Tuesday, July 29, 2008

MS Word for the Novelist - Revisions, Part One

This is a document that I originally wrote for my co-workers. Since it's so long, I'm going to tackle it in at least two parts. This first part introduces revisioning in general.


As writers, we often take part in online critique groups, where we swap documents back and forth and provide helpful comments and suggestions. If both you and your reviewer have Microsoft Word, you can save a lot of time by using the Reviewing toolbar. With the Reviewing toolbar, you can automatically apply or reject a reviewer's suggested changes to your document.

By using these features, you save time both as author and as reviewer. As a reviewer, you save time because you are entering your comments and changes directly into the document rather than juggling another document or printing it out. As the author, you save time because you are free to accept or reject any changes with the click of a button.

Reviewing Toolbar

Regardless of whether you are the author or reviewer, you will need to use the Reviewing toolbar. To bring up the Reviewing toolbar, right-click the toolbar and select Reviewing from the dropdown menu. Here is a segment of what that menu looks like:

Once the Reviewing toolbar is up, it looks like this:

Turning on the "Track Changes" option is quite easy. Just push the second button from the right. It will turn orange, like this:

And you're done. The document is now ready to send off to your reviewer. The reviewer--as long as he doesn't tamper with this button--can make all the changes he wishes, and once you get it back, it will contain both his revisions and your original text.

The rest of the Reviewing toolbar is discussed in the rest of this article and my next installment.

Revisions Displayed

The first dropdown in the reviewing toolbar contains options that control how a reviewed document will appear. "Markup" is Microsoft's words for revisions. When someone makes a change to your document, the changes are considered "markup".

  • Original - This shows how the document appeared before any changes, hiding all revision markups. This is handy if you want to print your original document and retain all revisions.
  • Original Showing Markup - This shows how the document originally appeared, along with revision markups showing all changes made since then.
  • Final - This shows how the document will appear if you accept all current changes. It hides all revision markups. This is handy if you want to print the final doc, yet retain all revisions.
  • Final Showing Markup - This shows how the document will appear if you accept all current changes, but it also shows everything that changed within the document.

If you select either Original or Final, Word will hide all revisions from you. However, they are still present in the document! These features have made national news when a sender inadvertently distributed a document with hidden—and embarrassing—revisions. Also, if you think you lost your revisions, check this dropdown and make sure you have selected an option that shows the markup.

To avoid sending out documents with embedded revisions that you do not know about, always keep "Final Showing Markup" selected.

Revision Markup Options

Other options control how the markup in the revised document appears. You can use either the Balloon method or the Reviewing pane method.

Balloon Method

By default, Word shows deletions and comments in balloons off to the right, and insertions within the text. When the right margin no longer has any room for new balloons, Word will open the Reviewing pane.

If the Balloon method is not already set up, you can set it up by selecting the following options from the Show dropdown on the Reviewing toolbar.

  • Place checkmarks next to Final, Comments, Ink Annotations, Insertions and Deletions, and Formatting
  • Click Balloons, then place a checkmark next to Always.
  • Click Options and select "Always" from Use Balloons (Print and Web Layout).
  • Then, click OK.

When you click a balloon, Word will highlight the text to which the balloon applies, or it will attempt to point to the deletion point. If there are many deletions, they will become difficult to locate.

Word constantly adjusts the size and positions of the balloons as the reviewer adds revisions. There is no way to move the balloons manually. When the balloons take up all the space along the right margin, Word will compress the balloons and open a Reviewing Pane along the bottom of the page. It will also attempt to merge the contents of several balloons into one, using ellipsis (…) between revisions. Click on the balloon and the Revision pane will display the complete text.

For these reasons, the Balloon method is only useful if you have occasional changes here and there. For sweeping changes, use the Reviewing Pane.

Reviewing Pane Method

Older versions of Word used the Reviewing Pane rather than balloons. The Balloon method is the friendliest and easiest method to use. However, when the document has many revisions, the Reviewing Pane becomes more useful.

The Reviewing Pane sorts revisions according to their position in the document. Most of the time, your revisions will show up in the Main Document area.

To turn off the bubbles and turn on the Reviewing Pane, bring up the Track Changes option box and select "Never" in the Use Balloons (Print and Web Layout) option.

Deletions will now show up as strikeouts and comments will appear in the reviewing pane. The text that the reviewer commented upon will appear highlighted and labeled. If you move your mouse over the highlighted text, the comment will appear in a bubble.

The image below has examples of how a line of text appears with insertions, deletions and comments.

The Reviewing Pane automatically comes on when reviewing changes in the Normal layout.

Hybrid Methods

The Track Changes option box gives you complete control over how tracked changes will appear on your computer. You can italicize your changes, make them bold, or format them in any manner.

However, no matter what method you use, keep the following important fact in mind:

Track Changes options do not save with the document!

The options that you choose apply to every document with revisions that you open on your computer. However, if your reviewer were to open the same document on another computer, it will appear according to the options that the reviewer chose.

Don't let all this daunt you. Ordinarily, you don't need to do anything to set up revisioning. The default settings work wonderfully.

That's all for this installment. Open up a document and play around with revisions. As usual, I'm ready to answer questions in the comments. The next installment will cover how to actually make revisions or insert comments.


  1. Dang! I had a heck of a time trying to get this to display properly. Next time, I won't attempt to paste this from Google Docs. You would think that they would be able to work together, since the same company owns both applications, but I guess not.

    I checked this in both IE7 and Firefox, so I think it should display ok, now.

  2. Ha, try copying and pasting from MS Word into Blogger then looking at the HTML code it produces. MS Word and HTML do not mix.

    But yeah, Google Docs and Blogger were developed separately (as I believe Google acquired Blogger rather than "home grew" it).

  3. Yesterday phoned my brother and told me about his problems.One of it was with corrupted word files and I advised for him-repair word documents 2007.Tool helped him in seconds and he knew how support *.doc, *.docx, *.dot and *.dotx, as well as files in *.rft (Rich Text) format.


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