California Bar Journal
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Finding a better way to redline
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Dana ShultzRedlining is a mainstay of attorneys who negotiate contracts. Both MS Word and WordPerfect can compare two versions of a document in seconds, using various font attributes (e.g., strikeout and colors) to highlight deletions and insertions.

Attorneys seeking greater precision often use CompareRite ( However, some documents — typically, those with recurring portions of similar text, or those with major insertions or deletions — can cause even CompareRite to produce output that is useless.

Fortunately, there is an alternative. Word’s Track Changes feature redlines on the fly, highlighting each character inserted or deleted with a user-specified font attribute.

(If WordPerfect has a similar feature, I have not found it. However, given Corel’s recent announcement that it may not have the cash to continue operations for more than a few months, WordPerfect’s features may be moot, anyway.)

Track Changes functions

Track Changes is on Word’s Tools menu and has three functions: Highlight Changes, Accept or Reject Changes, and Compare Documents (discussed above).

Highlight Changes has three options. Track Changes while Editing lets you decide when to use Track Changes. Highlight Changes on Screen lets you view the changed document, and Highlight Changes in Printed Document lets you print the changed document, in normal or redlined form.

Accept or Reject Changes lets you examine each change so you can choose whether to keep it. If so, the change stays in the document, and the font highlights are eliminated. If you reject the change, it is removed, and that portion of the document returns to its original state. With one click, you can accept or reject all changes in a document.

Benefits and limitations

The greatest benefit of Track Changes is correct redlining of all changes, no matter how small or large they are. In addition, because the feature is part of Word, users are spared the hassle of waiting for a CompareRite update every time Microsoft changes the Word document format.

Furthermore, Track Changes displays changes by multiple users quite elegantly. Different users’ changes appear in different colors, and each change has a pop-up showing the user’s name and the date and time of the insertion or deletion.

Not a panacea

Of course, Track Changes is not the right tool for every situation. If you receive an edited document where Track Changes was not used, document comparison is the only redlining tool available. Also, a careless or dishonest user can turn off Track Changes while Editing and, thus, slip a change past someone who is reading the edited document.

Finally, insertion and deletion marks can increase document conversion problems. In one instance, I was negotiating with a major international vendor of hardware, software and services that uses Lotus WordPro (care to guess who that is?).

The vendor made the final, agreed-upon edits using the WordPro equivalent of Track Changes and e-mailed the revised document to me in Word format. For reasons that we still have not figured out, this set of changes did not display or print properly.

Quick transition

Coming from an environment where document comparison was the standard, I was surprised to see how quickly I came to prefer Track Changes. If you try it, I think you will, too.

Dana Shultz is an Oakland-based attorney and Certified Management Consultant specializing in computer technology and the Internet.  He may be reached by e-mail at and on the Web at