and view who is working on your document. To do that, click the Share button and save the document to your OneDrive folder.
The Share pane will then reveal additional options, with the ability to invite persons to edit the document with different restrictions. You will also notice the Block Authors and Restrict options are now enabled within the Protect group. If you use Office 365 in an enterprise setting, you can invite authors to collaborate.
For the purposes of this article, I will use the Get a sharing link which I will email to additional authors I would like to collaborate with on the document.
When you or the other author load Word Online and make changes, other persons collaborating on the document will be notified in real-time.
Here you can see saved edits made by the other author are color coded in a blue highlight.
When an author is no longer editing the document you will be notified within Word 2016.
As you can see, Track Changes is even more powerful with its real-time collaboration features. Whether you are working on projects big or small, Word 2016 can make it easy to keep everyone on the same page. Color coordination, sharing, real-time editing, and cloud integration with OneDrive all add up to powerful experience.