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.
seeking greater precision often use CompareRite (http://www.lexis-nexis.com/y2k/choices/compare.asp).
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. Words 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 Corels recent announcement that it may not have the cash to continue
operations for more than a few months, WordPerfects features may be moot, anyway.)
Track Changes functions
Track Changes is on Words 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 users 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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and on the
Web at www.ds-a.com.