Does WordPerfect have a “Track Changes” feature? Well, sort of…

December 19, 2009 at 2:20 pm 1 comment

Many people who use MS Word are accustomed to turning on the “Track Changes” feature when they want the program to mark revisions (insertions, deletions, and moved text) automatically as they type. This feature is highly customizable. It allows each user to select specific font colors, underlining styles, and other font attributes for text that is redlined, stricken, or moved. For example, I have set my Track Changes options so that insertions appear in blue with double underlining and deletions appear in red with a strikeout line (also in red).

Another convenient aspect of Track Changes is that when someone (whether the document author or a reviewer) positions the mouse pointer over revisions, a pop-up indicates who made the change, as well as the date / time and the nature of the modification.

Word users who also occasionally work in WordPerfect sometimes ask whether WP has a comparable feature. The short answer is, “sort of.”

The feature in WordPerfect that most closely resembles Track Changes is called “Document Review.” It serves some of the same purposes as Track Changes, but — be forewarned — not all of them. Nor does it work exactly the same way.

Before you test the feature, be sure to make a copy of your document, for two reasons: (1) so that you don’t accidentally overwrite a critical file, and (2) so that you have the option of keeping sequential drafts of the doc for purposes of comparing the drafts later on if you wish.

Once you have created a backup, open it into WordPerfect and click the File menu, Document, Review. You will see a dialog box that allows you to act as a reviewer or as the document author. Your first impulse might be to click “Author.” However, even if you are the author of the document, you can — and might want to — work on the doc as a reviewer. The advantage of doing so is that your revisions (insertions and deletions) will automatically appear in color as you work on the document — emulating, at least to a certain degree, the way that Track Changes works. If, instead, you choose to act as the author, your modifications won’t appear in color, but you will be able to go through the document and selectively accept or reject changes that other people have made.

To enable the quasi-Track Changes mode, click the “Reviewer” button. Doing so will open a Reviewer Toolbar that features a drop-down list of reviewers, plus a few buttons. The buttons at the left side of the toolbar let you (1) select a color for insertions or deletions, (2) enable or disable markings in the margin to flag lines that contain changes[1], and (3) display insertions and deletions in the normal text color (similar to the “Final” display option for tracked changes in Word). In addition, there are two buttons at the right side of the toolbar: one to close the toolbar and one to invoke WP Help (which is context-sensitive).

If your name is not already in the Reviewer List box, you’ll see a User Name box and a User Initials box. Type your name and initials. Then open the color picker and select a color. Make sure not to choose a color that has been selected by another reviewer (if any) in the list. (You can select a different color later on if you decide you don’t like the original color you chose.) Then go ahead and edit the document to your heart’s content. Make sure to save the revised document afterwards.

The first thing to point out about Document Review is that, whether you are working on the doc as an author or as a reviewer, your display options are significantly more limited than they are in Word. Your insertions and deletions always appear in the same color, differentiated only by the existence of strikeout lines through the deletions. (Individual reviewers can, and usually do, have their own unique color.) As mentioned above, you can change your revision color, but you can’t apply one color to insertions and a different color to deletions. Nor can you apply other font attributes, such as bolding, italics, underlining, or double underlining, to your changes.

Although WP Help appears to suggest that you can alter the appearance of insertions, deletions, and moved text, any changes you make via the File menu, Document Compare, Settings will apply only if you use the the Document Compare feature itself. They don’t appear when you are using Document Review.

Another difference between Word’s Track Changes feature and WP’s Document Review feature is that pop-ups with information about a particular revision and the person who made the change appear only when you are acting as a reviewer. If you click “Author” in order to view and accept or reject modifications that others have made, you won’t see any pop-ups. However, each reviewer’s markings display in his or her distinctive color, and you have the option of displaying only one particular reviewer’s changes (rather than changes made by all reviewers) by clicking the “View annotations from” drop-down and clicking that reviewer’s name.

When you review a document as the author, you will see a somewhat different Reviewing Toolbar — one with more commands than those on the toolbar displayed for reviewers. In addition to the familiar icons for toggling margin markings on and off and for displaying revisions in the normal text color, there are buttons for moving to (and selecting / highlighting) the previous annotation (WordPerfect terminology for an insertion or deletion) or the next one; for inserting (i.e., accepting) the current (selected) annotation, for inserting all annotations in the document, for rejecting (i.e., deleting) the current (selected) annotation, and for rejecting all annotations. At the right side of the toolbar, you will see Close and Help buttons.

As in Word, the revision marks — and the Reviewing Toolbar — will appear whenever you open a document that has gone through the Document Review process. The only way to make the markings (and the Reviewing Toolbar) disappear permanently is to review the document as an Author and accept or reject each individual modification, close the Reviewing Toolbar, and save the final draft.

If you haven’t accepted or rejected all of the revisions but the markings aren’t visible, it’s possible that you have closed the Reviewing Toolbar. To reopen it, simply click the File menu, Document, Review, then click Author.

Despite its inherent limitations, the Document Review feature can be useful. It allows you to mark insertions and deletions automatically as you type, rather than going back and manually adding strikeout and redlining (which, of course, you can do at any point — even in a document that has undergone a Document Review — by selecting the text and then applying the appropriate marks via the Font dialog or via the redline and strikeout icons on the Legal Toolbar[2]). Also, it lets the author circulate a document to various people for review and subsequently accept or reject modifications suggested by those reviewers.

The point is that Document Review isn’t 100% comparable to Word’s Track Changes feature, so it’s important to keep your expectations in check.

For a relatively lengthy discussion of the Document Review feature, see this WordPerfect Universe thread . It’s more than two years old and involves WordPerfect X3, but as far as I know, the conclusions (and instructions) remain valid.

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[1] By default, WP uses a “greater than” symbol (>) as the margin marker. If you want to use a different character, click File, Document, Review, and click to put a check in the “Place marker in margin of lines with edited text” box. When you do so, the “Marking character” box — normally grayed out — will become available. Type the character you’d like to use, then click either the “Reviewer” or “Author” button. (Don’t click “Cancel,” or WP will revert to the default character when you enable the mark margins feature.)

[2] To display the Legal Toolbar or any of the other toolbars that come with WordPerfect, click the View menu, Toolbars, locate the toolbar you want to use (you might need to use the scrollbar), click to put a check in the box next to the toolbar’s name, then click OK.

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