Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Turning Off Track Changes without Unsharing.

Turning Off Track Changes without Unsharing

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 23, 2018)

Excel allows you to track changes made to a workbook, as described in other issues of ExcelTips. When you turn on change tracking, Excel requires that you share the workbook. After all, change tracking is meant to be used in an environment where multiple users access and change the same workbook.

At some time you may want to turn track changes off, so that they are no longer noted in the workbook. If you turn it off, Excel assumes you also want to stop sharing the workbook, so it automatically turns off sharing. If you want to still continue sharing—without tracking—then you may wonder what your options are.

Unfortunately, Excel is rather confusing when it comes to sharing a workbook and tracking changes. The two features are intimately related to each other.

  • If you start with a brand new workbook, and then choose to share it (Tools | Share Workbook), Excel allows others to access and modify the workbook. However, track changes is not on at this point.
  • If you start with a brand new workbook, and then choose to track changes (Tools | Track Changes | Highlight Changes), Excel automatically shares the workbook and turns on change tracking.
  • If you start with a shared workbook and choose Tools | Track Changes | Highlight Changes, the Track Changes While Editing check box is selected. This may make you think that just because the workbook is shared, that track changes is also turned on; it isn't. (You can verify this because changes are not marked in the workbook.) If you click OK in the dialog box, then it will be enabled. If you click Cancel, then it won't be enabled. If you clear the Track Changes While Editing check box and click OK, then Excel unshares the workbook, as well.
  • If you start with a workbook that has track changes turned on and choose Tools | Track Changes | Highlight Changes, the Track Changes While Editing check box is selected, as it should be. Clearing the check box and clicking OK causes Excel to unshare the workbook.
  • If you start with a workbook that has track changes turned on and choose Tools | Share Workbook, then the Allow Changes by More than One User At the Same Time check box is selected. (Remember—if track changes is on, then the workbook is automatically shared.) If you clear the check box and click OK, then sharing is turned off and the track changes feature is turned off.

Is it any wonder that all this is confusing? The simplest way to turn off track changes and still have a workbook shared is to turn off track changes, then save the workbook. This saves it in single-user mode. You can then share the workbook and again save it. Four simple steps (turn off tracking, save workbook, share workbook, and save workbook) and you are exactly where you want to be. Remember, however, that if you choose Tools | Track Changes | Highlight Changes, it will appear that track changes is still turned on. Ignore the check box and click Cancel; it is not turned on at this point.

The only way to achieve the desired outcome faster is to use a macro. The following macro automates the steps just discussed:

Sub KeepShared()
    Dim sFile As String
    Dim sMsg As String
    Dim iUsers As Integer
    Dim iAnswer As Integer

    With ActiveWorkbook
        If .MultiUserEditing Then
            sFile = .Name
            iAnswer = vbYes
            iUsers = UBound(.UserStatus)
            If iUsers > 1 Then
                sMsg = sFile & " is also open by " & _
                    iUsers - 1 & " other users:"
                For x = 2 To iUsers
                    sMsg = sMsg & vbCrLf & .UserStatus(x, 1)
                Next
                sMsg = sMsg & vbCrLf & vbCrLf & "Proceed?"
                iAnswer = MsgBox(sMsg, vbYesNo)
            End If

            If iAnswer = vbYes Then
                .ExclusiveAccess
                .SaveAs Filename:=sFile, AccessMode:=xlShared
            End If
        End If
    End With
End Sub

The macro starts by checking the .MultiUserEditing property to make sure that the workbook is shared. If it is, then the macro checks to see if the workbook is being used by multiple people at the present time. If it is, then you are prompted whether you want to continue. If you do (or if there are not multiple users with the workbook open at the current time), then the workbook is set for exclusive access (single user) and then saved in shared mode. Setting the workbook for exclusive access turns off the track changes feature, as well.

Note:

If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the ExcelTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2511) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Turning Off Track Changes without Unsharing.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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