Oops: Tracking Changes in Microsoft Word

by Ted Jardine Monday, March 03, 2008 5:27 PM

Microsoft Word's "Track Changes" feature is extremely useful, but has the very real potential of embarrassing you and/or your company. I wrote an internal memo a couple months back because a client had sent a Word document that unknowingly had very private information visible with Track Changes enabled; this particular client had been tracking changes, but had not removed all traces of past edits before sending it off. Fortunately, I was as yet the only recipient, but that was something a little too close for comfort.

The Word 2007 help files include the following:

Life is full of embarrassing moments. Some merely cause temporary blushing while others can make you cringe for years to come. Of course, some of these episodes are preventable if you just take some appropriate action. For example:

  • That hiring manager you sent your souped up resume to opened it up in Word 2003 and saw all your creative editing right there, in the form of insertions, deletions, and comments. Your secret was out, and you now remain unemployed and living in your parents' rec room.
  • Before sending off your annual review form, where you let off some steam by inserting epithets and insults about your goody-goody coworkers, you hide the revision marks. Later that day, you're escorted out of the building.
  • You send off your contract bid with the proprietary notes (i.e. profit margins) not-so-hidden.

Solution: Before you send those documents off, get rid of the revision marks — otherwise, they're on by default when someone opens them up in Word 2003.

There's only one way to get rid of all those potentially embarrassing/incriminating changes, and that's by accepting or rejecting all of them. Go to the online Microsoft help article to find out the steps for all versions of Word. Read it. Do it. And if you don't, pray you send that Word doc to somebody nice like me.

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