There are two really useful features in Word that almost no one ever uses: Compare Documents and Combine Documents. As their names suggest, these features allow you to compare two Word documents to each other, or combine two together.
So when will you ever need to use this? Well, if you are like me, you probably have 20 different versions of your resume saved in different places over the years. Sometimes I tweak the resume slightly for a particular company to highlight a certain skill, and sometimes I add something and just save a new copy.
Anyway, it would be nice to quickly see the difference between my last resume and the old ones, to see if there is anything I should add to the last one, or perhaps delete. In this article, I’ll show you how you can use these two functions to quickly find the differences between two documents and merge them if you want.
Compare and combine documents
In my example, I wanted to see what is the difference between my old resume, written in 2007, and the last one, updated in 2013. To do this, open Word, click the Browse tab, and then click Compare.
The “Compare Documents” dialog box opens, where you need to select the original document and the revised document.
At the bottom, you will see many comparison settings that you can simply leave checked. By default, it also displays all changes in the new document, which is better than messing around with the original or revised documents.
The new document will open with several different sections: a scrollable revision list at the far left, a merged document showing all changes in the middle, and two original documents on the right. Let’s take a closer look at each section.
As you can see, I removed a few things and inserted a couple of other lines of text. If you double-click any of the headings (Aseem Kishore Inserted or Aseem Kishore Deleted), the cursor will move to the same location in the document.
In the center, you will see these fixes in different colors. By default, everything that was strikethrough is what was removed, and whatever is highlighted in red and underlined is what was added to the modified document. Anything highlighted in green has been moved. The location where it was moved from will be green twice with strikethrough, and the location where it was moved will be green underlined twice, as shown here:
Finally, on the right side, you will see the original document at the top and the revised document at the bottom. When you scroll through the top document, the bottom one follows it to keep them in sync. However, you can scroll the bottom screen independently of the top screen.
In addition to this view, you can also delete both original documents from the right pane and show tooltips instead to see the changes easily. To see what I mean, click the Compare button again, then Show Source Documents, and finally click Hide Source Documents.
Now click the Show Layout button in the Tracking section, click Leaders, and then Show Leader Changes.
On the right side of the document, you will see all revisions with lines taken from the document. This can make it easier to see all the changes if you have many.
Note that if you just want to see the differences between documents, you really don’t need to do anything. If you want to create a final document from these two documents, you can right-click any change and select Accept or Reject.
When finished, you can save the new document with all the changes you made. Merge documents is much the same as Compare. If you choose Combine, the same dialog box opens in which you will need to select the original and modified document.
Once you do this, you get the same layout as before, with the merged changes in the middle. Again, strikethrough text is removed, red underlined text is added, and green text is moved. Just right-click each change and choose to accept or reject each change. When you’re done, save your new merged document.
Overall, this is really useful when you have multiple versions of the same document, or when multiple people are editing the same Word document and you have multiple documents to combine into one. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to comment. Enjoy!