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Support: Annotate PRO for Microsoft Word (2016+)

Annotate PRO is available from the Office Store for macOS and Windows computers running Word 2016.

We will continue to add to this FAQ, particularly to help our loyal customer base understand the differences from previous versions of Annotate.

We chose to launch Annotate PRO, all-new, with a basic and compelling set of features. We are eager for feedback from real users on what matters, what we should prioritize, and what we haven’t thought of…please feel free to comment on this page or any one of the FAQs we’ve included below. Thank you!

Search Support:

Microsoft Word 2016 FAQ:

Why change Annotate from the old version? What has changed?

We created the first version of Annotate in 2008…and thousands of teachers and students have benefitted since.

The first version only worked on Windows; we added a Mac version in around 2011 and soon half or more of our users were on a Mac (walk into any coffee shop and you’ll see the same thing).

Annotate was always caught between Mac and Windows, because Microsoft perennially ignored Mac. We were using two completely different code bases, plugging into Microsoft Word the only ways possible at the time.

Microsoft has completely overhauled the way that developer can extend Office. There are many, many benefits to the change but also a few drawbacks if you’re a diehard Annotate user.

Two steps forward (the good):

  • Modern look and feel.
  • Support from Microsoft – they’re serious about this new approach.
  • Will work on iPad!  We’re not there yet, but this will be a pretty easy addition, we think.
  • Cloud libraries: wherever you can log into Microsoft Word (using Word Online, for instance) you can use your Annotate PRO library. No more worrying about work vs. home computers, or Mac vs. Windows.
  • Full text search: instead of searching the ribbon for the right comment, you can just start typing and Annotate PRO will surface matching comments. Zing! Pow!
  • Easy sharing with fellow faculty and students. We can automate assigning custom libraries to users with specific email addresses. So everyone logging in with an “” address can automatically get a custom library and/or access to our College Edition Library.

One step backwards (the not so good):

  • No offline access. See this FAQ post for more info and to comment/complain/wish.
How to install a new Comment Library?

Annotate PRO comes with 10 comments, targeting argument, that you can immediately edit to suit your needs. This starter library is free and always will be.

Any of these comments can be quickly added to a Word document through a lightning fast full-text search capability. You don’t have to remember button labels or arcane editing symbols.

You can install additional libraries into your Annotate PRO account. We currently offer:

  • College Edition Library
    • includes over 100+ pre-written comments grouped by Argument, Evidence, Organization, Writing Style, and Grammar/Mechanics. Detailed comments on MLA and APA citation styles are included. Add an additional 70+ Comments. Edit all 170+ Comments to suit your needs.
  • Legal Writing Edition Library
    • Includes 300+ comments  written by Professor Mitchell Nathanson of Villanova Law School to support first-year law school written work. There are an additional 300+ empty slots that you can use to extend the library to suit your needs. All 600+ comments are easily editable by you through a simple to use web interface.

To Install Additional Libraries into Annotate PRO for Microsoft Word:

Annotate PRO Overall FAQ:

How do I purchase Annotate PRO?

The first 10 Comments in Annotate PRO will always be free.

We aren’t charging for Annotate PRO College Edition or Legal Writing Edition yet, mostly because we want to get people using our new solution and partly because we haven’t built payment functionality!

So thank you for asking…but you can’t buy Annotate PRO! We anticipate having payments in place by September 2017.

The Annotate PRO College Edition and Legal Writing Edition libraries are free to use (and customize) until August 31, 2017.

The longer it takes us to build payments the more free usage you’ll get!

Of course institutions can get going, now, with a site license to share customized libraries with all of their instructors and (potentially) students. Just contact us to get that ball rolling.

We hope to build a sustainable business with our 11trees’ solution, and so want to keep prices affordable – especially for individuals. We anticipate the following annual subscription pricing of individual licenses:

  • College Edition: $36/year
  • Legal Writing Edition: $55/year

Individuals will be able to license a “blank” Annotate PRO – to create their own libraries from scratch – for $24/year. The College Edition and Legal Writing Edition include these features.

What is a Custom Library?

Annotate PRO is free and comes with ten Comments (focused on college/high school argumentative writing) that you can quickly change to suit your needs.

User can purchase additional libraries that we created and maintain: College Edition, Legal Writing Edition, and others to come.

Most powerfully, schools can design their own libraries that we can automatically provide to their teachers and students.

By simply creating an Annotate PRO account at a site license institution, new users will automatically get the library or libraries intended.

So high schools could develop a library specific to their curriculum, using our College Edition as a starting point, then automate sharing of that library to all teachers.

The following year the school district might add a library intended for middle school teachers, scaffolding feedback and aligning with the high school curricula and Annotate PRO library.

Another school might develop a library specific to peer review or English Language Learners (providing dual language responses, for instance).

A university might create a library intended for peer tutors and TAs, to speed training and improve consistency amongst many graders.

Schools can author their libraries using Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets using our content as a starting point. We review the library, then upload to our servers and do some behind the scenes work – all within a couple of days. Then BOOM! Potentially hundreds of teachers (and students?) can be using the library to create better feedback more quickly.

Just Contact Us to learn more!

Can my school purchase a customized version of Annotate for Word?

We regularly build customized versions of Annotate for First Year Writing programs, high school English departments, Writing Across the Curriculum initiatives and similar. Customizations can be simple, for instance replacing the references to a writing handbook or Purdue’s OWL website with a specific resource, or more detailed. Please use the Contact Us link in the menu to find out more.

Can I format Comments (bold, italic etc.)?

As of July 23, 2017 Annotate PRO for Microsoft Word and Google Docs now supports some ‘markdown’ language to format text.

This is a tricky area, because ultimately Annotate PRO’s value is as a ubiquitous solution for providing feedback – in Word, Google Docs, Salesforce, Dropbox, Canvas etc. And these different platforms have varying support for “fancy” text.

For instance, comment bubbles in Dropbox are plain text, so any special characters in your library will be inserted exactly as they are. An Annotate comment that contained “This is *bold*” would appear as “This is bold” in Microsoft Word, but as “This is *bold*” in Dropbox.

Comment bubbles in Word support some formatting. Comment bubbles in Google Docs support a little less. We’ve included a table summarizing text formatting availability on various platforms.

Our recommendation? If you’re are “all in” on Microsoft Word or Google Docs for commenting and feedback, then take advantage of these opportunities to format your text for clarity.

If you’re going to use Annotate in a bunch of different places, stick to plain text.

An example:

  • If you wanted to include some italic text and were using Microsoft Word or Google Docs, you could create a comment with _italic text_ in it. The underscores, with spaces on either side of them, tell Annotate to insert italicized text. So in both Google Docs and Microsoft Word when the text was inserted, it would be converted to italic text.
  • If you used that same comment to insert text into a Dropbox comment bubble or Google Mail email, you’d get_italic text_.

In other words, the underscores wouldn’t do anything and would be rendered as – underscores.

Sometimes a cigar really is a cigar.

It’s a bit like writing HTML – which we realize is intimidating for some. But taking this approach gives us (and you) maximum flexibility across Word and Google Docs, which is our primary goal. We will be able to add more sophistication as we go, like recognizing which environment is in use and adjusting to suit – perhaps removing special formatting if it isn’t supported.

The silver lining? To include links that appear as clickable in Google Docs and Microsoft Word, just enter the URL. So adding “” to an Annotate Comment will appear as in a Google Docs or Microsoft Word comment. Automatically.

Desired Text Word 2016
Comments & Inserted Text
Google Docs
Other Platforms
Comments & Inserted Text Not supported
Bold text *Bold* text *Bold* text Not supported
Italic text _Italic_ text _Italic_ text Not supported
Underline text <u>Underline</u> text Not supported Not supported
Carriage<br>Return Not supported Not supported
Ordered list:

  1. First
  2. Second
  3. Third

Regular text.

Ordered List:* First<p>* Second<p>* Third<p><br>Regular text. Not supported Not supported



  • In Microsoft Word and Google Docs http, https, and www plain-text links will convert to clickable links automatically. So just enter them as plain text. You don’t even need the “http” part.
  • After inserting a comment via Annotate in Google Docs you have to hit a space bar before you can click Comment to add the text. Once you do this and click Comment, links will convert to become clickable. A super fast way to use Annotate with Google Docs is to insert a blank Google comment, then an Annotate Comment, then a space bar, then Tab and SPACE again to insert the Comment (look Ma, no mouse!).
  • The space after the asterisk for ordered lists is important. So “* First” not “*First”
    • Microsoft Word, weirdly, doesn’t support unordered lists in comments that are created programmatically. We’ll continue to look for workarounds, but for now bullets will convert to numbered (ordered) lists no matter what you do.
Can I reorder buttons in Annotate PRO?

This is not currently possible but we are working towards a much more powerful implementation of Libraries and Groups with a targeted release of initial features (which probably won’t include sorting) of September 1, 2017.

We are depending on the powerful Search feature to making ordering of a Comment Library almost unnecessary. Feedback welcome! Click here for a longer discussion of current state vs. goals.

How do I add links to Comments?

Adding links is a fantastic way to follow the “bite, snack, meal” approach to user experience design.

In the Comment, give the user a concise overview of the issue or compliment (bite). Then give them a link to more detail – that they need to want to pursue (snack). And then, perhaps, in the webpage you provide, give the user additional options to learn: videos, exercises etc. (meal).

So how do you add them?

Just type them in. Like:

As of June 29, 2017 our Microsoft Word add-in will automatically turn plain links like the above into clickable links. Woot! You don’t even have to type the “http://” part – just

Google Docs is smart enough to do this on its own if you type a space after a link.

For more on formatting text, see our FAQ on the subject – so you can bolditalicize etc.

What does the message "Unable to save data locally..." mean?

What does it mean if you fire up Annotate PRO in Microsoft Word 2016 and see the message at the right?

Annotate PRO, like many modern web apps, stores data locally – for speed of access and to power features.

Some browsers may have the ability to store data locally turned off. Annotate PRO will detect this situation and flag you…

What data are we storing? Your user ID, the Comment Library you’re using, and similar data. No passwords or personal info.

To use Annotate you’ll have to give your browser permission to store data locally. So far, we only know of this issue affecting Windows users, so the following instructions are specific to Internet Explorer 11.

Here’s how:

  1. Open Internet Explorer 11.
    1. “What,” you exclaim? I don’t use that browser!!! Oh, but you do – Microsoft Word 2016 uses it to present Add-ins like Annotate PRO, Wikipedia, and any other app running inside Office.
  2. Go to Settings and then Internet options.
  3. Click on the Advanced tab and scroll all the way to the bottom of the resulting list.
  4. Find Enable DOM Storage (it’s 10 or 15 items from the bottom) and make sure it is checked.
  5. Click OK and go back to Microsoft Word.
  6. Close the Annotate PRO taskpane by clicking the ‘x’ in the top right corner (same row as Annotate PRO) in the screenshot showing the original message above).
  7. Reopen Annotate PRO. The message should be gone and you should be able to proceed.

If you’re still blocked from using Annotate PRO please make sure both Internet Explorer 11 and Microsoft Word 2016 are updated to their latest versions (which you may or may not be able to do, given institutional policies and controls), then contact us for help. We’ll jump on a screenshare and sort it out.


Why would I want my students to use Annotate PRO?

Peer review is one the greatest under-used pedagogical strategies.

But student writers, no matter their level, often struggle with providing coherent, constructive feedback.

Annotate PRO can dramatically improve students’ responses to each other, and their assessment of their own work, by providing them with the language of response.

They can highlight some text in their own or a fellow student’s work, then search a Comment Library for an appropriate response.

We can work with your institution to design a Comment Library specifically for peer review, so that the observations (the text the student chooses) is written at the appropriate level and includes questions to help the student dig further into the particular issue.

For instance, a Comment concerning argument might begin:

  • Your writing could be stronger here – I don’t think you really believe what you’re saying.

The peer reviewer would select the above text, but then be prompted to continue, making suggestions to help the student writer state their opinions more vehemently along with ideas to improve the logic of the underlying argument.

At the very least, having access to the Comment Libraries used by their faculty will further demystify writing and help them understand more deeply what good writing looks and feels like.

Can I use Annotate PRO on an iPad?


Like, summer 2017 – just in time for the new academic year.

Microsoft, to their great credit, have made their cool new Apps for Office solution work on Office for iPad, too.

So if you’ve got Microsoft Word on your iPad you’ll be able to use Annotate PRO there – same library, same full-text search.

Does Annotate PRO work on a Mac?

The latest version of Annotate PRO works on Microsoft Word 2016 – including Windows and Mac. You can also use Annotate PRO with Word 2016 online.

iPad is coming soon!

Can I use Annotate PRO on a Chromebook?


You can install from here. Or get your school’s Google Suite administrator to add Annotate PRO to all teacher accounts with just a couple of clicks…

We can add your institution’s email domain (like to our database and every user will automatically get a specific Comment Library or Libraries.

Automation is so cool!

Can I use Annotate PRO on an Android tablet?


You can try to use Word Online on your tablet, but your experience will vary with the version of Android, power of your tablet etc. We don’t anticipate it will be a great experience.

And we aren’t aware of any plans on the part of Microsoft to bring Office to Android tablets.

Google, for its part (as the creators of Android) have been working for years to bring ChromeOS and Android together.

ChromeOS is based on the Chrome browser and is the operating system behind millions of Chromebooks. Chromebooks, by very definition, will never run Microsoft Office. Android tablets cannot run Chrome Extensions, either – which means you can’t use the Annotate PRO for Google Chrome Extension.


Can I swap out Annotate PRO Comment Libraries?

No – not yet.

Backstory: some of our Annotate for Word powerusers had discovered a hack (clever!) that allowed them to save off versions of their library as local databases. So they could have one for a Fall assignment, another for Spring assignments – implying that they were writing feedback specific to assignments.

Annotate PRO currently supports the use of ONE library: College Edition (free), College Edition, Legal Writing Edition.

We anticipate adding cloning and sharing of libraries – much easier to do now that we’re in the cloud and working with modern technologies.

Would this feature be useful to you? Would you prefer to share libraries with colleagues before having the ability to flip from library to library? Or just have sections within a library to support different assignments (or other purposes)?

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