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Excel Track Changes Feature

Tracking what others did in your Microsoft Excel file is crucial when working with someone in the same spreadsheet. Unfortunately, Excel still has limitations around this.

Find out how to track changes with your desktop version of Microsoft Excel.

excel sharing features

How to Track Changes in Excel?

It all depends on which version of Excel you are using.

Older versions of Excel for Desktop had a Shared Workbook feature.

Shared Workbooks have limitations, and one, in particular, is the inability to edit using Excel for the web.

Therefore Microsoft highly recommends you to use co-authoring, which is the replacement for Shared Workbooks and is available in more recent versions of Excel for Desktop.

However, you lose the track changes feature with co-authoring, so let’s not go that way.

If you want to use the Track Changes feature, you need to use Shared Workbooks, even in newer Excel versions - and for that, if you’re on a Windows machine, you’ll need to go to Review -> Shared Workbooks.

Suppose Mac is your OS, and you can’t find the option in your Ribbon.

In that case, you’ll need to re-enable it by adding it to the Ribbon (Excel > Preferences > Ribbon & Toolbar - from there, you can edit it and add your legacy component from Review > Changes > Track Changes).

Tracking Changes using Shared Workbooks in Excel

Shared workbooks are nice because they are supported by most versions of Excel and work on your infrastructure with your shared network drive.

It’s pretty useless, though, for spreadsheets that are still being developed and heavily refactored as the restrictions (like not being able to add charts or delete sheets) are too limiting.

Also, the change history gets quickly very noisy as it’s just a long list of actions without the possibility to group a set of changes into logical steps with an explanation of what happened (e.g. “added a new column for next year”).

Here’s a set of limitations you should be aware of when using Shared Workbooks:
- It’s official legacy, i.e., Microsoft will not put any more work into them.

- They need to be stored on a shared network drive for optimal functionality.

- You can’t edit a shared workbook with Excel Online.

- You can’t use a workbook that contains VBA or Tables.

- Once shared, you can’t use many items or actions (they will be disabled) like Creating/changing charts, deleting sheets, changing/deleting array formulas, inserting/deleting blocks of cells, adding/changing conditional formats, etc.

- Changes that you make to cell contents are tracked, but other changes, such as formatting, are not tracked.

- The history of tracked changes is stored within the workbook, which means that the longer the history, the bigger the Excel file. To keep the Excel file in a manageable state, Excel defaults to 30 days of history (this can be changed to a very high number, though).

What’s the Alternative to Excel Shared Workbooks Then?

Excel doesn’t offer a clean alternative to it as they prefer to put their focus on the recent Co-Authoring features.

However, you can still use your own Excel files and extend Excel’s collaboration features with Layer, including the ability to track and review changes.

Why is Layer better than Shared Workbooks:

- While Excel considers it a legacy feature that will eventually disappear, Layer bets firmly on its track changes feature.

- Layer works with tables.

- No need to store your files in a network drive. Layer takes care of pushing the latest version of your file before any collaborator when the time comes to edit the file.

- Layer has a set of features apart from track changes that improve how collaboration works in Excel or Google Sheets files - this means you’ll always be one step ahead in terms of Excel collaboration.

Add Extra Collaboration Power to your Excel Workbook

Excel Co-Authoring arrived with the purpose of fight back email back-and-forth and file version chaos.

It works well solving that, but it unlocks new challenges that were solved by legacy Excel releases. Ideally, Excel would allow you to invite different people to edit your file, but would keep you in control over what each collaborator can see or edit, and up to what level their changes impact your workbook.

You could track and then accept or reject any proposed changes and prevent errors from creeping in.

This is what we’ve built Layer to do.

To take your Excel files and extend its collaboration capabilities. You can simply upload it and select which ranges each collaborator should have access to.

Sharing is done automatically and consolidation too, putting file owners in charge of reviewing any proposed changes before approving or rejecting them.

There’s no need to migrate or convert your data to a new platform or format.

It just works.

Keep Excel.
 Keep Google Sheets.

Add Layer to reduce errors, easily communicate, collaborate,
and seamlessly share data or request input within seconds.

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Keep Track of What Others do in Your Spreadsheets

Layer is a web app 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.

Save Hours of Dull Work

Managing and maintaining spreadsheets is very time-consuming and often consists of nothing but dull data operations.

Focus on what matters while Layer takes care of distributing and consolidating your data in Excel and Google Sheets. No more copy-pasting.

Keep Your Files Error Free

Spreadsheets are fragile. Errors slip in easily and are hard to detect. On top of that, they can be very costly.

Layer gives you full control and transparency over every single input and change so you can spot errors early on.

Involve Your Colleagues

Most companies store some of their most essential data in spreadsheets. Unfortunately, most of those are unconnected data silos.

With Layer, you can share the data with the relevant people in no time. Collaborate with your team and take alignment to a new level.

Get Started in Minutes

Layer works on top of your existing Excel files and Google Sheets—No new licenses, learning curve, or heavy implementation.

It's extremely easy to get started with an intuitive interface. Simply upload or connect your files and start sharing!

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Manage Access

Work across filetypes and manage the access to your spreadsheets down to the cell level.

Manage Access Down To Cell Level

Grant Access Down to the Cell Level

Work Across Excel, GSheets or Layer Sheets

Add or Remove Co-Owners and Collaborators

Lock and Unlock Cells

Option to Require Sign In

Track and Review

Define, assign & monitor tasks. Keep discussions, actionable feedback, or context all in one place.

Manage Access Down To Cell Level

Highlighting and Color Coding

Revist and Revert Previous File Versions

Review, Accept or Reject Changes

Collaborate and Communicate

Spot changes quickly. Accept or reject them, keep previous file versions and restore them if needed.

Manage Access Down To Cell Level

Smart Chat

Contextual Activity History

Set Deadlines

Define and Assign Tasks

Track Task Progress

Success Stories

Leading companies worldwide use Layer to help them save time
on collaborative processes using spreadsheets.

Elliot Comite Ironclad

Elliot Comite

Finance Lead

Using Layer as a core platform for sharing data and collaboration helped make our reporting workflows 10x faster. We get some of the same processes done in a tenth of the time.

Charlotte Kelly Butternut

Charlotte Kelly

FP&A Manager

Personally, Layer reduced my stress levels quite a lot. Overall, it improved the data collation aspect and significantly reduced the manual errors as a result of copying and pasting data between different spreadsheets.

Step 1

Upload your Excel file or connect your
Google Sheet

Step 2

Share any part of your file
and assign tasks

Step 3

Collaborate, review
and consolidate data

There is no Step 4

Track and Review Changes Like Never Before!

Everything your team needs to streamline your communication flows and collaborate more efficiently on Excel and Google Sheets.