Track Changes Inline or in Balloons

The book and its tutorial videos go into options for seeing Tracked Changes in quite a bit of detail, so here we’ll just compare seeing changes in balloons vs seeing them inline. We’re also sticking with the defaults for colour, underlining, etc. though it’s almost all customizable. Except for specifying which reviewer is shown in which colour; that’s impossible.

We are talking about two types of settings in the Tracking area. Here they say Markup Options, and All Markup, but the wording changes to show what you’ve selected.

From the All Markup options in the Tracking area of the Review ribbon you can choose:

  • Simple
  • All Markup
  • No Markup
  • Original

The Simple option just puts a line in the margin of the document (on screen only!) indicating that a change was made somewhere on that line; no changes are marked up on screen. No Markup shows the final edited version; again, no changes are marked up on screen. The other two options are obvious.

These options only change what is displayed. The changes are still intact, tracked if you told Word to track them.

The changes we’ll look at now are found under Markup Options in the same area of the Review ribbon. Scroll down to Balloons in those options and you’ll find the two biggest choices: whether changes are shown inline or in balloons.

screen cap showing deletion and insertion tracked changes
These Tracked Changes are shown inline.
The deletion in this Tracked Change is shown in a balloon, but the insertion is still shown inline — out of necessity, I guess. Note that preferences in this example were set to show balloons on the left instead of the (default) right.

It also matters whether you’re using Draft view or Page Layout — those options at the bottom right border of the Word window or on the left edge of the View ribbon. Draft view cannot display changes in balloons and usually launches the Reviewing pane to show Comments and the list of changes. Page Layout view was used to create the image examples here.

In the Reviewing pane, all changes are listed, regardless of whether changes in the document are currently displayed inline or in balloons.

No Markup, Original, and Simple Markup make it look like no changes are being tracked, as changes are hidden in those views. Switch views to see the changes that have been made.


Preferences do not travel with the file. The way that Tracked Changes are displayed must be set on each user’s computer. That means that others on your team won’t see what you’re seeing unless you have made your settings identical.

Even if you have kept the default preference, others will not see exactly what you see. When each user’s changes are shown in a different colour (the default option), those colour selections change each time you open the file. Thanks, Microsoft.

Find out more about using Track Changes in Chapter 3 of the book.

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© This blog and all materials in it are copyright Adrienne Montgomerie on the date of publication. All rights reserved. No portion may be stored or distributed without express written permission. Asking is easy!

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