The magazine of the Melbourne PC User Group
Working with Comments in Word
Manipulating the Comment Reference Mark Labels: Part 2
In the second part of this two-part article, Brett Lockwood describes another
way of customising comment reference mark labels to make using comments easier.
In part one of this article (PC Update, May 2003), I explained the mechanics of
using the comments feature in Word. This was extended to include an explanation
of how comment reference marks are constructed, how the text content of these
marks can be manipulated to more easily identify the various people commenting
on a document, how to control the yellow backgrounding of a comment mark to
precisely identify the document text referred to in a comment, and toggling on
and off the viewing of comment reference marks via the hidden text option
and the Standard toolbar Show/Hide button.
||The procedures in this
article have been checked for versions of Word up to and including Word
2000 (PC) and Word 2001 (Mac). In Word 6, comments are called
"annotations". Also, there may be minor differences depending on the
status of your Microsoft Office Service Packs.
Figure 1 reproduces Figure 8 from Part 1;
it illustrates the main outcomes of that article and leads us into part 2.
The lower section of Figure 1 shows the comment pane, which opens when you
double-click on a comment reference mark (the bracketed character strings in the
upper section) or use Insert |Comment to create a new comment. This is where you
key in comment text. Two hypothetical comments from the document editor and two
from the document author have been inserted.
The comment reference marks show ED
and AU respectively because these labels have been keyed in via the Options
dialog box (Figures 6 & 7, Part 1). Any labels can be used.
Figure 1. Repeat of Figure 8 from last month’s article.
The Arabic numerals
(1, 2 etc.) have been inserted automatically as the unique identifiers for
comments. The mouse cursor has been held stationary over the first comment mark
from the editor, and this has produced the ScreenTips hypertext box, displaying
the full comment text (sourced from the comment pane). The text From editor
(also keyed in via the Options box) prefixes the ScreenTips box contents,
enabling you to identify the owner of a comment even if reference marks are
turned off for viewing. This means you can read comments and identify their
source without opening the comment pane at all. The comment reference mark label
ED and its counterpart From editor comprise one set or category of reference
mark labels. You can have any number of categories of reference mark labels in a
Note: If the ScreenTips hypertext box does not appear when you hold the cursor
stationary over a comment mark, the ScreenTips option is turned off in the View
tab of the Options dialog box. Turn it on using Tools|Options, View tab (Tools|
Preferences, View tab for Word 98 Mac; Edit|Preferences, View tab for Word 2001
Filtering Categories of Comments For Viewing
If you are working with more than one category of reference mark labels, you can
choose to view comments from one category (one set of labels) only. If there are
a large number of comments in use, this filtering process can be very useful.
You implement this filter by selecting a category from the Comments From: drop-
down list in the comment pane. In Figure 2, which displays the same document
text as in Figure 1, a comment mark has been double-clicked to open the comment
pane, the Comments From: drop-down list has been activated, and the From editor
category has been chosen. This means that only comments with the comment mark
label of ED are shown, both in the document text (upper section) and the comment
pane (lower section) (compare Figure 2 to Figure 1).
Figure 2. Filtering out categories of comment marks for viewing
using the comment pane drop-down list.
In the context of the
editor-author scenario presented here, the author may only want to examine the
comments and queries from the editor, and vice versa. This feature enables you
to do it. Even in a single-author document, multiple sets of labels could be
used to accommodate different types of comments, and filtering could be
implemented to simplify the viewing of comments relating to one category.
If you do use the Comments From: drop-down list in the comment pane to select
one category of reference mark labels for viewing, you might want to view the
comment marks in the document text for this category, and also the comment text
(in the comment pane) for these comment marks. This is the situation presented
in Figure 2. However, if you don't need to use the comment pane, you can click
the pane Close button, and your filter will remain implemented. You can then
scroll through the document viewing only the comments in this category via the
ScreenTips feature (see Figure 1). At any time, you can double-click on a
comment mark and the comment pane will open with the cursor positioned at the
beginning of the text for that comment.
If you close a document while a comment filter is in operation, the next time
you open the document the filter will be removed and you will see all your
reference marks again.
An example of a single-author document where several categories of reference
mark labels could be useful might be one containing:
Searching For Comments
- a number of Web addresses (URLs), and you want to record comments about the
content of the Web sites. The comment reference mark could be URL.
- technical terms (ie. IT terminology), and you want to record definitions of
these terms or queries about them. The comment reference mark could be IT.
- acronyms, and you want to keep notes on the full names. The comment reference
mark could be ACR.
Another useful feature, especially if you are working with more than one
category of reference mark labels, is the Go To tab of the Find and Replace
dialog box (Edit | Go To). If you use this menu sequence and click on the
Comment entry in the Go to what: list of document elements (Figure 3), the
reviewer's name: drop-down list becomes available and you can choose a label
category for search purposes. You can search up or down through the document to
locate comment marks for that category.
Figure 3. Searching for comment marks in a particular
category using the Go To feature.
You can print document comments separately, or as part of the document. When you
print the comments for a document, the page number of each comment is printed
above the comment, and the comment reference mark is positioned before the
comment text. (If you want to see exactly how your printed comments look, see
the comment pane section of Figure 6.)
To print comments separately:
Note: Using the Print box Options button brings up the same dialog box options
as you access via
Tools | Options
and clicking the Print tab.
- Open the document.
File | Print to open the Print dialog box.
- If you want to ensure that the page numbers that are printed with the comments
are updated during printing, click the Options button at the lower left of the
box to bring up the Print tab of the Options dialog box (Figure 5), check that
the Update fields option is turned on, and click OK to close the box and return
to the Print box. (The Comments option on the Print tab does not have to be
turned on if you are printing only comments.)
- Activate the Print what: drop-down list and choose the Comments option (Figure
- Click OK to print.
Figure 4. Printing the comments for a document
from the Print dialog box. The comments option
is being selected from the Print what: drop-down list.
Print both comments and document:
File | Print
to open the Print dialog box. The Print what: option will
specify Document by default.
- Open the document.
Click the Options button at the lower left of the box to bring up the Print
tab of the Options dialog box (Figure 5), and ensure that the Comments option is
To ensure that the page numbers that are printed with the comments are updated
during printing, and that the document page numbers are updated, check that the
Update fields option is turned on.
Click OK to close the dialog box and return to the Print box.
Click OK to print.
The document will be printed and then the comments will be printed on a separate
set of pages.
Figure 5. The Print tab of the Options dialog box. These
are the same settings you see if you use File | Print and
click the Options button at the lower left of the Print dialog
box. If you want to print a document in conjunction with
its comments, the comments option must be turned on.
Note: Turning on the comments option on the Print tab of the
Options box also turns on the hidden text option on this tab. Similarly, if
you turn off the hidden text option, the comments option will be turned
Comments are set in hidden text format, and you cannot set one of these
options to print without the other option automatically being set to
print. These settings also control whether hidden text appears in Print
Preview. Hidden text (and thus comment reference marks) will not appear in
Print Preview unless it has been set to print.
How The Comment Pane Changes After Printing
Once you have printed the comments for a document, page number fields are
inserted above each comment in the comment pane (Figure 6). These fields are
saved when you save the document and reappear when you open the document again.
So, if you want to print your comments but not keep the page number fields, save
your document, then print (either the comments alone, or the document plus the
comments), then close the document without saving changes.
Figure 6. How the comment pane looks after printing
Page number fields are inserted above each comment. These will
remain as part of the document if you perform a save before you
close the document.
|The Comments Shortcut Menu
You can use the comments shortcut menu to edit or delete comments. The shortcut
menu (Figure 7) is activated by placing the cursor anywhere over the yellow
backgrounding associated with a comment reference mark and right-clicking the
mouse. This means that you can still use it when comment marks are turned off
for viewing (see Figures 4 & 5, part 1 of this article).
Advantage and Danger of the Reviewing Toolbar
When you double-click on a comment reference mark to open the comment pane, or
use the comments shortcut menu to read or edit a comment, the Reviewing toolbar
(Figure 8) appears (beneath the formatting toolbar).
Figure 7. The comments shortcut menu:
a fast way to edit and delete comments.
The toolbar is removed when you close the comment pane, and reappears if
you open it again. However, if you manually turn off the toolbar, using,
View | Toolbars, Word keeps track of
this choice, and for the remainder of the Word session this toolbar will
not automatically appear when you open the comment pane.
Figure 8. The Reviewing toolbar appears automatically when you
double-click on a comment mark or use the comments shortcut
menu to read/edit a comment, unless you have “manually” turned
the toolbar off. The five buttons on the left-hand end of the
toolbar control respectively the creation, editing, finding (backwards
and forwards) of comments, and deletion of comments.
The remaining buttons invoke other Word functions.
The big upside of using the Reviewing toolbar is that you can use its Next
Comment and Previous Comment buttons to automate the reading of comments
displayed in the ScreenTips hypertext box. This saves much time scrolling
through the document, and ensures that you don't inadvertently skip comments. As
you click on the Next Comment or Previous Comment buttons, the text of the
located comment is automatically viewed (Figure 9).
Figure 9. The Reviewing toolbar provides a great way of automating the
reading of comments via the ScreenTips hypertext box.
In Figure 9, the Reviewing toolbar Next Comment button has been clicked. The
next comment has been located, and the yellow backgrounding (behind the word
"sector") appears as a darker shade of yellow as a visual flag for the comment
under examination. The cursor blinks at the left edge of the yellow
backgrounding as another visual flag. The ScreenTips hypertext box appears,
showing the comment text. In Figure 9, the comment reference marks have been
turned off for viewing, but the reviewer category label From author (see Figure
2) is displayed as the comment text "header", so the writer of the comment is
still identified. You can keep clicking the Next Comment or Previous Comment
buttons to read all comments, and you can use the toolbar Edit Comment and
Delete Comment buttons at any time, or right-click on the yellow backgrounding
of a located comment to invoke the comments shortcut menu and perform the same
Options, View tab (Tools | Preferences, View tab for Word 98 Mac; Edit |
Preferences, View tab for Word 2001 Mac).
Note: If the ScreenTips hypertext box does not appear, the ScreenTips option is
turned off in the View tab of the Options dialog box. Turn it on using
The downside of using the Reviewing toolbar is that it includes buttons for
other Word functions that can get you into hot water if you don't know what they
do, in particular the Track Changes facility. The toolbar holds buttons for
turning the Track Changes feature on and off, and for accepting and rejecting
Track Changes reviewing marks. If you mistakenly turn Track Changes on, you can
alter your document (possibly over many Word sessions) without realising it. The
toolbar also contains a button for saving versions of a document under Word's
version facility. So be careful when you use it. Word 2000 provides an easy way
of temporarily removing buttons from toolbars. Figure 10 illustrates this
If you want to temporarily remove buttons from the Reviewing toolbar:
Click the down-arrow at the right-hand end of the Reviewing toolbar to display
the Add or Remove Buttons command (see Figure 10). The down-arrow only appears
when the toolbar is docked (not floating on the screen).
- Click the Add or Remove Buttons label to invoke the drop-down list of
Reviewing toolbar buttons.
- Uncheck the buttons you want to remove.
|Figure 10 shows this sequence in action. The main button you should be wary of
is the Track Changes button. If you click this button, the Track Changes feature
is turned on, but you are not notified of this (no window or dialog box
Depending on the status of other Track Changes settings, you can then
add or delete text without knowing that these changes are being tracked in the
background. In Figure 10, the Track Changes option is highlighted in the
drop-down list. It has been turned off, and you can see that this button has
been removed from the Reviewing toolbar (compare with Figure 8, sixth button
from the left).
If you customise the Reviewing toolbar in this way, you don't have to remember
which buttons you have removed. The Reset Toolbar option shown at the bottom of
Figure 10 will restore the default toolbar settings.
Figure 10. In Word 2000 you can remove buttons from the Reviewing toolbar
that are not required for everyday work
with comments, and which might get you into trouble if you
are not experienced enough to know exactly what they do.
Controlling the Formatting of Comment Reference Marks
Comment reference marks can be difficult to read. The yellow backgrounding helps
a lot with quickly picking up reference marks on the screen, but identifying
reference mark numbering (like identifying footnote and endnote numbering) is
sometimes tricky, unless you have a large monitor and can work with heavily
magnified text. You can get around this problem by modifying the style tag of
these marks the Comment Reference style to make the marks larger, or bold, or
set them in another typeface, or set them in a colour. You do this by opening
the Style dialog box and modifying the style description for the Comment
Reference style. It is quite safe to do this because the Comment Reference style
is one of Word's built-in styles. It's available in every document you use, and
cannot be deleted from Word.
If you modify your Comment Reference style to make your marks jump out at you a
bit more for viewing (and hard copy reading) purposes, you're not stuck with
these modifications, nor do you have to change the style description before you
begin adding comments. A fundamental factor about styles is that they operate
dynamically. This means that if you alter the style description for a style that
has already been applied in a document, all instances of tagged text immediately
change to reflect the changed description. This is what you want.
Modifying The Comment Style
To modify the Comment Reference style:
Format|Style to open the Style dialog box.
- Open a document or create a new (blank) document.
Ensure that the All styles list is selected under List: at the lower left-hand
side of the box.
Click on the Comment Reference style in the style listing to select it.
Look at the style description in the Description area of the Style box. This
is your default description for the style. Take a note of what this is, if you
- Click the Modify button to open the Modify Style dialog box.
- Click the Format button and choose Font from the drop-down menu (see Figure
- Apply the desired font formats to this style (larger point size etc.).
- Click OK to close the Font box.
- Examine your changed style description in the Description area of the Modify
Style box, then choose the Add to template option if desired and click OK to
close this box. Note: If you select the Add to template option, the modified
style will be stored in both the active document and in the template being used
by the document (usually the Normal template). If you leave the Add to template
option unchecked, the modified style will be stored only in the active document.
The Word on-line help box for the Add to template option is shown as part of
Figure 11 to help explain this option.
- Click Close (not Apply) to close the Style dialog box.
Figure 11. Modifying the Comment Reference style to
make comment reference marks more legible.
Restoring Default Settings
If you have modified the Comment Reference style and have chosen to store the
style only in the active document, you can restore the style to its default
settings by opening the document and repeating the sequence of steps 1 to 11
above, but, in step 8, you remove the style formats you previously applied.
If you have modified the Comment Reference style and you selected the Add to
template option in the Modify Style box, you can restore the style to its
default settings by opening the document and following the sequence of steps 1
to 11 above, but, in step 8, you remove the style formats you previously
applied, and in step 10 you select the Add to template option again.
So, you can always change the Comment Reference style back to its default
settings, and the comment marks for a document will revert to their original
My own preference is to make the Comment Reference style two points larger, and
bold. This means that my comment reference marks are always readable on the
screen, and print in black (coloured text prints as a shade of grey on
monochrome printers). As examples, all the reference marks in the screen shots
above are set two points larger than the default point size, and have been set
as bold. Do you think this helps?
|Alternatively, you could set your comment reference marks in a colour. Figure 12
shows the text in Figure 1 with the Comment Reference style description changed
to Tahoma 12 point bold pink. Now that's a standout reference mark! And if you
printed this text, the reference marks would retain their capacity to get your
attention. Pink prints as a dark shade of grey on a monochrome printer.
Figure 12. You can change the Comment Reference style description
on-the-fly to make your marks really stand out on the screen. You
can always change the style description again to get your black
Times New Roman formats again.
If you don't know the ins and outs of modifying built-in styles, the next
article in this series might be of interest.
Feedback on this article is welcome.
About The Author
Brett Lockwood, firstname.lastname@example.org has been a freelance editor since 1981, and
has worked with computers since 1976. He is training officer for the Society of
Editors (Victoria) and teaches on-screen text editing (using Microsoft Word).
Reprinted from the June 2003 issue of PC Update, the magazine of Melbourne PC User Group, Australia