Microsoft Word ‘Track Changes’

Many journals use the Microsoft Word ‘Track Changes’ feature as part of the manuscript revision and review process.  This Application Note describes how Editorial Manager works with this feature, and the reasons why changes in a MS Word document are displayed the way they are in Editorial Manager PDF files created from a Word document.

            How Microsoft Word handles the Track Changes feature:

 The Track Changes feature received some updates in Word 2003; most notably in how the printing of Tracked Changes was handled.  In Word 2003, the ability to view/hide tracked changes in a printed document is not saved with the document itself; instead it is a global setting which must be manually set by each individual user when viewing the file.  The Editorial Manager PDF builder machines are set to always print tracked changes because of this new feature.  If the PDF Builders were not set up this way, users would not be able to see any of the tracked changes within a PDF.


Changes are tracked by embedding special markup in the Word document.  This markup is not standard text, and if it is present in the document, its representation will be built into the PDF.


Additionally, there are two ways in which deletions can be shown in a document with tracked changes - either as balloons or as strikethroughs. These settings are specific to the personalized Word settings on the computer of the person creating the Word document.  An Author may have his/her settings configured to display the deletions as balloons, but if the Journal Office has their settings configured to display them as strikethroughs, then they will appear to the Journal Office as strikethroughs.  It was necessary to select a preference to be used on the Editorial Manager PDF builders as well, and the balloon option was chosen.  As a result, deletions submitted by an Author or the Journal Office that may have been displayed as strikethroughs will display as a balloon in the PDF that is built.


Below is a screenshot of the ‘Show’ menu used in configuring the Track Changes feature.  Note: Balloons are set to be used only for Comments and Formatting.  As a result, the tracked changes display as strikethroughs, and the Inserted Comment appears as a bubble in the right hand margin.  If the Show Balloons setting is configured to ‘Never’, balloons will not be used for the Inserted Comments.




Journals using Editorial Manager may have experienced the following scenario:  They receive a document from an Author which contains a number of comments and notes entered using the Track Changes feature of Microsoft Word.  If the Journal Office does not want these comments to appear, they return the manuscript to the Author requesting that the markup be removed from the Word document.  If the Author has hidden the tracked changes on his/her local copy of Word, they may be confused by this request because they are not seeing the tracked changes.  Because the tracked changes are really only being hidden on the user's PC and have not been reconciled using the ‘Accept Track Changes’ feature of Word, they will show up in the built PDF.  Hidden or not, the tracked changes (i.e., the special markup codes) remain inside the Word document until they are reconciled.


The solution for the Journal is to have the Author use the ‘Accept Change’ or ’Accept all Changes in Document’ features of Word to reconcile each of the tracked changes within their Word document.  Once a tracked change has been accepted, it will be applied to the document and the special markup is removed.  When the markup is removed, it will not be built into the PDF file.


A screenshot demonstrating the use of the ‘Accept Change’ and ’Accept all Changes in Document’ features of Word 2003 follows:



          How Inserted Comments are handled by Word 2003:

Comments inserted into a Word document are handled similarly to the way that Tracked Changes are handled by the Editorial Manager PDF builders.  Any comments that are not ‘deleted’ will be embedded as special markup within the Word document, which will cause their representation to be built into the PDF (see screenshot above).


The text selected for a comment will display with highlighting within the Word document itself, while the comment entered for the text will display as a balloon.  To reconcile a comment, the user would need to right click on the highlighted text or the comment balloon and choose the ‘Delete Comment’ option.  This removes the highlighting from the text and removes the comment balloon from the document.  When the comment is deleted the special markup within the Word document is as well, and the comment will not be built into the PDF file.

How the handling of Word Documents and Tracked Changes has evolved over time

 The only update to how the Track Changes feature was handled by Editorial Manager came when the PDF Builder machines were upgraded from Word 2000 to use Word 2003.  This change was made to improve how the system handled Word documents that were created using Word 2002 and (the then new) Word 2003.  Since that upgrade, there have been no further changes to how Word documents are handled.  Word 2003 provides Editorial Manager with the optimum way of processing documents created in any previous version of the Microsoft Word program.

Microsoft Word 2002

The option to have Inserted Comments and Tracked Changes display as text balloons became available in Word 2002.  Any text that has a comment ‘attached’ to it is highlighted within the document, and the comment can be set to appear in a text balloon.  Tracked Changes can also be displayed as text balloons.  A screenshot demonstrating the ‘Use balloons in Print and Web Layout’ setting in Word 2002 follows below:




If the ‘Use balloons in Print and Web Layout’ setting is not selected, tracked changes will display as strikethroughs, as demonstrated in the screenshot below:



Microsoft Word 2000

Note that Inserted Comments do not display within text balloons in Word 2000.  The text that has the comment ‘attached’ to it is highlighted within the document, and you must hover over it with your cursor to read the comment made.  Tracked Changes are displayed as strikethroughs in Word 2000 – there are no display balloons.  A screenshot demonstrating how Inserted Comments and Tracked Changes appear within Word 2000 Documents follows below:




Tracked Changes can be reconciled two ways in Word 2000.  Individual changes can be reconciled by right clicking on the edited text and choosing the ‘Accept Change’ or ‘Reject Change’ options.  All of the Tracked Changes made to a document can be reconciled together as a group by accessing the Tools –Track Changes – Accept or Reject Changes menu, as demonstrated in the screenshot below:



How Journal Offices have handled the use of the Track Changes feature by Authors

 Many Journal Offices have identified the benefits of being able to see the Tracked Changes within a manuscript, especially with regards to their Revised Manuscripts.  Often Journal Offices require separate ‘marked’ and ‘unmarked’ versions of the Manuscript files to be submitted as part of a Revision.  The marked version will contain all of the tracked changes, while the unmarked version will have all of the tracked changes reconciled.  Who gets to see the marked version of the manuscript can be configured based on a Journal’s individual preference.  If a Journal prefers that their Reviewers are able to see the marked version, it can be configured that way as an Editorial Manager ‘Policy Manager’ setting.  If not, the file could be excluded for Reviewers and included only for Editors.  Assistance and advice regarding the configuration of these manuscript file types is available from any Aries Account Coordinator upon request.