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    Design: Analysis: Comments

One way to include your documentation without cluttering up the worksheet is to use comments.

Excel lets you insert into any cell a comment that acts like a hidden sticky note.

By default, a cell that has a comment displays a small red triangle in the upper right of the cell. 

Mouse Move your mouse over cell A1 in the illustration. 

The comment pops into view. When you move the mouse out of the cell, the comment vanishes again.

(If this did not work for you, your browser does not allow Javascript from onMouseOver and onMouseOut commands.)

Status Bar: Cell A3 commenting by Jan SmithMost comments are hidden until you select or hover over the cell. The Status bar changes to show that the selected cell has a comment.


Working with Comments

The Default Comment

  • Comment - default characteristicsShape: Rectangle
  • Size: about 4 rows tall and 2.5 columns wide (for default row & column sizes)
  • Color: pale yellow
  • Border: thin, black
  • Shadow: narrow, down right
  • Font: Tahoma, 9 pt, black
  • Author: Bold, Tahoma, 9 pt, black
    Automatically inserts the user name for Office, not the document's author
  • Location: pops up at the right of the cell with its top a little higher than the top of the cell.

TipNot your name: If your name is not showing as the comment's author, you can delete the name and retype. If you expect to do a number of comments and you are working in your own copy of Excel(!), change the user name in Excel Options > General. Then you won't have to retype each one. This change will be picked up by ALL Office programs, so be careful.

TipFormatting for comment: The background color is the color set for the background of all ToolTips. A ToolTip is the little popup tip you see when your mouse hovers over a button or other feature. Control Panel > All Control Panel Items > Personalization >Window Color and Appearance > Advanced appearance settings > change drop box for Item:  to ToolTip to see the default settings. Even though this dialog show the font as Segoe UI, the default font will be Tahoma for your comments.


Add & Format Comment Text

Comment in Edit modeYou can format the text inside your comment box with all the normal tools as you create it.

Once you have created a comment, you can make changes when you are in Edit mode.

To edit an existing comment:

  • Method 1: Select the cell and on the Review ribbon tab in the Comments tab group, click on the button Edit Comment.

  • Method 2: Right click the cell and choose Edit Comment  from the context menu.

How to know you are in Edit mode for a comment:

  • Name box shows the cell reference for the cell to which the comment is attached.

  • Border of the comment shows diagonals.

  • Cursor is in the comment and blinks.

TipExcel remembers the position for editing: If you need to see underneath a comment while you are editing, just drag the comment by its border. The next time the comment pops up, it will be back in the default location - to the right of the cell with the comment's top edge slightly above the cell. When you next edit the comment, however, it will move to where you left it the last time you edited. A bit confusing... but actually handy!


Format Text Box

Comment selected - dotted border, Comment 1 in Name BoxYou can format your comment text box only when the box is selected. The comment box is actually an AutoShape. Click on the border of the comment text box to select it. If you miss and click outside of the border, the comment will close. If you miss and click inside of the border, you will be in Edit mode for the text.

How to know the comment itself is selected:

  • Name Box shows the comment's number.
    (Comments are numbered in the order in which they are created.)

  • Border of the comment shows dots instead of diagonals.

  • No cursor in the comment box.

Change Shape of Comment: A comment can use any AutoShape but the Drawing Tools ribbon tab does not show up when a comment is select. You need the command Edit Shape. You can put it on the Quick Access Toolbar or, in Excel 2010, you can add it to a new ribbon tab or a new tab group.


Icon Step-by-Step

Step-by-Step: Comments

 Icon Step-by-Step

What you will learn: to create a comment
to format a comment - fill and font color
to edit an existing comment
to use keyboard shortcut in a comment
to add a command to the Quick Access Toolbar
to change the shape of a comment

Start with: Icon: Class disk trips30-Firstname-Lastname.xlsx - sheet Specials (saved in previous lesson)

Comment: Create

Comments about the sheet as a whole are usually put in cell A1. However, for some sheets, such a comment could not be visible all the time without blocking part of the sheet.

  1. Open trips30-Firstname-Lastname.xlsx if necessary, to the sheet Specials.
  2. Icon: Class diskSave As  trips31-Firstname-Lastname.xlsx  to your Class disk in the folder excel project5.
  3. Select cell G1.
  4. From the ribbon tab Review in the Comments tab group, click the button New Comment Button: New Comment (Excel 2010).
    The default comment box appears with handles for resizing and a cursor ready for your typing.
  5. Default comment box - author, date, classIf necessary, change the user name to your own name.
  6. Below the user name, type  Created on  and type the date, a space, and then the word  for , a space, and then the name of the class you are doing this sheet for.

    You can't use Insert > Date like you can in the Header/Footer. If you are not sure of the date, hover over the time in the Windows tray at the bottom right of your screen. The date will popup if it is not already showing.

  7. Click in an empty cell to close the comment.
    Next you will format your comment. 

Comment: Format

The Review tab has a Comments tab group for managing your comments. You can also right click on a cell with a comment to get a few of these commands.

  1. Right Click Menu: Edit Comment (Excel 2010)Right click on cell G1.
    The context menu appears. Since this cell already has a comment attached, the choices are different than before.

    Notice that this menu also includes Delete Comment and Show/Hide Comment. On the Review tab there is a button to show or hide all comments on the sheet at once.
      

  2. Comment in Edit modeSelect Edit Comment
    The comment pops into view with diagonals as the border and the cursor is blinking. You are in Edit mode for the text.
  3. Click on the border.
    The border changes to dots. The text box itself is selected now. You can format the text box itself instead of just the text in it.
  4. Right Click Menu: Format Comment... (Excel 2010)Format comment: Right click on the selected comment and from the context menu, select Format Comment.
    The Format Comment dialog appears, with several tabs.

    Icon: TroubleProblem: Dialog has only one tab
    You missed the border with your right click and click inside the comment. You opened the dialog to format the text inside the comment.
    Solution: Close the dialog and right click the border of the dialog.

    Icon: TroubleProblem: Comment closed
    You missed with your right click and clicked outside the comment.
    Solution: Just repeat the steps above to open the comment up and try again.
     

  5. Dialog: Format Comment > Colors and Lines > Fill transparency > 50% (Excel 2010)Dialog: Format Comment > Colors and Lines > Fill color > Aqua (Excel 2010)On the Colors and Lines tab, set the Fill Color to Aqua and the Transparency to 50%.
    Leave the line color as Black.

    The transparency lightens the color and lets the grid lines or whatever is underneath show through. This can be helpful for comments that pop up over data cells.

    Palette of colors: Did you notice the colors? The palette of colors is not using the new Theme colors. It's showing the old color palette. This makes it very difficult to match the colors to other colors on the sheet. Smiley: Sad face

  6. Comment in G1 formatted with sky blue fill and dark blue text.Dialog: Format Comment > Font > Font color > Dark BlueOn the Font tab, set the Font Color to Dark Blue.
  7. Click on OK to close the dialog and apply your changes.
    If you click out of the dialog on another cell,
  8. Click on any cell to close the comment.
     

Comment: Edit Text

Next you will add some text to the existing comment.

  1. Click on cell G1
  2. On the Review tab click on the button Edit Comment.
    The comment box appears with a cursor at the end of the existing text, ready for your editing. 
  3. Put the cursor to the left of your course's name and use the key combo SHIFT + ENTER to create a line break.
    This puts the course name on a line by itself.
  4. Comment box with Purpose: to show results of World Travel's special trips offerPut the cursor at the end of the course name and press ENTER twice to create a blank line and a new 'paragraph', just like in Word.
     
    Icon: ConfusionPoint of Confusion:
    Different key combos for cells and for comments
    In a cell you create a line break with ALT + ENTER. You cannot create a 'paragraph' in a cell. Pressing ENTER records the cell's contents and moves the selection to a new cell.
    In a comment the usual Word keys work:  SHIFT + ENTER for a line break and ENTER for a paragraph break.
  5. Type Purpose: to show results of World Travel's special trips offer 
  6. Resize the comment box to cover the range H1:J3.
    The transparency of the background color for the comment helps here since you can see the grid lines underneath.
  7. Click on an empty cell to close the Comment box.
  8. Icon: Class diskSave.
      [trips31-Firstname-Lastname.xlsx] 

Add Command Not On The Ribbon

You can change the plain rectangle shape for a comment but it's not as easy as in earlier versions of Excel. The Drawing Tools tab does not appear when you select the comment even though the comment is a text box shape.

You will add a command to the Quick Access Toolbar. In Excel 2010 you have an additional option. You can add the command to a custom ribbon tab or to an existing tab (like the Review tab) in a custom tab group.

  1. Quick Access Toolbar: More button > More Commands... (Excel 2010)Click on the More button at the right end of the Quick Access Toolbar.
    A menu appears. The first items are commands that many users want to see on the Quick Access Toolbar. A check mark means that item is already on the bar.

    This screenshot shows a bar with some additional items that are not on the quick pick list.

  2. Click on More Commands...
    The Excel Options dialog opens to the Customize Quick Access Toolbar tab.
     
  3. Dialog: Excel Options >  Quick Access Toolbar > add Edit Shape (Excel 2010)Change the box for Choose commands from: to All Commands.
    The command you want is Edit Shape, which appears on the Drawing Tools: Format tab. But that ribbon tab does not show up for a Comment. Annoying! Since the command is not in the list of Commands not in the Ribbon, you have to pick All Commands to find it.
  4. Scroll the list of commands until you see Edit Shape Edit Shape.
    The arrow at the right of the command means that the button will have an arrow to drop a list of choices.
  5. Click on Edit Shape and then on the Add>> button in the middle of the dialog.
    The command appears in the list on the right of items on the Quick Access Toolbar at the bottom of the list.
  6. Click the Up arrow to the right of the list to move Edit Shape up one spot.

    Alternate Method: First select the toolbar item in the list on the right that you want your new item to follow. Then click the Add>> button.

  7. Click on OK to close the dialog and apply your change. Quick Access Toolbar with Edit Shape added
  8. Icon: Class diskSave.
      [trips31-Firstname-Lastname.xlsx] 

Format Comment Shape

Now you can get to the various shapes and play around.

  1. If necessary, select the comment in cell G1.
  2. Click the arrow by the new button Edit Shape on your Quick Access Toolbar.
    A short menu appears.
  3. Click on Change Shape.
    The palette of shapes appears.
  4. Button: Edit Shape > Change Shape > paletteIcon: Experiment Experiment: Shapes
    There is no Live Preview when you hover over a shape in the palette.
    Click an interesting shape. Does your text fit? Can you resize the shape so that the text does fit nicely?

    Try out other shapes.

    Some shapes do not work well with the transparency, like 'rounded rectangle' on the first row of shapes and all of the shapes on the second row. The fill color becomes quite dark and the lighter color shows only as part of the 3D effect. Of course you could change the font color to a light color if you really wanted the shape.

    When you are ready to continue...

  5. Comment shape changed to Left Arrow CalloutSelect the shape Left Arrow Callout in the Block Arrows section.
    There is still an arrow pointing to the cell where the comment is attached. Looks rather odd! This choice is not quite as attractive as it could be.
  6. Drag the bottom edge of the shape down to about the bottom of row 4 to make it large enough to show all of your text.
  7. Icon: Class diskSave.
      [trips31-Firstname-Lastname.xlsx]