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Add a Comment to a spreadsheet Cell

A comment can be added to any cell on your spreadsheet. They look like this in pre-2019 versions of Excel:

The Comments Panel in Excel 2007

However, in newer versions of Excel, Microsoft have decided that a comment is now a conversation between anyone who wants to add some notes to a cell in spreadsheet. The old type of comment you can see in the image above is now called a Note. Let's clear that up with a few examples.

Click on the Review ribbon and locate your Comments panel. If it looks something like this then you have Excel 2019 or greater:

The new Comments Panel in Excel, with the Notes section

If you can't see a Notes item next to the Comments panel then you have a pre-2019 version of Excel.


Adding a Comment

When you hover your mouse pointer over a cell that contains a comment, you'll see the comment appear in a sort of Sticky-Note. To see how they work, study the spreadsheet below:

Random Values Spreadsheet in Excel 2007

The formula in cell B1 above gives you a random number from 1 to 49. A new number can be had by clicking the "Calculate Now" button on the Formula menu.

To let users know what to do, we'll add a comment to cell B1.

First, create the spreadsheet above. In cell B2, enter the following formula:


The formula will generate a Random number between 1 and 49. Once you have the above spreadsheet up and running, click inside B1 and try it out:

  • From the menu bars on the Ribbon at the top of Excel, click on Formula
  • Locate the Calculation panel, and then click on Calculate Now:

The Calculation Panel in Excel 2007

Excel 2007 will refresh the calculation and enter a new random number for you. To let people know about this, you can add your comment to the cell. To add a comment to cell B1, do the following:

  • Click inside cell B1 on your spreadsheet
  • From the tabs on the Ribbon at the top of Excel, click on Review
  • If you haven't got a Notes item, click on New Comment, click on New Comment

The Comments Panel in Excel 2007

A greenish textbox will appear to the right of cell B1, as in the image below:

A Comments Box

The word "user" in the image above is placed there by Excel. This is the name of the user account that was set up in Windows. Press the backspace on your keyboard to delete this.

If you have got a Notes section, click on Notes. From the dropdown menu, select New Note:

Adding a New Note in Excel versions 2019 and greater

The note will look and behave like the one above, with user in it.

To add your comment, just start typing. The size of the comment area can be increased or decreased by moving your mouse over the white circles. Hold down the left mouse button and drag.

Type your Comment

When you have finished typing your comment, click on any other cell. The comment will disappear. Notice that the cell now has a red triangle in the top right. This indicates that it contains a Comment/Note:

The red triangle indicates that the cell contains a comment

If you move your mouse pointer over cell B1 the comment will appear:

Hold your mouse over the cell to see the comment

To get rid of a comment, right click the cell that contains the comment. Then, from the menu that appears, select Delete Comment or Delete Note.


Formatting Comments

You don't have to have the default colour and font for your Comments or Notes. To change the background colour of your comment, click the Show All Comments option on the Review > Comments panel:

If you have a Notes item, click that instead and select Notes > Show all Notes:

The Show All Notes item on the Notes menu

This will ensure that the comment stays open. Now right click on the edge of the comment or Note. From the menu that appears, select Format Comment (It will say Format Comment even if it's a Note):

Hopefuly, you'll see this dialogue box appear:

We say "hopefully" because you may get a dialogue box with just the Font panel and no others. If so, then dismiss this single panel dialogue box and try again. (Right-clicking on the edge of the Comment seems to help.) Once you get the multi-panel dialogue box, select a font and font size.

Now click on the Colors and Lines panel:

Select a color and clik OK. Your comment will then be updated:


Add an Image to an Excel Comment

You can add picture to your comments, if you want. Though this is a bit trickier than the adding plain text.

To add a picture to an Excel comment box, make sure the Show All Comments option is still selected. Again, right click on the edges of the Comment to bring up the multi-panelled dialogue box from above. Selet the Colors and Lines panel. From the Color dropdown list, click on Fill Effects at the bottom:

From the dialogue box that appears, select the Picture panel:

Click the Select Picture button to see yet another dialogue box appear. This one:

You can either search the web for a picture, or select a file from your own computer. Once you have selected a picture, click OK on all the dialogue boxes and you'll find that you have a picture in an Excel comment:


The New Comment (Excel 2019 or greater)

If you did have a Notes section, then clicking on New Comment does something entirely different. It displays a conversation box:

The Conversation box in Excel

Your user name will be displayed at the top, along with the cell that the comment appears in, which is cell B2 in this case.

Type in the box to start a conversation. Then click the arrow:

Add a conversation comment to an Excel cell

You'll then see a kind of purple splodge in the top right of the cell instead of a red triangle:

The New Comment cell indicator in Excel 2019 and above

Hold your mouse over the cell with the purple splodge and you'll see this:

An Excel comment in a cell

So you can reply to a comment someone has added, a colleague who shares the spreadsheet with you, for example. It would then look like this, when you've added a reply in the box:

Replying to a conversation comment in Excel

Click the green arrow to add your reply:

A reply to an Excel conversation

You can delete a comment by clicking a Delete button. Or you can edit your reply by clicking the Edit options.

To delete the entire thread, click the three dots in the top right:

Deleting Excel coments and replies

Not sure why the Excel team decided to rebrand the Comments as Conversations and change the old comments to Notes. But it's very confusing!


The next part is another Review. If you have been following along with the tutorials in this section, try the Review and see how you get on. It will give you more practice in building a spreadsheet.

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