Noting Changes at the Left of the Text

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 1, 2014)

Danielle is aware of how to use Track Changes in a document, but it doesn't do exactly what she wants. When a change is made, Danielle wants to keep the line at the left side of the document that shows a change was made, but she doesn't care about noting the actual change itself. She wants that line to remain even after the changes have been accepted in order to show that a change was once made at that location.

The short answer is that you can't do this in Word, at least not automatically. Track changes is a "self contained" system designed to note changes and then, in some fashion, resolve those changes. Once they are resolved (the change is either accepted or rejected), then the notation of the change is eliminated completely; there is no way to make it linger.

One possible solution, if you don't mind some manual formatting, is to use styles to define where changes have been made. For instance, you may use several different types of styles in your document—such as Body Text, Indent, Quote, etc. You could create secondary styles based on each of these, with the one difference being that the style includes a left border on the paragraph. Thus, you could have Body Text and Body Text Changed. When you may a change in a paragraph normally formatted with the Body Text style, simply apply the Body Text Changed style to the paragraph and the desired line will appear at the left of the paragraph.

There are several drawbacks to this manual approach, to be sure. The first is that it is, well, manual. That means you need to take additional time to change styles whenever you make a change in a paragraph. The second drawback is that the formatting is only granular to a paragraph level. If you want the "change bar" to appear at the left of a single line on which there may have been a change, then that won't work with this approach; the border appears on the entire paragraph, no matter how long it is.

Another alternative is to maintain a separate copy of our documents. The first could be the "original" document, prior to any changes. The other copy would be the latest and greatest version of the document. You could then use Word's compare documents feature to create a marked-up version of a document showing the differences between the two. That marked-up copy could be the one you use for distribution, as it shows where changes have been made.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (6791) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

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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