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Multiple Document Users

It is not unusual for people to work together in "teams" in today's business environment. Instead of a single person being responsible for a given task, a group of people may be charged with its successful completion. This may mean that you have a document for which multiple people are responsible. With some Office programs (such as Excel), multiple users can share the same document and work on it at the same time.

Word does not allow multiple people to use the same Word document at the same time, since the edits by each individual could create havoc with the final document. Instead, Word provides several tools that you can use in a multi-user environment to make collaborating of a document just a bit easier.

The first such tool is referred to as Track Changes. This tool allows two different approaches to document editing, each with plusses and minuses. The first approach assumes a serial progression of the document. For instances, you have a single copy of the document, and it makes its way through each member of your team. With Track Changes turned on, each person's edits are noted and can be easily reviewed by the person ultimately responsible for the document. That person—the one with whom the document originally started and will eventually end—uses the Accept or Reject Changes feature to review each change and judge whether it should be accepted or not.

The other approach to using the Track Changes tool is to give each member of your team a copy of the document. They are free to make changes, and they don't have to do so with Track Changes turned on. Then, the person responsible for producing the final document gathers each of the modified documents and "merges" them using the Compare Documents feature. (Again, this feature is part of the overall Track Changes part of Word.) Compare Documents combines two documents, resulting in a document that shows the differences between the two original documents. Once the merging process is done, with each of the team members' documents, then the responsible person can again use the Accept or Reject Changes feature to review each change and determine its acceptability.

If you decide to utilize the Track Changes feature of Word, and particularly if you decide to use the first approach, you may want to use the Comments feature to allow team members to insert their comments into the document. These comments shouldn't reflect the actual changes to the document (which should be done to the document itself with Track Changes turned on), but can contain general comments on why certain changes were made or just general comments on document development. In effect, the Comments feature becomes a way for the team members to provide input to the development process. The team member ultimately responsible for the document can then read the comments and resolve any issues contained therein.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (534) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

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