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Excel Comment Tips & Tricks

How to add pop-up picture in pop-up Excel comments. Change user name for comments, choose different shape, and more tips. Short videos and written steps. These tips are for yellow pop-up comments (notes).

Tip: For Excel 365 comments, see details on working with threaded comments.

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Introduction

Depending on which version of Excel you're using, a comment can be either:

  • a little yellow pop-up, with information about a cell's contents
  • a fancy threaded comment, where people can have a discussion about worksheet contents

Yellow Pop-Up Comments

The tips and tricks on this page are for the little yellow pop-up comments that you can add to a worksheet cell.

This screen shot shows a yellow pop-up comment, and the cell has a comment indicator at the top right corner of the cell - a little red triangle.

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Excel Versions: This type of pop-up comment is available in most versions of Excel, such as Excel 2019, Excel 2016, Excel 2013 and older versions. Those are non-subscription versions - they don't update automatically, month after month.

Threaded Comments

The subscription version of Excel - Excel 365 - has threaded comments. They're like conversations within the workbook, instead of a one-off note.

When you use the New Comment command in Excel 365, a threaded comment is inserted into the cell. Later, more comments can be added to the thread, as shown in the screen shot below.

  • Each comment in the thread gets a date and time stamp, and shows a person's name
  • Cells with threaded comments have a purple triangle comment indicator at the top right
  • The comment "pops up" at the right of its cell, and cannot be moved.
  • Or, the comments can be displayed in a Comments Pane, at the side of the spreadsheet

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Yellow Pop-Up Notes

In Excel 365, yellow pop-up are still available, but they're called Notes.

  • Instead of using the New Comment command, use the New Note command, if you want to add a yellow pop-up to a cell.
  • That command is on the Review tab of Excel Ribbon, to the right of all the Comment commands.

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Convert Old Notes to Threaded Comments

If an Excel 356 workbook has yellow pop-up notes, you can use a command to convert them to Threaded Comments.

However, some of the tips and tricks on this page will not work with threaded comments, so you might lose some of the yellow pop-up features, such as inserting a picture.

See the Threaded Comments Warning section at the end of this page, for more details.

Change the User Name

Instead of showing the user name at the start of an Excel comment, you can change to something generic, such as "Note:" However, this change affects the User Name in all Microsoft Office programs, so you may want to reset the name before you exit Excel.

Name at top of comment

To change your User name:

  1. At the top left of the Excel window, click the File tab
  2. Click Options, and in the Options window, click the General category
  3. Scroll down to the section, "Personalize your copy of Microsoft Office"
  4. Delete the existing User Name, and type a new entry
  5. Click OK

change User name in Excel

Copy Comment to Other Cells

If you want the same comment in multiple cells, you can copy and paste an existing comment.

  1. Select the cell with the comment that you want to copy
  2. Press Ctrl + C, to copy the cell
  3. Select the cell(s) where you want to paste a copy of the comment.
  4. On the Ribbon's Home tab, click the Paste button, and then click Paste Special
  5. In the Paste Special window, under Paste, click Comments
  6. Click OK

    Paste comments

Change the Comment Shape

Add a bit of interest to a worksheet, by changing the comment shape from a rectangle.

NOTE: Shapes are not available with Threaded Comments.

change the comment shape

Watch the video, to see the steps for in Excel 2007 or later. Written instructions are below the video. Click here to go to the instructions for Excel 2003.

Change a Comment Shape

First, add the Change Shape command to the QAT

  1. At the right end of the QAT, click the drop down arrow
  2. Click More Commands
  3. In the Choose Commands From drop down, click All Commands
  4. In the list of commands, click Change Shape, and click Add, to move it to the Quick Access Toolbar
  5. Close the Excel Options window.

Next, follow these steps to change the comment shape

  1. Right-click the cell which contains the comment.
  2. Choose Edit Comment
  3. Click on the border of the comment, to select it.
  4. On the QAT, click the Change Shape command, and click on a shape to select it.
  5. When finished, click outside the comment.

Add Picture to Comment

To see how to add a picture to a comment, watch the steps in this short video. The written instructions are below the video.

NOTE: Pictures are not available with Threaded Comments.

Add Picture to Comment

Instead of text, you can show a picture in an Excel comment. In the screen shot below, I pointed to the product name, Lamp. The pop-up comment in that cell shows a picture of the lamp.

Comment with Picture instead of text

Create a Note (Comment) with Picture

To insert a Note (old-style comment) with a picture, follow the steps below.

Create the Comment
  • Right-click the cell where you want to add the comment.
  • In the pop-up menu, click the New Note command
  • Clear any text from the comment.
  • Click on the border of the comment, to select it.
    • The cursor should disappear from inside the comment)
Add the Picture
  • Next, right-click the comment border, and choose Format Comment
  • On the Colors and Lines tab, click the drop-down arrow for Color.
  • Click Fill Effects
  • On the Picture tab, click Select Picture
    • If an error message appears, click the Work Offline button
  • In the Select Picture window, locate and select the picture you want to use
  • Click the Insert button
  • (optional) To keep the picture in proportion, add a check mark to Lock Picture Aspect Ratio
  • Click OK, to close the Fill Effects dialog box
  • Click OK, to add the picture to the comment.

Comment Pictures - Sheet Preview

To make navigation easier in a large workbook, you might create a menu sheet, with a list of sheet names, hyperlinked to those sheets. Then, to help people select the right sheet, add a comment picture for each sheet, showing a small preview of the sheet contents.

To create the pop up navigation list, follow these steps:

  • To create sheet preview pictures, take a screen shot and save the image
    • NOTE: I used the Snagit program, and made all the images 350x200 px
  • Type a list of sheet names, and insert a hyperlink in each cell, to go to that sheet
  • In each cell with a sheet name, insert a comment (called a Note in newer versions of Excel)
  • Follow the steps above, to insert your preview pictures into the comments

Get the sample file in the download section.

Change the Default Font Size

You can change the font size of new Excel comments by changing the settings in your Control Panel.
(Instructions for Windows XP)

  1. Right-click on the desktop, and choose Properties
  2. On the Appearance tab, click Advanced.
  3. From the Item drop down, choose Tooltip
  4. Choose a font Size, click OK, click OK

(Note: selecting a font type here will not affect the default font used in Excel comments)

Change Comment Indicator Colour

Comment indicators are red, and there's no option to change that setting. As a workaround, you can draw triangular shapes over the indicators, and fill them with a different colour from the palette.

For instructions, see Excel Comments -- VBA

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Alternative to Excel Comments

Add a comment to a Data Validation Input Message, and it can be displayed when you tab to the cell.

Input Message

  1. Select the cell in which you want to see the message
  2. On the Ribbon's Data tab, click Data Validation
  3. Click on the Input Message tab to activate it
  4. Add a check mark to 'Show input message when cell is selected'
  5. Type your message heading text in the Title box. This text will appear in bold print at the top of the message.
  6. Type your message in the Input message box.
  7. Click OK

Threaded Comments - WARNING

Before you use Threaded Comments, instead of old-style (Legacy) comments, be sure to understand what features you will lose.

  • Legacy comment features, such as changing shapes, inserting pictures or adding colors, will not be available in Threaded comments.
  • Thanks to Bill Jelen (Mr. Excel) for this warning -- "If you try to edit an old comment, a long message will tell you to Convert to Threaded Comments and all of your comment formatting will be lost."

 

Legacy Comment Icons

The old-style (Legacy) comments will still be available, but the icons to create and edit them might be hidden.

To continue working with Legacy comments, add the following icons to the Quick Access Toolbar, or to the Excel Ribbon:

  • New/Edit Comment (Legacy)
  • Previous Comment (Legacy)
  • Next Comment (Legacy)
  • Show/Hide Comments (Legacy)
  • Show All Comments (Legacy)

Get Sample File

  1. Shapes & Pictures: To see comment shapes and pictures, get the Comment Tips sample file. The zipped file is in xlsx format, and does not contain any macros.
  2. Sheet Preview: To see the Comment Sheet Preview example, get the Comment Sheet Preview file. The zipped file is in xlsx format, and does not contain any macros.

More Tutorials

Excel Comments Basics

Error Cannot Shift Objects

Excel Comments VBA

Threaded Comment Macros

Add Comments in a Pivot Table

 

 

Last updated: November 13, 2023 1:23 PM