Electronic Editing Tools
Microsoft Word ‘Track Changes’ and ‘Comments’ Function
Microsoft Word, since at least the Office XP version, has included a function that enables amendments to a document to be ‘captured’ and reviewed on screen. This enables, for instance, members of a team working on a report to suggest amendments or provide comments without creating a number of slightly different versions of the same document. Where this is done sequentially, the team leader can see the suggestions and comments made by each team member, as they are separately identified, and accept or reject the suggestions made before finalising the document.
In the proofreading and editing sphere, this provides a means by which amendments, corrections and other suggestions can be made conditional upon acceptance by the author, either in whole or in part. The function also allows queries to be raised, perhaps seeking clarification of some aspect or suggesting a particular approach.
The function allows the document to be viewed in various ‘stages’ of amendment, viz – original text, original showing mark-up/amendments, final showing mark-up/amendments and final (as amended) which may be ‘switched’ between on screen. Each suggested amendment can be accepted or rejected individually before finalising the document.
When this function is used for proofreading and editing, output provided to the client or author might include the (electronic) Word document with instructions as to how to use the ‘Track changes’ and ‘Comments’ features to accept or reject the suggestions made plus PDF copies of the document showing each of the views noted above.
Adobe Acrobat ‘Comment’ Function
Portable Document Format or PDF documents are in essence an image of a document. They preserve - for the most part - the content, layout and structure of the document, including fonts and graphics, from which they are created. Provided the appropriate ‘reader’ software is available, they can be viewed on any computer regardless of operating system or the presence of for instance Microsoft Word. PDF reader software is available free and is installed on virtually all computers.
In general terms, as it is only an image, a PDF document cannot be directly amended like a ‘standard’ document. There is software available which does allow such direct amendment, but due to its specialised nature and its cost it is not commonly found on home or office computers.
The ‘gold standard’ for PDF reader software is the free Adobe Acrobat Reader which includes a ‘Comments’ function whereby text in a document can be highlighted and commented upon (useful for spelling corrections) or any other comment marked and made (useful for punctuation, grammar etc suggestions). It is also possible to put a ‘sticky note’ on the document. This same function is normally available in one form or other in non-Adobe PDF readers. The reader software creates and provides the option to save a second copy of the document showing the highlights and or comments thereby preserving the integrity of the original.
Output from the proofreading or editing of a submitted PDF document would normally be a copy - both printed out and electronic – of the ‘new’ document.