Collaboration tools in Microsoft Word

The following information applies to all versions of Microsoft Word and is meant to be a high level overview on how several people can work on the same document. For more detailed instruction, use the built-in Help within your software by pressing the F1 button.


Reviewers can insert comments that are identified with the reviewer’s name and initials. The text to which the comment is attached will be shaded with light yellow, and when you rest the mouse pointer over this text, a pop-up that includes the comment and the reviewer’s name appears above the text.

How to do it

To insert comments, choose the Insert/Comment menu option, type your comment, and click the Close button in the comment window. The comment will be identified with your name. You can also use the Comment icon on the Reviewing toolbar. To see all the comments in a single list, choose the View/Comments menu option. To see reviewers’ names and time stamps, rest the cursor over the body of a comment in the comment list.

To print out comments along with your document, choose the File/Print menu option, then click the Options button and select the Comments check box. To print only comments, choose the File/Print menu option and in the Print what box near the bottom left corner choose Comments.


Tracking changes

Insertions and deletions can be highlighted and identified by author and date. Insertions are highlighted in color, and deletions are shown in color with a strike-through (like this). Any action that deletes text will cause the deletion mark to be displayed, including backspacing over the text or selecting a segment of text and then either pressing Delete, choosing Cut from the Edit menu, or typing replacement text.

A revision bar is also displayed in the margin opposite any changed lines. You can choose whether change markings should appear when the document is displayed on screen or printed. Word automatically chooses different highlight colors for each reviewer.

How to do it

Choose menu option Tools/Track Changes/Highlight Changes… and check Track changes while editing. You can choose whether or not you want the tracked changes displayed on screen and on printed copies of the document by checking the appropriate box in the Highlight Changes dialog box.

Note: For the original author, inserted text and spelling errors are both shown in red and underlined, making it hard to distinguish between the two. One solution is to turn off change highlighting when you’re checking for spelling errors. Choose menu option Tools/Track Changes/Highlight Changes… and uncheck Highlight changes on screen. Now only spelling errors will be highlighted.


Merging documents 

Consolidate all changes and comments from different reviewers in one easy step. Multiple reviewers can modify separate copies of the same document, and then you can merge all their changes into the original. Comments will be merged, but the yellow highlighting will be lost. Note that this facility does not handle conflicting changes to the same portion of the document from different reviewers.

How to do it

First, set up the document to track changes by choosing menu option Tools/Track Changes/Highlight Changes/Track Changes while editing (see "Marking Changes" above). When this option is set, changes can be merged using the Tools/Merge Document menu option. You can merge multiple sets of changes and then review the document to accept or reject each change individually.

If changes were made, but the option to track changes was not turned on, you can reconstruct the changes by opening the changed version and comparing it to the original version using the Tools/Track Changes/Compare Documents function. This inserts the change tracking information. You can then save the marked-up version and merge it into the original in the same way you merge documents where the changes were tracked.


Protect a document

You can protect a document so that all changes are tracked, or prohibit changes and allow only comments.

How to do it

Choose Tools/Protect Document… and then check Tracked changes to allow both tracked changes and comments, or check Comments to allow only comments. If you specify a password, then the document protection option you set cannot be changed without giving that password. When a document is unprotected, anyone can turn off change tracking.



With this feature you can save multiple versions of a document in a single file. You can also enter descriptive text about each version. All the versioning information is stored within the document, so you don't need to maintain and track multiple copies of the document. In addition, you can have Word automatically save a version at the end of every session.

How to do it

 In the Save As dialog, choose the Save Version button instead of Save. You will be prompted for a comment to identify the version. You can get a list of all the versions by choosing Versions from the File menu. Note that versions only work for files saved in Word format, not for HTML. An alternate way to save a new version is to choose Versions from File and then click the Save Version Now button. You can also choose the option to save a new version every time you close the document.

If you've saved multiple versions of a document in one file and you want to compare the current version with an earlier one, you must first save the earlier version as a separate file under a different name. To do this, open the earlier version using the Versions dialog, and then save that document as a separate file.


Reviewing toolbar 

Quickly gain access to all the common reviewing tools you need on one toolbar -- track and review changes, insert and review comments, highlight text, and save versions.

How to do it

Choose Tools/Customize and the Toolbars tab and then check Reviewing. You can also activate the toolbar by right-clicking in the menu bar area and then clicking on Reviewing.


Acknowledgement: Portions of this document were excerpted from the Microsoft Word Help files.

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