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Tech Tips

How to Quickly Redline Legal Documents With Word’s Built-In Compare Feature

By Danielle DavisRoe

Learn how to use compare documents in Word and you will know exactly what changes are made by reviewers.

compare documents in word

Whether you’re sending a document to a client, opposing counsel or co-counsel for feedback, you need to know exactly what changes were made to your document. Even if you locked track changes before sending the file, it’s possible reviewers got around the lock and made some changes that weren’t tracked. To be certain, use Word’s compare feature to create a redline (also known as a legal backline).

Getting Started With Compare

Get started on the Review ribbon. Click on the Compare button and select Compare.

redline legal documents compare button, redline legal documents

Click on the file folder icon on the original document side and select your original document.

Then click on the file folder on the revised document side and select the revised document.

Compare Folder

Don’t stop there. Click on the More >> button to uncover important settings.

Document Compare Menu


First, determine if you care about formatting changes. If not, uncheck the formatting box. If someone changes the font for the entire document, you’ll get a constant stream of “Author Name, Formatted: Font: Font Name” down the side of the document.

Compare formatting, redline legal documents

Showing Changes at Character or Word Level

Next, decide if you want to show changes at the character or word level. For example, if the word “capital” was changed to “capitol” how would you want to see that?

Show Changes in the New Document

Finally, show the changes in a new document. Note: Save the resulting redlined copy as its own document to ensure you can easily go back to the original or revised copy at any time.

Get Control Over the Redline View

If you haven’t changed any settings, the resulting view can be overwhelming. Between the revisions pane, redlined document, original document, and revised document — there’s way too much on one screen for most people.

Click on the x in the upper right-hand corner of both the revisions pane and the redlined document to show just the redlined document. (It’s a little counterintuitive but clicking the x on the redlined document will close both the original document and the revised document.)

redline view, redline legal documents

Accept and Reject Changes

Saving a copy of the redline is always a good idea. Then, you’ll need to decide which changes to accept and reject.

When you use Word’s built-in compare tool, all the redlines are treated as tracked changes. You can accept and reject each one individually or accept or reject them all.

Use the changes group on the Review ribbon to navigate between changes and accept or reject them.

accept or reject in the Word review ribbon

Click on the bottom half of the Accept or Reject button to accept or reject all changes, if desired.

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Want to work faster? For in-depth information and instructions on getting the most from Word, order Affinity Consulting Group’s hands-on digital manual “Microsoft Word for Legal Professionals. Individual and site licenses are available for download in the Attorney at Work bookstore.

More Office 365 Training Manuals for Lawyers

Check out Affinity Consulting Group’s “Microsoft Word for Legal Professionals,” “Excel for Legal Professionals,” “Outlook for Legal Professionals” and “PowerPoint for Legal Professionals.” Each manual zeros in on your practice’s needs with in-depth instructions from Affinity experts on getting the most out of your tech.

About Affinity Consulting Group

Affinity Consulting Group inspires, enables and empowers legal teams of all sizes to work smarter, from anywhere. The company’s holistic approach incorporates people, process and technology. Affinity’s passionate, well-connected industry experts work hand in hand with you to help you better understand and optimize your business — from software to growth strategy, and everything in between.

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Danielle Danielle DavisRoe

Danielle DavisRoe is a senior consultant with Affinity Consulting Group (@affinitylegal). Whether it’s teaching clients a new skill through training, speaking at CLE events, or management consulting, Danielle is 100% focused on making the lives of her clients better. She has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business and a Juris Doctorate from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

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