Word: Compare and Combine

In the last Office Byte, we talked about the ability to compare two Excel documents via a special Add In. In the case of Word, we can use a feature already present on the Review tab, and in many ways it is even cooler. We cover this Compare feature in the Word Advanced training… if you would like to learn more about this, I would love to see you at a future session! Let’s take a look.

Compare dropdown, Compare circled


If you would like to follow along, here are a couple of exercises. The first is a fictional draft of a document, and the second is a final version.

Much like with the Excel example, our goal is to ascertain the difference between the two documents.

Also, big thank you to Hannah in HR for letting us use her Final document as an exercise (the draft is a fictional version of her final).


In Word, the Compare feature lives on the Review tab. This will make sense when you see what happens after we load up both documents.

1. In a blank Word Document, go to the Review tab, Compare group, and click on the Compare dropdown.

Compare dropdown in the ribbon

2. Select Compare.

Compare dropdown, Compare circled

3. A popup will appear. Click on the folder to the right of the Original Document and browse to select the draft document. Then click on the folder to the right of Revised document, and select the final version.

Compare documents screen, folder icon circled

4. Notice you have the ability to label the changes. You could list the name of the author of the revised document here. Click OK.

Label changes with: James T. Kirk as author

One more note… there is a button that says More at the lower left of this screen. For now, I am going to skip that, but it is worth taking a look as you use this Compare feature more.

Navigating the Compare Screen

Hey look, a mission control screen! What are we looking at here?

Compare screen mission control


On the left side you will see Revisions. you can click on any of these to be taken directly to the appropriate area of the document.

Revisions Screen

Original and Revised Documents

On the right side, you have two panes: the Original and the Revised document.

Original and revised screens

Combined/Compared Document

In the center are both documents together. As you scroll down in this document, you will see the left and right panes scroll with you.

Compared document

Already, this “mission control” view (not the official name) is making it much easier to compare the differences between these two documents, and see exactly what my coworker changed. But there are some other cool things about this feature.

Changes: Accepting or Rejecting

I mentioned there is a reason this feature lives on the Review tab. The center document effectively took our original, overlaid the revised version, and is retroactively treating it like comment and markup.

What does this mean? For one, you can accept or reject each of the revisions, just as if your coworker had used markup to change your document. What a cool tool! Especially if your office doesn’t regularly use Track Changes features, and you want to utilize their functionality…

Accept dropdown

Additional Notes

A couple more things I want to make sure to share:

New Document

When you chose to Compare these two documents, take a look at the top of your Word screen. This created a new document titled Compare Result.

Word document title: Compare Result

You can save this as its own document. It will not have the mission control experience when you reopen, however it will retain the changes as if it were a document with track changes enabled, and you will be able to come back later and decide to Accept or Reject changes.


So that was compare… what is this Combine option in the same dropdown? If you selected Combine instead of Compare and ran through the same exercise, you actually wouldn’t see a huge difference.

Compare dropdown, Combine circled.

So a common question is… what is the difference between the two features? I have heard it said that the difference is Compare is only for two documents, and Combine is for multiple documents… this confused me, since I don’t see a way to add more than two in the Combine screen. What I came to learn is that Combine allows for track changes to be turned on on the documents that are being compared… it is basically Compare for two documents with tracked changes already enabled… allowing for more collaborators.

Long story short (too late)… the features behave remarkably similarly, with the one exception that if Track Changes is turned on in either of the documents to be opened, Combine seems to be the method of choice.

Annnd… if you want to learn more about Track Changes, check out Word Essentials training! [/shameless plug]


So what do you think, do you think you will use Compare with your Word files?

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  • Tierney Mount

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