Editing documents and tracking changes

Having recently been asked to do some editing for a book that a friend of mine is writing, I have been on the lookout for applications that I can use to do a job like that. Up until now when you needed to do some editing and wanted to track the changes, then the usual answer would have been to use Microsoft Word. Fortunately, there are other alternatives that do this job and do a good job of it too.

On my first attempt at any editing of the book I used iBooks on my iPad to read book which I had converted already into an EPUB format. In one way it worked quite well and I used the highlighter tool to mark where there needed to be changes. It turned out to not be a very good solution because it was not possible to actually make changes to the text. Nor was it possible to add comments to the areas that were highlighted to say what the changes were or why those changes needed to be made. Time to check out some word processors.

Nisus Writer Pro is one of the possible options

Nisus Writer Pro

This is an application which had been sitting in my downloads folder for some time. I had been planning to do a review of the application to show on the Mac20Q website. I opened it up and I was quite impressed with what I saw of the application interface. It looks like a very capable wordprocessor and I was able to open up a word document without any trouble. I found the settings to be able to do some tracking of changes and immediately I was impressed. When you make a change to the body of the text when you are in change tracking mode, there is a sidebar window that opens up to show you the changes that have been made. Within this special area for showing you your changes, you can see what edits have been made, whether it is text that is been added or text that has been replaced.

Scrivener the best writers tool

Scrivener is brilliant for lots of things and editing documents is one of them. You can take snapshots of a document and make a comparison between them so you can see the changes you have made. You will see the text you have deleted and also the text you have added. If you need to do a roll back you can. If you want to make your own revision marks you can use the Revision mode and choose a colour for the revision number. Later you can find any of these revisions using the search tool. So I find Scrivener very useful for editing documents and tracking changes.

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Apples’ Pages and using it for tracking document changes


Up until recently this application which is the standard word-processing application for the Apple ecosystem did not have the facilities for tracking changes in a document. It was because I heard in a recent podcast that the iPad version of Pages had these capabilities, that I decided to have another look at the Mac version. I will also be taking a look to see how it works on the iPad too.

I don’t know how this compares with the change tracking that is available in Word, but I found that the tool in the Pages was good enough for the job that I needed to do. It is easy to start the change tracking facilities with a menu option that is found in the edit menu. Once the change tracking has started you can do the necessary editing work and the application will record text that you take out, text that you put in and also the text that is replaced. You can have the application show you the changes within the text, so that the removed text has a strike though line to show it has been changed and the new text is in a different colour. You can change this colour to suit, which is useful if you have more than one person working on the editing. You can identify the author by the colour of the edited text.

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When you have done all the editing that you need to do, you can go through your edits and decide whether you want to accept them or reject them. There is a bar that appears at the top just above the text entry area, which has arrows that let you move between edits and the Accept and Reject buttons. There are a couple of other options for setting how the edits are shown on the screen too. Over on the left side of the main editing area is where you see the notes for the change tracking and you also will see any comments that you have put in the text.

Nitty Gritty Time – Which one to use?

I have Pages already and so that is the one that gets the vote. If I didn’t have any apps with this function, then I would still get Pages as it has all that I need and at the best price. It would be nice to see better tools for change tracking in Scrivener, but it is still the best authors book writing tool.