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Track Changes in Microsoft Word

By Joseph Wallace

The series Microsoft Word and MLA Style shows writers how to use Word to make their essays conform to MLA style guidelines. This post explains how to use the Track Changes feature in Microsoft Word.

The Track Changes feature in Microsoft Word allows users to edit a document and see all the changes. Word does not normally display your changes. If you delete something, it does not remain on the screen. But if you delete a word while Track Changes is on, there will be a visual record of it. The word will either remain on the screen struck through and in a different color or else appear in a balloon in the margin with its status (in this case, “Deleted”).

This post explains how to use Track Changes. It also addresses the differences between Track Changes in versions of Word for PC and Mac. To access Track Changes, click the Review tab at the top of the main window of Word. If the instructions in this post do not work with your version of Word, consult Microsoft’s Web site.

How to Display Changes and Comments on Word for PC

Track Changes gives you options for displaying changes and comments. You can display the changes in the text or in balloons in the margins. To adjust the markup settings in Word for PC, click the drop-down menu below the Track Changes icon. Then click Change Tracking Options. In the window that appears, look in the section labeled “Balloons.” In the drop-down menu next to Use Balloons, you can select Always, Never, or Only for Comments/Formatting. In this window, you can also choose not to track formatting at all.

I find that using balloons only for comments and formatting is best. If you select that option, all the changes will appear in the text. If you select Always, Word will display changes in balloons, but what you see will depend on your viewing settings. Look in the Review tab next to the Track Changes icon. In older versions of Word, there will be a drop-down menu whose default setting is Final: Show Markup. If this is selected, Word will display all insertions in the text. Deletions will be shown in balloons. If you select Original: Show Markup, Word will do the opposite. Deletions will be shown in the text and insertions in balloons.

In newer versions of Word for PC, the drop-down menu is slightly different. You can choose Simple Markup, All Markup, No Markup, or Original. Simple Markup means that changes are not displayed with struck-through text and different colors. Rather, if you make a change, a line appears next to the changed text in the left margin. If you want to see all the changes in the text, select All Markup from the drop-down menu.

How to Display Changes and Comments on an Early Version of Word for Mac

In early versions of Word for Mac, such as Word 2011, there are only two options for displaying changes: use balloons or don’t. If you want to use balloons, go to the Track Changes icon and click Show Markup, then Preferences. Then click the box labeled “Use balloons to display changes.” There is no option to use balloons to display comments and formatting only. If you use balloons, all changes will be placed in balloons. This feature behaves much like the one in Word for PC. Selecting Final: Show Markup tells Word to display deletions in balloons. But if you select Original: Show Markup, Word displays insertions in balloons.

Alternatively, if you do not check the box labeled “Use balloons to display changes,” all changes will appear in the text. Comments will show up only in the Reviewing Pane. Clicking the Reviewing Pane button makes a box appear either beside or below the text. This box, or pane, lists all changes and comments in the document. If you do not want Word to track formatting, go back to Show Markup in the Review tab. If there is a check mark before Formatting, click it to remove it.

How to Display Changes and Comments on a More Recent Version of Word for Mac

In more recent versions of Word for Mac, click the Track Changes button and then Markup Options. A list will appear. Go to Balloons, and another list will appear to the right. You will see an option to display only comments and formatting in balloons, like the one in Word for PC.

The default setting to display changes is Simple Markup, which you will see in a drop-down menu above Markup Options. This setting is much like the one in recent versions of Word for PC. If you want to see all the changes in the text, select All Markup from the drop-down menu. To tell Word not to track formatting, click Markup Options then Formatting to remove the check mark.

How to Accept or Reject Changes

If you make changes with Track Changes on, the changes will be there even if you turn off the feature or change the viewing options. You will have to accept or reject the changes manually. There are two ways to do this: all at once or one at a time. The process of doing this is similar on PCs and Macs. If you want to accept or reject all changes in the document, go to the Review tab. You will see the Accept and Reject icons. To the right of each icon there is an arrow. If you click it, a drop-down menu appears. In the menus there are the options Accept All Changes in Document and Reject All Changes in Document.

There are two ways to deal with each change one at a time. If you right-click on a change, a menu appears. You can then accept or reject the change in that menu. You could instead place the cursor before the changed text. If you then click the Accept or Reject icon in the Review tab, the changed text will be either accepted or rejected.

How to Adjust Other Settings

Track Changes labels your changes with the username associated with your version of Word. To change your username on a PC, click the drop-down menu below the Track Changes icon. Then click Change User Name. To change it on a Mac, click Word at the top left, then Preferences. Then click User Information. 

Word assigns the same color to all the changes made by a given username. By default this is either blue or red for the first user who makes changes. However, you can change the color associated with your username. On a PC, go to the Change Tracking Options window. On a Mac, go to the Track Changes Preferences window. In the window that appears, you will be able to select the color of your changes.

Published 25 June 2020

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