5. Notation and File Sharing Updates

Microsoft has made significant changes to Excel 2016's annotation features. What used to be known as comments used like electronic Post it stickies for attaching reminders to cells of the worksheet are now called notes and comments now know as threaded comments function as a means for conducting a conversation with coworkers and clients with whom you have shared the Excel file in real time. This change to the functionality of comments is all part of Excel's new co-authoring capability that enables those with whom you share a workbook file and have granted editing privileges (known as guest contributors) to make changes in real time to its contents.


Notes on the Review tab of the Excel 2016  Ribbon now function like comments originally did (see Fig. 5-1 in the Notation Updates gallery above). They provide the means to attach reminders to particular cells of the worksheet. Keep in mind that notes are text boxes whose size and fonts can be edited. The Notes drop-down menu on the Review tab does contain a Convert to Comments option. However, when you use it to change notes into comments (see Comments that follows), they lose any editing assigned to them.

Threaded comments

Comments (as shown in Fig. 5-2 in the Notation Updates gallery above) can now record the ongoing commentary between you and the guest contributors with whom you share the workbook open for editing in Excel 2016. As you can see in Fig. 5-2, when you select the Show Comments command button on the Review tab, Excel color codes the comments and displays them in chronological order as a threaded conversation in a Comments task pane (see Fig. 5-6 in the File Sharing Updates gallery below). 

@Mentions in comments

When sharing a worksheet, you can use the new @mention tag in a threaded comment to  alert or elicit feedback from a team member with whom it's being shared. When you type the @-sign followed by the first few letters of a team member's first or last name in the comment's text box, Excel displays their full name (see Fig. 5-3 in the Notation Updates gallery above). When you click the Save button in the comment, Excel sends an email to the named team member with a link to your comment in the shared worksheet. When the team member opens the email and clicks the link in the message, the worksheet in the shared workbook opens in Excel online in their web browser with comment containing their @mention displayed onscreen. The team member can then respond to your comment by taking action in the shared worksheet and/or initiating a conversation by responding to its contents.

File sharing and co-authoring

File sharing in Excel 2016 has become much more robust with the addition of threaded comments to Excel Online, the web-based Excel app available on both Windows and Mac platforms to users who don't have Office subscriptions and the ability to make editing changes in real time. Figures 5-4 through 5-6 in the File Sharing Updates gallery above give you a good idea of how file sharing now works in Excel 2016. As you see in Fig. 5-4, if the workbook you have open for editing has not previously been saved in the cloud in a OneDrive or SharePoint folder, Excel displays the Share dialog box where you can upload a copy for sharing. Once the file has been saved to the cloud, Excel displays the Send Link dialog box shown in Fig. 5-5 where you specify the team members with whom you want to share the workbook and grant editing privileges. Once you click the Send button, Excel sends email messages to these coworkers with links for opening the workbook with their Web browsers in Excel Online. Once they open  the workbook in Excel Online, all their editing changes appear in your copy of the file in real time (see Fig. 5-6). You can then use the threaded comments feature to discuss any questionable edits.