how to print document comments

One of my favorite writers, Kent Haruf, has shared that he writes in a small semi-basement “coal room,” in his home, where

“I have brown wrapping paper taped up on the wall, on which I make notes about whatever novel I’m working on ….”*

I can see where that would be effective. I keep a lot of notes when I’m writing too. And for a long time, I’ve struggled to find a method like that, which can work effectively for me. I’ve tried sticky notes on a big mirror, which is similar.

Most recently, when I’m writing and editing I use the comments features of the word processor. And Evernote, Google Docs, and a tangle of associated Word files. If the notes are large and not associated with a place in the existing text, then God knows. But if I’m making small notes about my existing stuff, I can insert them as comments in the manuscript itself.

Both Microsoft Word and OpenOffice.org Writer have a feature that one can use to create such comments, which appear as mark-ups. I’m sure this was designed for getting feedback from the boss, or Engineering or whatever, and I’ve used it that way at work.

In Word, comments can be viewed as balloons in the margin or as hidden boxes which appear when the cursor is moved over the relevant portion of text. In Writer, only margin balloons are used.

The comments that the writer, editor, or other collaborator have made in the text can be useful – even critical – to the completion of the work. So rather than scrolling through the document looking for the comments and reviewing and handling them, a list of comments might be made for review. Here’s how to do that.

Word 2003 
Do a Print command in your usual way; whatever you do when you want to print something.

When the Print dialog appears, you’ll see an option in the lower left that says, “Print what.”

Word print markup list
       [Click images in this post to view enlarged]

Change the Print what option to “List of Markup,” as shown in this figure.

This tells the software that you want to print out mark-ups – Comments – not the whole text of the document.

Note: In that figure above, you’ll see that I’ve selected my favorite PDF printer instead of my paper printer. Unless you need your list of comments on slices of dead tree, I recommend PDF. And Mother Earth thanks you.

Proceed with printing normally. 

OpenOffice.org Writer
 Do a Print command. The Print dialog appears.

writer print dialog

Click the Options… button in the lower left corner. The Printer options dialog appears.

writer printer options

One of the columns there says, “Comments.” You can select to print Comments only – just the comment in the manuscript – as we did in Word, above.

Proceed with printing normally. 

And this is cool: Writer lets you choose to print the complete document (PDF is an option here again) with its comments gathered at the end, or at the end of each page.

Hope this comes in handy. It does for me.

* Kent Haruf’s column on the habits and methods of writing, To See Your Story Clearly, Start by Pulling the Wool Over Your Own Eyes, was published in the NY Times, 11.20.2000.