Word Tracks Changes to Changes

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated October 10, 2020)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365

Sometimes when Robert is editing a document with Track Changes on, after he closes the document and then reopens it to work on it again, he finds that changes to his previous changes are tracked as well. So, for example, with Track Changes turned on Robert may add some new text; it shows up as an insert. If he then, in his next Word session, deletes some of that added text, it shows up as struck through. Robert wonders why Word treats his edits this way across sessions. It doesn't do it during the same session.

When you have Track Changes turned on in a document, Word notes the changes based on which editor is making them. It determines an "editor" based on the user information configured into Word. This information is set on the General tab of the Word Options dialog box. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. The General tab of the Word Options dialog box.

If you change the username and/or initials between editing sessions for the document, Word will think that a new editor is working with the document and treat any changes to previous edits as being done by that new editor.

This behavior can also occur if you edit the same document on different computers. For instance, let's say the first session was done on your desktop computer at work. Later, you continue editing the document on your laptop computer at home or on a colleague's computer at the office. If the usernames and/or initials are different on these different systems, then Word believes that different editors are working on the document, even if it is you on all three systems.

There is a different situation where this behavior can be experienced, even if you are working with the document on a single system and you haven't changed the username and/or initials. You can configure a document to remove all identifying information (metadata) for the document upon saving. If this feature is turned on, then when you save the document (such as when your editing session is over), then all the previous edits are changed from your name and initials to the nondescript "Author" appellation. Thus, the next time you log in, these previous edits are no longer attributed to you, new edits are treated as if they were done by a new editor, and they are tracked accordingly.

There are two ways you can tell if this "remove information" setting is enabled on your system. First, when you load the document for a new editing session, look at any edits tracked in your previous session. If the name associated with an editor—what should be your name—has changed to "Author," then it is a sure bet the feature is turned on. The second way is to display the Trust Center by following these steps:

  1. Display the Word Options dialog box. (In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2010 or a later version display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. At the left side of the dialog box click Trust Center.
  3. Click the Trust Center Settings button. Word displays the Trust Center dialog box.
  4. Click Privacy Options at the left of the dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  5. Figure 2. The Privacy Options tab of the Trust Center dialog box.

  6. Take note of the setting "Remove Personal Information from the Properties On Save" check box.

It is this check box, noted in step 5, that controls the feature. If it is cleared (or if it is cleared and grayed out as shown in the screen shot), then it is not an issue with your document. If it is selected, then you'll want to unselect it (clear the check box) and the next time you save your document, the metadata won't be cleared out.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13786) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365.

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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