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Setting Change Bars Manually

When you use the change tracking features of Word, you can edit your documents and allow Word to mark what has been changed. One of the options is to include "change bars," which are nothing but vertical bars that appear in the margin of your document to indicate a line or paragraph where a change has been made.

In some disciplines, change bars are used quite frequently. You may want to use change bars, but not have change tracking turned on. In other words, you may want to manually add a change bar to your document.

This is a bit more difficult proposition than it may first appear. If you only want change bars, and no other indication of changes in your document, you are almost out of luck. Let me explain...

You can choose the Track Changes tab from the Options dialog box, and therein set exactly how you want Word to mark edits to your document, once you have change tracking turned on. The problem is this, however: You can only get change bars if you actually change text. For instance, if you want a change bar to appear beside a line of text, you must change something on that line. If you don't want the change itself to show (you only want the bar), this if fine--provided you don't want changes to show anywhere else in your document either. You can use the Track Changes tab to specify how changes show globally in your document, but not on an individual basis.

If this is acceptable, then setting change bars manually is a fairly straightforward process. All you need to do is turn off the text color changes for revisions, make sure that changes are underlined or struck through, turn on change tracking, and then make a change on the line where you want the change bar to appear. You can then turn off change tracking, and the change bar is still visible. You can even automate this process by recording a macro to take care of it for you. For instance, the following simple VBA macro will do the work:

Sub MarkIt()
    With Options
        .InsertedTextMark = wdInsertedTextMarkNone
        .InsertedTextColor = wdAuto
        .DeletedTextMark = wdDeletedTextMarkStrikeThrough
        .DeletedTextColor = wdAuto
        .RevisedPropertiesMark = wdRevisedPropertiesMarkNone
        .RevisedPropertiesColor = wdAuto
        .RevisedLinesMark = wdRevisedLinesMarkLeftBorder
        .RevisedLinesColor = wdAuto
    End With
    With ActiveDocument
        .TrackRevisions = True
        .PrintRevisions = True
        .ShowRevisions = True
    End With
    With ActiveDocument
        .TrackRevisions = False
        .PrintRevisions = True
        .ShowRevisions = True
    End With
End Sub

All you need to do is select the text you want to "mark" and then run the macro.

There is another way of handling the manual change bars that doesn't even rely on the change tracking feature of Word. All you need to do is set a bar tab at a position of -.12 inches in your paragraph, and a change bar appears to the left of the paragraph. Note that this places the bar to the left of the entire paragraph, and not just to the left of individual lines in the paragraph. If you want to use this approach, follow these steps:

  1. Place the insertion point within the paragraph where you want the change bar to appear.
  2. Choose Tabs from the Format menu. The Tabs dialog box appears. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Tabs dialog box

  4. In the Tab Stop Position box, enter -.12"
  5. Choose the Bar radio button.
  6. Click on Set.
  7. Click on OK.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (474) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Related Tips:

Comprehensive VBA Guide Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is the language used for writing macros in all Office programs. This complete guide shows both professionals and novices how to master VBA in order to customize the entire Office suite for their needs. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2010 today!


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Comments for this tip:

Frank B    30 Mar 2015, 05:41
It is typical for Microsoft to make something that only works if you use their own build in functionality. It is totally useless if you just want to make change bars yourself. Who says that whatever changes you want to mark is actually present in the current document? That is certainly not something I would ever do. When I make changes to a document, I create a new document with the new text. I don't keep old text in the document. And I certainly don't rely on any Microsoft crap to mark what has been changed.

Also, the technique with using a box line at the left of the pragraph does not always work. I tried this at one point, but I gave up. In my case I had four levels of indentations that I needed to mark with a change bar. The first problem is that indentations is written in millimeters, and the location of the left box line relative to the text is writen in points. When you indent a line a certain amount of millimeters, you must subtract that from the position of the box line, and as this is written in points, you will never get lines from different indentations to line up under each other. It is impossible to get a continuoue change bar, that does not shift left and right as the numbers are rounded for each indentation. Another problem is that dear Mr. Gates has put a limit on how much you can offset the left box line. It cannot be offset more than 31 points, which was not enough in my case for the fourth level of indentation. Why the heck those idiots put a limit on the offset is beyond me, but this is so typical Microsoft. They make things to work the way they want to force upon us. They can never find out how to make open and flexible software. Another example is their annoying build in paragraphstyles, which you cannot get rid of. You must name you own styles differently from what the idiot Gates thinks you should name them. He blocks you from naming them as you want.

I totally agree with using FrameMaker instead. That is the only program to use for publications. Perhaps InDesign in some simple cases, but FrameMaker is clearly the best. Word is useless.
r. s. sawant    21 Feb 2015, 16:07
What's wrong with Microsoft? Don't they ever revise their own documents! Here's what we, engineers, do. When we revise a document, we show a vertical bar beside the text that was modified, may it be 1 line or 50 lines. And beside this bar to the right of it we write "Rev.2" to indicate the revision level. I hope microsoft takes note and provides a feature that will allow us to do this automatically, instead of all these time consuming work-arounds. Here's whay I do, I turn on the tracking to get the vertical bars, and then use a text box to write the revision level beside it. Pain in the neck, but that's what we have with these wonderful Microsoft products Which provde all the jazz but very little substance.
Kirk Kinderdietz    16 Oct 2014, 15:42
Just buy Framemaker from Adobe and be done with it. For amendable documents its the only program to use.
Michelle    26 Aug 2014, 11:46
You CAN change the width of the change bar. Create a text box in the margin (it does not have to be zero width). Click on the text box and go to Home tab > Paragraph > and click on the border box. Make sure there is currently no border. Click on the border box again, and click "Borders and Shading" (very last option). Under "Width" choose the line thickness you want, then in the preview box, click on the box in the lower left and you will see the line in the preview panel. Click OK and you have your change bar! (remember to make sure you have checked "move with text" under the layout tab.)
Jesse Alford    18 Feb 2014, 15:10
This works perfectly, but is there a way to make the line thicker?
Scott    22 Oct 2013, 12:50
Thank you, Nigel. That worked great for what I needed.
Nigel    30 Mar 2013, 20:30
Here's another method of manually marking changes by a vertical bar in the right hand margin.
Draw a text box in the right hand margin with the correct vertical position and height. Width does not matter as long as it is within the margin (not in the text).
Format the text box with zero width and set 0.5mm from right hand margin. Check 'move with text' and uncheck 'allow overlaps'.
Greg Lewis    18 Mar 2013, 11:32
Very helpful tip. Thanks. If only there a way to change the width of the change bar!

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