Word 2004 Bug: Change in ‘Highlight Changes’ dialog doesn’t stick

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Microsoft
November 2nd, 2004 • 9:31 am

I have a Word document from somebody else for which I need to use Word’s “Track Changes” feature. So I go to the “Highlight Changes” dialog box and do what I usually do, which is to check the “Track changes while editing” option and uncheck the “Highlight changes in printed document” option.

I edit the document in Normal view mode and everything works fine. But then I want to preview the resulting document without viewing the changes that have been made, only their result. So I switch to “Print Preview” mode, which is supposed to give me a preview of what the document will look like in print, i.e. without the Track Changes info.

The trouble is that it doesn’t work. So I return to the “Highlight Changes” dialog and, much to my surprise (OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but still…), the “Highlight changes in printed document” option is checked!

So I uncheck it again, close the dialog box, and reopen it. The option is checked. Obviously, that “Highlight changes in printed document” option doesn’t stick. It used to work just fine. In Word 2004, it no longer works, presumably because of the “improvements” made by Microsoft in this particular area. You can always count on Microsoft to foul up everything that they touch. With Microsoft, you always get that sense that the software is extremely brittle and that any changes to the code will inevitably lead to a new crop of bugs. It’s true that this is something that applies to all software and not just to Microsoft’s products. But you definitely get the sense that Microsoft’s software is particularly fragile.

Now, there is a workaround: If you uncheck both the “Highlight changes on screen” and “Highlight changes in printed document” options, then the change sticks, and you can preview your document without the Track Changes information. But that pretty much defeats the whole purpose of the “Highlight changes in printed document” option. If it doesn’t work independently from the “Highlight changes on screen” option, it doesn’t work at all. It might as well not exist.

In truth, I’ve always found this “Highlight Changes” dialog box extremely non-intuitive. There are three options, each one with its checkbox, but the last two options should only available when the first one is checked. In this dialog, all three options are always available all the time, which means that you can instruct Word to “Highlight changes in printed document” even when the “Track changes while editing” option is off. It doesn’t make any sense.

And then of course you have no idea whether unchecking the first option will actually “forget” all the changes that have been tracked so far or only stop the tracking from now on. It’s a rather important issue, because if you’ve been tracking changes for half an hour, you don’t exactly want to lose the whole thing by just unchecking the wrong option.

But such is the world of Microsoft software.

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