Archive for the ‘Word’ Category


Word: Show comments only

August 6, 2021

One of my work colleagues asked how to set a document so that only Comments showed in balloons, not all the insertions and deletions etc. As far as I know this setting is Word-specific, not document-specific, so if you need to share a document with others, you may need to give them these instructions to show just the comments.

I’m using Word 365 for Windows, with traditional comments, not Modern Comments, so these instructions may not apply to Modern Comments.

Quick method

  1. Go to the Review tab > Tracking group.
  2. Click the dropdown arrow for Show Markup.
  3. Clear all the checked options EXCEPT Comments (you have to do them one at a time).
  4. In the same Show Markup dropdown, click Balloons and choose Show only Comments and Formatting.

Longer method

  1. Go to the Review tab > Tracking group.
  2. Click the tiny little grey arrow in the bottom right corner of that group.
  3. On the Track Changes Options window, change the Balloons in All Markup View Show to Comments and formatting.
  4. If track formatting is off, then you’ve finished and can stop here. If it’s on, then do the rest of these steps.
  5. Click Advanced Options on the Track Changes Options window
  6. Clear the Track Formatting checkbox.
  7. Click OK, then OK again to close the windows.
  8. Now you have to accept all formatting changes. Go back to the Tracking group on the Review tab.
  9. Click the dropdown arrow next to Show Markup, then UNCHECK all options except Formatting (you have to do them one at a time).
  10. Check again that Formatting is the ONLY option checked.
  11. Click the dropdown arrow underneath Accept, then chose the Accept All Changes Shown option – be careful as these options look alike. This accepts all the formatting changes (if they were tracked).
  12. Now go back to the Show Markup dropdown and recheck the Comments option.

Word: Reinstating the old spellcheck dialog

August 4, 2021

Recent upgrades to Word 365 (for Windows) have included changes to how spellcheck displays—you now get the not-at-all-user-friendly Edit button and Editor panel, and you might get grammar checks too, even if you have turned them off. Like other recent changes, I’m not sure Microsoft ever tested these ‘features’ with power users of Word such as editors.

However, there is a way to get the old spellcheck window back. It requires you to install a macro into your Normal.dotm template (in your Templates folder) OR other specialised macros document (in the Startup folder), and then to assign a Quick Access Toolbar icon and/or a keyboard shortcut to run the macro.

I cannot take ANY credit for the macro—it was listed by Charles Kenyon on a forum back in November 2018, and works well with my version of Word 365 (currently Version 2008, Build 13127.21506):

Sub DisplayTraditionalSpellCheckDialog()
End Sub

[Link last checked August 2021]



Word has errors and won’t open

June 29, 2021

In a comment on another post, Matt asked:

I’m sure you’ve written about this but I’m too lazy to look for it. What can I do with a Word file that will not open? I guess it’s corrupted somehow. I was working for several hours on it and saving periodically, but then had some issues with Windows Explorer not working so I had to fix that and when I got it fixed and rebooted the system, the Word file will not open now. I get this error message: “Word experienced an error trying to open the file. Try these suggestions. * Check the file permissions for the document or drive. * Make sure there is sufficient free memory and disk space. * Open the file with the Text Recovery converter.” I checked and I have this: File permissions are: Full Control; Free Memory: ?; Disk Space: 745GB free; and What is the “Text Recovery Converter”?

My response:

You could try some of these (, but it looks like the doc won’t even open. I suggest you make a copy of it, then try to open the copy in Wordpad (which should be on your Windows PC by default; in Explorer, right click on the file and select Open With, then select Wordpad). Another suggestion is to upload the doc to Google Docs and try to open from there. Or download the free Open Office and try that. Your aim at the moment is to preserve the text you have in the doc — you can reapply formatting later if some of it goes wonky. If you can get it open in one of these apps, you can try saving as a new DOCX file and trying to reopen in Word. If that doesn’t work, you can try saving as an RTF file and then try opening in Word.

And at that point, I was out of suggestions. However, I did a quick search and found this article from Microsoft that offers all sorts of other options:

I also found these clear instructions for using the Text Recovery Converter:

[Link last checked June 2021]


Testing Antidote 10

June 28, 2021

A fellow editor mentioned that they use Antidote as one of their editing tools. I hadn’t heard of it, but the website looked promising ( It’s classed as a ‘writing assistance tool, and at first glance appears to have similar functions to StyleWriter (, which I have used in the past, though not recently.

A wet and rainy Sunday was the perfect time to test it out on my laptop (not my main computer, in case anything went wrong).

Let me start by saying that my initial experiences with the website and the download were NOT good, and most people would’ve given up long before I did (I used to work in the software industry, doing installations, testing, writing procedures etc., so probably have more patience than most for persevering with software). The first issue I encountered was that it didn’t seem to recognise my email address/password on the initial try and I didn’t get the account verification email. I then had to go into the account portal to download the software. However, despite installing it, it kept displaying the account login screen and then throwing me out and not sending me a reset password, and/or wanting me to enter my registration number (I didn’t have one for the 30-day trial) or to buy the software—there was no option for the trial. Finally, I uninstalled everything, created a new account with a new password and tried again—this time I was able to download the software and run it in trial mode, but I spent a frustrating couple of hours getting to that point. I’d also like to add that I HATE having to create an account with an unknown company just to download and install trial software. And the download was HUGE too—almost 1 GB, which would hurt anyone on a low-speed or limited data internet connection. However, the trial version seems to be fully functional, just limited to 30 days and a maximum of 10,000 words that it will assess. One other thing about the installation—it auto installs its Connectix software and asks you to turn off any connections with other programs you don’t want (I turned off everything except Word); however, it showed the Office 2016 suite of programs in this list, yet I’ve only got Office 365 on the laptop, so that was strange (Update: When I clicked File > Account > About Word, the version in brackets on the first line says 16.0.13…. so I’m pretty sure that’s where the ‘Word 2016’ comes from. Thanks to Amber for alerting me.)). It also asks if you want to install or extract the installation files—I’m not sure how many non-tech people would know which to chose, or why; this message could be worded better with an explanation as to what will happen with each choice.

So let’s get past that horrible initial experience and focus on what it can do to a Word document.

I loaded up one of my main client’s documents—54 pages, 13,300 words. The Antidote functions are added to their own tab on Word’s toolbar. I clicked Connector and off it went and analysed the document for all sorts of errors. It opens an interface showing the text in its own window; the Word doc is still accessible from the toolbar and if you make any direct changes in Word, those changes are auto synced when you return to the Antidote window. In my case, I wanted to test how it worked on a doc with plenty of track changes (TC) and so I made sure they remained visible and that TC remained turned on. The Antidote interface only shows the text as it would be with TC not showing (i.e. as though they were all accepted). Any change you make in the Antidote interface is immediately applied to the Word doc, and the changes are tracked if you have TC turned on in Word. However, and this was a showstopper for me, at some point the TC in the doc were ALL accepted by Antidote!!! I’m not sure when this happened—while I was making changes, everything seemed fine. It could have been after I did things with the personal dictionary, but I’m not sure. Losing all the TC is a deal breaker for me as I HAVE to preserve them (I work on regulatory docs, for the most part).

As far as I could tell, you also can’t tell Antidote to ignore certain parts of the doc, so it picked up number errors in the table of contents (TOC), for example, when these were actually page numbers in the autogenerated TOC. Likewise, I couldn’t see a way to tell Antidote to ignore front matter, glossaries, reference lists, appendices, fields, etc. or to ignore punctuation such as a hyphen in an autogenerated caption (e.g. for Figure 4-1 it suggested I add spaces around the hyphen).

You also can’t use any of Word’s autocorrect functions when making changes, or in the description of a term in the personal dictionary (I did like how they offered different categories for proper names you add to the dictionary). However, my PhraseExpress text expansion codes seemed to work fine. While on dictionaries, you can add you own dictionaries to Antidote (must be a TXT or HTML file, but you can save a DIC file as TXT and import it as a personal dictionary); however, I’m pretty sure anything you add to your personal dictionary in Antidote does NOT get added to your Word DIC file, so you may need to double up on that.

No formatting marks are shown (it’s billed as a writing assistant, after all, not a formatting checker), so it’s very hard to see things like double spaces, where tabs have been used for indenting etc. You will have to use other tools for this. ALL text is rendered as plain text (manually applied bold and italics seem to be retained), so headings (using styles), captions, table cells etc. are lines in the wall of text. Fields are also rendered as plain text, so if you change any of those from within Antidote, you will likely break the field in the Word doc.

In my couple of hours of testing, I was very impressed with the analysis done, the suggestions made, the comprehensiveness of the internal guides and dictionaries, the fact that you can add you own dictionaries to Antidote, and many other things. The interface was fairly easy to use and to understand too. However, I won’t be buying it because the unexplained and automatic acceptance of all TC is a deal breaker for me.


Word: What you get depends on your version

June 11, 2021

It used to be so easy—Word 2010 for Windows was a different version to Word 2013, Word 2016 etc. Microsoft version and build numbers didn’t seem to matter too much. But since the advent of Office 365 by subscription, it’s not so easy to know which version of Word 365 for Windows you’re using, because they’re all called ‘Word Microsoft 365’ on the launch screen. You have to look for this information (it’s under File > Account). The version you have dictates what functions you see on the tabs on your ribbon (yes, other things can affect the tabs displayed too, like any add-ins you might have and what tabs you’ve turned on or off [under File > Options > Customize Ribbon]).

Since the introduction of the hated Modern Comments, I’ve been very mindful that the Word 365 version I’m using might show different icons on the tabs to someone else’s version. I’ve chosen to turn off Word updates for now so that I don’t get these Modern Comments, which will affect my productivity. However, I have allowed my laptop to upgrade to the latest version of Word. I did this to test Modern Comments, but then I realised that some of the things I was seeing on the tabs on the laptop differed from those I saw on my main PC. So this blog post describes those differences, using screenshots of the various tabs.

Some notes:

  • Tab sizes and icon arrangements differ as I took screenshots from a wide monitor on my PC and from a much smaller screen on my laptop.
  • All tabs have the same icons etc. at the far right for ‘Share’ and ‘Comments’ – I have deleted the empty space for the tabs that weren’t filled with icons, along with the Share and Comments icons, where not required.
  • My tabs will look different from yours as I use certain add-ins (e.g. PerfectIt, Acrobat, and EditTools) that add their own tab, and I’ve created my own Editing tab. I’ve also turned off some tabs and turned on others.
  • All screenshots are from Word 365 for Windows. Differences are between versions and builds of Word 365:
    • PC: Version 2008, Build 13127.21506
    • Laptop: Version 2105, Build 14026.20246 (I use this as my test machine, and so have allowed it to update to the version that was applicable on 11 June 2021)
  • When I say ‘Appears to be the same’ it means that the available icons look the same. That doesn’t mean that they work the same—I tested very little functionality.
  • Click on individual screenshots to view them larger.

File tab

Appears to be the same (no screenshots as all the function labels were the same)

Home tab



New icons:

  • New — Opens the Templates window
  • Editor – opens a spelling, grammar etc. pane. Green ticks = no errors found; a number indicates that there were errors of this type. Click the line to display the errors/run the check (e.g. Spelling opens the spellchecker). However, if you want the old spellchecker back, you’ll need to add it as an icon on your Quick Access Toolbar (File > Options > Quick Access Toolbar, click drop down and select All Commands, then find the one that is Spelling… (there are several – you need the one with the ellipses), then click Add to add it to your QAT, then click OK. Click the newly added icon on the QAT to check you got the right one.)
  • Reuse Files (also on the Insert tab) – Opens a list of recently used files, with a search box. I don’t see the purpose for this, at this stage. And I’m not sure what you can do with the files it lists.

Insert tab



New icons:

  • Reuse Files (also on the Home tab; see the information there)

Missing icons (compared to earlier [PC] version):

  • Add From Files – it looks like this has become Reuse Files
  • Get Add-ins
  • My Add-ins
  • Embed Flash – Flash technology is no longer supported, so it’s no surprise this icon is missing in the later version

Draw tab



New icons:

  • Select (arrow icon on the left)
  • Draw to Touch – replaces the old Draw?

Different icons:

  • Draw – now Draw to Touch?
  • Eraser – now an icon of the eraser end of a pencil
  • Lasso select – similar icon, but no text label

Missing icons:

  • Add pen (options are now included in the main tab in later version, so not actually missing)
  • Ink Editor

Design tab

Appears to be the same (no screenshots as all the icons and labels were the same)

Layout tab (Page Layout in the later version)

Appears to be the same (no screenshots as all the icons and labels were the same). I think the renaming of this tab as Page Layout is a positive change to clearly distinguish it from the Table Layout tab when you’ve selected a table. Anyone doing support over the phone would appreciate this distinction.

References tab



New icon:

  • ABC? Acronyms on a new Insights group – I couldn’t see how this worked. I added an acronym to the document I was testing in various ways—acronym followed by the full term, full term followed by the acronym in parentheses, and in a table of definitions with the acronym in the left cell and the definition in the right cell. None of these were picked up when I clicked Acronyms.

Mailings tab

Appears to be the same (no screenshots as all the icons and labels were the same)

Review tab



New icons:

  • Editor – see info under the Home tab
  • Hide Ink – hides any drawn objects; also an option to delete them

Missing icons:

  • Spelling & Grammar – replaced by Editor

View tab

Appears to be the same (no screenshots as all the icons and labels were the same)

Developer tab

Appears to be the same (no screenshots as all the icons and labels were the same)

Help tab



Only change is the image on the Feedback icon—they’ve replaced that very unprofessional smiley face, thank goodness.

Table Design tab

Only visible when you click inside a table. Appears to be the same (no screenshots as all the icons and labels were the same)

Table Layout tab

Only visible when you click inside a table. Appears to be the same (no screenshots as all the icons and labels were the same)

Graphics Format tab

Only visible when you click on an icon you’ve inserted (Insert > Icons). Appears to be the same (no screenshots as all the icons and labels were the same)

Picture Format tab

Only visible when you click on an inserted image. Appears to be the same (no screenshots as all the icons and labels were the same)

[Links last checked June 2021]


Word: Switch a footnote and following punctuation

June 3, 2021

Someone in an editors’ group on Facebook asked how to change the position of footnotes and punctuation. All their footnotes were followed by a period or a comma, and they wanted to shift the punctuation so that it came before the footnote, not after it.

Word’s find and replace using wildcards to the rescue! Here’s how:

  1. Press Ctrl+h to open the Find and Replace window.
  2. Click More, then select the Use wildcards checkbox.
  3. In the Find what field, type (^2)([.,])
  4. In the Replace with field, type: \2\1
  5. Click Find Next, then Replace for each one found. If you are confident, then click Replace All.

How this works:

  • ^2 is the code for footnotes that can only be used with wildcard searching (for normal searching, you’d use ^f, but you can’t use that in wildcard searches)
  • [.,] defines the range of things to look for after the footnote—in this case, a period or a comma
  • () the parentheses enclose each element of the Find, which means we can shift elements around in the Replace
  • \2\1 in the Replace tells Word to replace by putting the second element found (the punctuation) followed by the first element (the footnote), thus switching the positions

Note: If you just wanted to find only footnotes followed by a period (not a comma), you’d modify the Find to be (^2)(.) 


Word: Hyperlinks are no longer blue

May 24, 2021

At some point, a Word document I received lost all the blue underlines representing hyperlinks for web addresses (URLs). The links were still there (you could hover over them and see the link pop up in the tooltip), but the text was ‘Normal’ not ‘Hyperlink’ style and pressing the spacebar at the end of the link wouldn’t turn it blue. There were far too many to fix individually.

I tried several things I found on the internet, but most solutions assumed the text of the URL had the Hyperlink style applied, even though it was no longer blue. However, mine had lost that, so only one solution that I found worked for me—the one from Suzanne S Barnhill, as explained here:

Microsoft Support links are notorious for disappearing after a few years, so I’ve reproduced Barnhill’s solution, which worked for me, here, with thanks:

  1. Display field codes using Alt+F9. This will make your hyperlinks display as field code (e.g.  { HYPERLINK “” } )
  2. Press Ctrl+H to open the Replace dialog.
  3. Click More to expand the dialog.
  4. In the ‘Find what’ box, type ^d HYPERLINK
  5. With the insertion point in the (empty) ‘Replace with’ box, click Format, then Style.
  6. Select the Hyperlink style and click OK.
  7. Click Replace All.
  8. Press Alt+F9 again to toggle the field display back to results.


  • I found that while most hyperlinks changed back to blue underlining, some didn’t. Further inspection revealed that their field codes didn’t start with a space bwetween the { and HYPERLINK, so I repeated the steps above, this time typing ^dHYPERLINK (i.e. no space between the d and H) at Step 4. That found the remaining ones.
  • ^d represents any field code, and therefore ^d HYPERLINK looks for a HYPERLINK field code.

[Link last checked May 2021]



Word: Macro to show the Modern Comments pane and reduce its width

May 21, 2021

If you have Word 365’s new Modern Comments, you’ve probably figured out that they open by default in Contextual (floating) view and that there’s an option (on the Review tab) to change that to List view (i.e. a Comments pane docked to the right of the workspace). You may have also figured out that you can resize that window by dragging the vertical divider left (to make it wider) or right (to make it narrower). The size you select is carried over to any new documents you create in the same session, but not to documents you opened earlier, and is NOT remembered the next time you open Word. Which means you have to set this up again.

I created a macro that you can assign to a keyboard shortcut or Quick Access Toolbar icon that:

  • opens the Comments in List view (even if they were closed or were already displayed in Contextural or List view), AND
  • resizes the width of the Comments pane to a value you specify in the macro (in my macro, it’s 300, but experiment with this—I found 200 was too narrow for my laptop where I tested this, and 500 was too wide).
Sub CommentsPane()
' CommentsPane macro
' Opens the Modern Comments pane (List view) at the width specified
' Created by Rhonda Bracey, Cybertext Consulting Pty Ltd, 21 May 2021

    With Application.CommandBars("Comments")
        .Visible = True
        .Width = 300
    End With

End Sub


Word: Testing Modern Comments and issues found

May 16, 2021

I wrote a quick summary of the issues with Modern Comments (MC) nearly two weeks ago ( Since then, I’ve allowed my laptop to upgrade to the latest Word 365 (version 2014, build 13929.20296), and have extensively tested Modern Comments to see what the issues are and how they may affect writers and especially editors, who often work on very long and complex documents written for fields such as the corporate and business world, government, legal and regulatory bodies, medical entities, academia and education, and more, as well as fiction books.

(NOTE: The full testing document has been shared with somebody who may be able to get this raised with Microsoft. I could not test everything in my environment, so some issues were raised by those commenting on this webpage linked to in my first post: Also, my testing only dealt with comments about functionality made on this webpage up to 10 May 2021.)

The main areas of concern, among others, relate to:

  • loss of functionality that has existed since comments were introduced many years ago (it’s broken)
  • extra clicks and mouse movements that have to be done to insert, save, or edit a comment (it’s not ergonomically efficient)
  • impingement on valuable screen ‘real estate’ (it’s hard to use and is not efficient)
  • lack of connection between comments and the text they relate to (it’s hard to use and is not efficient)
  • resulting additional time and loss of productivity (and therefore extra cost to the client) it takes to review/edit documents and make comments for author action (it’s not efficient)
  • no option to revert to ‘classic’ comments, with their previous functionality, including an option to turn off collaboration features.

I’ve divided this post up into (no order of priority or severity is implied):

This is a long post, so you might want to grab a coffee…

Update June 2021: For the really short version, see this brilliant cartoon from Iva Cheung:

Overall issues

  • The functionality of using comments has been greatly reduced with the introduction of Modern Comments (MC) into Microsoft Word. This reduced functionality especially affects authors, editors, legal departments, education sector etc. and there’s no option to revert to ‘classic comments’. Main issues relate to:
    • Efficiency
    • Usability
    • Accessibility
    • Screen real estate
    • Things that no longer work in comments that did before
    • No option to turn off these new ‘features’
  • Possible crashing as a result of using too many system resources to render Modern Comments. (Could not test, but reported by others) In long docs with many comments, adding more comments or doing other things results in ‘not responding’. If you try to click multiple times while in that state, Word crashes

Collaboration issues

  • Collaboration features are not required by many people. Most writers and editors work alone, NOT collaboratively, and do not need real-time collaboration features
  • SharePoint integration varies with different versions of Word. ( I couldn’t test this) Comment from the webpage: No one else in my firm has this unwanted update. This means that their comments sometimes appear in the regular comment pane, but mine float to the right of it. Sometimes their comments float too. When I have both the comment pane and the floating comments, I get an immediate red-x synching error from SharePoint and all parties have to stop work on the doc until we can resolve the issue.
  • Comments on docs stored in SharePoint have no Comments column on opening, even if there are comments. Comment from webpage: I opened a shared Word document in an absolute panic because the comment column was gone. When you first open a doc, it’s not clear whether or not there are comments. This really negatively impacts my day-to-day workflow. MC simply does not make sense from a user standpoint. I have to switch between the comment views constantly, and with how slow and cumbersome SharePoint is when more than one user is in a document, I could miss deadlines.
  • Issues when using MC in Teams, WebEx etc. Comment from webpage: Disastrous for cooperative comment resolutions using Teams, WebEx, or other conferencing programs. I help develop technical standards. Many members use laptops. Sharing a Word document with MC in a way that others can see the comment as well as the text being edited is no longer possible. You spend all of your time moving between the text and comment, which is incredibly unproductive

Extra clicks, different functionality

  • Exiting the comment box using the ESC key DELETES THE COMMENT with no option to save. Exiting the comment box does not auto save the comment – must use Ctrl+Enter or click the Send icon (i.e. explicit action to save). Can’t press ESC or click away to save comment and return to main doc as before: if you use ESC, any comment you have written is deleted automatically with NO option to save; if you click away, then try to add a new comment (e.g. with Ctrl+Alt+m) and start typing, you add to the previous (unsaved comment) instead of a new comment or click away, the comment is not saved and the next comment gets appended to previous (unsaved) comment, or deletes it. This previous comment might be several pages earlier. NOTE: The ESC action has worked for decades, so this changes the whole workflow for long-time editors etc.
  • Editing your own comment after saving (posting) requires an extra two clicks. Can’t click in an existing comment of your own to edit it – instead have to click the 3 dots then select Edit Comment, which is two more actions to take than previously. Although you can physically click in an existing comment, you can’t do anything. For those used to doing this in previous versions, they could end up typing away without realising nothing was being kept. No obvious keyboard combination for editing a comment either (and nothing listed in Word Commands > ListCommands macro)
  • Cursor disappears from view after you’ve posted a comment. (I could not confirm this reported issue in my own testing)

Functions not working

  • AutoCorrect and AutoText no longer work in comment boxes. This is a MAJOR inefficiency / productivity / consistency issue for editors. In previous versions of Word, you could insert autocorrect and autotext shortcuts into a comment box and they would resolve to their full text. For example, I have a 6 character autocorrect that resolves to a 162 character comment, which I might use 200 times in a document, equating to 1200 keystrokes. With no autocorrect functionality, I now have to type 32,400 keystrokes, which is 30,400 more than I need to – just in ONE document! Autocorrect also makes my comments consistent every time, something we ask authors to be, so not having consistency in our own work is a bad example for our writers.
  • Typing a new sentence in a comment does not auto capitalise the first letter. In previous versions of Word, if you typed a period, question mark, or exclamation point followed by a space then the next word, the word after the punctuation would be automatically capitalised in comments. It no longer is. This makes editors look bad and as if they don’t know what they’re doing, and slows us down to manually correct these errors.
  • Toggling between cases does not work. Using F3 to toggle between upper case, title case, and lower case does not work in comments as it did previously. The case icon on the Home tab does work.
  • Spellcheck is activated in comments even when turned off for the document. If you turn off ‘Check spelling as you type’ in Options, there’s no difference in the comments—spelling errors are automatically checked and get red squigglies
  • Spellcheck does not work in comments consistently. Spellcheck worked in previous versions of Word comments. In MC whether spellcheck works or not seems to depend on what you’re doing:
    • Writing initial comment: spellcheck works and red squigglies indicate misspelled words
    • Editing an existing comment: spellcheck works only for new words, not for previously misspelled and uncorrected words [no red squigglies for these as per previous versions])
  • Grammar check does not work in comments. Grammar check does not work in MC (it worked in previous versions of Word comments)
  • All comments are removed when you save a document as a PDF when it ONLY has comments (if it has track changes + comments, both are saved to the PDF). If All Markup is the active state and you save a document that ONLY has comments (i.e. not track changes) as a PDF, all the comments are removed from the resulting PDF. If the doc has track changes AND comments, then both are preserved. This is a MAJOR issue for those editing regulatory docs etc. as the PDF is often the only doc sent to such bodies and they need to see the comments
  • Font formatting (except for bold, italic, underlining, highlighting, and hyperlinks) doesn’t work in comments. Many character/font formatting actions are now unavailable from the ribbon when the cursor is in a comments box. Right-click from within the comments box has a very limited range of options, compared to previous versions. All these character/font formatting actions worked in previous versions of Word comments, including from keyboard shortcuts, floating toolbar when right-click on a comment, and/or the ribbon:
    • superscript / subscript (big issue for anyone worked with abbreviated chemical names and square and cubic units of measure, among others)
    • insert en/em dash
    • font colour
    • auto bullets / auto numbering
    • toggle case using F3
    • format painter to apply saved formatting to other text
    • others?
  • Search terms found in comments are not highlighted. Comments are still listed in the general search results (done via Ctrl+f) but are NOT highlighted inline. If you have a LONG thread of comments by the same reviewer, only the main comment box is highlighted (darker colour border only) to indicate it contains the search terms, and the term is NOT highlighted. In previous Word versions, you could do a:
    • general search (Ctrl+f) – comments were included in results, and the text was highlighted
    • specific search within comments (Ctrl+h > Find tab > Find In > Comments) (still works the same as pervious versions)
  • Macros in comments don’t work. (As reported by Paul Beverley [macro guru] and others—I have no further details)
  • Macros from Word add-ins that used to work with or grab info from comments may no longer work. Macros from Word add-ins that used to work with, or grab information from, comments may no longer work. This comprises the efficiency of those who use these macros regularly, and creates more work for the developers of these add-ins who may have to completely rewrite their code libraries.
  • Right-click context menu has very limited functionality and many options previously available are gone. Previous Word versions had multiple options on right-clicking within comments (extensive functions from shortcut menu [including edit, delete, and resolve comment] + floating contextual formatting bar). The right-click functions are now limited to basic cut, copy, paste, and link.
  • Right-to-left text direction bug (formatting issue?) (I could not test this, but reported by others on the webpage linked to above) Right-to-left languages are used in many countries, so for these functions to not work, discriminates those using those languages. Are all these issues related to the removal of all but the most basic formatting options in MC?
  • Moving from one comment to another using Page Up/Page Down in contextual view stops at the end of each page and you have to go back to the main doc and restart navigating through the comments from the top of the next page. In previous versions of Word, you could click the Page Up/Page Down arrows to move from one comment to the next, throughout the entire document. This still works in MC but ONLY in List view. If you are in contextual view, the Page Up/Down function stops at the top/bottom of the page you’re on and you have to manually go to the next page in the main doc, click the next comment, then start the Page Up/Down again. And if there are more comments for a page than can be displayed in the contextual boxes, the up/down sequence stops at the last visible comment box, not the last comment.
  • Moving from one comment to another does not display the page number (in the status bar) where the active comment is located. In previous versions of Word’s comments, you could click the Page Up/Page Down arrows to move from one comment to the next. When you landed in a comment, the status bar changed to reflect the page number where the comment was. With MC, when you do this, you can move from one comment to the next, but the page number no longer reflects where the comment is.
  • Handwritten/ink comments not working. (I could not test this, but reported by others on the webpage linked to above)
  • Font size cannot be changed in comments. Couldn’t do so in previous versions of Word either, from within the comment box, but could modify the Comment Text style or the comment directly—the Reviewing pane showed the changed font size, even though the comments box didn’t. Lack of font size increase (direct, style, or when zooming) is especially bad for those with vision issues. Some commenters on the webpage reported issues about possible screen resolution issues as well, when zoomed in.
  • Cross-references to a section, figure, table, etc. do not work in MC. In previous versions of Word, you could insert a cross-reference to another part of the document into a comment (e.g. Section 3.1.2; Table 4-5; Appendix 4). This no longer works and all functions on the References tab are no longer available when you’re in a comment box. This is a major issue for those with long complex documents with outline numbering, many tables/figures, potentially hundreds of numbered cross-referenced citations, etc.
  • Symbols and equations cannot be inserted into MC. Can no longer insert a symbol into a comment (e.g. degree, multiplication, accented characters, check marks, primes etc.) as you could in previous versions of Word.
  • Quick Parts (of any type) cannot be inserted into MC. In previous versions of Word, these all worked in comments boxes—insert field, insert autotext/building blocks (though only those stored in normal.dotm, not in BuildingBlocks.docx); and insert doc property. None work in MC.
  • Special characters and symbols (e.g. €, ©, ™) don’t work in MC. Authors and editors do not want emojis in their Word document (we are not 12 years old!), especially if they are in a business, academic, legal etc. environment. However, they may well want to enter a €, ©, or ™ symbol into a comment. In previous versions of Word, punctuation resolved to relevant symbol or emoji on pressing the space bar and Ctrl+z undid the action, returning to the characters typed. However, in MC:
    • Emojis seem to work (e.g. :-) ), but Ctrl+z returns you to the characters typed EXCEPT for the last character, which it deletes; if you then add that character again BECAUSE YOU WANT THE CHARACTER and NOT the emoji, it reverts to an emoji again and you can’t get just the characters
    • Conventions such as (c) and (e) to create the copyright or Euro symbols don’t work at all in MC and you only get the characters typed. And you can’t select these from the Symbols list either, as you can’t insert a Symbol into MC
  • Some Word commands no longer work with MCs. (Not tested by me, but reported on the webpage) Examples of those that no longer work are: NextChangeOrComment, AcceptChange, RejectChange, SelectNextChange. The person reporting this said that a DeleteAnnotation command has been added, but nothing similar for selecting an annotation, moving to the next/previous annotation, or accept/resolve annotation.
  • Images and icons cannot be inserted into a MC. In previous versions of Word, you could insert pictures and icons and then resize these once they were in the comments box. In MC, the options to insert anything are unavailable when you are in the comments box. If you insert a picture/icon into the main doc, then copy it, you can paste it into the comments box, but as soon as you ‘post’ it disappears and the comment is empty.
  • Resolved comments disappear (in contextual view). In previous versions of Word, all comments—whether resolved or not—showed in one continuous list in the track changes/comments lane. Resolved comments were in light grey, but you could see them and reopen them. In MC, resolved comments disappear in contextual view and you’re left with a placeholder ‘speech bubble’ icon with a check mark. Clicking on that check mark opens the Comments pane, where you can now see the resolved comments, and from where you can reopen them.
  • Cannot edit someone else’s comment. In previous versions of Word, you could edit someone else’s comment, with no trace that you had done so. You cannot do this in MC. This function was handy for an editor to correct a reviewer’s typos/spelling errors so that the original reviewer didn’t look unprofessional, but there were likely always auditing/traceability issues for legal docs etc.

Version compatibility issues

  • From a Microsoft support page (not confirmed): “If you view a document in which a colleague has inserted a comment using the MC feature, you won’t be able to see it in the older version.” Potentially, anyone who is not using MC will not be able to see comments inserted by those who are. [NOTE: This was not an issue for me in my testing, but I was testing with just myself as a reviewer, in Windows 10, and in slightly different versions of Word 365 for Windows. Those using older versions of Word, or standalone versions, or different OS versions may have different results] (UPDATE: I’ve since had more information on this: “That information came from the article ‘Modern Comments in Word’, (was in the last paragraph of the article). Among other things, I and others raised this as a big issue with Microsoft. They returned and said that the article was not correct and afterwards, the wording was changed to: ‘Modern Comments are available only if you’re using Word for Microsoft 365. If you’re using an older version of Office, you’ll still see comments from other users, but in the classic Comments experience.'”)
  • Comments from an early Word version that include font formatting such as tabs, superscript etc. convert to plain text in MC. In previous versions of Word, all formatting worked (see issues regarding character/font formatting above). When you open a doc containing comments with formatting in the MC version of Word, the comment text remains, but all formatting is lost. When you try to edit the comment, you get this message: ‘This comment contains content this app can’t display. Editing may result in changing or losing that content. Click Cancel if you don’t want to risk it.’ The options are Proceed and Cancel. When you click Proceed, all formatting is lost, and only plain text remains—e.g. a superscript ‘3’ is now a standard ‘3’

View/screen real estate issues

  • If revision balloons are showing for tracked changes (Track Changes Options window > Balloons… > Revisions), the comments (in either contextual or list view) add a 3rd ‘lane’, thus squeezing the main document into a narrower area. In previous versions of Word, if you had All Markup on, track changes of all types and comments were all in one lane (2nd lane), to the right of the main document (1st lane). With MC a 3rd lane is added, which severely compromises screen real estate, esp. on laptops and small devices like tablets, or on swivel monitors in portrait mode. (Note: The 3rd lane only shows if you have Track Changes Options window > Balloons… > Revisions selected, not if you have Comments and Formatting selected, which only uses 2 lanes.) This 3rd lane limits your ability to view two docs side by side (now almost impossible on a laptop), or zoom out to see two (or more) pages in a single window. In addition, if you have the MC in list view and zoom out to see multiple pages, the comments become contextual yet there’s empty space on the right side (presumably for the now-turned-off list view, even though it’s not active). A zoomed out view that could previously fit 6 pages across, can now only fit 4, with extra blank space on the right. The vertical scroll bar is to the left of this empty space too, not at the far right of the window, as previously. When you return to 100% view, this blank space doesn’t go away until you reselect the list view (and even then it renders slowly or not at all on a large document).
  • Comment markers no longer join to text with a visible line. Comment speech bubble icons, when clicked, only show the comment and a faint colour shading for the text being commented on—there is no other visual indicator to join the comment with the text being commented on. Note: The shading on my laptop was tones of purple, from a pale lilac to a medium violet—I couldn’t see any way to change the colour for my comments compared to others, or just for readability purposes.

    How comments were indicated in previous versions of Word—obvious lines and obvious colours

    How comments are indicated with Modern Comments—no lines, just speech bubble icons; pale colours

  • Speech bubble icons, which indicate the presence of a comment, overlap if two or more are close to each other (e.g. multiple separate comments on the same line). Hard to see/distinguish multiple comments (speech bubble icons) for a line of text. Zooming out doesn’t help very much.
  • Hard to identify which comment relates to which text, or vice versa. Hard to ascertain the specific comment that links to a shaded piece of text, or conversely, which text a comment relates to—have to click on the text, a comment, or a speech bubble icon to see its relationship to the text. Colour shading is so subtle that it’s almost impossible to see the changes or the active comment/text selected.
  • Contrast issue between active and resolved comments in list view. Previous versions of Word changed resolved comments to a light grey colour, which was hard to read too, but in list view for MC, the pale grey background of resolved comments is not far removed from white and is hard to distinguish.
  • Resolution and jumping issues. In large documents, screen refreshing is a problem when you have multiple comments. My test doc was ~400p and had some 500 comments. It took quite some time for the Reviewing pane to open and there were issues with empty spaces (where the comments list view had been) when zooming out to a multiple-page view. See also the information on Word crashing when it uses up system resources (Overall issue).
  • Comment bubble icons superimposed on tables. (Not an issue for me in testing) Comment on webpage: Comments icons are superimposed on my table text and there is no way to move them.
  • Space taken by comment boxes. MC boxes are large—much larger than the previous balloons used for comments. In addition to the larger box, there’s a lot of information in a comment box that could perhaps be streamlined better, thus reducing the height of the boxes; for example:
    • Round disk for reviewer’s initials (is this really necessary?)
    • Reviewer’s name
    • 3-dot menu for extra functions
    • Comment
    • Date and time
    • Reply box
    • Changeable width of borders around box
    • Post and cancel icons when in creating/editing a comment
    • Excessive white space.
  • In contextual view, when you have many comments on a page, the bottom ones fade off and you can’t see them in the 3rd lane. In previous versions of Word, when there were too many comments on the page to see them all, you’d see the balloons and some ellipses indicating there was more info. With MC, you lose those extra comments entirely as they fade out of view. This is not an issue with list view, only contextual view (list view has its own problems in that you can’t see what comment belongs to what piece of text, which is not good in contextual view either, but is a little better).
  • Text in comments looks blurred. (Could not confirm in my testing)
  • Split window view is unusable with MC. Splitting the window for a document doesn’t split the comments pane (contextual view is not available when you are using split view)—instead you have one long list of comments. Also, as per an earlier issue, the page numbers do not indicate where the comment is in split view either.
  • Web layout view does not show comments in contextual view. Previous versions of Word: Web layout showed comments on the far right when Simple or All Markup was turned on. With MC, you can see and click on the speech bubble icons, and then the list view shows the comments. Contextual view is not an available option.
  • Comments move position from where you expect. (I couldn’t confirm this in testing)
  • Lose parts of text from the 3 lanes if have both track changes and MC in view. With MC, text disappears (is cut off) either from the track changes area or the comments area – have to scroll to see it all.
  • Added 21 May 2021: Comments that are longer than 3 lines are truncated to 3 lines until you click on them. You see 3 lines and the very faint outline of the tops of the letters on the 4th line, and that faint text is the only indication that a comment might have more than 3 lines. If you have three lines followed by text in a new paragraph, you can’t see that there’s more—there’s no visual indication (like an ellipsis) that the comment is longer than 3 lines. You have to click on it to see the full comment.

Suggested workarounds for some issues

  • Press Ctrl+Enter to save a comment
  • Reduce the amount of screen real estate taken up with the 3rd lane by only showing Comments and Formatting (Track Changes Options window > Balloons… > select Comments and Formatting) and turning off track formatting

  • Use a text expansion program (e.g. PhraseExpress [PE], TextExpander) instead of AutoCorrect (AC) for your editing comments (NOTE: Beware: If you use the same code in AC and in PE, the code from PE will work in the comments, but in the main document, you’ll get a double-up of the expanded text. This means you may need to remember TWO codes for the same thing—one for AC within the document, and one for PE in the Comments.  For example, I have an AC and a PE code of .epa for Environmental Protection Authority. If I type .epa followed by a space in a MC, PE resolves it to Environmental Protection Authority, as expected. But if I type .epa in the document, I get Environmental Protection AuthorityEnvironmental Protection Authority. Before MC, I would only get one instance, not two.)
  • Use the case icon on the Home tab to toggle case
  • Use the highlight icon on the Home tab to highlight text
  • When you click on a speech bubble icon for a comment, you can still use the Up and Down arrow keys to move to the previous or next comment.
  • You can resize and move the Comments pane (list view); macro to resize the Comments pane:
  • Another workaround: Avoid using Modern Comments entirely, and instead use EndNotes and macros that work in EndNotes. See this video from Paul Beverley:

Things that still work (added 21 May 2021)

  • Ctrl+Alt+m to insert a new comment
  • Select an entire comment (Ctrl+a), copy it (Ctrl+c) and paste it (Ctrl+v) into another comment box
  • Dictate! I was surprised this worked. When you’ve inserted a comment box, instead of typing, you can click Dictate on the Home tab and speak your comment

[Links last checked May 2021]


Word: Modern Comments means the price goes up as productivity takes a massive hit

May 4, 2021

Modern Comments (horrible name!) haven’t rolled out to my Word 365 (Windows) version as yet, so today I turned off Updates to prevent them from being installed (File > Account > Update Options button). Of course, I won’t get any other updates either, but at the moment I certainly don’t want the hit to my productivity (or to quotes I’ve already had accepted for upcoming work) that these Modern Comments seem to guarantee. Unfortunately, I can’t stop updates on my anchor client’s laptop, so me turning them off on my own computer may only be a temporary measure.

Hopefully the screams from the writing and editing community, education sector, legal sector etc. will be heard and an option will be given to revert to traditional comments. For details on the changes, see this article and then read the very polite comments below it (polite considering the underlying anger about this change):

For me, the main issues with Modern Comments will be:

  • Autocorrect not working
  • Formatting (other than very basic) not working, so no sub/superscripts in comments or highlight colours
  • Spellcheck not working
  • Interface and page layout issues—way too much screen real estate is used; comment icons aren’t attached by a line to the commented on text and float and jump around, etc.
  • Extra keystrokes to add a comment—it seems you can still insert a comment using Ctrl+Alt+M, but you can’t just click out and the comment automatically saves. Instead, you have to click a button to save the comment, otherwise you lose it (update: or use Ctrl+Enter).

One of the long documents I edited was a technical safety case for an oil platform. It was 370 pages and once I was finished I’d added more than 11,000 tracked changes, of which 700+ were comments. Many of those comments were added using AutoCorrect shortcuts, whereby I type a few keystrokes which then automatically expand into a sentence or two. In addition to saving time, these AutoCorrects also mean that my comments are consistent every time, something we ask of our authors. (See:

Editing this document with Modern Comments would have added at least 10 to 20 hours to the time. I charge by the hour, so yes, I make more money the more hours I work, but I aim to be as efficient as possible and work within budgeted time frames and deadlines. (Edited to add: As an example, one of my AutoCorrect shortcuts is 6 keystrokes, which expands to 162 characters. I could use this shortcut 200 times in the comments in ONE long document—at 6 characters, I’ve typed 1200 characters, but if I have to type the 162 characters out in full every time, that’s some 32,400 characters, an increase of 30,400 characters. This is just one example of the productivity hit.)

I can’t take this hit to my productivity, not to mention the tedium of typing the same comment over and over, nor the extra hours required to edit a document. Extra hours means the client has to pay more, and I have to factor in that extra time if I’m doing a quote (and I can’t increase the estimated hours for quotes already accepted). For those who charge by the word or the job, they’ll have to increase their rates to allow for the extra time that they’ll need to add and edit their comments, otherwise they’ll be losing income.

Microsoft needs to fix this!

More information:

[Links last checked May 2021]