Change revision author names

Announcing a new addition to the True Insight Word uTIlities

Change revision authors

It seems that people often encounter problems with the revision author name when using track changes to review a document.

The problem may stem from various circumstances:

  • They forget to set the user name before making their revisions
  • They work on a single document from multiple computers where the registered user name is not the same on the various computers
  • They have made their revisions, but wish to anonymise them before sending them to another person

Regardless of these various situations, the desired end result is the same–to change the author names of revisions once they have been made.

To fully understand the solution, we just need to understand something about reviewing in Word. Essentially, reviewing a document can entail two things: Commenting on the text (done through comments), and suggesting actual changes (either insertions or deletions) through revisions. Interestingly, if you look at the navigation buttons on the Review ribbon, then you will notice that there are buttons that take you from one comment to the next (or previous), and buttons that take you to the next (or previous) revision.

However, while the buttons for the comments do exactly that–take you only to comments, bypassing revisions; the buttons for revisions take you to both revisions and comments. Granted, you can choose to ignore comments (and some other options–even insertions and deletions) from the Show Markup options:

 

In short, while comments are part of the reviewing process, they are viewed differently in the Word object model.

When faced with this problem, the first thought, of course, is to do this manually. However, you will notice that this is not possible, for both comments and revisions.

The next thought is to do it via VBA (if that is an option–if not, see below).

For comments, this is entirely possible. The Comment Object has an Author property, which is read/write. Thus, code like this will change the author name of comments:

For i = 1 To .Comments.Count
  .Comments(i).Author = str_authorname
  .Comments(i).Initial = str_Initial
Next i

But for some odd reason which only the people at Microsoft will know (or sometimes I wonder if even they will know the reason for decisions like this), the Revision Object also has an Author property, but it is read only. Thus, a snippet of code like this, which Word’s VBA IntelliSense will happily allow one to write, will result in an error:

For i = 1 To .Revisions.Count
  .Revisions(i).Author = str_authorname
Next i

This is a problem, since often, being able to change the comment author but not the revision author will not be a satisfactory solution.

What to do?

Well, there are other ways to approach the problem. firstly, if the aim of the exercise relates to my third bullet above (but not the first two), then the document comments and revisions can be anonymised using the Document Inspector:

Note that you want to use the Remove Document Properties and Personal Information button, not the Remove Comments, Revisions, Versions, and Annotations button–you want the revisions and comments to remain, but not be attributed to any author. This approach can be seen in Office help articles like this one: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word-help/change-the-author-name-for-review-comments-HA010036415.aspx

 Ok. what about the first two problems I mentioned above? This sort of change can also be made manually, as described by Andrew Savikas and Andy Bruno in Andrew Savikas’ book Word Hacks: Tips & Tools for Taming Your Text. The basic technique is described here: http://oreilly.com/catalog/wordhks/chapter/hack41.pdf, but even this process can seem daunting to less advanced users.

After all that, it does seem as if this new tool in the uTIlities set is a bit moot, but at the end of the day, it has firstly been requested by some users, and secondly, presents what I believe Microsoft should have allowed for these functions. It is simple and effective, and requires you the user, not to have to use VBA or a relatively complex hack to get the job done.

The use of the tool is simple. Once the document is open, select the tool from the uTIlities ribbon, decide how to manage the document (make a backup and do the changes in the original, or do the changes in a renamed copy of the original):

And then choose the author names to replace (any number of names can be replaced with a single new name), add the new author name, and decide whether to change the comments too (and if so, what Initials to use):

If all goes well, clicking OK will do the job. Simple enough.

To date, I know of no other tool that automates this process, and yes, I did get it right to make the change using VBA (naturally!), but of course, I had to take the long way around to get past that read only property. I’ll leave you to speculate about the details!  🙂

So, if you want to give it a spin, go visit the Word uTIlities page and download it today!

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