Writer help: Using track changes

Recently I had a lengthy discussion with my editor about track changes. She and I use different applications for writing/editing — she uses Microsoft Office and I use LibreOffice. We discovered a bit of an issue between the two office suites, with regards to track changes. During that discussion, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about track changes and how it is a must-have tool for writers.

What is “track changes”

Figure 1

The track changes feature, in any word processor, allows you to collaborate with other writers. With this feature enabled, everything you change will appear. If you look at Figure 1, you will see track changes in action. What this figure shows are the changes made by two different users (one in orange and one in green), allowing easy collaboration between writer and editor.

How it works is simple, just follow these directions (I will demonstrate this using LibreOffice, but these instructions will work the same of OpenOffice.):

Step 1: Turn track changes on. To do this click Edit > Changes > Record. Also click Edit > Changes > Show so the changes will show for you.

Step 2: Now, edit your document as needed. As you make your edits anything you delete will color the text according to your user settings and will put a strikethrough over the characters. When you add text, characters, spaces, returns, etc those new characters will appear in the same color as your deletions (minus the strikethrough).

Step 3: Save your document. When you save your document, the changes will be saved along with it. You can now pass that document along to your editor or another writer.

NOTE: You do not want to have track changes recorded or showing when you are doing your initial rewrites. Remember, this is only for editing or collaboration.

Now it’s time to accept and reject changes. How is this done? Simple.

Step 1: Read the changed text. If you want to accept a change, right click the text and then click Accept Change. When you do this, the change will be applied and the editing formats will be removed.

If you want to reject a change right-click the changed text and then select Reject Change. This will either get rid of the added text or re-add the deleted text.

Step 2: Once you have completed the accepting or rejecting of changes, you can now turn off track changes and submit that book for publication!

Final thoughts

Of course this really only scratches the surface of track changes, as there are quite a bit more advanced features for this tool. But as a writer you need to at least have a fundamental understand of how track changes work. And now…you do.