Using Writer’s Record Change feature in essay checking

Posted by Greten on 03 May 2013 under Tools

One of the learning activities in writing-intensive subjects like English (or any language subject for that matter) is the preparation of essay writings and term papers. In a typical scenario, students are asked to submit a draft of their essay or term paper with specified margins and line-spacing. The teacher will check the essays, proofread and edit the work, using the margin and line-spacing to put notes and corrections.

Paper proofreading is the old method, but to some people it's still more convenient. However, there are some teachers that start asking their students to submit written assignments in soft copy so that they can use word processors like OpenOffice/LibreOffice Writer to edit the work of their students. There are two important things to consider here.

  1. The teacher should edit the work of the student to its correct or more accurate form (proper grammar, appropriate style, etc)
  2. The students should be able to see what changes were made and compare it to what they originally written so they can make a comparison.

What happen when Record Changes is enabled

One way we can accomplish this is by using the 'Record Changes' feature of OpenOffice/LibreOffice Writer. If the Record Changes is enabled, the edit that you made will not immediately manifest. Instead, it will appear in a different font color and with some similarities to proofreading marks.

libreoffice record change iconFor some examples:

  • If you deleted a text, it will not disappear. Instead, it will change its color and it will have strikethrough similar to deletion mark in paper proofreading.
  • If you inserted a text, that text will appear but underlined and with different color, indicating that it is an insertion.
  • If you formatted a text, say make it bold or italic or change font-size, the effect will manifest but the font will have different color

If you hover a mouse over the text with different colors, you will see a small box indicating if the changes made were insertions, deletions or changed format as well as who made the change, the date and the time. An example of a document file with recorded changes is shown below.

LibreOffice writer on Record Changes mode

One thing I like here is that is is less cluttered as compare to MS Word's Track Changes. In MS Word, the margin becomes larger to accommodate the comments and labels with connecting lines to where the changes were made. In OpenOffice/LibreOffice Writer, only the content and the actual changes are visible, with the comments and labels appearing only on mouse over.

How to enable record changes?

To enable Record Changes, on the top bar click Edit » Changes and then check both 'Record' and 'Show'

shown in this picture is how to activate the Record Changes.

How to accept changes?

With the Record Changed enabled, the students can now see both their original write-up and the corrections that you made in the same document and make the appropriate comparison and conclusion as part of their learning process, just like in manual paper proofreading. For the students to accept or reject the changes that you made, they have to do the following:

  1. Right-click on the section with different font color
  2. Click Accept Change to accept or click Reject Change to reject.

Demonstrated in this picture is how to accept changes in LibreOffice/OpenOffice Writer

To make some other changes, the student should first disable the Record Changes by clicking Edit » Changes on the top bar and then uncheck the Record. The Show may remain checked. They may also edit their work while the Record Changes is enabled and just accept them by following the two steps above immediately.

Other important notes regarding Writer's Record Change feature

  • The changes made by the same individual will have the same color. For example, all changes made by Alice will be in orange while all those made by Bob will be in blue. This will happen provided that Alice and Bob use different computers or use the same computer but with different user account.
  • The checked statuses of 'Record' and 'Show' under Edit » Changes are preserved when you reopen the file in the same computer or moved it to another computer.
  • Recorded changes done in LibreOffice can be seen, modified, and accepted or rejected using OpenOffice and vice versa. This is true for LibreOffice 4.0 and OpenOffice 3.4.1 the last time I checked.
  • Recorded changes are not preserved if you open the file using MS Office Word.

Last updated on 03 May 2013.

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