Monday, February 22, 2010

Editing Tool: MS Word Track Changes

As an editor, I've worked on books such as Kim Paffenroth's DYING TO LIVE and David Wong's JOHN DIES AT THE END. Track changes, an editing tool in Microsoft Word, has been indispensable.

With track changes activated, editors can strike through material for suggested deletions and can insert additions, which will be underlined and highlighted for visibility; reviewers can quickly cycle through and accept/reject the editorial changes.

I not only use this utility for editing; I also use it in my own work, to keep track of revisions and drafts. You could also use track changes while co-authoring a novel, so you and your co-writer can show each other the parts you've changed.

To teach writers how to use the tool, I created a short video demonstration that I thought I'd share. The following instructions are based on Microsoft Word 2000. While tool bars appear differently in other versions of Word, the functions remain the same.

Play Track Changes demo >>

Any questions, corrections or additions? Comment below!


KPaffenroth said...

As a Luddite, I was intimidated at first by TrackChanges, but I now use it for all editing needs. I highly recommend it.

frank said...

I'm pretty much leaving my beloved Word Perfect because of track changes. WP has its version, but I've not been able to communicate with other word processors, even when converting to .doc or .rtf format.

Open Office seems not to have this problem in terms of converting its track change output into .doc to be read by a user in MS Word.

What I do not yet know is whether it will successfully import and/or export for purposes of accepting or rejecting edits. Even if it does not work, the ease in commenting is too great to let go.

You can even run a spell check on top of the track changes and have that be recorded just as though you did the edit yourself. I love it!

John W. Oliver said...

I'm not a MS Word user, but I work with people who do. I've found that OpenOffice and NeoOffice communicate the Track Changes function well between word processors (so long as you save it in a .doc format, of course). I use these programs to edit the work of others, or to open commentary offered to me.

Thank goodness for Open Source.

Thom Brannan said...

If you change your view to PRINT LAYOUT, the changes you've made appear off to the side in a colored bubble instead of strikethrough text, which I think is better.

I used Track Changes for both CTHULHU UNBOUND volumes and for DEAD END, and it is a great tool! I use it exclusively now for critiquing stories in the online workshop I participate in, and I'm not entirely sure I could go back to not using it.

Thanks, D.L., for the tutorials!

D.L. Snell said...

Great comments, everyone!

Thom: You're welcome. Yeah, the balloons feature is great. I've found that it isn't compatible with older versions of Word though, if you're sharing with someone who's running antiquated software.

John W. (and this may interest Frank as well): I worked with someone who had Open Office, and we figured out that saving in .RTF seemed to transfer the track changes better than the .DOC extension. Also, the author never could read my comments, so I ended up writing them directly in the text.

It could be that our program versions are different than the ones you've had experience with--and it could be that I'm remembering incorrectly.

>>I use these programs to edit the work of others, or to open commentary offered to me.

So you can see embedded comments in OpenOffice???

Bobbie Metevier said...

DL and I used (and are using) track changes to edit Best New Tales of the Apocalypse. An they are used optionally in the Pendulum.

If you don't know how to use them, this is the fastest and easiest tutorial I have ever seen.

Track changes not only saves times, but it saves trees, postage and phone time!