Using Microsoft Word’s tracking feature

Microsoft Word’s tracking feature is amazingly helpful if you know how to use it. Unfortunately, it’s also ridiculously difficult to figure out. (It was for me, anyway.) Here’s what to do if you get a document receiving tracked changes.

In Word 2007 or 2010

Note: These screenshots are from Word 2007, but this feature looks almost exactly the same in the 2010 version.

1. Make sure you can see the changes. Go to the “Review” tab on the ribbon, and check that the tracking view is set to Final Showing Markup.

2. Look at the changes. For the screenshot below, I made a few revisions to a paper I wrote as a college freshman – you can see the red markings and type where I have changed some punctuation and replaced one word with another. (The first round of changes will usually show up in red. If you or another reader make your own tracked changes, they will appear in a different color.)

3. Look at any comments. In this screenshot you can see that there’s a question in a red bubble in the margin. To get rid of a comment, right click on the bubble and choose “Delete Comment.”

4. Look at the changes in context. It can be hard to read a document and get a sense of what the changes actually accomplish when you’re distracted by the markings themselves. To read the document as it will appear after the tracked changes are implemented, change the tracking view from “Final Showing Markup” to “Final.” Note the highlighted points, where the text has been altered.

5. Accept or reject changes. Use the Accept and Reject buttons to on the ribbon to finalize or undo each suggested change. If you click on the little arrow just beneath the Accept icon, you’ll get a menu that gives you the option to accept all changes in the document in one step.

Want to track your own changes? Just turn on the “Track Changes” function, found on the ribbon’s “Review” tab. The icon will be highlighted yellow when the function is active. You can make marginal comments by clicking the “Add Comment” button.

In Word 2003

The tracking feature in Word 2003 is just like the one in Word 2007 or 2010; you just have to look a little harder for it. First, go to the “Tools” menu and click “Track Changes.” A toolbar like the one below should appear.  This toolbar lets you follow the steps listed above.

Note that your computer will start tracking your own changes as soon as the tracking toolbar is activated. You can turn this function off by clicking the “Track Changes” icon on the tracking toolbar (the icon will be highlighted yellow when the function is active, as you can see in the screenshot above).
Hope this helps! If anyone has any further tips for using this feature, please leave a comment.

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2 Responses to Using Microsoft Word’s tracking feature

  1. Earl Hotrum says:

    I am trying to figure out how to shut of the tracking feature. I send it to some one with the fature on. It will drive them crazy. I am using Office 2007.

    • HG says:

      Hi Earl. To stop tracking your changes, go to the review tab, and click the “Track Changes” icon to turn the feature off.

      If you’re sending a document that has tracked changes in it, you can do one of two things. 1) You can accept or reject all the changes in the document so that it is updated and clear of markings. 2) You can tell whoever you’re sending the document to that they should go to the track changes feature on their menu and select “Final” as the view (it will be on a drop-down menu).

      Hope that helps!

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