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How to Easily Track Changes in Excel [Legacy Guide for 2024]

You would think that tracking changes would be easy to do in Excel, just like it used to be. But, in the newer versions of Excel, you have to add the button to the menu yourself. This is fairly straightforward to do, as you just have to access the Customize Ribbon and add the legacy track changes feature.

Excel has replaced the original tracking feature with co-authoring, which shows changes in real-time, but sometimes it is more convenient to use the legacy support. This guide will show you exactly how to track changes in Excel with step-by-step guides and screenshots. Read on to learn more.

What’s the Difference Between Co-authoring and Tracking Changes?

Microsoft Excel offered a new feature called co-authoring that allows better online collaboration. This feature has replaced the legacy track changes feature from the previous versions. Even though co-authoring highlights changes in real-time, it does lack some of the features that existed in the track changes function. For example, the co-authoring feature does not allow the users to accept or reject changes.

Microsoft has two different features for tracking changes, so you may wonder if Google Sheets can track changes. Google Sheets does have a tracking feature that allows you to see where the edits are.

How to Start Tracking Changes in Excel

The track changes Excel feature is turned off by default, so you have to enable the feature to use it. However, some of the newer versions of Microsoft Excel don’t have the track changes button in the main ribbon. Here is how to add the Track Changes command to the main ribbon:

  1. Open the Microsoft Excel application or open a document on your computer. If you open a document, click on File in the main bar to go to the Excel main menu.
Click options
  1. Click on Options in the main Excel screen. This will open a new Excel Options window.
How to add the track changes in Excel feature to the ribbon
  1. Here, click on the Customize Ribbon option in the left sidebar menu. Towards the top of the window, click on the dropdown box under Choose commands from and select the All Commands option here. Towards the right, click on Customize the Ribbon and select the Main Tabs option here.
Select new group
  1. Under the Customize the Ribbon header, click on the arrow beside the Review option to expand it. Now, click on the New Group button here.
  2. (Optional) Click on the newly added group and click on Rename. Here you can add a new name for the group. We chose “Track Changes” as it fits the context. Click OK to save the changes. We can add the commands to the ribbon with the new name.
The track features parts to add back
  1. Now, head over to the Choose commands from section. Here, find and click on Compare and Merge Workbooks (Legacy). With the option selected, select the custom group in the Customize the Ribbon section and click the Add button to add the command to your custom ribbon. Repeat this step and add Share Workbook (Legacy), Protect Sharing (Legacy), and Track Changes (Legacy).
  2. With the commands added, click the OK button to apply and save all the changes.

Now head back to your main workbook and the Review tab. Here, you should see the added group towards the right side of the ribbon. You should see all the added commands here.

If you’re someone who also uses Google Sheets, then here is a guide on how to convert Excel files to Google Sheets.

How to Enable Tracking Changes in Excel

In a new workbook, the track changes feature is disabled by default. To use it, you have to enable it. Here is how to edit history Excel using the track changes feature:

  1. Open the workbook where you want to track changes.
Highlight changes
  1. Click on Review in the top bar and then click on Track Changes (Legacy).
  2. Here, click on the Highlight Changes button in the small pop-up menu. This will open the highlight changes window.
Track changes in excel while editing
  1. In the window, click and enable the Track changes while editing option.
  2. Now, under the Highlight which changes heading, you can select the type of changes you want to track.
  3. After you select the type of changes, click on the OK button to save the changes.

This will enable Excel to edit history and highlight the changes done to the workbook. One thing to note is that you must save the workbook locally or online. If the file isn’t saved, then Excel will prompt you to save the changes before change tracking can be enabled.

How to Track Changes in Excel on a Different Sheet

In a larger workbook, tracking all the changes can be tough, even if they are highlighted. Getting all the changes in your main workbook as a list in a separate worksheet can be extremely helpful in these situations. Here is how to see changes made in Excel in a separate worksheet:

  1. Save the workbook so all of the changes made to the spreadsheet are saved.
Highlight changes
  1. Click and go to the Review tab and click on the Track Changes (Legacy) option in the custom group.
  2. In the expanded menu, click on the Highlight Changes option, which will open a window where you can select the changes you want to highlight.
Click the boxes
  1. In the window, specify the changes you want to track. These include the When, Who, and Where parameters. With the types of changes you want to track selected, click and check the List changes on a new sheet option.
  2. Click on the OK button to save the changes.

This will create a new worksheet in your workbook listing all your changes.

How to Accept or Reject Tracked Changes

After you are done making the changes to your workbook, these changes are not saved until they are reviewed. This is very useful if you want to review all the changes before you approve them. Here is how to accept or reject the changes in Microsoft Excel:

  1. Open the workbook where you want to track and accept or reject the changes.
Accept or reject changes in excel
  1. Head to the Review tab and click Track Changes (Legacy) in the custom group. In the small dropdown menu, click on Accept/Reject Changes. This will open a small window that allows you to select the changes you want to accept or reject.
choose which changes
  1. In the window, you can select the parameters you want to check for the changes. This includes three options:
    • When: When this parameter is checked, you can select to review all the changes that have Not yet reviewed, or you can see all the changes made after a Specific date.
    • Who: When you check this parameter, you can specify whether you want to review the changes made by Everyone, Everyone but Me, or Me.
    • Where: When this parameter is checked, you can specify a Cell range where you wish to review the changes.
  1. With the parameters selected, click OK to open the dialog box to accept or reject changes.
Accept or reject
  1. Here, you can review the changes and either Accept or Reject them. If you wish to accept or reject all changes simultaneously, click the Accept All or Reject All option. Accepted changes will change the newer value, while the rejected ones will revert to the initial value.

How to Disable the Excel Track Changes Feature

Once you finish your work in the workbook, you can easily disable the track changes feature in Excel. This will remove any markers in the worksheet, and Excel will stop tracking further changes. Here is how to disable track changes in Microsoft Excel:

  1. Open the workbook where you were tracking changes and head over to the Review tab.
highlight changes
  1. Click the arrow beside Track Changes (Legacy) in the custom group. Here, click on Highlight Changes.
track changes while editing
  1. In the highlight changes window, click to uncheck the Track changes while editing option. Click on OK to apply the changes.
  2. If you’re sharing the workbook with others, you may see a prompt asking you to stop sharing the workbook. If you see the prompt, click on Yes, and the workbook will be stopped from being shared with others.

How to Share an Excel Workbook With Tracked Changes

One of the main purposes of using the track changes feature in Excel is to be able to share them with others. Here is how you can share your workbook with tracked changes:

  1. Open the workbook you want to share with the tracked changes. Click and open the Review tab.
Share the workbook
  1. Click the Share Workbook (Legacy) button in the custom group.
Use instead of co-authoring
  1. In the share workbook window, click and open the Editing tab and enable the Use the old shared workbooks feature.
Open the advanced tab
  1. Optionally, you can head to the Advanced tab in the window to customize how the changes are tracked. These settings will allow you to have a more in-depth tracking history.
  2. Click on OK to save the changes.
  3. Now, click on Protect Shared Workbook (Legacy) in the Review tab.
Protect the workbook
  1. In the protected shared workbook window, click and enable the Sharing with track changes option and click OK to save the changes.

Google Sheets makes it easy for users to collaborate and share a spreadsheet. Learn more on how to turn on Google Sheets notifications.

Difference Between Tracking Changes and Comments

Many people think that the commenting feature in Excel is the save as tracking changes. To clear up that confusion, here are some of the differences between comments and tracking changes:

  • You don’t have to edit the content inside a cell if you wish to leave a comment. However, track changes will only insert a note when the content inside the cell changes.
  • You have to manually add a comment in your workbook. However, tracking changes records everything happening in the spreadsheet.
  • As the track changes part of Excel is a legacy function, some newer functions will be disabled when you use it. However, the commenting feature is a part of the latest Excel versions, meaning you can use the full functionality of Microsoft Excel with the feature turned on.
  • The track changes feature is harder to set up in Excel, while the commenting can be done with just a few clicks.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can You Access Track Changes in Microsoft Excel Office 365?

Shared workbooks have a lot of limitations when using the track changes feature, so it is recommended to use co-authoring instead. However, if you want to access track changes, click on Review in the top bar and then click Share Workbook. Head over to the Editing tab and click on Allow changes.

Can You Track Changes in Excel?

Microsoft Excel has a feature that allows you to track changes. In the newer versions, the feature is known as “co-authoring” whereas the feature was known as “track changes” in previous versions of Excel. The features are very similar, but both allow users to see the changes made to the cells in a workbook.

Wrapping Up

While we recommend simply using the new co-authoring feature under most circumstances, you should now be able to track changes in Excel with the legacy support too.

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