Version control for MS Word (etc) documents?

I recently received this email (paraphrased), and didn’t have a good answer:

I work in the federal government, writing documents that are sometimes published in the Federal Register. I saw in the New York Times a reference citing you as someone who would like to see the government use version control software.

Keeping track of the changes in my work is important. Currently, we use the “Track Changes” feature In Microsoft Word. But before working here, I worked in open source software projects, where we used CVS to track our changes. I thought it would be easy to use the same methods in government work, but I haven’t found software that does what CVS does except for Microsoft Word documents. Do you have any information about what software would be needed to track changes in Word?

Does anyone have any suggestions?


  1. If I’m not mistaken, TortoiseSVN (the popular Windows Explorer extension for Subversion; ships with some scripts that allow its normal Subversion Diff operation to integrate with Microsoft Word in such a way that differences are displayed as if the document was using the Track Changes feature.

  2. Yes, TortoiseSVN uses simple scripts to invoke the built-in diff feature of MS Office to compare two (or sometimes three) documents.

    The scripts are here:
    (you know how this works: login as “guest”, leave password empty).

    The only office doc type that doesn’t have a diff feature anymore is powerpoint – in Office2007, the diff feature was removed for those for some unknown (to me at least) reason.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * Comments Policy

× seven = sixty three