Word Tips & Tricks -  How to clear tracked changes and comments

Do you recognise it?
  • You receive a document in an e-mail message from your colleague. It would make a good starting point for a document that you want to work on, so you save it under a new name and tailor it to your needs. It never occurs to you that your colleague left comments in the original document, because you don't see them in your copy. You're now ready to pass the document along to others, but you want to send them your document, not an accumulation of the original document, your colleague's comments, and your updates.
  • Or, you used the Track Changes feature in Word to keep track of the revisions you made to your resume. Now you want to send the resume to your prospective employer, who should see the result of your editing, not the thought process you went through to get there.

In either case, you are stunned when those who receive your document report that it's difficult to read, with all the strikethrough, underlining, and balloons off to the side. Look! There's the objective statement in your resume, with three different objectives displayed in strikeout formatting—and the objective you want to use this time around is displayed in underlined text. Chances are you won't get that job.

This text wasn't in the document when you sent it. How did Word find and display this content? What can you do to make Word behave?

1. Understanding the Track Changes feature

  • You may not realize it, but you are working with the Track Changes or Comments feature in Word. Typically, when Word tracks changes, it displays deletions with strikethrough formatting and insertions as underlined text. Both deletions and insertions—as well as comments (or "annotations")—can be displayed in balloons in the page margin.
  • There are various ways to hide the revisions or comments—but all the revisions that were made while the Track Changes feature was turned on and all the comments that were inserted remain part of the document until they are accepted or rejected (or, in the case of comments, deleted).

Note  
Turning off Track Changes does not remove the revision marks or comments from the document. Instead, turning off Track Changes enables you to modify the document without storing insertions and deletions and displaying them as strikethrough, underlining, or balloons.

2. How to clear (all) the revisions (changes & comments)?

2.1. Clear changes & comments one by one

To get rid of tracked changes and comments, you need to accept or reject the changes and delete the comments. Here's how:

  • On the View menu, point to Toolbars, and then click Reviewing.
  • On the Reviewing toolbar, click Show, and then make sure that a check mark appears next to each of the following items:


     

    • Comments
    • Ink Annotations (Word 2003 only)
    • Insertions and Deletions
    • Formatting
    • Reviewers (Point to Reviewers and make sure that All Reviewers is selected.)

    If a check mark does not appear next to an item, click the item to select it.

  • On the Reviewing toolbar, click Next (  2nd button after Show) to advance from one revision or comment to the next.
  • On the Reviewing toolbar, click Accept Change (  3th button after Show) or Reject Change/Delete Comment ( 4th button after Show) for each revision or comment.
  • Repeat steps 3 and 4 until all the revisions in the document have been accepted or rejected and all the comments have been deleted.

2.2. Clear all changes & comments together

  • If you know that you want to accept all the changes, click the arrow next to Accept Change, and then click Accept All Changes in Document.
  • If you know that you want to reject all the changes, click the arrow next to Reject Change/Delete Comment, and then click Reject All Changes in Document.
  • To remove all comments, you must delete them. Click the arrow next to Reject Change/Delete Comment, and then click Delete All Comments in Document.
     

3. How did those revisions and comments get there?

You may have thought that you removed the comments or revisions, or you may have received the document from someone else without realizing that it contained comments or revisions. How does Word store these items without you being aware of them?

You or the person who sent the document may have hidden the revisions or comments. Hiding them does not remove them, however; they remain in the document. Depending on your version of Word and the settings you are using, the revisions or comments may reappear when you or someone else opens the document.

If you don't want others to see revisions and comments, accept or reject the revisions and delete the comments before you share the document with others. This is the case no matter which version of Word you are using, because anyone who opens the document can easily display existing revisions or comments.

Note  
If you use Word 2003, you are less likely to inadvertently distribute documents that contain revision marks and comments, because Word 2003 displays the revisions and comments by default.

3.1 Where revisions and comments may be hiding

There are several ways to hide revision marks and comments, which may lead you to think that they are not in the document.

  • 3.1.1. Display for Review box  
    On the Reviewing toolbar, the Display for Review box provides four options for viewing your document. If you select Final or Original, revision marks and comments are hidden. To display the revision marks, select Final Showing Markup or Original Showing Markup.
     
  • 3.1.2. Show menu  
    You can hide comments and revisions by turning them off on the Show menu on the Reviewing toolbar. Items that are marked with a check mark on the Show menu are displayed; items without a check mark are hidden. To display an item, such as Insertions and Deletions, select it on the Show menu.
     
  • 3.1.3. Option for hiding markup  
    In Word 2003, the Make hidden markup visible when opening or saving option may be turned off. To turn on the option, click Options (Tools menu), and then, on the Security tab, select the Make hidden markup visible when opening or saving check box.

Note
To display the Reviewing toolbar, point to Toolbars on the View menu, and then click Reviewing.

3.2. Why Word 2003 displays revisions and comments by default

To prevent you from inadvertently distributing documents that contain revision marks and comments that you don't realize are in the document, Word 2003 displays revision marks and comments by default. Word 2003 implements a new option, Make hidden markup visible when opening or saving, which is turned on by default.

4. Can I have it both ways?

If you want to preserve revision marks or comments in a document, and you want to share the document without others seeing the revisions and comments, the best solution is to keep separate copies of the document: one for distribution and one for yourself. In the public version of the document, accept or reject all revision marks and delete all comments, as described in this article. In the private version of the document, you can leave the revisions and comments in place.