Versioning, Comparing, and Combining Documents

Combine documents

When you have multiple documents containing tracked changes that you need to compare, it helps to be able to keep track of who made which changes and when. The “Combine” command allows you to merge the tracked changes from each document, two at a time, until all changes from all documents have been incorporated into one document.

NOTE: This is not the best way to review documents and incorporate changes. It’s best to share documents and have other people review them sequentially, using “Track Changes.” However, if that was not done, the “Combine” feature can help you gather and incorporate changes made by all reviewers.

Also, as with the “Compare” feature, you can’t combine documents if any of the documents are protected in any way. Remove protection from the documents before combining them.

Combine Multiple Versions of the Same Document

To start combining the first two documents, click “Compare” in the “Compare” section of the “Review” tab and select “Combine” from the drop-down menu.


The “Combine Documents” dialog box is essentially the same as the “Compare Documents” dialog box discussed in the previous section.

For the “Original document” select the earliest version of the original document and then select one of the reviewers’ versions of the document as the “Revised document.” Enter labels for the “Original document” and the “Revised document” using the corresponding “Label unmarked changes with” edit box. This allows you to see who made which changes.

Just as you did when comparing documents, select the “Comparison settings,” the level for “Show changes at,” and which document to “Show changes in.” When combining more than two documents, it might be a good idea to show the changes in the “Original document,” making sure you make a copy of it first, and use the same original document when comparing to each reviewer’s document. This allows you to “gather” all the changes into the original document.


The “Combined Document” displays with all the changes tracked and marked with the specified labels and times. If the changes in the “Revised document” were not tracked, the revision time will be the time the documents were combined, which will be essentially useless.


You can wait until combining all the reviewers’ documents before reviewing and accepting and rejecting editing changes. However, before combining additional documents, you must resolve all formatting changes because Word cannot retain multiple formatting revisions.

The easiest way to do this is to use the “Show Markup” menu to only show the “Formatting” markup. Select “Comments,” “Ink,” and “Insertions and Deletions” so there are no check marks to the left of those options. Only the “Formatting” option should have a check mark. Then, review all the tracked formatting changes and accept or reject each change.

NOTE: If you’re not using tablet, the “Ink” option is irrelevant. It does not matter if that option is on or off.


Once you have resolved all the formatting changes, you can compare the new original document with the next revised document. Continue until all the revised documents have been combined into the original. When this is done, you’ll have a version that contains all of the changes and each change will be marked with who made it. Again, the times when the changes were made are only accurate if the changes were tracked in each revised document.

Now, you can show all the markup using the “Show Markup” menu (turn “Comments” and “Insertions and Deletions” back on – turn on “Ink” only if you are using a tablet) and review all the changes, accepting or rejecting each change.

Merge Two Different Documents

There may be times when multiple authors are working on different parts of a document and you need to combine those separate parts into one document. That’s easily accomplished in Word. Open the main document into which you want to add the other documents and place the cursor at the point where you want to insert another file. Click the “Insert” tab.


In the “Text” section, click the down-arrow on the “Object” button and select “Text from File” from the drop-down list.


On the “Insert File” dialog box, navigate to the location of the file you want to insert, select the file, and click “Insert.”

NOTE: You can also insert a link to a file, which is recommended if that file is going to change. Instead of clicking the “Insert” button, click the down-arrow on the “Insert” button and select “Insert as Link.” An “INCLUDETEXT” field code is inserted, rather than the file’s contents.


When you insert the contents of a file using the “Text from File” option, the styles of the current document are applied to the contents of the incoming file. If styles were used in the incoming file, the formatting of the inserted text will most likely change to the formatting of the current document. However, any information about paper size, orientation, margins, and other Page Layout settings will be discarded and replaced with the settings from the current document.

Share a Document Using Microsoft OneDrive

You can use OneDrive to share your document with other reviewers. A document can be saved to and opened from your OneDrive account directly from within Word, as long as you’re signed into your Microsoft account. To share your document with others, simply click the “File” tab and then click “Save As” from the list of options on the left. On the “Save As” screen, click the “OneDrive” option and then click the “Browse” button on the right.


As long as you have an internet connection, the “Save As” dialog box displays showing you the files and folders in your OneDrive account. Choose a folder in which to save your document (or create a new folder), enter a file name, and click “Save.”


For other people to be able to access the document on OneDrive, you must share the file, or the folder containing the file. See the help on OneDrive’s site for information on how to do this.


And that’s it for the How-To Geek School’s Guide to Using Word in a Team Setting!

It’s been fun, we’ve learned a lot, and hope you did too! If you missed any part of this series, or simply want to review something again, you can easily do so by clicking any of the links in the table of contents at the beginning of the article.

Lori Kaufman is a writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.