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:
- Enable Track Changes.
- Choose Protect Document from the Tools menu.
- In the Protect Document task pane, select the Allow Only This Type Of Editing In The Document option under Editing Restrictions.
- Choose Tracked Changes from the item's drop-down list.
- Click Yes, Start Enforcing Protection under Start Enforcement.
- 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.
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.