Making Microsoft Word 2010 remember your ‘Show revisions in balloons’ setting

Like most features in Microsoft Word, Track Changes is a very useful idea that works really well on the surface but is infested with bugs and quirks when you try to do anything more complex than The Cat Sat on the Mat. (If you already know the problem and just want the solution, skip to the good bit.)

For me, the most useful part is the ‘Show Revisions in Balloons’ feature, that allows you to read the final text and see what changes people have made in pop-up balloons in the margin. Without balloons, it very quickly becomes difficult to read the final text because it shows insertions and deletions inline, like this:Track Changes without balloons

With balloons, it’s much easier to read.Track Changes with balloons

On some computers, for no good reason, Word 2010 doesn’t remember that you want to show revisions in balloons from one session to the next. After the eleventy billionth time this happens, it becomes somewhat irritating.

Most annoying thing ever

Are you sick and tired of adjusting this setting? There is a solution!

Tried to fix it? After you’ve wasted a fair whack of time with online forums and possibly deleted all your Word settings, because that’s Microsoft’s standard answer to any problem, you may eventually come across the advice to add the following line of code to the AutoOpen and AutoNew macros in your Normal document template:

ActiveWindow.View.RevisionsMode = wdBalloonRevisions

(If you don’t already have AutoOpen and AutoNew macros, just create new macros with those names. If you don’t know how to use Visual Basic for macros, this is probably the least worst guide. If you’re at work and your employer’s security settings prevent you from creating macros, you’re out of luck, sorry.)

OK, that works fine when you create a new document or open one from your hard drive. But then you open a document your colleague has emailed you and Word chucks a wobbly: “Run-time error ‘4248’ This command is not available because no document is open.” Uh, what?

This is because Word opens all untrusted documents — such as those from email attachments — in “protected view”. It’s there to protect you from yourself because you’re too stupid to know the difference between a real document and a macro virus you’ve opened because it says it’s a picture of some celebrity’s breasts. But what it means in reality is every time you open a document from email, as you probably do dozens of times each day, you have to click on the button to reopen it so you can edit it, which is usually the point of opening it. ARGGGG.

There’s probably a setting to disable protected view, but if you do that, you can be guaranteed the same day there will be a global outbreak of malicious and undetectable Word macro viruses.

The answer is when you open a document, you first have to determine if it’s in protected view or not. If it isn’t, then you can adjust the balloon settings. Like so:

Sub AutoNew()
  ActiveWindow.View.RevisionsMode = wdBalloonRevisions
End Sub
Sub AutoOpen()
  If Application.ActiveProtectedViewWindow Is Nothing Then
    ActiveWindow.View.RevisionsMode = wdBalloonRevisions
  End If
End Sub

To be fair, Microsoft does actually provide this information, just not all at once, in a place that’s easy to find or in a helpful order.

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