Love it or hate it, Microsoft Word’s Track Changes feature is often absent from Office-compatible word-processing apps for iOS and Android. With yesterday’s Pages update, Apple added track-changes support to its iOS word-processor app.
While the addition is greatly appreciated, Apple still has some work to do.
Track Changes is a feature many attorneys, editors, writers and others can’t live without. I frequently receive marked-up Word files from editors and others I’m collaborating with. I need to see the text they’ve changed so I can accept or reject the edits. In turn, they need to see my edits. That’s the beauty of Track Changes. The misery of it is when you’ve got a long document with huge amounts of tracked changes, but that’s another story for another day.
With the December 4 Pages update, Apple added “Change Tracking,” which is accessible from Page’s drop-down tools menu. When someone emails you a Word document with changes tracked, you now see those changes underlined and in color. Pages gives you three viewing options: Markup, which shows all tracked changes including deletions; Markup Without Deletions, which excludes the deleted text; and Final, which accepts the tracked changes for a clean, final copy.
As you scroll through a document peppered with changes, you can double-tap each change on your iOS screen. A menu pops up and allows you to “Accept” or “Reject” each change. When you’re done, you can export the document back to Word and email it to your collaborator. In Word for PC or Mac, that person sees new tracked changes you added using Pages on your iOS device.
This is great news, but with one big downside: Apple’s Pages app doesn’t support comments. My collaborators often attach comments to specific changes they’ve made. Until Pages supports comments, you have to ask people with whom you exchange documents to insert their comments directly into the text, so you can see them on your iPhone or iPad. (Apple posted a helpful feature compatibility chart comparing its iWork for iOS apps, which includes Pages, to Microsoft Office.)
Though not as pleasant to use as Pages, Office² HD, an Office-compatible suite of iOS apps, supports both Track Changes and comments. Also, Office² HD is $8, compared to Pages’ $10 price tag.
So thank you, Apple, for making your delightful Pages app even more compatible with Word. But in the next release, let’s see some support for comments, please.
James A. Martin is a seasoned tech journalist and blogger based in San Francisco and winner of the 2014 ASBPE National Gold award for his CIO.com blog. He writes CIO.com's Living the Tech Life blog and is also a content marketing consultant.