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How to Compare Two Documents in Word – (Steps with Pictures)

It is easy to compare two documents in Word to identify differences. Creating a legal blackline document is one of the most common activities in the legal profession. Other terms for this include Redlining and Comparing Documents.

How to Compare Documents in Word

How to Compare Documents in Word: Overview

When comparing Word documents in Microsoft Word, you can display only the content that has changed between the two copies in a third, distinct document.

Many legal experts use this feature of Word when examining contracts to notice the differences between two copies of a contract. The “Compare” feature in Word allows you to make and compare numerous versions of a legal document, noting any changes made between the originalfirst draft, and second draft. It lets you save all drafts for record purposes. It also displays the adjustments made and by who.

RELATED: What Is Microsoft Word?

This article explains how to compare Word documents in Microsoft Word to build a legal blackline document and to know the differences.

Note: Instructions in this article apply to Microsoft Word 2021, Word 2019, Word 2016, Word 2013, Word 2010, Word for Microsoft 365, and Word for Mac.

To compare documents in Word, open the two documents in Microsoft Word for comparison. Then, on the Tools menu at the top, click the “Review” tab. Then in the Compare group, click the drop-down arrow and select “Compare” to launch the “Compare Documents” dialog box.

Select the name of the original document from the “Original document” drop-down arrow in the “Compare Documents” dialog box. The original document must be opened before opening the “Compare Documents” dialog box. If it is not, you can open it by clicking the “folder” button. It looks like a folder icon on the right side of the original document drop-down arrow or by selecting the “Browse” option from the list of document options in the drop-down menu. The “Access” dialog box appears, which you can use to browse and open the original document from your PC or Mac.

Then, using the “Revised Document” drop-down menu, choose the name of the revised copy of the document. If the revised file was not opened before opening the “Compare Documents” dialog box, click the “folder” button to open it. You can also use the “Browse” option in the “Revised Document” drop-down, just as you can with the “Original document” drop-down.

Next, in the “Label changes with” text box under the Revised document drop-down, type the name with which to label changes in the resulting legal blackline document, if required.

Then, at the lower-left corner of the “Compare Documents dialog box, click the “More >>” button to see all the advanced options to make the legal blackline document. Any modifications you make here will become the new default settings for future legal blackline documents. Word displays changes on a Word level in a New Document by default. These are the suggested settings. However, you have the option to modify them if necessary. Once you have gone through the options, click the “<< Less” button to set and hide them again.

Tip: To see and customize the “Comparison settings” and “Show changes” options, click the “More >>” button.

Then, in the “Compare Documents” dialog box, click “OK” to compare the documents and open the resulting legal blackline document in Microsoft Word. MS Word displays both “Original Document” and “Revised Document” on the right. The “Compared Document” appears in the middle of the screen. Any changes made appear in the Revisions pane on the left side.

RELATED: How to Use Microsoft Word (A Step-by-Step Guide) 

Compare Documents in Word: Steps

Here’s how to compare Word documents by following the steps below.

1. To compare documents in Word, open the two documents you are comparing.

Open the two documents you are comparing in Word.

2. Select the “Review” tab in the Tools menu.

Select the "Review" tab in Word.

3. Click the “Compare” drop-down arrow in the Compare group.

Click the "Compare" drop-down arrow.

4. Select the “Compare” option from the drop-down menu. It opens the “Compare Documents” dialog box.

Select the "Compare" option to open the "Compare Documents" dialog box.

5. From the “Original document” drop-down menu, browse and select the name of the original document.

Click the "Original document" drop-down menu to browse original document.

6. Suppose you forgot to open the original document before launching the “Compare Documents” dialog box. You can open it by clicking the “folder” button on the right side of the drop-down menu or selecting “Browse” from the drop-down menu.

Click the "folder" button or select "Browse."

7. Then, locate and open the original document from the window that appears.

Locate and open the original document.

8. Use the “Revised Document” drop-down to choose the name of the revised copy of the document.

Use the "Revised document" drop-down arrow.

9. You can also use the “folder” or the “Browse” option on the revised document drop-down if you forgot to open the revised document before launching the “Compare Documents” dialog box.

Use the "folder" or the "Browse" option, if you forgot to open the revised document.

10. In the “Label changes with” text box, type the name in which to label changes in the resulting legal blackline document, if required.

The "Label changes with" text box.

11. To show all the settings for comparing documents at the bottom of the “Compare Documents” dialog box, click the “More >>” button from the lower-left corner.

Click the "More >>" button to show the settings for comparing documents.

12. Check or Uncheck the comparison options, and any modifications you make become the new default settings. If you don’t want to change the default options, leave them as they are.

Check or Uncheck the comparison options.

13. To set the settings and hide them again, click the “<< Less” button.

Click the "<< Less" button to hide Comparison settings.

14. Once done, click OK.

Click OK.

15. You’ll see both the “Original” and “Revised Documents” appear on the right side.

Both "Original" and "Revised Documents" appear on the right side of Word.

16. The “Compared Document” appears in the middle of the screen.

The "Compared Document" appear in the middle of the screen.

17. Any changes you made appear under the “Revisions” pane on the left side of the screen.

The "Revisions" pane on the left in Word.

You can save the “compared document” as an individual file that will not impact either of the documents you’re now viewing. To do this, click “File,” then Save as, and save it as you would any other Word document.

Tip: To view the documents you’re comparing side-by-side, click the “Compare” drop-down menu, then “Show Source Documents,” and select “Show Both.”

Note: The “Compare” option is not available if the document or its updates is password protected in Word. You can change this setting in individual files by clicking Review > Track Changes.

RELATED: How to Protect Microsoft Word Documents


Can I compare two Word documents for differences?

The “Compare” feature in Microsoft Word compares two documents to know the differences. To do this, open Word. Click the Review tab in the ribbon, select Compare drop-down in the Compare group, then click Compare.

How do you compare documents in Word?

Open Word, click the Review tab, then click “Compare” in the Compare group. In the drop-down list that appears, select the Compare feature.

Can you compare documents in Word?

Yes, Microsoft Word has a Compare feature that allows you to compare two Word documents to see the differences. Go to the Review tab. Click the Compare drop-down arrow and select Compare.


Reference:

  1. Compare document differences in Word
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