How to do change tracking and comments

This is of interest to anyone who might want to help out with beta reading Queen of Souls. As y’all saw in that post, what I need is for people to load the manuscript into a word processor that supports Office-style change tracking and comments, so that I can take your comments and merge them all into a master file.

Here’s the important thing to note: you do not need to actually have Microsoft Word on your system.

Yes, Microsoft Office is king of all the word processing, and in particular, it’s what gets used in the vast majority of work in the publishing industry. But because it is so ubiquitous, other word processors pretty much have to have some level of compatibility with it in order for people to actually get work done. This includes Pages, if you’re a Mac owner and/or an iOS device user, and Open/LibreOffice, if you’re a Linux person.

The functionality that’s of most interest to me here is the ability to leave comments, but you’ll need to turn on change tracking to get to that functionality, most likely. Here are assorted bits of instructions as to how to do this, depending on what word processor you have immediately available.

First and foremost: how to do change tracking and comments in Word

If you’re actually using Microsoft Office, I grant that how to do this may vary a bit depending on what version of Word you’re running. Here are instructions based on the versions of Word I have immediate access to (Word 2007 on PC, Word 2011 on Mac, and Word 2008 on Mac).

If you’re on a version of Word with the ribbon, do this:

  1. Position your cursor in the file where you want to leave a comment.
  2. Click on the “Review” tab on the ribbon.
  3. You should see a sticky note icon on the ribbon which says “New Comment” underneath it (at least on my Word 2007 on PC), or, in a “Comments” section over on the left, multiple sticky notes, one of which will say “New” (on Word 2011 on my Mac at work). Click that.
  4. You should have a comment bubble pop up on the right side of the file, where you can enter your comment.
  5. If you don’t have something that looks like your name attached to the comment, go into your settings for the program and update your user data appropriately.

Editing to add: If you’re not on a version of Word with a ribbon, then you should be able to do this instead. (These instructions were vetted against Mac Word 2008 on my laptop at home.)

  1. Position your cursor where you want the comment.
  2. From the “Insert” menu, choose “Comment”.
  3. You should get a comment bubble as described in the previous example.

Now this does cover only adding comments to files and doesn’t cover tracking changes, which is separate functionality. If you’re feeling ambitious and you want to do things like stick in a proposed comma, or correct a typo, or that kind of thing, then you actually do need to turn on change tracking. If you’re using a non-ribbon version of Word, you can do that like this:

  1. From the “Tools” menu, find the “Track Changes” item and look at its submenu.
  2. On the submenu, choose “Highlight Changes”.
  3. Check the “Track changes while editing” box.
  4. Click OK.

Then, once you’ve done that, any actual changes you make to the text, such as deleting or adding a punctuation mark, fixing a typo, adding a missing word, etc., will be dropped in as red text with a bubble on the right, similar to comments functionality.

But what if you’re not using Office?

How to turn on change tracking and leave comments in Pages

You can leave comments on files in Pages for iOS like this (vetted against Pages on my iPhone, running iOS 9):

  1. Tap on the toolbar icon in the upper right corner.
  2. On the list of “Tools” options that comes up, tap “Change Tracking”.
  3. Tap the “Tracking” toggle to turn it on.
  4. Enter a name to be used for comments and tap Done.
  5. Tap Done again back on the Change Tracking screen.

Once you’ve done that, then when you tap anywhere within a document open in Pages, you should get “Comment” on the menu of actions you can take.

If you’re using Pages on a Mac, then the functionality is pretty similar. Do this:

  1. Open the file and place your cursor where you need to leave the comment.
  2. You should see a Comment button right at the top of the window, on the Toolbar. Click that and fill in the comment bubble that pops up.

For actual change tracking, Apple has step by step instructions for how to turn on change tracking in Pages for iOS here. Similar instructions for how to do this on Pages for OS X are here.

How to turn on change tracking and leave comments in LibreOffice

If you’re running Ubuntu or some other flavor of Linux, chances are pretty high that you have either LibreOffice or OpenOffice on your system. The version of Ubuntu I have immediate access to is 14.04, so these instructions are vetted against the version of LibreOffice that shipped with that. Here’s how to turn on change tracking and do comments in LibreOffice Writer, version 4.2.82.

Once you have a file open in LibreOffice, do this:

  1. Position your cursor where you want to insert a comment.
  2. Under the Insert menu, select “Comment”.
  3. You should get a bubble popping up on the right hand side of the file with a place for you to enter a comment, with an arrow pointing back to where you’d dropped your cursor.
  4. If your comment bubble says “Unknown Author”, you should be able to fix this by getting into your settings (Tools menu, Options), and clicking on “User Data” under the “LibreOffice” section. Fill your name in there.

I will update this post as necessary when I get confirmed instructions on how to do this in other Office-compatible word processors. Let me know if you have any questions. And if anybody else has confirmed instructions for other word processors you’d like me to add to this, hit me up with data and/or links!

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