Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Word Tip Wednesday: Compare and Combine

Before we get started, there's a great post over on the LiyanaLand blog building off my last Word Tip Wednesday post on styles and document map. She's got step-by-step instructions on setting up a template for your manuscripts. It's a great post and very informative. Click here to check it out. :)

Okay, today we are talking about the Compare and Combine features. Great for when you want to compare a new version of your manuscript to an old one and for when you have several crits on the same manuscript and you don't want to mess with keeping track of multiple documents as you're doing revisions.

It's under the Review tab.*

Click the Compare button and select Compare or Combine in the menu that pops up. The two are very similar. The only difference that I've been able to find is in how the Track Changes appear within the merged document.

Compare (legal blackline) merges two versions of a document and notes any changes that have been made. This option will force you to accept any Track Changes and it will note you as the author of those changes--great for comparing old and new versions of your manuscript. But if you're trying to compare critique notes from other people and you want to keep track of who the author is for any track changes, you'll want to select the Combine option, which basically does the same thing without affecting track changes. And if your settings are set up correctly, each author will show up as a different color.

So, to put it simply, Compare works best if you are the author of all the changes in the documents you are comparing. Combine is the better choice if there are multiple authors of changes and comments.

I'll show you how to do it using the Combine menu, but the menus for either option are pretty much identical.

Select the pull down arrow under "Original document" and "Revised document" one at a time. You should have a list under each with your most recent documents and an option to Browse.

Once you have selected your documents, you can adjust the "Comparison Settings" according to what you want to compare. I just leave them all checked and keep the default settings in the "Show changes" section at the bottom. You can play around with them to see what you prefer. Note: Selecting to have it show changes in the original or revised document will change the selected document.

After you select OK, this may pop up. Just select the document you want to use for the formatting and select "Continue with Merge".

And your document should show up looking something like this (click to enlarge):

Without the blurring and the big cut down the middle, of course. :) You can open the reviewing pane (on the left) by clicking the Reviewing Pane button under the review menu. The pull down menu gives you the option to have the pane appear vertical (left side of screen) or horizontal (bottom of screen).

If the comments and changes are all showing up as the same color regardless of author, go into your Track Changes settings (steps to get there are here) and change the color selections in the "Markup" and "Formatting" sections to match this:

And that should fix it. :)

So, who's using this already? Anything you want to add? Any questions? Was I unclear or confusing? Let me know in the comments and I'll try to clarify.

More Word tips posts here

*Microsoft Word 2007


  1. good information as I don't know about this before...

  2. I've never tried it. Not sure if I will. I don't need to compare my new version with the old one. I know the old one sucks, and I generally don't want to see it again. :D

    As for combined. I'm not in a crit group (but I can see how awesome this technique would be if I were in one). I send my stuff out to one individual. When I get her crit back, I make the necessary changes, and forward it to the next person. If they make the same comment as the previous critter on something I didn't change, then I know to change it. Usually it's something I remember because I've already battled it out in my brain whether or not to change it. ;)

  3. oh man, this is SOOO Helpful! I wish i had known how to do this a few months ago when i got a couple crits back on the same chapter.
    this post has been bookmarked

  4. I've been sooo terrified to use this feature, worried I'll screw it up somehow. Thanks for the tutorial!

  5. You really know what you're doing with this program, dontcha? ;)

    I'll have to give this a try. Thanks!

  6. It amazes me how much I really don't know about this program! Thanks, Abby!