How to Use Microsoft Word’s Compare Feature

26896 How to Use Microsoft Word's Compare Feature

Microsoft Word’s compare feature allows you to see the differences between two versions of a document. This can be extremely useful when collaborating with others or reviewing changes made to a document over time.

When to Use Compare

Here are some common situations when using Word’s compare tool makes sense:

  • Tracking changes from multiple authors – If you are collaborating with others on a document, using compare allows you to easily see everyone’s changes in one view.
  • Comparing draft versions – Reviewing changes between different draft versions of a document helps streamline the editing process.
  • Checking for plagiarism – Teachers can use compare to quickly spot differences between a student’s work and the original source material.
  • Finding changes made without track changes – If someone edited a document without tracking changes, compare will highlight exactly what changed.

How to Compare Two Documents

Comparing documents in Word only takes a few clicks:

  1. Open the Review tab
  2. Click Compare > Compare
  3. Select the original document
  4. Select the revised document
  5. Choose comparison settings (optional)
  6. Click OK

A new document will be created showing you the changes between the two files, with additions, deletions, and formatting changes marked up.

Select the Original and Revised Documents

In the Compare Documents dialog box, you can browse your files to select the original and revised documents. Make sure to pick the right original file, as differences will be determined based on that document.

Recent files will appear for easy selection. If you need an older file, click Browse to locate it on your computer.

Customize Comparison Settings

Click the More button to customize exactly what Word compares between the documents. Options include:

  • Compare formatting
  • Compare headers and footers
  • Compare footnotes and endnotes
  • Show changes at the word or character level

You can also choose to show changes in the original file, revised file, or a new third document.

Review Compared Documents

Once documents are compared, Word displays them with changes shown – insertions are underlined and deletions are crossed out.

Use the Reviewing Pane on the left to quickly jump to each change. Click on a marked change to see the relevant text highlighted in the document panes on the right.

From here, you can choose to accept or reject changes as needed.

Accept/Reject Changes

  • To accept a change, right-click on it and select Accept Change
  • To reject a change, right-click on it and select Reject Change

Accepted changes will remove the formatting showing the difference. Rejected changes will remove the proposed text/formatting completely.

Merge Changes

To finalize your document, you can choose to create a copy with just the accepted changes merged in.

Go to the Review tab and click Compare > Combine. Choose options to copy just the revised version’s changes into the original, or vice versa.

Compare Word Documents to Other Formats

While Word’s compare feature works best with two .docx files, you can also compare Word documents to other formats like PDFs.

You just need to convert the other document type to Word first using a tool like Adobe Acrobat. Then you can compare the Word versions.

Some fidelity may be lost when converting formats, but comparing Word to PDF can still work in many cases.

Tips for Effective Document Comparison

Follow these tips to get the most out of comparing documents in Word:

  • Turn on track changes first in documents you want to compare later – this will allow you to see the changes made by each specific author
  • Use consistent formatting in the original document to minimize false positives from small formatting differences
  • Review documents side-by-side using the synchronous scrolling feature
  • Export to a PDF to preserve the markup showing changes between documents


Microsoft Word’s compare two documents feature takes the headache out of finding differences between document versions. By showing inserted, deleted, and formatted text all marked up in one view, you can streamline the document review process and improve collaboration.

With the ability to customize comparison settings and then easily accept/reject changes, Word gives you total control over synchronizing documents. So the next time you need to review revisions from multiple authors or spot changes in a document, use Word’s powerful compare tool. It can save you significant time and effort while improving accuracy.

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