Reviewing documents? Forget about review sheets and use the features in Word instead!

This content is 16 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

A few weeks back, I was taking part in a document review process where the prescribed format of the review involved recording all the document comments on a separate sheet and then sending them back for consideration. Describing where the change/comment applied (e.g. section 1.1, paragraph 4, it states “blah blah blah” but really it should be “something entirely different”; section 2, last paragraph, extraneous apostrophe in PC’s; etc.) is a very labour intensive process for all the reviewers involved – it’s far easier to work through a work document and add comments/tracked changes as required.

Today, I was on the receiving end of some comments on one of my designs and I had the opposite problem – several documents with comments embedded to wade through (and one on a review sheet for good measure… grrr).

The obvious issue with receiving several documents with embedded comments/changes is how to merge all of the separate review comments into one place – and it turns out that’s easily done using Word 2007’s built-in tools for combining and comparing documents (Word 2003 has similar functionality on the Tools menu – Compare and Merge Documents…).

Compare and combine tools in Microsoft Word 2007

Once I had all the review comments merged into a single document (which only took a few seconds), I could track changes, make my edits (the review pane is useful here to jump between comments) and send it back for final sign-off. A few minutes later I had confirmation that the changes were approved, following which I accepted the changes in the document, removed hidden metadata (using the document inspector) and published the document.

It’s all quite straightforward really – the trouble is that most of us still use our office applications in the same way that we did 15 years ago… and, dare I say it, aside from knowledge workers using word processing software on a PC instead of relying on secretarial staff, the basic process probably hasn’t changed much since the days of the typing pool…

One thought on “Reviewing documents? Forget about review sheets and use the features in Word instead!

  1. One limitation of this approach, that I just discovered, is that Word can only keep one set of formatting changes – it can merge comments etc., but if two people have revised formatting then only one can be retained.

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