Sarah Lichtner

At Nexight, we believe that effective collaboration is critical to problem solving. We engage stakeholders with different backgrounds and expertise in every part of the roadmapping and strategic planning process—from workshop planning and participation through report development and implementation. While consolidating all of this input into one document assures that the right plan is in place in the end, it can also create a headache if it isn’t managed properly.

Because I frequently work with my team members at Nexight as well as with our clients and workshop contributors simultaneously on one document, I’m often faced with the need to integrate edits from multiple people. Through my many battles with Microsoft Word over the years, I’ve learned that using tracked changes effectively can make this kind of collaboration much easier and result in a high-quality end product.

Here are four tracked changes “how to’s” I’ve learned that can prevent headaches when working with documents with multiple authors or editors:

  1. Preserving tracked changes across documents — Have you ever been sent tracked changes to a document after already making changes to a newer version? If you need to integrate the changes you’ve just been sent so they also show up as tracked changes, just turn off tracked changes in both documents, and then copy and paste. You may have to paste the changes in batches to keep your existing changes, but it sure beats having to retype every single edit.
  2. Locking a document on tracked changes — When sending a document to multiple people for simultaneous review, it’s critical to make sure each person tracks their changes. Sometimes turning on tracked changes before sending a document and politely asking people to track their changes isn’t a guarantee that you’ll be sent documents with tracked changes. In Word 2013, there’s an option to Lock Tracking that requires a password to turn tracked changes off. In older versions of Word, if someone sends edits back without tracking changes, just use the Compare tool to compare the file you sent out for review and the edited version that was returned.
  3. Making reviewer names anonymous — Sometimes the names tied to comments are distracting, unnecessary, or may even present an issue with personal privacy. It’s possible to remove all user names from the tracked changes and comments after a document has been edited. To do so, click “File,” then on the “Info” screen click “Check for Issues,” then click “Inspect Document.” Make sure the only box checked in the “Document Inspector” window is “Document Properties and Personal Information.” Save a copy of your file before taking these steps in case you need to reference the author names again. (If you have an older version of Office, use these Word 2007 instructions for making reviewer names anonymous.)
  4. Changing multiple reviewer names to one user name — You may also find yourself in a situation when you need to change multiple reviewer names to a single user name. For example, several people in your company passed a document around and each person added a new set of edits. When you’re ready to send the document to another group for review, you may want all of your organization’s edits to show as if they are all from the same author, perhaps just the name of your company. This change is a bit more complicated than the others, but it can be done with this author name macro.

By helping me more easily incorporate changes from multiple experts, these how-to’s have saved me time, avoided confusion, and ultimately increased the readability and usefulness of the documents I’ve worked on.  Tracked changes may seem like just a small part of Microsoft Word’s capabilities, but knowing how to use it effectively can make all the difference.