Don’t Be Embarrassed Again!
How to turn off Track Changes and Comments
in Word before you Share files.
You have been collaborating on an important document with a colleague; multiple drafts that include comments and markups (a.k.a. Tracked Changes) have passed back and forth between the two of you.
Wanting to look at the final document one last time before you send it off to the client you flip the setting on the Review tab to “Final”. You think you’re now seeing what the client is going to see… everything looks great.
You attach the document to an email and “off she goes!” Oops…
When you don’t get the job or when you get the angry phone call, you learn why. "The final setting on Word’s review ribbon didn’t work”, you tell your colleague, “They saw all those comments we were making about them.” “Remember that paragraph you wrote about how you would really like it to read? That was funny… but they didn’t think so. Darn!”
You are embarrassed and we are all sorry for that, but let’s not let that happen again. Here’s what you need to know and do…
Tracked changes and Comments will stay in the document forever until you Accept/Reject and Delete them.
When anyone opens a document that contains Tracked Changes or Comments the “View” setting automatically changes to “Final Showing Markup”. It doesn’t matter if you change your Option preference settings to not show formatting markups, comments, highlights, et cetera; nor does the “View” setting matter… if the document contains any unresolved markups, when the document is reopened, all markups are displayed.
To permanently clear Markups and Comments
- Turn Track Changes Off
- Accept/Reject All Changes
- Delete All Comments
- Save the File
If for record keeping purpose you are required to maintain the change history on the document then you have these alternative choices for creating a “Final” document that safely can be shared with others
- Maintain two copies of the document. A final copy that includes the markups and a copy where you have permanently cleared them.
- Create a PDF version of the “Final” document with the Markups and Comments not showing. Only share the PDF version.
- Learn to use the built-in Word function called “Document Compare”. This function creates a third document that displays the differences between an original and a revised version of the document.
Document Compare is a Safer and more
“Hygienic” Method for Monitoring Revisions.
Tracking changes in complex documents is a fragile function of Microsoft Word and, even in the "best case", often causes confusion and lost time chasing phantom problems. And in the worst case, track changes can cause major document corruption, which culminates in the loss of data.
At issue is primarily the unhygienic human process of “tracking changes upon tracked changes” around tables, floating objects (picture, charts, etc. with wrapping text), footnotes, citations, and equations. Over the years as hard as Microsoft has tried to make the Track Changes function more robust and dependable it unfortunately still has its limits in stability.
If you use Track Changes resolve all changes before making additional edits.
What this means daily is to first Review and then Accept/Reject the changes made by your colleague to the document upon which you are collaborating. Then “Save” the document “before” applying any new changes. Said another way...
The best practice is to leave the Tracked Changes function turned off and insert bubble note comments when necessary…
but sparingly and to keep them professionally appropriate. When you receive the edited document back from your colleague, make a backup copy, and use ”Document Compare” against the source file you gave them.
Now you are ready to begin… you see their edits and comments, you resolve them, you save the file and continue cleanly.