A lot of people find this blog when they’re trying to sort out specific problems with their comment boxes (comment boxes suddenly going tiny, or comment box text running in the wrong direction, changing the language in your comment balloons). Here are general instructions on customising your comment boxes (or balloons, as they are officially called) in Word.
Why would I want to customise my comment balloons?
To be honest, the main reason for doing this is if something goes wrong. But the standard, default text size and layout may not be suitable for your purposes, and you might want to change it to make it more readable for someone with limited vision, etc.
You might also have preferences about which margin your comment balloons appear in, and how big they are.
The principles we are going to learn about here also apply when you want to customise the general styles in your document, which we will look in particular another time.
If you take a look at a document with standard comment boxes, you will see they look something like this:
Annoyingly, you will need to go to three different places to make these changes. I provide a recap at the end, but a summary might be useful here:
- To change location and size of balloons: Track Changes – Track Changes Options
- To change size of ALL balloon text plus font etc.of the heading (Comment M2 etc): Styles – Balloon text
- To change font and colour of the actual paragraph of text in the balloon: Styles – Comment text
Note: my article on customising Track Changes will tell you how to change the colours in which the comments and corrections by different reviewers appear.
How to change where your balloons appear and their size
If you want to change which margin your balloons appear in, their size, and whether they are linked to the text by a line, you must go into the Track Changes Options menu. In the Review tab, click on the little arrow at the bottom of the Track Changes button and bring up Track Changes Options. There, at the bottom, is your balloons section:
I think this is fairly self-explanatory.
How to find the menu for customising comment balloon text
There are two ways to reach the menu you need:
- Press Control + Alt + Shift + s all at the same time
- Make sure you’re in the Home tab and click on the little tiny arrow at the bottom right of the Styles menu
Either of these options will bring up the full Styles dialogue box.
Using either of these methods, you will bring up the Styles dialogue box.
Now, ignore all of it except the three buttons at the bottom. Click on the rightmost button: Manage Styles to bring up the next box: Manage Styles. When you first open this window, the sort order is in what Word thinks is a useful order: As Recommended – click on the down arrow to change it to Alphabetical:
Once you’ve got the list into alphabetical order, it’s relatively easy to find Balloon Text (note: not Comment text) and you will see that it then confirms how you have your text set up (blue circle).
Click the Modify button … Now you can change your font and font size. You’ll notice lots of other options (blue circle) to change the spacing, etc.
I’m going to change the font size, font, orientation and colour of the comment box heading, and the size of the text:
Note: As we will see, the changes in colour, font and italics etc. only apply themselves to the heading of the comment text, where it says “Comment: L1″. Why? Because it’s Word, and we are changing, very specifically, information about the Comment Balloon itself. See below for how to change the text in the comment balloon. EXCEPT, and here we may tear our hair out a little, this IS where we change the text size in the comment box .
Note, however, (blue arrow) that this does not change the size of the text itself – that is controlled from Balloon Text, and you’re just going to have to remember that, or look at the Recap I’ve written at the bottom!
At this point in either menu option, you can also click on the Format button and change all sorts of aspects:
Now, you probably won’t want to go to this level of fancy detail with the comments balloons, but, of course, this dialogue box is not only for changing the style of comment balloons: it’s also where you set up all of the styles in your document if you want to change and customise them.
You can also choose whether this change applies only to this document, or to all documents based on this template, and add it to your Quick Styles list if you want:
Press the OK button, and carry on pressing OK buttons until you get back to your document. Now, your comment will appear in the style you have chosen. If you’ve only chosen to amend the Comment Balloon text size, only the header will have changed:
If you’ve chosen to customise the Comment Text as well, you will have made all of these changes:
Now your comment boxes have large, easy-to-read text in a useful colour. and a very fancy heading. We’ve customised your comment boxes or, as you now know to call them, your comment balloons, and the comment text
A quick recap
- To change where the balloons appear, and their size, use the Track Changes Options section in the Review tab
- To change the size and orientation of your comment balloons themselves, including their header, but not their text, use the Comment Balloon option in the Manage Styles list
- To change the size and orientation of the comment balloon text, use the Comment Balloon option
- To change the colour and font of the comment balloon text, use the Comment Text option in the Manage Styles list
Why not take a look at these related topics, which should help you further?
What to do if your comment boxes go tiny in Word
What to do if your comment boxes start running from right to left
Changing the language in your comment balloons
Customising Track Changes
This is part of my series on how to avoid time-consuming “short cuts” and use Word in the right way to maximise your time and improve the look of your documents. Find all the short cuts here …
Do let me know if this has helped you, saved your bacon, etc. – and do share with the buttons at the bottom of this article.