Use Word’s Compare feature to maintain your sanity

It’s time to write another business proposal – good for you!  So you get started.  You navigate to the folder your proposal document is saved in, discover you have two versions and can’t remember the difference between the two … what now?

Well this is where Word’s Compare feature comes in handy.  It allows you to easily compare versions, with differences between the documents shown by revision marks in the Compared Document.

Here’s how:

  • Click the Compare button (Review > Compare);
  • Select Compare from the dropdown menu – a dialogue box will appear;
  • Use the inset dialogue boxes to select the Original and Revised documents to be compared;
  • Make your desired preferences, including display preferences, via the Comparison settings and Show changes sections (click the More >> button if these sections aren’t displayed);
  • Click OK.

You’ll now be presented with a screen split four ways (depending on your Word settings).  Panes can be hidden or shown as required (see below).

Here’s a breakdown of the various panes:

Revisions (left hand pane)

  • The total number of revisions made appears at the top of the pane. To see a summary of revisions, click the arrow beside the number of revisions.
  • A Refresh button at the top of the pane can be used to refresh the list of revisions. Use this button where the list doesn’t automatically update after a revision is either accepted or rejected within the Compared Document (see below).
  • This pane also includes a listing of revisions made. Click any of the items within the list to quickly navigate to the revision within the Compared Document.

Compared Document (middle pane)

  • If you’ve elected to show changes in the Original or Revised document, the filename of the relevant document will appear in brackets in the pane heading (beside ‘Compared Document’). No filename will display where you’ve elected to show changes in a New document.
  • The document within this pane will display all revisions as tracked changes. Simply accept or reject any changes as you ordinarily would using Track Changes (Review > Tracking).
  • Once a revision has been either accepted or rejected, it will be removed from the list within the Revisions pane.

Original Document / Revised Document (right hand panes)

  • Filenames for both of these documents will be displayed as outlined above.
  • These panes display the Original and Revised documents in their original form.

If you find it too difficult to work with all panes displayed, simply close the pane you don’t require by clicking the X icon (located beside the pane heading).

To redisplay (or display) closed panes:

  • Click the Compare button;
  • Select Show Source Documents and click on the relevant menu item to show the Original, Revised or Both documents, as desired.

Note: in Word 2007, the Show Source Documents button is located on the ribbon (Review > Compare).

There’s a different process to redisplay the Revisions pane: simply click the Reviewing Pane button (Review > Tracking).

Be sure to use the Compare feature the next time you’re stumped by two versions of the same document, unsure of the changes that have been made between them.  Within a few mouse clicks, you’ll know exactly what the differences are and you can get on with the job of writing that winning proposal!