Annotate for Microsoft Word

Chances are you’ve moved away from collecting student work on paper (or would like to), and appreciate the clarity of typed comments vs. handwritten ones.

Annotate for Microsoft Word 2003/2004/2007 PRO v2.0 simply helps you be better at what you already do – give great feedback to your students.

With Annotate for Word 2003/2004/2007 PRO v2.0 you don’t need to remember arcane editing symbols. And neither do your students. To comment on the placement of a citation using MLA? Or when to use a semicolon? All you need to do is highlight and click. And with the new v2.0 release, users can easily customize all of the content in the Annotate toolbar: titles of groups, the titles of buttons, the titles of drop-downs, and the content that appears with a simple click. We’ve included in-line comments as well as marginal comments, so teacher can create banks of frequently used end notes.

To use Annotate for Word you need Microsoft Word 2000/XP/2003 (PC), Microsoft Word 2007 (PC), or Microsoft Word 2004 for Mac Office 2004.

Watch a five-minute video overview
(based on the Word 2007 version).

OR visit to learn more.

Some background:

We’ve been waiting for the paperless office for 20 years. From an individual teacher’s perspective, the only result is a TV show about an office that sells paper (The Office).

Annotate Beta Screenshot

Annotate Beta Screenshot

Some teachers use Microsoft Word to read documents and perhaps add comments. Many teacher still work from hard copies, although this split is changing more rapidly than you might think.

Paper is finally going away in education, although not so much for efficiency reasons, or cost savings. Educators are moving away from paper to save trees, reduce their carbon footprint, and work more effectively with their digital native students. Whether via email, or the assignment drop-box features of Moodle/Blackboard/Desire2Learn, teachers are increasingly collecting student work electronically.

Annotate document with inserted comments

Annotate document with inserted comments

But then they have to read the work on a computer monitor and (usually) do some sort of annotating. If you are fast with a computer and have a decent computer setup (see our post on using dual monitors), this can be an efficient approach.

The annotating function itself has always been a source of opportunity, since the age-old “red pen” approach to handwritten comments is illegible to most students, both because comments are written hurriedly and because they often employ arcane editing symbols. This painstaking work is also largely understood to be ineffective; students scan the comments and flip to the last page to see their grade.

There are some software-based attempts at solving the problem. But to read an Adobe PDF and insert comments, or to use Turnitin’s GradeMark software requires a change many of us are unwilling to make and an investment of time to learn the quirks of the tool. Plus, these tools can actually slow us down, especially compared to handwritten notes in the margins of a paper.

We’ve always felt that Microsoft Word was the best place to do this kind of work. Word is fast (no waiting for the browser to load), most people know how to use it, and its file formats can be read on millions of computers. Indeed, thousands of teachers use a combination of simple bolded text, inserted comment bubbles, and Word’s ‘track changes’ feature to respond to students.

We have long experimented with Microsoft Word macros to automate the sorts of comments we want to insert into the margins of a student document. With the appearance of Microsoft Word 2007, we are able to share our refined process of easily annotating student documents more elegantly through a customized ‘ribbon.’ We released beta versions of Annotate in June and July of 2008 and enjoyed considerable feedback from interested teachers across the US.

On September 15 2008 we released a production version of a simple add-in for Microsoft Word 2007 (a Word 2003 version will come, depending on demand) that brings powerful pre-written comments and easy annotating to Microsoft Word. Our Annotate ribbon is a customized tab that can be used just like any other series of buttons. Click on one of the thumbnails above to get a good look at a customized version we just released to a university client. The buttons are plain text and simply insert a prose comment as if you had typed it yourself.

The workflow couldn’t be simpler: clicking a button inserts a pre-written comment that can be easily edited. There are galleries of comments available via dropdown for granular issues such as grammar and citation formatting.

The individual teacher’s version ties back to Purdue University’s fantastic OWL site so that students benefiting from an annotated document can click to read more about an issue. Custom versions can connect to a writing handbook or website of choice.

We are already working on customized versions of the ribbon for several clients, but have made a general purpose one available to individual teachers for a $45 purchase price. We will also offer Site Licenses to interested institutions on a per-seat model.

The add-in installs (and uninstalls) like any other program and greatly streamlines the commenting process by including detailed text on argument, use of evidence, MLA formatting, APA formatting, style issues, along with making Word’s commenting feature much more legible and consistent.

Visit Annotate’s official website.

Read earlier posts about Annotation:

2 Responses to Annotate for Microsoft Word

  1. bill linnane says:

    This looks interesting. We would be doing the content in Danish. Do you have a skeleton type of ribbon that can be added to word then we can begin filling in the danish content according to the subject (math, chem, physics, danish grammar, and so on)?

    If so what would you prices be?


    Bill Linnane
    Roskilde Polytechnique
    Maglelunden 4
    4000 Roskilde
    +45 50 50 69 90

  2. […] grading software such as Microsoft Word’s proofing function, which inserts text comments in this manner, no matter how much it would reduce the material burden of grading […]

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