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Excel tips & tricks

Excel Tips & Tricks #475 - Using ‘Show Changes’: keeping track of cell edits and the power of cloud storage

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Author: Thomas Edmunds

Published: 05 Jul 2023

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Hello and welcome back to Excel Tips and Tricks! This week, we have a Basic User level post in which we explore using ‘Show Changes’ to keep track of cell edits and learn more about the power of cloud storage.

Have you ever prepared a spreadsheet for sharing with others, but were concerned that they might make unintended changes? Maybe you are collaborating on a project and want to keep track of exactly what has changed at for each individual cell?

This is where Show Changes for Excel comes in. With this feature enabled Excel will record a log of every single cell edit over the last 60 days, giving you precision control and oversight over any changes made.

Enabling the Show Changes feature

Before enabling Show Changes the Excel file needs to be saved in cloud storage. Practically that means you must have a Microsoft 365 subscription and save your file in OneDrive or SharePoint. Any changes made to a spreadsheet prior to saving in one of these locations won’t be recorded within the Show Changes feature.

Finding the Show Changes feature

In both the desktop and web versions of Excel the Show Changes feature can be found on the ribbon, under the Review tab.

Screenshot from an Excel spreadsheet
Clicking this will bring up a task pane on the right-hand side.
Screenshot from an Excel spreadsheet

Here the most recent edits to the file are shown at the top and you can scroll down to view earlier changes. Changes by everyone who has access to the spreadsheet are recorded, so you can quickly see what others have done.

Note that if you make any further changes while the Show Changes panel is open, a “See new changes” button pops up.

Screenshot from an Excel spreadsheet
Clicking this will bring in the live changes.

What changes are saved

Each change is recorded with its own card in the task pane.

This is packed full of information as follows:
Screenshot from an Excel spreadsheet
Clicking on the card will select the cell in Excel where the change has been made.

It’s not just cell edits that are recorded. Other changes are saved also, for example inserting and deleting rows, columns, or sheets within your Workbook.
Screenshot from an Excel spreadsheet
Bear in mind however that not all changes to the Excel file are recorded. As at the date of writing (June 2023) the Show Changes feature does not record changes to cell formats, charts, pivot tables, hiding / unhiding ranges, or filtering.

Multiple changes

Where edits are made to multiple cells at the same time a further “See changes” option allows you to expand the card to view the individual changes.
Screenshot from an Excel spreadsheet
This can be expanded or collapsed as required.

Changes for a specific range or Worksheet

What if you are only interested in seeing if changes have been made to a certain area of the file? There is a filter option in the Show Changes task pane to filter by a specific Worksheet or Range.
Screenshot from an Excel spreadsheet
Pro-tip – if you select a range of cells in your worksheet and right-click, you then have the option to Show Changes for that selected range.
Screenshot from an Excel spreadsheet

This can be very useful if you are collaborating with another user and want to check if they have made any changes to a particular section of the file.

Interaction with Version History (web version of Excel)

The Show Changes feature has a great integration with Version History in the web version of Excel.

In the online app the Version History button is shown next to the Show Changes button under the Review tab.

Screenshot from an Excel spreadsheet
Clicking on Version History will allow you to preview earlier file versions in the browser. Conveniently you then have the option to scroll through changes made to each version of the file.
Screenshot from an Excel spreadsheet
It’s worth noting that ‘Version History’ exists in the ‘Info view’ of Excel Desktop and has some limited functionality which allows you to view and restore changes in documents saved in OneDrive.
Screenshot from an Excel spreadsheet

And the rest, as they say, is history

There are many benefits to using cloud storage such as:

  • Simultaneous collaboration with different users
  • Automatically saving the file with each change
  • Automatic version History

Show Changes is the latest feature to exploit the benefits of Cloud Storage empowering users to have a granular view of all recent changes made to their shared Excel files.

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