Is there a way to have comments in different colours, in Microsoft Word, Open Office Writer, or Libre Office? (I am currently using Open Office, and I'm happy with it, but I am open to making the switch if need be.) If that would require installing some additional widget, but won't cause the file (including the comments) to be unreadable without it, I'm open to that too.

I am using comments extensively while writing. Every time I re-read what I wrote to get back into the stream, if I find something that needs editing, I leave a comment for later. If I write something, and need something to foreshadow it earlier, I leave a comment. If I need to reference something in a conversation, but I don't know yet where this reference leads (so it's a thread I leave lose to pick up later), I leave a comment. It would be very helpful to me if I could colour-code those comments in some way, so "bad wording, needs rephrasing" comments would be visually different from "this plot thread needs work" comments.

  • I'm (proposing edits to) the title to indicate you're asking about Word Processors, not text editors (notepad, vi ... argh, I used to know more). I also (proposed adding) a new tag, collaboration... although you're talking about self-commenting, people who co-write may have suggestions. Feb 28, 2019 at 13:24
  • @April Accepted the title edit, not the tag edit, since, as you say, my question is about self-commenting. In fact, the comments work very well for collaborations - each user is assigned a colour. Feb 28, 2019 at 13:30
  • I thought collaborators may want to ALSO distinguish their types of comments, and have worked out a system, which is why I added that. Like one reviewer may have science questions AND character ones, and if they figured out a way to distinguish them...? Feb 28, 2019 at 13:34

3 Answers 3


Added due to comments: I use LibreOffice Writer. My comments below reference it, not OpenOffice Writer. I believe these were derived from the same original code, but apparently they have diverged since then, at least in regard to handling formatting of comments. Switching to LibreOffice Writer has apparently resolved Galastel's problem.

In LibreOffice Writer:

I notice that if you highlight the text of the comment in the box, then the regular Format/Character menu will let you pick different colors for the TEXT, so that would let you choose different colors for different categories of comment.

The documentation says the comment box background color changes for different users. So one way would be to change your user id for each comment; that is possible but seems tedious.

I notice in the Tools/Options menu there are several fields related to Comments, by default the BG color changes by the user commenting. I tried to change mine to White, thinking that would be best if I was just changing the text color, it didn't work. I tried a few things for five minutes but gave up. Perhaps there is a way to assign "white" as the background color for YOUR user id, I did not look up how to do that.

I should think changing the text color would be enough for a handful of categories. Red, Blue, Black, etc. Only problem is you can't search for comments of a certain text color, other than visually, then it seems like a pain to scroll through 300 pages looking for a red comment.

  • The Format menu in OpenOffice doesn't let me choose font colour for highlighted text in comments - only bold/italic/underlined. Which is curious, considering I can copy-paste coloured text into the comment, and it preserves the colouring. Feb 28, 2019 at 12:34
  • @Galastel Strange, I use (on a Linux system, not a Windows system) OpenOffice Writer exclusively for all my writing, and it does allows that. (I tested it before writing my answer.) I wonder if you need a more recent version; I updated mine about a year ago.
    – Amadeus
    Feb 28, 2019 at 12:37
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    @Galastel LibreOffice (I'm on a 5.2 release) allows choosing font color and weight, seemingly along with a bunch of other things, even for text in comments. Note that while LibreOffice is a fork from the LibreOffice code base, I expect these days they have diverged a fair bit.
    – user
    Feb 28, 2019 at 19:43
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    @Galastel I misspoke, I use LibreOffice Writer, not OpenOffice. I did not know they were divergent branches, for some reason I thought OpenOffice was just compiled with different libs to work on Windows.
    – Amadeus
    Mar 1, 2019 at 12:51
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    I've accepted this answer, but could you correct OpenOffice to LibreOffice, since that's what you're using? Comments can sometimes disappear, and this is important information. I've switched to LibreOffice following this discussion, btw. Mar 4, 2019 at 1:10

In Microsoft Word you can style the text inside the comment in the same way that you can edit your main text (font, colour, spacing, style, effects such as strikethrough, highlighting, ordered and unordered lists). So you can, for example, make some comments bold red and others underlined blue and some just standard black. When you open the Reviewing pane, you can then see a list of comments, styled in the same way.

To simplify things and to help you categorise and style your comments consistently, you could also create and apply custom styles. For example, you could create a style named "Rephrase" that uses blue, and "Plot issue" that uses red.

  • Can you do that by creating templates, so instead of selecting text and making it red you choose "bad wording" from the menu that includes paragraph, heading, etc? Feb 28, 2019 at 3:04
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    @MonicaCellio yes it appears you can (using MS Office 356). Right click on the comment text, select "Styles", and then select your style. The standard styles appear there (e.g. "Heading 1") and there is also an option there to create a style. Feb 28, 2019 at 3:09
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    Great! Please consider editing that into your answer; using styles like that means you won't confuse yourself if you accidentally used blue where you meant to use green one late night with too little caffeine. Feb 28, 2019 at 3:11

A useful option may also be GoogleDocs, as it's free. I can't give specific examples (Gmail/Gdocs blocked at my current day-job), but I remember some students used it for peer-critique very well. It defaults to each person having a different color for their edits/comments.

Since it sounds like you're self-commenting, the multi-color thing may not work, but I wanted to offer a free option.

MS Word allows LOTS of fun with styles -- that's what I'm focused on right now. You can even filter your comments and search for specific things, if you want to explore macros.

In my current "April Draft" template, I have some styles called "draft body", "draft talking to myself" "draft navigating" and "draft H#" (using 1-3, for table of contents.) When I show it to my boss, I'll switch to department template, and anything still in "thinking to myself" formatting will indicate a question I still need to address before I declare the draft finalized.

  • OpenOffice and LibreOffice are also free. Feb 28, 2019 at 13:43
  • I knew Libre was. Cool! (Alas, at my work, I can't install anything either. So I have a BIIIIG book of "Mastering VBA for Microsoft Office 2016" to maximize what I can do with the few allowed programs. :) Feb 28, 2019 at 13:46

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