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I Am Skooter
So here's us, on the raggedy edge.
You go your way / I'll go your way too
— Leonard Cohen, Leonard Cohen
November 14, 2004
Microsoft Word: Tracking Changes

For years now, I’ve been using Microsoft Word’s change tracking features to produce documents. Frustrating though it may have been, it provided a feature that was eminently useful.

I’ve only recently begun using Microsoft Word 2004 and the person who designed the new interface for change tracking deserves to be worshipped, if only because they managed to overcome years of inertia on a little used feature to make it truly useful.
MS Word Track Changes Interface

Historically, change tracking left a document with both new and deleted text interspered. Deleting a word left the word in place, but changed its formatting so that it was indicated as being removed (by default this meant it became red and got slashed through.)

This new interface pulls the changes out into a kind of virtual post-it note. This provides so many advantages, I’m not even sure I could describe all of them. The key ones, however, are:
- it keeps the flow of the modified text continuous; because the change is removed from the document, you can now read the text as intended without interruption
- it provides full access to the changes, and a clearer indication of formatting changes. Formatting changes were difficult in the the old interface, but in this one the pull-out box indicates when these have been made
- it makes accepting changes easier, by providing a checkbox to accept or reject the change at the top of the pull out box (not clearly shown in my screenshot, but try it.)

Really very nice work here. I had stopped using this feature becuase it tended to confuse people that I sent documents to; I’m using it again, if only for my benefit.

Posted by skooter at 3:43 PM This entry is filed under Technology.

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