Microsoft Word 2003 and 2007 both have this great little feature… the ability to comment on sections of text or in fact any content in a Word Document. This is great when you want to comment on somebody else’s work (or even your own work for that matter) and suggest changes or ideas or just to make a note. If you want to explore using this feature it can be found in Word 2007 in the Review Tools ribbon as “new comment”, just highlight the text/object in question or click the point at which you want to comment to refer and then select new comment.

What you will notice is that Word most likely includes author information or rather your initials followed by the sequential number of the comment. This is great for identifying who said what when several people comment on the same document. BUT there are times when you want to anonymise the author of the comment. [For those who are wondering. There’s a long established tradition in the academic community of blind refereeing academic papers submitted for publishing in journals. Usually the referees who are reviewing the paper don’t know the author and the referee almost certainly won’t know who reviewed their paper and gave them comments. It helps avoid bias in reviewing papers and potential embarrassment when your paper is rejected]. Now in Word 2007 although comments shows the authors initials which does not give that much away, hovering the mouse cursor over the comment actually shows further meta-data embedded in the comment including the full name of the author. I’ve forgotten what happens in Word 2003, but I am pretty sure its something very similar.

Microsoft in Office 2007 offer tools to remove personally identifiable information… great! and these can be found in Office Button1 > Prepare > Inspect Document, which will identify if such is present and offer to remove it. Only it does not say what it’s found and in the case of comments removes the whole comment. So remember to save a back up copy of your document before trying this otherwise all your carefully written and considered comments get deleted. Not so great…

A workaround is to fool Word into anonymising the comments you make. The first way is, before you start commenting, to change the User Information in the Word document and then edit the document making the comments you want. It is important that you change User Information rather than just deleting it, otherwise Office has a habit of completing the field with the your name and intials as the default value as soon as you okay this. A similar workaround exists if you have already made your comments. Change user information as before, but then you need to clean the document of hidden personally identifiable information (except for comments) and save the document under a new name. When you reopen the document you will find Word has changed all the User Information for the comments to “Author” and the initial “A”

If you have not already personalised office to include your user information it is worth knowing where to find this anyway.

In Word 2007
Office Button1 > Word Options > Popular: ‘Personalize your copy of Microsoft Office’

1 – Big thing top left with the Office 2007 Logo !!! 🙂