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When collaborating on a spreadsheet with others simultaneously, it’s important to get an instant view of the changes that have been made. Moreover, if you're responsible for filtering the data, then you’ll definitely benefit from a quick system that allows you to accept or reject changes. Although it’s possible to track changes in all Excel versions, it’s easier to find in Excel 2016 and older versions. To be able to review changes to a shared workbook in Excel 365 or 2019, you’ll need to add this command to your Ribbon.

In this article, you’ll find a step-by-step illustration of how to track changes in Excel 365. First, you’ll learn how to enable the feature to track changes in your Ribbon. Then, you’ll learn how to accept and reject the changes, and finally how to turn off this feature to finalize the document.

Can you track changes in Excel?

Excel’s co-authoring feature has replaced the former Shared Workbooks function from previous versions. Although co-authoring allows you to highlight the changes other users make to the spreadsheet in real-time, it’s not the same as tracking changes. For example, co-authoring won’t let you accept or reject the changes to the original data.

It’s important to check the Excel version you’re working on, as this will determine whether you need to add the feature yourself to the Ribbon. Whereas in Excel 2016 and older versions, the Track Changes command appears in the “Review” tab by default, in Excel 365 and 2019, you’ll have to add it manually.

How to turn on track changes in Excel?

If you work in Excel 365 or 2019, you can still enjoy the full potential of collaboration features. However, before turning on the track changes feature, you need to add it to your Ribbon. This is how to enable the Track Changes command in your Excel “Review” tab.

How to add the Track Changes command to the Review tab?

  1. 1. Open your Excel spreadsheets and go to File > Options.
How to Track Changes in Excel Step by Step Options
How to Track Changes in Excel (Step-by-Step) - Options
  1. 2. Select “Customize Ribbon” on the left-side menu.
How to Track Changes in Excel Step by Step Customize Ribbon
How to Track Changes in Excel (Step-by-Step) - Customize Ribbon
  1. 3. In the “Choose command from” drop-down menu, select “All commands”.
How to Track Changes in Excel Step by Step All commands
How to Track Changes in Excel (Step-by-Step) - All commands
  1. 4. In the “Customize the Ribbon” drop-down menu, select “Main Tabs”.
How to Track Changes in Excel Step by Step Main Tabs
How to Track Changes in Excel (Step-by-Step) - Main Tabs
  1. 5. Click on the “+” button to expand the “Review” category. Then, select the “New Group” button below.
How to Track Changes in Excel Step by Step Expand Review
How to Track Changes in Excel (Step-by-Step) - Expand Review
  1. 6. Click on “New Group (Custom)” and then “Rename”.
How to Track Changes in Excel Step by Step Rename
How to Track Changes in Excel (Step-by-Step) - Rename
  1. 7. Enter “Track Changes” as the new name for the group. Click “OK” to save the changes and close the Rename dialog box.
How to Track Changes in Excel Step by Step Rename Track Changes
How to Track Changes in Excel (Step-by-Step) - Rename Track Changes
  1. 8. Go to the “All Commands” list and click on the following options: Compare and Merge Workbooks (Legacy), Protect Sharing (Legacy), Share Workbook (Legacy), Track Changes (Legacy). Click on “Add” after clicking on each option. These would now appear under the “Track Changes” group in the “Main Tabs” list to the right.
How to Track Changes in Excel Step by Step Add commands
How to Track Changes in Excel (Step-by-Step) - Add commands
  1. 9. Click “OK” to save and apply all changes. Close the window and head over to your “Review” tab. All of these commands should now appear to the far right.
How to Track Changes in Excel Step by Step Track Changes in Review tab
How to Track Changes in Excel (Step-by-Step) - Track Changes in Review tab

And that’s done! Now, you’re ready to start using Track Changes.

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How to customize the Track Changes feature?

Once you’re ready to share your workbook to allow other users to edit, you can turn on the Track Changes option and customize how these are highlighted for later review.

  1. 1. Go to Review > Track Changes > Highlight Changes.
How to Track Changes in Excel Step by Step Highlight Changes
How to Track Changes in Excel (Step-by-Step) - Highlight Changes
  1. 2. Check the box for “Track changes while editing”.
How to Track Changes in Excel Step by Step Track changes while editing
How to Track Changes in Excel (Step-by-Step) - Track changes while editing
  1. 3. Choose the following options to make sure all changes are highlighted. In “When”, select “All”, and in “Who”, select “Everyone”. Make sure that the box for “Highlight changes on screen” is ticked and click “OK” to save.
How to Track Changes in Excel Step by Step Highlight with changes options
How to Track Changes in Excel (Step-by-Step) - Highlight with changes options

For this command to function properly, you need to share the workbook using the command you just created.

How to Share Workbook with Track Changes?

  1. 1. Go to Review > Share Workbook.
How to Track Changes in Excel Step by Step Share Workbook
How to Track Changes in Excel (Step-by-Step) - Share Workbook
  1. 2. In the “Editing” tab, make sure the option “Use the old shared workbooks feature instead of the new co-authoring experience” is checked. Click “OK” and close the window.
How to Track Changes in Excel Step by Step Editing tab
How to Track Changes in Excel (Step-by-Step) - Editing tab
  1. 3. The “Advanced” tab allows you to customize how the changes are tracked to give you a more in-depth tracking history. Once you finish, click “OK” and close.
How to Track Changes in Excel Step by Step Advanced tab
How to Track Changes in Excel (Step-by-Step) - Advanced tab
  1. 4. Go to Review > Protect Shared Workbook. Select “Sharing with track changes” to prevent other users to remove the change history. Click “OK” to finish.
How to Track Changes in Excel Step by Step Protect Shared Workbook
How to Track Changes in Excel (Step-by-Step) - Protect Shared Workbook
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How to view, accept, and reject changes?

Once your team has modified the data, you can review all edits and accept or reject those changes. This is how you can view, accept, and reject changes to your spreadsheet.

  1. 1. Go to Review > Track Changes > Accept or Reject Changes.
How to Track Changes in Excel Step by Step Accept or Reject Changes
How to Track Changes in Excel (Step-by-Step) - Accept or Reject Changes
  1. 2. Make sure the “Where” checkbox is not ticked so that Excel shows the changes from the entire workbook.
How to Track Changes in Excel Step by Step Accept or Reject Changes 2
How to Track Changes in Excel (Step-by-Step) - Accept or Reject Changes
  1. 3. For each change, you can “Accept” or “Reject”. If you select “Accept All” or “Reject All” Excel will automatically apply all changes. Once you finish, select “Close”.
How to Track Changes in Excel Step by Step Accept or Reject
How to Track Changes in Excel (Step-by-Step) - Accept or Reject

The “Accept or Reject Changes” dialog box is essentially Excel’s. Unlike tracking changes in Google Sheets or accessing its edit history feature, the steps to follow to see the history log or edit history in Excel are a bit more complex. However, once you’ve added the Track Changes command to your Ribbon, accessing it will be quicker.

How to turn off track changes in Excel?

Once you’ve finished reviewing your workbook and don’t want any further changes to be saved or reflected, you can turn off Track Changes. This is how you can turn off Track Changes in Excel.

  1. 1. Go to the Review > Track Changes > Highlight Changes.
How to Track Changes in Excel Step by Step Highlight Changes 2
How to Track Changes in Excel (Step-by-Step) - Highlight Changes
  1. 2. Clear all the options in the “Highlight Changes” window, and click “OK” to save changes.
How to Track Changes in Excel Step by Step Clear all options
How to Track Changes in Excel (Step-by-Step) - Clear all options

How to track Excel changes with Layer?

Layer is a collaboration platform for spreadsheets that works on top of your existing Excel files and Google Sheets. Share parts of your spreadsheet, collect and consolidate data, and review changes to make collaboration seamless and more efficient while keeping full control over your data. Using Layer, you can:

  • Manage Access: Give spreadsheet access on a tab or cell level to relevant stakeholders.
  • Collaborate: Automate tasks, set deadlines, and communicate on top of your files.
  • Review & Track: Consolidate input, track changes, and restore previous versions.

Sign up to get started with Layer right now or schedule an onboarding call so we can help you set up and share your spreadsheet flows.

Conclusion

If there is one feature that stands out in Excel for not being readily accessible, it’s “Track Changes”. In Word, for example, this feature is more accessible to users, and it’s widely used. Whether you are responsible for editing the data or reviewing later, knowing that all edits are registered will definitely help you work with less pressure.

If you’re working on Excel 365 or 2019 you should now be able to use the track changes command without issues. As you’ve seen, creating a group for the “Track Changes” and “Share Workbook” commands might require more steps than in other spreadsheet apps; however, you will only have to do it once, and you can then turn on and off in a quick and easy way.

If you want to learn more about Excel and how to use its version control features, you’ll find the following articles very useful:

Hady ElHady
Hady is Content Lead at Layer.

Hady has a passion for tech, marketing, and spreadsheets. Besides his Computer Science degree, he has vast experience in developing, launching, and scaling content marketing processes at SaaS startups.

Originally published Jun 3 2022, Updated Jun 2 2022