Microsoft Word: A Tool for Annotation

Not too long ago I blogged about Google Notebook as a tool for annotation.

Of course, annotation isn’t a new concept, and therefore there are other tools that allow for it.

Not surprisingly, Microsoft Word is one of these tools. By use of comments, Word allows for annotation. I’ve made available Word and PDF examples elsewhere. In addition to annotations via Word comments being author and date stamped, my example illustrates how annotations via Word comments:

  • Can indicate a specific point in a document – The start or end of the orignal blog post in my example
  • Can span a number of document elements – A few paragraphs and an item of a bulleted list in my example

My example also illustrates how annotations via comments are distinct from tracked changes, the latter being another very powerful capabilty in Word.

Although Word can annotate to at least the degree described here, there is one aspect that is limiting. To be wholly useful in the context of annotation, Microsoft needs to expose its mechanism of fragment identification. This is the Word equivalent of an XPointer entry. (The same applies to Google Notebook. Microsoft and Google may have already allowed for this through some API, Application Programming Interface. I just haven’t spent any time looking for them.) Using my Mac, I converted the Word example into HTML. (Sorry, WordPress wouldn’t allow me to upload it!) Comments become linked footnotes. Although this is understandable, aspects of the annotation are lost in translation. I’ll look at an XML-based representation next time I’m at my desktop PC to see if that does any better. Stay tuned.

In closing, it’s important to note that Word is representative of current office productivity software in its ability to convey annotations. In other words, I would expect that OpenOffice and others could do the same. Somewhat related Adobe Acrobat also allows for a similar capability in the case of PDF documents.


26 responses to “Microsoft Word: A Tool for Annotation”

  1. Ian Lumb says :

    In this post, I wrote: “I’ll look at an XML-based representation next time I’m at my desktop PC to see if that does any better.”

    The answer is: It does!

    More soon.

  2. Fred Howell says :

    You might be interested in having a look at too – it lets you attach annotations to highlighted text of microsoft word and PDF documents in the browser without needing any plugins. You can also get a URL link to a particular annotation, e.g. a sample note on a PDF document (if wordpress comments can cope with this url…)

    (highlight text to write new notes).

    The notes get stored separately from the original document, and can be exported as JSON if needed, with references to the page number and start/end word indices.

    Annotation has been around for a while … Vannevar Bush proposed his mechanical Memex precursor to hypertext back in 1945 with marginal notes, and there’s an interesting post on ‘glosses’ from the 16th century:


  3. Jim C. says :

    I realize you weren’t addressing teachers annotation goals specifically. But the ability to quickly and clearly comment on a student’s paper (whether draft or final, collected via email or Blackboard/Moodle) is increasingly important. Because students now expect digital content, and teachers are increasingly sensitive to the environmental costs of printing hundreds of pages, electronic documents are growing in popularity.

    There are some tools out there – the one mentioned above is particularly cool and reminds me of Vuzit. Bedford St. Martins have a web-based tool called ‘Comment’ (!) similar to Turnitin’s GradeMark – and they’re visually cool but slow if you’re grading zillions of papers. Plus, they attempt to replicate the professional editor’s process (with arcane symbols etc.), not the real world of student/teacher interaction.

    I’ve been beta-testing a Microsoft Word add-in called ‘Annotate’ (very original)…it’s simple, fast, and slick because it adds a ribbon to Word 2007 and therefore looks like a native feature. It makes the marginal comments in Word much more readable, and adds standard comments appropriate to a college/high school audience. You can find it here:

    Jim C.

  4. sandrar says :

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

  5. Stephen Colbran says :

    There are some very useful tools for annotating Word 2007 and 2010 and PDF documents at

  6. domodejd@ says :

    Дом Одежда – Интернет магазин одежды для дома и отдыха – Эротическое белье

  7. says :

    This unique blog post, “Microsoft Word: A Tool for Annotation
    Ian Lumb’s Blog” illustrates the fact that u actually understand just what exactly u r talking about! I really 100 % agree with your blog. With thanks -Swen

  8. Claire says :

    “Microsoft Word: A Tool for Annotation | Ian Lumb’s Blog” was indeed a terrific blog, can not wait to examine more of your blog posts. Time to spend numerous time online haha. Thanks for your effort ,Charmain

  9. Rome Italy Resorts says :

    I like what you guys tend to be up too. This kind of clever work and exposure!
    Keep up the amazing works guys I’ve included you guys to my personal blogroll.

  10. home business says :

    Hi! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts! Carry on the fantastic work!

  11. check this ahead of you buy Zetaclear says :

    I hardly comment, but i did some searching and wound up here Microsoft Word: A Tool for Annotation | Ian Lumb’s Blog. And I actually do have a couple of questions for you if you don’t mind.
    Could it be simply me or does it seem like some of the comments look like they are
    written by brain dead folks? 😛 And, if you are posting on other online social sites,
    I’d like to keep up with everything new you have to post. Would you make a list of every one of all your shared pages like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

  12. says :

    Just wish to say your article is as astounding.
    The clarity in your post is simply spectacular and i can assume you’re an expert on this subject. Well with your permission allow me to grab your feed to keep up to date with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please carry on the enjoyable work.

  13. calvin klein underwear sale says :

    Hey there! Someone in my Facebook group shared this site with
    us so I came to give it a look. I’m definitely enjoying the information. I’m bookmarking and will be
    tweeting this to my followers! Great blog and superb style and design.

  14. goji actives says :

    Heya i’m for the first time here. I came across this board and I in finding It truly useful & it helped me out a lot. I am hoping to give something back and help others such as you aided me.

  15. goji berry onde comprar em goiania says :

    Great goods from you, man. I’ve understand your stuff previous to and you
    are just extremely magnificent. I really like what you have acquired here, certainly like what
    you’re saying and the way in which you say it. You make it enjoyable and you still care for to keep it smart.
    I can’t wait to read much more from you. This is actually a tremendous web

  16. goji berry valor nutricional says :

    Hello i am kavin, its my first occasion to commenting anyplace,
    when i read this paragraph i thought i could also make comment due
    to this sensible piece of writing.

  17. somatodrol o que é says :

    I was more than happy to discover this web site. I want to to thank you for your time
    just for this wonderful read!! I definitely enjoyed every bit of it and i also have
    you saved as a favorite to look at new things in your website.

  18. says :

    We stumbled over here coming from a different website and thought I might check things out.
    I like what I see so now i’m following you.
    Look forward to exploring your web page again.

  19. somadrol hgh says :

    Have you ever thought about including a little bit more than just your articles?
    I mean, what you say is fundamental and everything. However think of if you added some great images or video
    clips to give your posts more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but with
    images and videos, this blog could certainly be one of the greatest in its field.
    Fantastic blog!

  20. Jacob says :

    Hey are using WordPress for your site platform?

    I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started and set up
    my own. Do you require any html coding expertise to make your
    own blog? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  21. MovieStarPlanet vip hack ohne download says :

    The iPhone frequently samples its location predicated
    on this approximate area program and caches this total result.

  22. Neal Swantek says :

    I was examining some of your content on this website and I think this web site is very informative ! Keep putting up.

  23. Jesse Grillo says :

    Any new news. This actually answered my problem. That cleared it up for me. A lot of stuff to take into consideration. This is an excellent, an eye-opener for sure!

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Google Docs: A Tool for Annotation « Ian Lumb’s Blog - October 21, 2006
  2. 2010 in review « Ian Lumb’s Blog - January 2, 2011

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: