Every couple of months or so, we have to collaborate at work on a Microsoft Word document and submit it without all the distracting markup in it. And it seems like it always takes four of us half an hour to re-figure out how to accept all changes in Word and remove the comments. This applies to Word 2007 and all newer versions.
Sometimes I also find the tracked changes and other markup causes weird problems, and the fastest way to make them go away is to get rid of the markup.
So I figured it might help someone. This is something that either takes you 30 seconds or 30 minutes. If you don’t do this every day, it’s likely to take too long. This is for those of you who can’t do it in less than 30 minutes.
Why track changes in Word at all?
Tracking changes and comments in Microsoft Word can make it easier to collaborate. But once you reach consensus, all those tracked changes and comments make the document look amateurish. There’s a fine line between collaboration and micromanagement. Knowing who made a good document great is collaboration. Tracking authorship on a line by line basis is micromanagement. Doing the latter will lead to other problems, if you don’t have them already.
Also, too many tracked changes and comments makes the document impossible to read and edit. Sometimes you need to accept all changes just to make the document readable again, so you can move into the next stage of editing. I’ve seen documents devolve into nonsensical crimes against the language because nobody could tell what words were crossed out anymore.
I think this is one of the things the Microsoft Office ribbon makes harder, rather than easier. But the ribbon probably isn’t going anywhere now that it’s been around more than a decade, so here’s where to find the functionality you need.
How to accept all changes in Word
It’s harder to remember how to accept all changes in Word than to actually do it. Click the word Review in the upper portion of the ribbon. In the Changes section, on the lower portion of the ribbon, hover your mouse over the lower half of the Accept icon, where the little down arrow is. Click on that little arrow, then select Accept all Changes in Document.
Now you’ve accepted all the existing changes in the document. If you’re interested in doing that, you’re probably also interested in future changes. Some versions of Word also include the option Accept all changes and stop tracking.
If you want to turn off future tracked changes and your version doesn’t have that version, look at the Track Changes icon in the Tracking section. If that icon is highlighted in yellow, click it once so Word doesn’t track any further new changes you make.
Now you have a nice, clean document that will stay that way.
How to remove all comments in a Word document
After you accept all the tracked changes, the document is much cleaner, but not necessarily perfect. In my experience, most documents that have tracked changes in them also have at least a few comments. After you’ve examined all the comments and acted on them, you’ll want to remove those too, to improve readability.
First, click on a comment in the document. Any comment will do. Click the word Review in the upper portion of the ribbon. In the Comments section, on the lower portion of the ribbon, hover your mouse over the lower half of the Delete icon, where the little down arrow is. Click on that little arrow, then select Delete all Comments in Document.
Here’s a tip in Microsoft Word, and Microsoft Office in general, that’s worth remembering. That little arrow in the corner of the ribbon elements is where a lot of Office’s power hides. To make the transition from a casual Office user to a power user, keep an eye out for those little arrows.
How to accept all changes in Word much more quickly
If you use this functionality a lot, you may want to make them easier to get to. Here’s how to put these two commands in the quick access toolbar, on the top part of the screen above the ribbon.
Click the little down arrow and select More Commands. In the heading labeled Choose Commands From, select All Commands. Now you can scroll down to Accept all Changes in Document. Highlight that and click Add. You’ll see a little green orb appear on the far right of the toolbar. Scroll down to Delete Comments. Highlight that and click Add. You’ll see a little comments icon appear on the far right of the toolbar. Clicking the little down arrow on it will allow you to choose Delete all Comments in Document.
That should make it faster easier to remove the comments and tracked changes from a Word document the next time you need to. You’ll just need to remember to look there, but once you get used to it, it will make you a more productive Word user, since you’ll have ready access to the commands to accept all changes and delete all comments.