Monday, 26 August 2019

Comparing Word Documents

Have you ever wanted to compare two Word documents, to see where the differences are? This is something I need to do regularly when supervising research students and reviewing their draft work.

Luckily, Word allows us to do that within the programme. Simply open a blank document in Word, and navigate to the Review ribbon. In the compare group, select "compared to versions of a document (legal blackline)".

In the left-hand of the dialogue box, in the "original document" field, navigate to what you think was the original version of the document. In the right-hand field, navigate to what you think is the most recent version of the document. The drop-down box is far too short to see the full file names, so I find it easier to find the files I want by using the folder icons.

Then word creates a document using the new file, and showing the differences against the original. Even better, you can save the compared document to talk through the changes with the student.

This function is very useful to see the development in student thinking. You don't have to reread the entire document from the outset: you can first simply review the updates, and see if the student's ideas are developing as you would expect. I find it useful to then reread the entire work, after I know what is their new thinking, or their more polished argument. 

This tool is very useful for anybody working with document versions, but it amazes me how many people don't know it exists!


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