Word: Track changes

By tracking changes in Word (sometimes described as tracking mode) you can follow various things like changes to the formatting and comments made in a Word document. This function is especially useful when several authors are working on the same document. With Word Track Changes activated, you can see who’s responsible for which changes and when the last change was made. It’s then up to you whether you want to individually or totally reject the changes or give your final approval. Here, we’ll show you how the function works.

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How to turn on track changes in Word

In Microsoft Word’s main menu, select “Track Changes” from the “Review” panel and then again select “Track Changes” from the drop-down menu. Now the tracking mode is activated, which means that any changes made in the document from now on will be logged. How these changes are displayed depends on the settings that have been set for Track Changes.

If “Track Changes” is greyed out in the Word menu bar, then it’s possible that the document has been locked from having changes made. In this case, you’ll have to first remove document protection before you can track changes in Word. To do this, go to “Review” and then “Restrict Editing” to find out whether this kind of protection has been set up and remove it if necessary. You may need the appropriate password to do this.


You can also activate Track Changes with the Word key combination Ctrl + Shift + E.

Standard display of changes

If you haven’t made any other changes to the setting, then new text will be marked in color and underlined. Deleted text will be also marked in a color with a line drawn through the text. In the left sidebar, a vertical line is visible next to changes text abstracts. In the right sidebar, bubbles are shown with information on the changes made. When you hover your mouse over the changed text, a speech bubble will also appear with detailed information on the author, the time of the change, and the changes that were made. Here you’ll also see if the formatting was changed.

The changes made by different authors are represented in different colors and can be commented on by other users. Track Changes in Word is similar to Word’s comment function. If you are using the tracking function and comments at once, both will appear in the right menu bar.

Alternative display options

The settings for tracking changes allow you to customize how changes are displayed. The following settings are available for changing how the display of tracked changes:

Simple markup The changes are marked only by a line in the page margin. By clicking on the line, the changes in the text are displayed. In this display option you can see what the changed text will look like after you’ve accepted the changes.
Markup: all All changes are displayed in detail, just like is described above under “Simple markup”.
Markup: none The changes are not shown. What you see is a preview of what the document will look like once you’ve accepted all changes.
Original The document is shown in the previous version without any changes displayed.

Under “Show Markup” you can also specify the type of display in more detail. Here, you’ll find the following additional settings that you can activate:

Comments Comments are displayed as changes.
Freeform Entries made using the freeform function of a tablet, for example, are displayed as changes.
Insertions and deletions Insertions and deletions are displayed as changes.
Formatting Formatting changes are displayed as changes.
Speech bubbles: show revisions in speech bubbles Changes are displayed in the form of speech bubbles on the right side of the document.
Speech bubbles: show all revisions inline Changes are displayed and emphasized directly in the text (“inline”).
Speech bubbles: show only comments and formatting in speech bubbles Comments and formatting changes are displayed in speech bubbles on the right-hand side, while all other changes are displayed directly in the text.
Specific person Here you have the option to only display the changes of specific authors.
Highlight other authors’ updates These settings are normally disabled in single-user versions of Microsoft Word and only affect the simultaneous editing of documents by multiple users.

Another display option for changes is the revision area. You can display this area horizontally or vertically. Here, the changes made can be displayed with the respective editor, similar to the speech bubbles in the page margin, but without information on when the changes were made. The revision area is especially handy for seeing at a glance whether the document still contains changes that you need to accept or reject. At the top of the revision area, you can see the number of open revisions.

By clicking on the extension icon in the bottom right corner of the “Track Changes” area, a dialog that summarizes all settings options is displayed. Here you will also find the “Advanced Options” button, where you can individually define the type of highlighting, the assignment of editors, the font, and the size of speech bubbles, among other others.


Track Changes is not exclusive to Word. In Excel, you can also track changes.

Accepting or declining changes

In the ribbon of the “Review” tab you will find the “Changes” area where you can accept or reject changes. Use the “Next” and “Back” buttons to go through the changes one by one. With the “Accept” and “Reject” buttons, you accept or reject the selected change – Word then automatically jumps to the next change. The accepted or rejected change will then disappear from the change list, i.e., it is no longer displayed as a change.

If you click on the arrow below the “Accept” or “Reject” buttons, you have further options for faster editing. For example, you can accept or reject all changes at once.


The Track Changes function works in all current Word versions. But other text editing programs offer similar functions.

Word: track changes and print

Note that tracked changes are also displayed when the document is printed, i.e., the changes in the margin or in the text are printed as well. If you do not want this, you have two options:

  1. Open the “File” tab and select the “Print” option. Under “Settings” select the button “Print all pages”. At the bottom you will find the “Print Markup” entry. If you remove the checkmark for this, the document will be printed in the changed version without displaying the changes. On the right you will find the print preview.
  2. If you change the display settings to “Markup: None” before printing, the document will also be printed without displaying the changes in the modified version. Alternatively, you can select the “Original” setting and print the document in the previous version without changes.

Turning off Track Changes

If you want to turn off Word’s Track Changes function, then proceed as follows:

  1. Click on the “Review” tab.
  2. Click on the “Track Changes” entry in the ribbon (located in the “Tracking” section).
  3. Press the “Track changes” button again.

This switches off the tracking of changes meaning that no more changes will be marked. However, the previously logged changes will still be displayed and can still be accepted or rejected.

Remember to turn off Track Changes when you no longer need it and to accept or reject all changes. This is especially true if you want to share the finished Word document with others. Otherwise, the recipients will see the earlier versions of the text.


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