Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Comparing Documents Top and Bottom.

Comparing Documents Top and Bottom

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 24, 2018)

Tina often needs to visually compare documents containing reviewers' comments. Word 2003's "Compare Side-by-Side" feature works well for synchronous scrolling, but because the windows are vertically side-by-side, Tina can't see the comment balloons unless she shrinks the document to a zoom size that is too small to be usable. Tina wonders if there is a way to set the "Compare Side-by-Side" feature to use horizontal rather than vertical windows.

There is no way to make the feature use horizontal windows, but you can set up your system so that document comparison works just fine with horizontal windows. Follow these general steps:

  1. Open the two documents you want to compare.
  2. Choose Compare Side by Side from the Window menu. Word displays both documents side by side and displays the Compare Side by Side toolbar.
  3. Choose Window | Arrange All. Word now arranges the two windows horizontally, but still leaves the Compare Side by Side toolbar visible.
  4. On the Compare Side by Side toolbar, click the Synchronous Scrolling tool, if necessary.

That's it; both documents now scroll together, but in a horizontal layout.

It is interesting to note that the Compare Side by Side toolbar, which is key to these steps working, is only made visible by choosing Compare Side by Side from the Window menu. The toolbar is not accessible through the View menu or in any other way that I can find. Thus, you always need to go through step 2 in order to display the toolbar.

Remember that when you use the Compare Documents Side by Side command, the two windows are just that—regular windows. This means that you can rearrange them or resize them as desired.

Which brings us to what may be the most satisfying long-term solution: Using two monitors with Windows. If you get two monitors and place them side-by-side, you can configure Windows so that it considers both monitors a single desktop. With so much horizontal room, you can compare two documents in Word in such a way that one document is on the left monitor and the other on the right. For those who do quite a bit of comparing, this is the optimal solution.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (595) applies to Microsoft Word 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Comparing Documents Top and Bottom.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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