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…).
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…