The tracking changes feature in Microsoft Word is a common complaint and frankly a pain. While change tracking may have its specific uses in drawing up legal agreements and such, it’s more often overused by document control freaks. Then when shared with others, the unsuspecting editor wonders why there’s a side panel with red boxes. Plus, anything typed gets underlined and formatted in red!
But fear not if changes are being tracked in your document and it’s doing your head in! This blog (and associated video) explains how to quickly and easily stop track changes. The solution is annoyingly not where you would think. Here’s the video demo, but read on for the immediate solution…
How Do I Turn Off Track Changes in Word?
You can turn of change tracking in Microsoft Word in three easy steps, it’s just a case of knowing where to look:
- Navigate to the ‘Review‘ tab of the ribbon
- In the ‘Changes‘ area, click the down arrow under the ‘Accept‘ button
- Choose the drop-down option of ‘Accept All Changes and Stop Tracking‘
And voila! Your document will now look like a nice, normal Word document, gremlin free. Isn’t it weird that the way to stop tracking is hidden all the way over here, and not in its logical place under the ‘Tracking’ section?! This is what catches most people out. Assuming you’ve figured out it’s on the ‘Review’ ribbon, you may wonder why on Earth pressing the ‘Track Changes’ button doesn’t get rid of all the red text and boxes. Read on to more fully understand what that’s for and how to use the ‘Tracking’ and ‘Changes’ sections together…
How to Activate Tracking and Review Changes by Others
The image below highlights the ‘Track Changes‘ button within the ‘Review‘ ribbon. As I’ve mentioned earlier, unless your document is super important, just avoid using this feature since it makes everyone grumpy. But if you absolutely must use change tracking, here’s how to do it right using a simple and tangible analogy…
Turning the ‘Track Changes‘ button off and on simply asks Word to start or stop tracking changes on your documents. Word demonstrates any subsequent changes with ‘markups‘, on and around the page.
Clicking it on is like how a teacher may pick up a red pen to mark up a a student’s physical report, and make notes on it for them to make corrections. Turning it off is like setting the pen back down; you’re done with making changes (for now!). Like a school report after a teacher has ‘red-penned’, the red marks from Word’s ‘Track Changes’ feature remain on the page, even after it’s been switched off and the pen has been relinquished.
In Word, choosing how your ‘markups‘ (changes) are presented on the document is another option. Again, this part of the ‘Tracking‘ section of the ribbon. From the top drop-down menu, you can choose to show ‘All Markup‘ which highlights all the formatting and text changes, or ‘Simple Markup‘ which just shows where it happened.
Continuing the ‘teacher’s red pen’ analogy, some teachers like to scribble every last detail of every grammatical mistake onto the page and their comments in the margins, whereas others might just point out where the error is by place-marking a paragraph.
Accept or Reject Changes
Once you’ve marked up the document with all this ‘red pen’, you can either accept or reject the changes made, whoever made them. Just imagine a world where the student could pick and choose which of the teacher’s red pen marks they could accept or reject; the bliss… or chaos! I digress…
Having activated tracking, any changes made with the red pen switched on must be dealt with by somebody. That somebody is normally you! And weirdly, you’ll find this under the adjacent section of the ‘Review‘ ribbon called ‘Changes‘. As I showed earlier, if you trust everything’s in order and just want to be done with change tracking, choose the ‘Accept All Changes and Stop Tracking‘ option, using the drop-down arrow under the ‘Accept‘ button. If you’re not so confident, you can review edits one-by-one, then accept or reject them using the large ‘Accept‘ or small ‘Reject‘ buttons respectively.
To Track, or Not to Track…
I’d advise against using the track changes feature in Word if at all possible. That’s because it’s likely to cause much confusion among colleagues who aren’t fully proficient with MS Word and isn’t great for accessibility of your reports.
In closing, I’ll leave you with a timeless thought if you are considering implementing change tracking on your Word documents…
“He who does not trust enough, will not be trusted.” – Lao Tzu
I hope you’ve found this explainer helpful and it saves you from headaches, frustration, and wasting time wondering why your documents look odd. Let me know in the comments if it has helped save you time!
Kind Regards, Adrian
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