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How to Track Changes in Word 2016 Documents

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.

simple window

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).

Step 1

When Track Changes is enabled, you will see a balloon for each author at the right hand side of the screen.

Step 1a

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.

Color coordination

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.

Showing edits

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.

Add Comment

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.

Automated commentary

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.

Revisions and Balloons

Revisions

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.

Reviewing Pane

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.

Accept or Reject Changes

You’ll now notice the changes are applied immediately.

Accept or Reject Changes 2

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

Compare Changes 1

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.

Compare changes

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

combine changes

You will then see combined document along with the changes made by other authors in another color.

Combined document

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.

Share Office Online

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.

Share Office Online3

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.

Share Office Online4

When you or the other author load Word Online and make changes, other persons collaborating on the document will be notified in real-time.

Share Office Online10

Here you can see saved edits made by the other author are color coded in a blue highlight.

Share Office Online11

When an author is no longer editing the document you will be notified within Word 2016.

Share Office Online12

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.

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8 Responses to How to Track Changes in Word 2016 Documents

  1. Dorrie O'Brien February 2, 2016 at 4:23 pm #

    Andre, I have no use for all of this fancy – smanchy stuff. I am a book editor. I only have one author and myself in each document. I ONLY need TCs to color me red, and the author in blue. I need the deletions to be hidden. No tracking moved sentences, etc.

    Word 2003 was the only version that worked perfectly for me every time. How can I set Word 2013 (and eventually 2016 when I get it) to just do those simple little functions?

  2. Dorrie O'Brien February 2, 2016 at 4:37 pm #

    Sorry, I forgot one other need in my last note: I have no use for the comments mode. I make all changes and notes directly inside the document. It’s very simple. Easy to follow. No tracing lines, no reducing the size of the document so the author can’t read it.

    Please, how do I just get red and blue color (back and forth, back and forth), hidden deletions, and no messing with all those other functions?

  3. Aiskel February 9, 2016 at 5:40 pm #

    I want to use other color, have to be red and blue?. Windows 10 allow me to pick the colors

  4. Sarah June 13, 2016 at 7:40 am #

    Dear Andre, Do you know how to format the balloons so that they don’t go off the page (mine go off the right margin)? Thank you!

  5. Richard June 29, 2016 at 4:46 pm #

    It appears that Track Changes in Word 2016 no longer displays in the margin balloons the time when an edit was made, only the date. I have come to depend on that timestamp for my work. Is there a setting somewhere that displays the time in the editing balloons?

  6. Michael July 3, 2016 at 9:36 pm #

    Earlier versions allowed Deletions to be shown in the margins – but it seems that is not an option in 2016. it is so cumbersome having deletions still appearing (albeit with strike through) in a document. Has anyone found a solution?

  7. Paulette July 15, 2016 at 4:16 pm #

    It appears that Word 2016 is woefully inadequate to the professional editor. Alas, it appears that we are being pushed to search for other solutions in other so-called writing programs. I’ve been a Word user for over 20 years and am now looking for other options. In my world, streamlining is not synonymous wth stripping down. Apparently in Redmond, it is.

  8. Dorrie July 16, 2016 at 6:42 am #

    The last two comments are entirely dispiriting. I’m still in 2013 and have nothing better to look forward to in 2016. And yet, with all things MS, I’m not going to have a choice at some future date. Ms. Paulette, if you find that “something else,” will you let us know? Thank you.

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