Changes to Office comments degrade features and eliminate some eXtyles functionality.

Recently Microsoft introduced “Modern Comments” into its 365 software suite (MS365, aka Office 365), slowly rolling them out to MS365 users over the past year. According to Microsoft, this revision to comments is designed to facilitate collaboration by allowing more extensive conversations in comment threads (e.g., using @mentions to tag another user).

Unfortunately, through testing the Inera team has discovered both that these Modern Comments have lost some useful features (e.g., less easy to navigate among them) and that an important feature of eXtyles has been removed: the ability to use character styles in comments. This FAQ describes the observed degraded behavior of Modern Comments in Word and current workarounds.

Modern Comments Eliminate Character Styles

The Problem

Microsoft’s Modern Comments do not support some types of text formatting, including, importantly, Word character styles (see the MS FAQ about Modern Comments for a full list of unsupported text formatting).

Both eXtyles PubMed and Crossref Linking and Correction modules use Word character styles in the comments returned from the validation processes.

For example, if eXtyles PubMed validation returns a potential match for a reference with differences too great to confidently update the reference text automatically, eXtyles adds a Word comment  containing the PubMed version of the reference, formatted in the correct editorial style and tagged with the correct eXtyles reference character styles (see table 1).

From there, an editor can simply copy and paste the PubMed version of the reference into the document’s reference list, preserving all the character styles (which are required for XML export) without having to perform any significant manual editing or styling.

Modern Comments are not able to include character styles (see table 1). Therefore, if your version of Word uses Modern Comments, you can still copy and paste corrected references returned from either PubMed or Crossref validation directly from the Word comment into the reference list, but you may now need to manually apply character styles.

Table 1. A comment returned from eXtyles Crossref Linking and Correction, shown in pre-Modern Comment form (left) and in Modern Comment form (right)

Pre-Modern Comments

Modern Comments

A pre-Modern Comment in Word 2016 shows the text returned from PubMed validation, including a version of the reference that is fully character styled by eXtyles.

A Modern Comment in Office 365 showing text that is returned from PubMed validation. The character styles are not visible in the text of the comment.

If a document has been processed through eXtyles prior to the Modern Comments update and is then opened in MS365 with Modern Comments, you may see the warning message shown below the comment in figure 1. This “missing content” warning will also appear if the comment text previously included now-unsupported formatting, such as numbered or bulleted lists.

A Modern Comment followed by a warning message reading, 'This comment thread contains content that's not yet supported. Select it to view it in the Revisions pane.

Figure 1. The “missing content” warning will appear when a comment unsupported formatting (in this case, character styles) added in a pre-Modern Comment version of Word is opened in a Modern Comment version of Word.

The Workarounds

If you frequently take advantage of the character styles that eXtyles uses in Word comments during PubMed and Crossref validation, the Modern Comments update will create some inconvenience for you. 

Fortunately, we have found some workarounds, and although they aren’t as graceful a solution as the previous Word comment behavior, they will enable you to copy and paste fully styled text returned by PubMed or Crossref validation from comments into the Word document.

Method 1

Once you have successfully run either the PubMed or Crossref validation step, you can do the following:

1. Navigate to the Review tab on the Word ribbon.

2. Select Reviewing Pane (either vertical or horizontal, as shown in figure 2).

The comment text in the Reviewing Pane includes the eXtyles character styles returned from the validation process that you just ran.

3. Copy and paste the reference text from the Reviewing Pane into the Word document.

The reviewing pane opens a panel in Word at the bottom of the document in which the comment text appears. The comment text, including character styles, can be copied from the reviewing pane and pasted into the document.

Figure 2. The Word Reviewing Pane (shown here in horizontal mode) includes the fully styled text returned from the eXtyles PubMed validation process.

Method 2

Alternatively, you can avoid the Reviewing Pane by doing the following:

1. Copy the unstyled reference text directly from the Modern Comment.

2. Paste it into the reference list.

3. Strip the eXtyles tags from the reference.

4. Re-run eXtyles Reference Processing to get the character styling back.

Method 3

Finally, you can temporarily turn off Modern Comments in Word by going to File > Options > General and deselecting Enable modern comments.

Note that this is described as a temporary solution because eventually Microsoft will remove the option to turn off Modern Comments.

Warning: Turning off Modern Comments will not “fix” existing comments!

Modern Comments Lose Some Functionality

Testing by the Inera team has found that as well as not supporting Word character styles, Modern Comments also have other functionality issues.

Comments Collapse in Print Layout View

You may notice that after you run an eXtyles Advanced Process, any comments that eXtyles has added are collapsed in Print Layout View; that is, their content is not displayed in the margin, as shown in figure 3:

A close-up of the right margin of a styled reference list. Instead of displaying the text of comments, Word is showing only tiny comment balloons in different colors.

Figure 3. Comments are sometimes collapsed when eXtyles Advanced Processes are run, which hides their content.

You can “rehydrate” collapsed comments by going to the Word Review tab on the ribbon, and toggling between Show Comments > List and Show Comments > Contextual (see figure 4).

Figure 4. Toggle between Show Comments > List and Show Comments > Contextual to expose comment text that was previously collapsed.

You can also make the comment text reappear by saving, closing, and reopening the Word document.

Modern Comments Are Excluded from Track Changes Navigation

Using pre-Modern Comments, you can navigate from comment to comment using either the Previous and Next Comment buttons or the Previous and Next Changes buttons on the Review tab of the Word ribbon. 

You can also use the Previous and Next navigation buttons on the eXtyles tab of the Word ribbon to jump from comment to comment in the document, which is a convenient way to review any comments that have been added after an eXtyles Advanced Process has finished running (see figure 5).

The eXtyles ribbon as it appears in Word 2016, showing the Previous and Next comment navigation buttons. These buttons can be used to navigate among pre-Modern Comments.

Figure 5. With pre-Modern Comments, you can navigate among comments using the Previous and Next buttons on either the Review tab or the eXtyles tab of the Word ribbon.

Modern Comments, however, are only navigable using the Previous and Next Comments buttons on the Review tab of the Word ribbon (see figure 6); that is, the Previous and Next navigation buttons on the eXtyles tab will not jump to Modern Comments.

The Previous and Next comment navigation buttons on the review tab in Office 365. These buttons are the only ones that will navigate among Modern Comments.

Figure 6. You can only navigate among Modern Comments using the Previous and Next buttons on the Review tab of the Word ribbon.