Software

How to keep someone from turning off Track Changes in a Word document


Word's Track Changes feature allows you to see changes that you and others make to a document. You enable this feature by choosing Track Changes from the Tools menu or by double-clicking the TRK indicator in the status bar. Track Changes uses formats to indicate changes made to the document. For instance, if you delete a phrase, Word adds red strike-thru characters. To familiarize yourself with the formats, choose Options from the Tools menu and then click the Track Changes tab.

The biggest problem with this feature isn't the feature, but the people using it. We simply forget to turn it on. Or, we turn it off temporarily and forget to turn it back on. If it's just you, it's not a big deal. If you need to document all changes made by other people, it matters.

When you distribute a document and you need to document every change, turn on Track Changes and protect the feature as follows:

  1. Enable Track Changes.
  2. Choose Protect Document from the Tools menu.
  3. In the Protect Document task pane, select the Allow Only This Type Of Editing In The Document option under Editing Restrictions.
  4. Choose Tracked Changes from the item's drop-down list.
  5. Click Yes, Start Enforcing Protection under Start Enforcement.
  6. Enter a password twice and click OK.

Only someone knowing the password can disable Track Changes. All you're doing is making sure someone doesn't accidentally disable Track Changes. This measure assumes that everyone's playing nicely together. Protecting the document in this way won't keep someone from copying the text into a new document. In a new document, they can do whatever they like with your content.

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

11 comments
raygbutler
raygbutler

Hey, guys! I have recently discovered a different approach to solve that issue. I have tried a new tool called Live!Doc (available in Download.com and www.mylivedocuments.net) which automatically starts a document monitor and again automatically stores all the revisions of any document (Word, Excel, Txt, Source Code, etc.). You can forgot to check the "Track Changes" option in Word because this tool will detect changes and save the historical revisions. Try it out now ... ;)

nayeem.kn
nayeem.kn

This is very nice and handy.

aikimark
aikimark

Good tip, Susan. I think that if you are going to do this, you should NOT display changes on the screen. In many cases, people don't assume their changes are being tracked if they just see normal text editing behavior, not the text strike-through and red fonts. At some point, the lead author on the document will need to accept/reject changes and start a new round of document editing. It's all part of the Version and Change Control game.

sirknightii
sirknightii

Does these guidelines apply to a specific document? Do they work on Office/Word 2000?

tomasb
tomasb

if someone has made changes that weren't tracked, you can open the previous version of the document, make sure that change tracking is enabled, and merge it with the new version. All changes will be high-lighted, just perhaps not identifying the correct author.

ssharkins
ssharkins

I suppose I am so use to seeing all the changes, all the time, that I just forget to consider alternatives. You might be right -- I can see where people not use to Track Changes might be annoyed by it.

gbesch
gbesch

Word's protection is easy enough to defeat, so don't rely on it for important documents. Instead, be sure to keep a copy of the original for comparison. One way to do the comparison has already been covered in this thread. Revision control systems and some document management systems provide automatic comparison features, or you can use a third-party tool like WinDiff.

ssharkins
ssharkins

I don't have 2000 installed, so I can't check for you -- just try and see what happens. As for the guideline guestions, I'm not sure what you mean. When you enable Track Changes or Protect, you're doing so for just the current document, and not the entire Word environment. Is that what you were asking?

ssharkins
ssharkins

Have you found the merge compare feature to be consistent? I haven't -- but I'd be interested in your experience with it. It's a great idea, so thanks for chiming in -- even if the tool is inconsistent, when it does works, it's good to have around.

sirknightii
sirknightii

Yes that was what I was asking about. Wanted to make sure that said action only applied to individual document. Had 2003 installed but friend burrowed CD and cannot find it so back to using 2000. Does not quite work the way you mentioned in 2000 but I will experiment some more.

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