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I want to keep a file for each of my editing stages throughout my self-editing process. Should I use track changes when I am editing so that I can see what I have changed, and then when I am on the next stage of editing should I accept those changes? Or is there a better option? (This is for a novel if that changes anything)

Sorry if this is confusing at all, I can elaborate more in the comments if needed.

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Note that you can compare to versions of a document, one a "descendant" of the other to view its differences. "Track changes" feature may makes this easier for you, though. You can have the changes hidden when you are simply editing.

As for a better option, I would probably use a source control version system (svn, git…). They are really good at keeping track of what changes. These are normally used for computer programs source code but they will work with any type of files. If the file format is not text-based (such as writing the document in LaTeX), you will miss some features (e.g. you will be opening an external program for each comparison, you won't be able to easily view when was a change made...) as it will be versioning an opaque file an opaque file, but the basic features of saving multiple versions, that you can then compare between will be there.

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  • Using git on blobs like Word docs is pointless, just put it in Dropbox or something else that saves versions. – Azor Ahai -him- Oct 14 '20 at 19:42
  • @AzorAhai--hehim: as mentioned in the answer, you can compare the contents with a different diff program. There are posts about converting word documents so git diffing works, but it is also possible to have word or libreoffice perform a diff over the binary word files. – Ángel Oct 14 '20 at 23:12
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This is a really opinion based question as a lot of comes down to your own personal approach to editing. For me, I find track changes invaluable when editing. I also save each draft or evolution of a project. That way I can do a compare in Word as well between the two and see how things changed over time,, especially how the flow of what I wrote changes.

Personally, as you didn't declare what kind of writing you are doing, I would say, try it, see if you like it and if you do then there is your answer.

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This is a matter of personal preference. To me, it makes a lot of sense to track all changes I make. I even take it a step further and use git as a source control system for writing, which gives me access to a full history of all changes and the ability to arbitrarily revert and even branch/merge when I want to. This probably wouldn't work with Word, though, as it's designed for text-based-formats. I use it with LaTeX.

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