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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()
    Selection.Cut
    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
    Selection.Paste
    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.

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Comments for this tip:

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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