MS Word: Track Changes, Printing, Fields/Cross-References (Figures, Tables, etc) and Undesirable Highlighted Changes
The “Track Changes” feature of Microsoft Word can be very useful, but sometimes it can produce unwanted results. By turning on “Track Changes”, Word will highlight changes to your document as you make them. Here is an example below:
Here is a paragraph from the original. This sentence has been added. Here is a sentence from the original that is unchanged. This
wordhas been deleted from the original. This sentence has been deleted.See word1word2 get replaced. Get it?
The problem occurs when you have “cross-references” (or more accurately, “fields”) such as figure numbers or chapter numbers. When these fields are updated (such as when printing or when performing Ctrl-A/F9) they appear as if they were deleted and re-added. Here is an example to illustrate this:
This sentence refers to
Figure 5-1Figure 5-1. This original sentence is unchanged. This sentence is added. This original sentence is removed.This sentence has a cross reference to Chapter 5.3 Chapter 5.3.
Notice that Word shows Figure 5-1 as deleted and then added, but in actuality, it hasn’t changed! This can be very annoying for people who are reviewing your new document. Accepting each change won’t help because next time the fields are updated, the same thing will occur. In order to understand how to fix this problem, it is useful to understand how it happened in the first place.
Why This Happens
The cross-reference (or “field”) feature in Word for is useful in case a figure number, chapter number, etc changes. This happens if you insert a new figure or chapter heading before an existing one – causing the numbering of the old figure/chapter to increase (also, if you delete a figure/chapter, the numbering may decrease). When one goes to print the document, Word will update all of these cross-references to update the numbering. A user may also do this manually by highlighting the cross-reference in Word and pressing “F9”. Often this is performed “one-shot” by selecting everything in the document (Ctrl-A) and pressing F9. If you print or perform the F9 update while Word has “Track Changes” turned on, it will cause many of the cross-references to have this problem.
Therefore, the solution to this problem is simple. When you are printing or updating cross-references (via F9), simply turn off “Track Changes” while you do so. This can be accomplished by pull-down menu: Tools->Track Changes (the shortcut key is “Ctrl+Shift+E”). This will toggle “Track Changes” from on to off and vice versa. When updating your cross-references with “Track Changes” turned off, it will not remove the highlights for other changes that are not cross-references. After you have updated them, if you want to make more edits that show up as changes, turn “Track changes” back on.
A nice feature of this solution is that if you had forgotten to turn off Track Changes previously, and you have these cross-references highlighted as changes, and you want to remove these highlights, simply turn off Track Changes and update (F9) the cross-references again. This can be done for the entire document at once by selecting everything (Ctrl-A) and then updating (F9).
If you were to highlight the above paragraph in Word, turned off “Track Changes” and hit “F9”, you would see the following result:
This sentence refers to Figure 5-1. This original sentence is unchanged. This sentence is added.
This original sentence is removed.This sentence has a cross reference to Chapter 5.3.
Notice that the cross-references are no longer shown as changed, but that the sentences that were really added and deleted are still highlighted as differences.
There is a small drawback to this approach. Let’s say a figure number really has changed. For example, Figure 5-1 in the original became Figure 5-2 in the new document. When Track Changes is turned off during the F9 update, it will not highlight Figure 5-1 as changing to Figure 5-2. Is this really a problem? In most cases, the people reviewing your document are looking for changes in the actual content and don’t really care if the figure number has changed, therefore, this should rarely be an issue. If this is important to highlight this, then there is no easy solution for keeping the cross-references that are really unchanged as not highlighted while the ones that really did change are highlighted.