Struggling with New Changes to Track Changes

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated December 10, 2022)
This tip applies to Word Word in Microsoft 365 and 2021


Terri uses the most current version of Microsoft 365 and her problem is what Microsoft has done to Track Changes, which she simply can't stand. Now she has the document in the middle of the page and on the right is the edits panel and to the right of that is yet another panel that shows the comments. This means an awful lot of the computer screen is taken up with the markup and the actual document is too small to read. To make matters worse, the new comments have to be "submitted," which means lots of extra keystrokes. If you forget to do that, you are stuck and can't find the comment that wasn't submitted, thereby spending ages searching a long document looking for it. Revisions and comments now take 10 times longer than they used to! Terri works with theses and dissertations of 150-300 pages, so this is a nightmare! She wonders if there is a way to get things back to the way they were before.

The short answer is no, there is no way with Microsoft 365 to get things back to the way they were before. Microsoft believes that they know best when it comes to their programs, and will do what they want. This is the downside to the subscription-based model for Office programs—they are updated, without recourse, as Microsoft rolls out their newest offerings.

The only real solution is to ditch Microsoft 365 and go back to an older stand-alone version of Word, such as the one provided with Office 2016. Of course, this means you'll never be able to upgrade your copy of Word again (because Microsoft will include the new "feature" in later versions), and eventually Office 2016 will age out of any support that Microsoft might provide.

You could try to provide feedback to Microsoft, expressing your displeasure, but if history is any indicator, that will do precious little to change the situation. The cynical view (again, based on evidence from history) is that Microsoft will only pay attention to large enterprise-level customers who spend millions of dollars annually for Microsoft products. The rest of us are just along for the ride, it seems. (See, there's the cynical view surfacing again. But, once more, history teaches lessons about what large corporations do, and Microsoft continues to do it.)

OK, enough of the cynical view. If you don't want to go back to a stand-alone version of Word that doesn't include the updated tool, then you simply need to grin and bear it and learn a few new tricks that can help.

First, take a look at your monitor. It may help if you consider upgrading to a monitor with higher resolution, such as a 4K monitor. Before you seriously consider this, however, make sure that you try out Word on a system that is already equipped with a 4K monitor. Higher resolution means that things appear "smaller" so that you can get more info on the screen. If it fits the way you work—and the quality of your eyesight—then 4K may be an easy way to go.

You may also consider checking out the markup settings and tinker with them. For instance, having Word display edits inline will help you get rid of at least one of the task panes at the right side of the screen. This is, again, an area where you'll want to try out different setting configurations to get one that provides the detail you need on the screen.

When dealing with comments, a handy shortcut key to memorize is Ctrl+Enter. Use this when you are done typing the comment text, and Word "submits" the comment and returns you to your document. It is definitely a change from the way comments were handled previously, but it will help avoid the frustration of unsubmitted comments forcing you to track them down.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (9973) applies to Microsoft Word Word in Microsoft 365 and 2021.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is 2 + 5?

2022-12-12 08:58:49

Cherith Harrison

I don't know if this is unique to me, but i have also found i now can't see the comment number in the review pane, although the in-line reference provides one - so i have to go to "Edit comment" and start typing so I can see the cursor blinking in order to figure out where it is on the pane:(

2022-12-10 11:25:50

Paul Beverley

Try Alt-F12. It might help. It is a new key shortcut and it jumps you back and forth between a comment and its anchor text. Might help if you lose a comment by forgetting to pressing Enter.

2022-12-10 06:23:07

Ron S

You may not have to go all the way back to 2016 as suggested in the article. In theory 2021 should not have the feature.
Reloading the previous version of Office is a workaround the bypasses the problem until you hear that MS has fixed it
This is only a temporary fix because automatic updates will replace it later. But, if you have to get some work done and don't have the time to learn the new change you can use this for short term fix.

2022-12-10 06:14:34

Ron S

Allen can you check and confirm if this change to comments was applied to Word 2021?

Changes like this are not "supposed" to be applied to onetime versions, but sometimes MS gets "lazy" and the "new feature" accidentally slips into the one or more older versions.

And maybe add a note to the original article to confirm if it really does apply to 2021 or not, or at least remove 2021 from the "Applies to ..." list.
It may be time for a deep dive into the "new & (dis)improved" Comment feature in 365. Breaking the subject into smaller bite sized chunks, it could probably take up a whole weekly newsletter.

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