New Notes and Comments Functionality Rolling Out to Excel on the Web

On one of Microsoft’s Office Insider blogs, a PM on the Excel team recently announced new functionality in the helpfully consistent evolution of Comments and Notes. Specifically, the debut of yellow sticky comments, now called Notes, in Excel for the web. There are also some new additions around threaded comments and the notes experience in Excel (desktop). Let’s find out more.

The transition to threaded comments and notes in Excel

Microsoft released threaded comments to all flavors of Excel back in January of 2019. When they did so, they kept the original legacy comments (yellow sticky notes) in Windows and Mac and rename them notes. Because notes and comments share different purposes – this gave them the foundation to support both under varying user scenarios. But when they introduced threaded comments, they removed the ability to create notes in Excel for the web. So, confusingly, notes created in Excel desktop looked and worked differently in Excel for the web. Yes, an example would be gold right now, right?

  • Notes on the web did not appear when hovering over the in-cell indicator. It required the user to hover and click an ‘on-object UI’, which would open the note in the Comments pane.


On-object UI indicator

  • Notes on the web did not appear as yellow sticky notes. Instead, they essentially became threaded comments. When you attempted to edit or reply to a note, you would have to first convert the note into a threaded comment. Oy.
  • You could create new threaded comments on the web, but not new notes. Double oy.

Here is how comments and notes appear today in Excel desktop:

Excel Windows comment
Threaded Comments: Used for conversations


Excel Windows note
Note: Used to make annotations or share instructions


Improving the comments and notes experience

Here are the major important steps Microsoft has taken to address the issues and functionality across platforms regarding Comments and Notes:

  • They’ve enabled both threaded comments and notes to display as floating objects. Microsoft now supports floating notes on the grid and has moved notes out of the Comments pane. Now, when you hover over the in-cell indicator, notes (and comments) will float on the grid, directly aligned to the cell they are related to. No more jumping back and forth from the cell to the pane to read your notes! This was a top request in your customer feedback—and they are happy to deliver!
  • They’ve updated the notes to look like notes (rather than threaded comments). Comments and notes each have their own familiar UI. Microsoft has updated the notes on the web to align with the look and feel of notes created on Windows and Mac. Now, when you create a note in either, it will render as a yellow sticky note on the web. When viewing notes on the web, there will no longer be confusion as to whether the object is a note or a comment.
  • They now support the functionality to create both threaded comments and notes on the web. For the first time ever, Microsoft has introduced the ability to create yellow sticky notes in Excel on the web. Now, web users will be able to choose the optimal solution for their specific scenario.

How it works

Working with comments and notes across Windows, Mac, and the web is simple. Just follow these instructions.

  • On the Review tab, you can:
    • Select New Comment to create a comment.
    • Select New Note to create a note.

NOTE: You can also right-click the cell you want to place a comment or note on, then use the shortcut menu to accomplish the task.

Other commands related to comments and notes are also found on the Review tab, allowing you to show or hide notes or comments, move to the next or previous item, convert notes to comments, and more.

Tips and Tricks

  • When the Office team introduced threaded comments and renamed the legacy comments as “notes,” they recognized that many people would want to continue to use the notes with their familiar keyboard shortcut. So, they retained the legacy comment shortcut (Shift+F2) to create a note. They also introduced a new keyboard shortcut to create a threaded comment: Ctrl+Shift+F2 (Command+Shift+F2 on the Mac).
  • On cells that already contain a note, pressing Shift+F2 will put the note in Edit mode.
  • On cells that already contain a threaded comment, pressing Ctrl+Shift+F2 (Command+Shift+F2 on the Mac) will open the comment and put the focus in the Reply box.

Timeline and More Help

The new functionality described here is rolling out to all users throughout the month of August (2021). As always, some of you won’t see the new features right away. Microsoft likes to roll things out slowly (A/B…ugh) to make sure the experience is first-rate. 🙂

If you want to see some Scenarios you can try or read up on some Known Issues, visit this blog post for more info!