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5 Tips & Tricks to Master Microsoft Word’s Track Changes

If you’ve ever opened a Microsoft Word document that contains more red ink than normal 12-point type, you’ve worked with Track Changes. But how well have you mastered this powerful productivity tool?

Since Track Changes can work well for advanced users but completely overwhelm novices, we decided to collect a few of our favorite tips and tricks to navigate this commonly used editing tool. Don’t let that tangle of additions, deletions, and comment boxes get you down — instead, with these strategies in hand, proceed with poise and collaborate like a pro.

(Note: the following tips apply most accurately to Microsoft Word 2013. Older or newer versions could include slightly different procedures.)

1. Effortlessly manage Track Changes.

To toggle Track Changes off and on, you can use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+E or simply add Track Changes to your status bar:

  • Right-click the status bar along the bottom of your Word window, where you can add or remove a number of status indicators, including Track Changes.
  • Once added, the Track Changes status will automatically display the status of Track Changes (on or off) so you won’t have to click the Review tab to find out.
  • Clicking that status indicator also toggles Track Changes on and off.

2. Understand the process of reviewing, accepting, and rejecting changes.

After you receive and open the document you need to edit,

  • Click Review
  • Click Track Changes
  • Then choose Track Changes from the drop-down. With All Markup selected, the tracked document shows every change by every user, with each user’s edits showing up in a different color.

If you see a change you don’t like,

  • Hover anywhere on the marked change,
  • Click Reject,
  • Then choose Reject Changefrom the list box.
  • When you’re finished, click Accept > Accept All Changesto accept all the remaining edits.

If you don’t agree with most of the included changes, reverse the process:

  • Click Accepton the ones you want to keep,
  • Then choose Accept This Changefrom the list box.
  • When you’re finished, choose Reject All Changesto bulk reject all the remaining edits.

3. Streamline your view with Simple Markup.

Reviewing a document that displays every change can dominate your view and turn further rounds of edits into a nightmare. Select Simple Markup — in Microsoft Word 2013, it’s the default option when you turn on Track Changes. Simple Markup displays a red vertical track line next to each line of text that contains changes. As you skim the document, click the track line to toggle between All Markup, displayed with a gray line, and Simple Markup, displayed with red.


While reviewing a document edited with Track Changes, you’ll often see extended comments in the sidebar. These can be necessary to explain or suggest an edit and can also be of use when for explaining formatting requests to a layout, graphic design, or printing employee.

To add comments, first decide how you want them displayed:

  • Show Revisions in Balloons, which displays comments in a balloon to the right of the document
  • Show All Revisions Inline, which highlights the text in question inside the paragraph between vertical lines followed by the initials of the editor
  • Or Show Only Comments and Formatting in Balloons, which displays the comment text on the right connected by dotted lines.

You can change the format at any time, but pick the one you’re comfortable with and run with it. Once you have your format selected,

  • Hover over the text where you want the comment inserted,
  • Click the New Commentbutton under the Review tab,
  • Complete Word’s Review Screen panel that links your selected text to a comments box.
  • Enter your comments and press Esc when finished.

To edit or reply to another comment,

  • Click the connected balloon on the right side of the page next to the highlighted text, make any updates, and close.
  • To reply, click the page curl icon in the toolbar, enter your reply, then click the to close.

The details of Track Changes can be difficult to grasp, especially for new users. But putting in the time to understand this crucial collaboration tool can yield productive results. Have more questions about best practices for the use of Microsoft Office? Looking for other ways to enhance your efficiency and boost productivity? Contact CMIT Solutions today.


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