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How to Compare Word Documents on the Mac

Posted by Melissa Holt on January 22, 2018
microsoft word for mac

If you’ve ever dealt with two differing versions of a Microsoft Word file that you needed to compare, then you know what a pain it can be to do so manually. I’ve had this happen when a colleague worked on the wrong version of a file, incorporating changes into an older one that was no longer relevant.
Thankfully, Microsoft Word has a feature that lets you automatically compare two documents, so you don’t actually have to go through and check every word or paragraph manually! Here’s how to compare Word documents in macOS!
First, open the Word from your Dock or from the Applications folder on your Mac. A shortcut to Applications lives under Finder’s “Go” menu.
Applications Folder
When Word opens, just pick a blank document from the Document Gallery…
Open Blank Document in Word
…or open one of the files you’d like to compare. It doesn’t matter what document you launch, but the command we need to use here will be greyed out if Word doesn’t have a file open.
Anyway, once Word is ready to go, pick Tools > Track Changes > Compare Documents from the menus at the top.
Use the "Tools" Menu to Compare Documents in Word
In the box that will open afterward, you’ll want to select your original document to compare with the revised document; if you click the drop-down in my red box below, you can pick from recent files. You can also select the folder icon I’ve called out with the red arrow to navigate through your file system to locate the document in question.
Pick Documents to Compare in Word
When you do that, you’ll see the familiar open/save dialog box, so use that to find the first version of your document and click “Open.”
Open First Version of Document to Compare in Word
Then do the same thing for the revised version of the file on the right side of the window.
Open Revised Version of the Document to Compare
The “Label changes with” section can be whatever you want—the author of the changes is usually a good indicator to go with. And there are a couple more things to know about this window. First, the icon with two arrows on it will let you swap the position of the documents for comparison, if you accidentally chose your revised version as the original document, say. And secondly, clicking the caret icon will give you a whole bunch of new options for what to compare and how.
Caret Icon
So if you don’t need to compare headers and footers, case changes, or white space, for example, you can turn those checkboxes off. And as you can see, by default Word will create a new document for the comparison, so once you’re ready to check that out, click “OK” on this window to view it.
Final Compared Document
This feature isn’t perfect, and if you’re not familiar with how to read tracked changes in Word documents, you may find looking through the new file a challenge at first. But this is so, so much better than having to read both documents side by side to find the edits! I’ve done some proofreading in the past, and that sounds like my own personal nightmare. Along with having to give a speech in front of a crowd. Or having to fly through turbulence. Or giving a speech while flying through turbulence.
Um, I’m going to stop there. This could take a while.

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