Excel Notes vs Comments: Everything You Need to Know

The Excel Comments option has been around for more than two decades. Since Excel 97, it has served as a much-needed tool for Excel users. However, with Microsoft 365, some changes took place in 2021. Now there are Notes and Comments available in Excel but with different functions. In this article, we will compare Excel Notes vs Comments to clarify everything about these two options.

Before 2021, the Notes option in Excel was called Comments. And long before that, from Excel 95 to Excel 97, the Comments option had a different name; Cell Notes. Yet, Microsoft did not change the function of this option despite altering their names until both options got available together in Excel for Microsoft 365.

The changes have caused great confusion for many Excel users. An important Excel Notes vs Comments argument surfaced. For this reason, we aim to discuss Excel’s Notes and Comments options in this article to remove all the grayness surrounding it.

Let’s get going!

A Discussion on Excel Notes and Comments

Before jumping into the comparison of Excel Notes and Comments, we will discuss both options in brief. Knowing the details will help us understand each option’s functionalities more effectively. The goal is to help new Excel users understand what Notes and Comments functions offer. As for the old users, it will help them eliminate any confusion.

In Excel 2021 and prior versions, Comments looked like resizable sticky notes. You could easily add a comment in any cell and see it upon hovering your mouse pointer on that cell. But then, Microsoft changed everything. They kept the Excel Comments option but changed it into a threaded comment system.

In addition, Microsoft added a new option called Notes in Excel for Microsoft 365. It looks like the old comments. Therefore, in one sentence, we can say that the old Excel comments are now Notes, and the current Excel Comments system is a new thing with a threaded conversation outlook.

These changes happened only in Excel for Microsoft 365, Excel for the Web, and Excel for Microsoft 365 for Mac. In all other editions of Excel, the old comment system with the option called Comments still prevails. And there is no Notes option available in those releases either.

Why the change? Some Excel users still wonder about it. However, Microsoft put forward this update and has made it easier to do collaboration work. Threaded comments offer multitudes of possibilities to cut down time for work and keep all the conversation in one place. And users are still getting used to this amazing feature.

All About Excel Notes

Have you ever used sticky notes? Those little triangular pieces of paper with glue in the back? Excel Notes looks exactly like a digital version but for your cells in a worksheet. You can use it to annotate any cell you want. The top line in a note will show the author’s name.

And an amazing fact is that you can even format your texts in Excel Notes! Also, even though the new threaded commenting system has been added for collaborative work through the updated Comments option, other users can also add notes to your workbook in a collaborative manner. You only need to share your workbook with others through OneDrive or send them via email.

How to Add and Show an Excel Note?

Adding a note to a cell in Excel is pretty straightforward. You can follow three ways to do it. But for any of them, you must click on your cell to select it first.

Afterwards, go to the Review tab and find Notes in the Notes group.

All About Excel Notes 1

Click on that Notes button to open the drop-down menu. From there, click on New Note to add a note. It is the first method.

All About Excel Notes 2

The second method is to right-click on the cell and click the New Note option from the context menu.

All About Excel Notes 3

And the third method is to use the shortcut. After selecting your cell, press the Shift+F2 buttons to add a new note to your cell. Remember that if you press this shortcut in an Excel edition other than Excel for Microsoft 365 or Excel for the Web, you will be adding comments. And as we have already explained, the Notes option in Excel for Microsoft 365 is Comments in non-Microsoft 365 versions of the Excel program.

Moving forward, you can now write what you want in your inserted note.

All About Excel Notes 4

As mentioned, you can format text in your note as well. An example is shown in the image below.

All About Excel Notes 5

If you wish to see all the notes in your workbook, go to the Notes option in the Review tab and then click Show All Notes.

All About Excel Notes 6

It will show all the notes in your whole workbook. On the other hand, if you want to see the notes one by one, hover your mouse pointer over the little red triangle you can see in the top-right corner of the cell that has a note. Instantly, the note will pop up.

All About Excel Notes 7

And here is an interesting option. In your Excel for Microsoft 365, you can convert these sticky note-looking notes to threaded comments too! Go to the Notes option and click on the Convert to Comments option. It will show a dialogue window with a warning message. Click the Convert all notes button to convert your notes to threaded comments.

All About Excel Notes 8

That’s all there is to know about Excel Notes!

All About Excel Comments

Excel Comments in Microsoft 365 has taken the commenting game to a higher level. Microsoft added this option to accelerate the process of collaboration work. This Comments option used to have a sticky note look that lasted nearly two and a half decades.

Now, the old comment function has been renamed to Notes in Excel, and the new Excel Comments have a reply function. It opened the door to creating a thread of comments. Microsoft has also added an option to address other users in the reply.

When a workbook is saved on OneDrive and shared later, the users you share the file with will have access to your comments. Afterward, they can post addressed comments under any existing comment in the same workbook.

How to Add and Show an Excel Comment?

Inserting a comment on a cell in Excel for Microsoft 365 or Excel for the Web is a simple task. There are two methods you can do it.

The first method involves selecting the cell, then going to the Review tab and clicking the New Comment button inside the Comments group.

All About Excel Comments 1

The second method requires you to right-click on your cell to bring up the context menu and select the New Comment option from the menu.

All About Excel Comments 2

You can write your comment in the text box and press the Ctrl+Enter buttons to post it. You can also press the little green button in the comment box for the same purpose.

All About Excel Comments 3

When a comment is added, a small dialogue box becomes visible in the top-right corner of the cell that has a comment.

To address a specific user in your threaded comment, begin by putting an “at” symbol (“@”) and then write the intended user’s name. Then insert a space character, write your message, and post the comment.

All About Excel Comments 4

You should see that the addressed comment has been added under the initial comment and has created a thread.

All About Excel Comments 5

If you want to see all the comments in your worksheet, go to the Review tab and click the Show Comments button in the Comments group. On the right side, you will see a sidebar open where all the comments in your worksheet will show.

All About Excel Comments 6

That’s it!

Excel Notes vs Comments: A Face-Off

In the previous section, we discussed both Excel Notes and Comments thoroughly. However, a comparison table will give you more information on this Excel Notes vs Comments debate. We included noticeable features and distinctive functions as the criteria for weighing Notes and Comments functions.

Availability1. Only available in Excel for Microsoft 365 and Excel for the Web
2. Previously available as Comments in all non-Office 365 Excel versions
1. Only available in Excel for Microsoft 365 and Excel for the Web as threaded comments
2. Available in the same form as Office 365’s Notes option in non-Office 365 versions
BackgroundYellow backgroundWhite background
Reply FunctionNot availableAvailable only in Microsoft Office 365 and Excel for the Web
User AddressabilityNot availableAvailable only in threaded comments (Excel for Microsoft 365 and Excel for the Web
Changing Author NamePossibleNot possible
FormattingAvailableNot available
CTRL+EnterCreates new lines on the same notePosts comments
ConversionPossible (Excel for Microsoft 365)Not possible

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Although we tried to include all information regarding Excel Notes vs Comments, we have picked the seven most asked questions. We will provide answers to those questions in this section of the article. You will find extra important information about the updated Excel Notes and Comments in the answers.

Q: Is it possible to add a comment the old way?

Ans: Yes. Even though the names of the features have changed, you can use the Excel Notes option to add comments the old way. We have already discussed both of these options in detail.

Q: Can I convert an Excel note to an Excel comment?

Ans: Yes, you can. Go to Review -> Notes -> Convert to Comments option. It will convert all your notes in the workbook to threaded comments. Do not forget to take a backup of your workbook before you follow this process. This conversion process is destructive, and you will not be able to undo your action. Once you convert your notes to comments, you cannot go back.

Q: Can you convert comments to notes in Excel?

Ans: Unfortunately, this is not possible at the moment. Microsoft is yet to add this option to Excel for Microsoft 365.

Q: Is there any way to enable threaded conversation in Excel without Microsoft 365 subscription?

Ans: No. Threaded comments are available only in Excel for Microsoft 365 and Excel for the Web.

Q: Can you print Excel comments in Excel for Microsoft 365?

Ans: Yes, you can. Press the Alt+P+S+P button combinations. Then go to the Sheet tab. Find the Comments and notes option and select At end of sheet option. Finally, click OK. Your Excel comments will be printed at the end of your page.

Q: Why are Excel notes not showing in my workbook?

Ans: It may happen for two reasons. Either you do not have Excel for Microsoft 365, or the notes are hidden in your workbook. For the latter case, go to Review -> Notes and click the Show All Notes option. Now you should see your Excel Notes in your workbook.

Q: Can I print notes in Excel?

Ans: Yes, you can print notes in Excel. Go to the Page Setup by pressing Alt+P+S+P key combinations. Then go to the Sheet tab, locate the Comments and notes option and select As displayed on sheet (notes only) from the list. Now Excel will print all the notes as you see them in your workbook!

Final Words

Excel is the most popular spreadsheet program in the world. It has kept its top place for more than three decades now. One of the reasons behind this success is the rolling of frequent updates and the introduction of new useful features and functions. The latest system for commenting in Excel is one of those convenient options.

We discussed both Excel Notes and Excel comments in this article. In addition to the detailed discussion, we included an Excel Notes vs Comments comparison table. These two options’ notable features and usefulness were used for this comparison.

Notes and Comments have unique applications and effectiveness in the everyday use of Excel. As a user, you should always try to keep yourself updated to utilize the best of Excel and better yourself.

We hope this article has helped you improve your Excel knowledge. At this point, you should be able to understand the differences between Excel Notes and Excel Comments and use them effectively when necessary.

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