11 March 2013

Track changes without tears

I suspect many copy-editors dislike Word’s ‘Track changes’ features. Personally, I dislike the mess it makes on screen when changes are visible and its ability to mess with the functionality of Word when changes are hidden. Specifically:

  • It does not play nicely with several of my editing macros, so I have to remember to switch TC off and on again when I use them. That’s a particular nuisance when the macro does something that a client wants me to track.
  • When TC is hidden, it messes up Word's ‘Search and replace’. Specifically, words that have already been changed in some way become invisible to S&R.
  • Track changes has difficulties with Word's automatic notes; in fact, at times, it seems to lose track of changes to the note numbering.

I could go on, but there is a very simple solution to this problem. It turns out that improvements to Word’s ‘Compare documents’ feature have rendered TC superfluous (at least in Word 2007 and later). If a client wants a document that displays tracked changes, all I need to do is compare my final edited version with the client’s original files. The result is a third document with all the differences displayed as tracked changes! What is more, I can tinker with what differences are actually displayed so that I can show only the changes that are of interest to the client.