Any word processor that works with change tracking as well as Word?

I’m resolutely trying to leave everything Microsoft behind, and in light of this

I’m determined to through that company out of my life entirely, as I’ve already done with Google.

I have, however, on last hold out, which is tracking changes in Word (and the sole reason why I have an Office 365 sub). The way Word does that, allowing to see modifications (crossed out text, added text, comments in an unobtrusive way) remains unparalleled in my experience. And I need that feature (publishers and editors only work with Word).

Does anybody know of a text processor that would work on Word files and have a tracking changes mode that would be as efficient as Word? (I’ve tried Pages, which I like, but it doesn’t seem to work as well.)

LibreOffice change tracking should be compatible.


Dan Moren has written a few SciFi books now and he says he writes in other apps (I remember him mentioning Scrivener, maybe Pages too) but for books he pours it all into Word because that’s what his publisher uses and its change-tracking is robust, perhaps unparalleled.

I’ve long owned a copy of Nisus Writer Pro, which has track-changes, but I’ve never used that feature. It’s a workhorse classic word processor and has been out for a million years. I think most or all the authors of the Take Control books standardized on NWP years ago and IIRC they employ the track changes function when editing.


Thank you both for your answers. I’ve tried Nisus very recently and found the implementation among the worst I’ve seen: nothing is really put in the text, arrows are unreadable once you have many comments (where goes what?). Did I miss something?

I will try LibreOffice again but last time wasn’t really convincing (albeit better than Nisus).

I mean, Git. That’s how MacStories operates:

There’ve been a variety of push/pull/diff services focused on writing workflows but I’m not sure any have really taken off. Draft In was the only one I’ve enjoyed:


I agree with @ryanjamurphy — if you write (or could write) in plaint text, there are a ton of git tools you can use.

A related take is to use Critic Markup, which has been incorporated into MultiMarkdown, and allows you to show addictions, deletions, and changes in line in plain text. I’m sure there are scripts out there which could give you a critic markup document based on a git diff.

Using those tools can break down, however, if you need to share documents with people who use Word.


Ahaha. I’m having this discussion on a regular basis :grin:

Thanks for the pointers, but anything that cannot provide Word format is totally out of the question. Literary publishing does not work like that. I even still have publishers who work 100% on paper copies and annotate that. They do a marvellous job, mind you, but technology does not progress at the same rate in that world. Many fiction writer colleagues call me a geek because I’m using… Scrivener. (They stick with Word themselves. And I’m the crazy one? :grin:)

That’s why I have been stuck with Word… unless something that tracks changes in a nice way and is compatible with it exists. But I might be looking for a unicorn.

Thanks again for the recommendations though.


I don’t do much change tracking but LibreOffice is sufficient for my needs and does import and manage Word files. I’d suggest you try it and see. There have been rather significant changes in the last couple of versions.

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Thank you. I will give it another chance. :slight_smile:

Thank you @OogieM And @cornchip – I have reinstalled LibreOffice and it’s indeed become miles better than before. I will try using it in the “production” environment as I have some editorial work coming up – I hope I can finally ditch Office, and after being Google-free, be… drum roll… Microsoft-free! :smile:


So reporting back on this experiment after dabbling some time with LibreOffice…

I’m stuck with Word.

Here is a run down of all software I’ve tried so far to have an efficient tracking changes workflow –

  • Mellel – opens .docx, does not see changes. Out
  • Nisus Writer – opens .docx, sees changes but everything appears as bubbles, making the view stupidly unreadable. Out
  • LibreOffice – wanted very, very much for it to work, but it’s proven annoyingly unstable on my iMac, crashes very often. Reluctantly, out

I’m back with Word so far, unfortunately.

Joining the conversation late I realise but Google Docs may actually be your answer, for some value of “Google”. Docs can read and export tracked changes and comments to / from .docx files, a feature which I use reasonably often.

Understandably people object to using Google applications because of the risk of them using your information, emails and documents for targeting. This is the case for the free gmail accounts, but as far as I understand it is not for paid G-Suite accounts (I run one for a local charity and am content with the Ts&Cs). Further, it’s not absolutely necessary to save files to Google Drive to access them with G-suite Docs; it can be set up to use local storage when “offline”, which can be always if you don’t log in!

I know that Docs is not at all a Mac like application (but neither, really, is Word) and that running it in Chrome is a cumbersome beast, both of which mean it’s not the best solution for desk top use. That said, you can run it standalone using a wrapper app like Kiwi, which I find makes the process more palatable.

All that said, if you do find something that works well I’d love to hear!

One option that hasn’t been mentioned so far that I think is worth a look is Zoho Writer. It’s quite an interesting blend of Google Docs and Word.

Thank you @David_Roper and @marius for your suggestions!

So, reporting back…

I had no idea you could use Docs offline that way and that’s interesting. I have de-Googled my life and I’m looking at de-Microsofting it (jeez, try saying that out loud) so I’d like to stay away from it. Anyway, unfortunately the web wrapper solution is going to pose the same problem as…

… Zoho Writer, which I tried: it’s a very interesting app, it reads Word changes perfectly and the interface is very clean. I was actually surprised to see it work so well and so beautifully. Even though it’s still a web wrapper.

Through everything I’ve tried so far, Zoho seems like the most robust suite (if you’re okay with the web app part), on par with Google Docs.

Now – I’m very picky with all this (apologies!) because in exchanges with editors I work on documents that sometimes have thirty edits per double-spaced page, and to speed up the workflow, I have set up BetterTouchTool to add / remove comments, accept / refuse changes all through mouse taps. That implies a “true” Mac app for my own workflow or something I can at least tie keyboard shortcuts to so that BTT may hook into it.

That being said, for other interested in that thread and don’t have that very picky requirement I have, I would encourage you to take a look at the Zoho suite, which impressed me, if you want to move away from Office.

Man I wish LibreOffice would work better…

… I’ll take a look at Quip. :sweat_smile:

Which version did you install? The stable version is the best and it’s not the default if you go to download, they always push people to the fresh branch which is on the bleeding edge.

I’m asking because I’ve never had it be unstable as long as I stick with the stable versions.

FWIW I’m currently running LibreOffice version Version: on my older iMac Intel (21.5-inch, Late 2013) under Catalina version 10.15.5 (19F96) and it’s been completely stable.

Oh and I see that there is a newer stable version. I have not upgraded. I tend to only upgrade about once a year at most and I’ve been known to go for several years if I didn’t need the new features.

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Used the latest stable version from the official website, unfortunately.

Might try one of the older versions just to see.

I’m just surprised because LO has been one of the most stable applications on my Mac, basically never causing any problems unless I do something stupid, like accidentally unplug the computer while it’s up then everything goes wonky.

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It crashes stupidly on quit when I have copied and saved all documents, and it’s unbearably slow on loading long documents (which I manipulate a lot). Word has never been great at this, but it manages to still be better… Maybe I’ll wait for the ARM version!