How to track changes in Google Docs

How to track changes in Google Docs


Logging changes is easy, both in terms of usage and number of features. […]

Sometimes it’s useful to have an overview of what has been changed in a document – maybe you just want to undo your changes. Nowadays, it is common for several people to work on a common file, and knowing who made which suggestions, it is easier to discuss them.

The visual result looks similar to what used to be the marking of changes on paper. For example, if you delete a section, it will be formatted as crossed-out text in a different color.

To make this visible history possible, most text editors provide the ability to track changes. The Google Docs version is called Suggestion Mode. It is easy and fast to use and offers a number of options that are easy to handle.

How to track changes in Google Docs

Unlike other text editors, suggestion mode is not in the Edit or Tools menu on Google Docs. Instead, search in the upper right corner of your screen. Under the section with the blue Share button and your account avatar, there should be a light blue drop-down menu with a pencil icon and the word Edit. (With a small window, you may only see the blue pencil icon).

By default, all documents start in edit mode, in which any change is immediately permanently transferred to the file. Click on this drop-down menu to switch to suggestion mode.

Now each change (formatting, deletions, inserts, etc.) will be highlighted in a different color, and a corresponding comment field will appear on the right side of the document. Google Docs takes a collaborative approach to tracking changes, so you can have in-depth discussions about a specific edit in each of these comments.

How to invite others to make suggestions in a Google Docs

When sharing with the “Commenter” permission, the contributors remain in suggestion mode (c) PCWorld

Your document must be shared with other people so that they can edit it. First, go to File > Share or click on the blue Share button in the upper right corner. Then enter the email address of this person and add it to the sharing list.

A drop-down menu for the permissions should now appear next to the person’s name. The default setting is the edit mode. To switch to suggestion mode, select the Comment option from the menu. If you have already shared the document in edit mode, just open the sharing menu again. Click the permissions drop-down menu, switch to suggestion mode, and then click Save.

How to update the proposed text

As already mentioned, changes to a document are displayed in a different color. You can edit them later as usual and as often as you want. However, keep in mind that any changes you make to your own proposed text will not be tracked – only if you are working on someone else’s text.

Accepting or rejecting text suggestions

When you switch between editing and suggestion mode, the changes are not automatically accepted or rejected. You need to check them manually so that the final document reflects the updates.

To accept or reject individual changes, click on the appropriate comment field. Then click on the check mark icon to accept the change or on the X icon to reject it.

If you have reached a point where you want to accept or reject all changes, you can do it quickly by going to Tools > Review change suggestions. A white pop-up box will appear in the upper right corner of the window. Either click the Accept All or Reject All button. Before accepting all the changes, you can use the up and down arrows of the pop-up window to check every single change and make sure that you want to integrate it.

If you accidentally clicked on the wrong button, you can undo any accidental click by pressing CTRL + Z on your keyboard or go to Edit > Undo.

The only way to accept (or reject) all changes is this pop-up window (c) PCWorld

To view the original document

Sometimes you want to see what the original text looked like before all the suggestions were made. You can do this quickly by going to the drop-down menu under the Share button and choosing the view mode. Google Docs describes this mode as a mode in which you can read the final document – this is due to the fact that the proposed text is not considered part of the file until the change is accepted.

An alternative method is to navigate to Tools > Review proposed changes. In the white pop-up window that will now appear at the top right of the screen, select Reject All Preview from the drop-down menu.

To preview the document when all the proposed changes have been accepted

Sometimes you may want to see what the document looks like if all the suggestions have been accepted as part of the final file, especially if the changes are going wild and the final result is difficult to see.

Go to Tools > Check suggested changes so that a white pop-up box appears at the top right, and then select Accept Preview all from the drop-down menu in the white pop-up box at the top right.

Tracked changes in Google Docs vs. Microsoft Word

The suggestion mode in Google Docs is similar to the web version of Microsoft Word, but there are some important differences.

  • The suggestion mode of Google Docs applies to everyone who works in the document. In the web version of Microsoft Word, you can choose to track changes for everyone or only for yourself.
  • The view mode of Google Docs will show you the document without the proposed changes. The same mode in the online version of Microsoft Word shows a preview of the document with all the accepted changes.
  • Google Docs allows you to see the original text without inserted suggestions. There does not seem to be such a view in Microsoft Word online.
  • In the web version of Microsoft Word, you can not accept or reject all changes at once.

Compared to web-based text editors, the desktop version of Word offers more features for tracking changes (c) PCWorld

Compared to the desktop version of Microsoft Word, Google Docs offers more features for change tracking:

  • The ability to edit the document with change tracking enabled, without the marker being displayed. (The view is essentially set to a preview of all accepted changes)
  • A simplified markup view
  • A review window that displays all changes in a clear format
  • The ability to display only certain types of changes (various formatting, text changes, etc.) – the others can be temporarily hidden

If you need a program that is closer to the granularity of Microsoft Word on the desktop, you should download LibreOffice as a free alternative.

*Alaina Yee reports on desktop PCs, computer components, mini PCs and more for PCWorld. Her favorite item is an annual item that combines her two passions: bargain hunting and PC building. You can find her on Twitter at @morphingball.

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