Old fashioned editors, college professors, and grammar wonks always used a red pen for making up writerly masterpieces, sometimes returning those documents with enough notations, circles, and arrows to make understanding the revisions as difficult as navigating the streets of Hong Kong for the first time. The Track Changes feature in Microsoft Word 2013 and Microsoft Excel 2013 make editing and collaborating on documents a much simpler process.
Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel both include this useful feature accessed from the Review tab's Tracking section. By selecting Track Changes, any deletions, edits, or insertions are recorded and visible, along with the initials of the person making the edits. Track Changes also records any changes made to formatting as well as text. Another handy feature is the small track line in the left margin that appears alongside any line where an edit was made, letting users see at a glance which lines contain changes.
A couple rounds of aggressive editing can leave the page full of multi-colored markings and notes, but you can easily view the current edits by selecting "No Markup" in the Display for Review drop-down menu in the top right of the Tracking section. This menu provides viewing options Simple Markup, All Markup, No Markup and Original. This menu visually preserves the edits, and you can easily toggle between the No Markup and All Markup views for more detail. Simple Markup displays the current edits with only margin bars to identify where edits have been made.
The Changes section enables you to accept or reject any or all changes, but beware -- this is permanent. Accepting all changes updates the text and eliminates all edit marks, so don't use this until you are satisfied that all edits are acceptable.
Document Sharing with Tracking
While most editors recommend against "writing by committee," sometimes it is inevitable, and there may be many contributors to a single document. Using the Advanced Track Changes Options dialog (available via the Track Changes Options window) enables you to set each contributor's edits with a different color, to make it easy to see who has changed what. Of course, make sure that everybody is using the same networked file, and build in some basic workflow protocols so that people are editing consecutively, and not at the same time, to avoid saving over somebody else's edits.
Not only does the Review tab provide Track Changes functionality, it allows multiple users the ability to add side comments. This can be especially useful for asking questions of the original author, making comments, or explaining an edit. The Comments feature allows for easy collaboration, allowing each contributor to make notes. Add a comment simply by selecting a piece of text on which you wish to comment, then going to the Comments group and selecting "New Comment." A text window with your name opens in the right margin; just enter your comment into the text box.
Comments remain even after all changes have been accepted. You can delete each comment individually by selecting it and clicking "Delete" in the Comments section, or delete all at once by clicking "Delete" in the Comments section, and selecting "Delete All Comments in Document."