Easy Reviewing with Word - part 1

We’ll show you the basics of sharing a Word document and how it’s certainly better than the way you do it now.


Microsoft loves to talk about collaboration, sharing, reviewing and otherwise scare many people into thinking that these Word features are way too complex. Once you’ve tried some simple document sharing, you’ll see how incredibly useful it is and not so scary.

No special servers or software is needed, just Microsoft Word.

This is one of those issues that will generate a lot of messages from more savvy Word users complaining that we ‘forgot’ some feature or neglected some possibility.  Keep in mind that this is a ‘Mere Mortals’ newsletter and, especially in this case, our aim is to explain the very basics of document sharing only.


An acquaintance of Peter’s, who shall remain nameless, has inspired this issue.  He’s a pretty savvy computer user with design talents in Word and Photoshop that are very impressive. 

But recently he sent a document to Peter that had text in red font, strikeout words etc – being his way of editing a document and showing the changes he’d made as he worked on – using the font color and formatting toolbar!

This is a classic example of not using even a fraction of the power available in Word.

It’s a faster and more efficient option than the old fashioned way of printing out a document, giving it to someone who makes changes and note by pen, then gives it back to you.  You have to include all the ink notes into the document.

With MS Word you send the document to the other person (the ‘editor’), they make their changes to the document itself then return it to you.  When you open the returned document, you can quickly accept or reject the changes made by the editor, leaving you with a final document to print out.

We won’t be going into all the variations, features and complexity that is possible with document sharing.  We’ll stick to a simple situation where you make a document, email it to someone else, they make changes and comments, and then email it back to you.


All you need is Microsoft Word – any recent version for Windows or Mac will do.

You do NOT need Outlook.  How you send and receive the document doesn’t matter for our purposes – we’ll talk about email only because that’s the most common method of transport.  You can share the document via USB key, floppy disk, network share, a herd of yaks … or whatever.

You don’t need Sharepoint, which is Microsoft’s web based system for collaboration.  Sharepoint can be very useful but it’s not necessary for this simple situation.

Even the person receiving and editing your document doesn’t need to have Microsoft Word, but you’ll see that it’s far better if they do.


  1. Create and save your document in the usual way.    

  2. Save it in the standard Word document format (.doc).

  3. Once you’ve made your first draft, go to Tools |  Track Changes  to turn on the Track Changes / Reviewing feature in Word.

From the time you do this all changes in the document are monitored and saved.  Not only are the changes tracked but who made them is also recorded.


When you’re ready, send off the document and ask for changes and comments. 

If it’s someone who hasn’t done any document revisions before you might want to explain that they only have to make any changes in the document as they always have.

It’s best to make sure that the document has Track Changes set to ON in the document before you send it out.  That way the receiver doesn’t have to do anything special, just edit the document while Word tracks the changes made in the background.


The person receiving your document just opens it up in Word (preferably) and edits it.

They can add and delete words / paragraphs, move around text, change formatting and add comments to the document, or the works.

The difference is that the basic document you sent remains and all the changes are applied over that – all in the one Word document.


In a paper document you might add comments to the side of a document in addition to actual changes made to the text.

Comments can be anything you like “Good point”,  “This isn’t clear to me”,  “Expand on this idea” – whatever.

To add a comment click on the part of the document the comment relates to and choose Insert | Comment  then type in your remarks.

For general comments, I usually add those comments at the very start of the document so they appear first to other people.


The Microsoft Word team has regularly changed the way revisions and comments show up in documents – there is a lot of information to display on the screen and it’s a real challenge to show all the edits in a way that makes sense.

One option for that is balloons – little pop-up colored notes on the right side of the screen.

Earlier versions of Word don’t have balloons, instead Comments appear in a separate pane at the bottom of the page.


The reviewer sends the document back to you.

In a simple situation you’ve made no changes to your copy the document after sending it.  If that’s the case you can save the edited copy over the version you sent.   You could give the returned version a different name, if you wish.

( One of the great tips in Peter’s Office BACKUP Handbook reminds that the ‘Sent Items’ folder can have old versions of documents.)

Open the document to see the edits and comments that have been made.  Use the ‘Final showing Markup’ option on the Reviewing toolbar to see the changes made.


If you have a document with lots of changes it can be very difficult to read with all the changes showing up.  You have various options to display the document.

If it hasn’t already appeared, right-click on an empty part of the Word toolbar and choose the Reviewing toolbar.  There are various options on the toolbar but the most important are the choices for displaying the document:

* Final showing Markup

This is the default, where you see the document in its most recent incarnation, with all the changes showing.

* Final

This is the most useful option at times, where you see the final version of the document with all the changes included rather than showing the changes separately.

* Original showing Markup

This shows the original document (when you started tracking changes) plus all the changes showing up in addition to that.

* Original

Lets you see the original document only – i.e. the way it was before tracking changes began.

When editing a document we usually turn the Markup display off so it’s easier to read.  A heavily edited document can be difficult to read with everyone’s changes showing.

Approval and Rejection

When you get a document back from revision you can choose to accept or reject each change in the document.

The revisions toolbar has the accept and reject buttons – which do what you’d expect:

  • Accept integrates the edit of the document into the main text.

  • Reject removes the edit from the document.

In complex situations with many changes and multiple contributors you can make good use of accept and reject to keep the document manageable.  However in a simple ‘writer and editor’ situation it might not be necessary.  When you get the document back from the editor you can just use ‘Final showing Markup’ to see the changes.


If you’re printing out your final document then the recipients will only see what you print out.  But if you send them an electronic version of your document it will contain all the revisions and changes – your personal or corporate workings are revealed to others.

More than one negotiation has been upset when the ‘other side’ gets this view into the thinking of other parties.   Even inside a company there have been problems when ‘undiplomatic’ comments get into a document.

Keep in mind that the Word document includes all the changes and comments, even when the display is set to ‘Final’.


Track Changes in Word makes a lot more sense if you use it.  Get together with a friend or colleague and send a test document back and forth.

That’s a great way to become comfortable with Word’s revisions features without worrying about ruining something you really need.