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How to use Google Docs comments

By Jessica Lau · August 9, 2023
Google Docs logo, which is a simplified illustration of a piece of paper with a dogeared corner.

For the most part, Google apps are pretty intuitive to use. Which makes it all the more confusing when a theoretically straightforward feature—like how to add a comment in Google Docs—is anything but. 

It shouldn't be this hard, yet here we are. Instead of clicking random buttons in the hopes that comments will magically disappear (or, in some cases, reappear), here's everything you need to know about how to use Google Docs comments. 

If there's a specific function you're searching for, feel free to jump to that section. Or you can keep scrolling to learn all the actions you didn't know you could take with Google Docs comments. 

Note: Most of these functions work similarly across other Google apps, including Google Sheets and Google Slides. 

How to use Google Docs comments

Adding comments in Google Docs is a convenient way to jot down notes, suggestions, or questions. And if you're collaborating with others, you can even assign action items directly from the comments. The only problem is that it's not obvious how to do any of this. 

Here, I'll show you how to do everything from adding and editing to hiding and restoring comments in Google Docs.  

Note: You need to first have Commentor or Editor access to the doc you want to leave comments in. 

How to add comments in Google Docs  

I use comments in Google Docs primarily to leave reminders for myself. Whether you want to use comments to leave notes for yourself or a coworker—or another reason altogether—here's how to add comments to your doc. 

Highlight the text or image you want to comment on, and then click the Add comment icon, which looks like a plus sign (+) inside a speech bubble, in the toolbar. Alternatively, you can use the keyboard shortcut: command + option + M for Mac or Ctrl + Alt + M for Windows. 

Type your comment in the comment box that appears, and then click Comment

Comment added to a document in Google Docs.

How to edit comments in Google Docs 

Spotted a typo in your last comment? Here's how to quickly edit your comment. 

Beside the comment you want to edit, click the More options icon, which looks like three dots stacked vertically (). Then click Edit

Comment in a Google Docs document with the edit option selected.

Modify your comment, and then click Save

How to delete comments in Google Docs 

If I had a penny for every time I left a question for my editor in the comments, only to find the answer a second later…well, I'd probably be retired on a beach somewhere. Anyway, here's how to delete a comment in Google Docs. 

Beside the comment you want to delete, click the More options icon, which looks like three dots stacked vertically (). Then click Delete

You'll need to click Delete one more time to confirm that you want to delete the comment. 

Option to delete a comment thread in a Google Docs document.

Note: If there are replies to a comment, deleting the initial comment will delete the entire comment thread. If you (or someone else on the thread) might want access to the comment later, it's better to just click the checkmark () to mark the comment as resolved.

How to view comments in Google Docs 

If you want to quickly scan through your comments, here's how to view a list of every comment left in the doc. 

Click the Open comment history icon above the toolbar, which looks like a speech bubble. 

Comment history icon above the toolbar in Google Docs.

By default, a panel with All comments in that document will appear in reverse chronological order. To narrow down your list of comments, click the down caret beside Comments and choose from preset filter options: For you, Open, and Resolved

Comment history panel in Google Docs with a dropdown of preset filter options: All, For you, Open, and Resolved.

Need to find a specific comment? Click the Filter comments by keyword icon, which looks like a magnifying glass, and enter the search phrase. 

Comments filter in the comment history panel of a Google Docs document.

Google Forms will display any comment (open and resolved) containing your search term. It'll also highlight your search term directly in each comment, making it easier to scan through the results. 

Need to quickly understand which part of the document a comment is related to? Click the comment, and Google Docs will automatically scroll to the relevant section within the doc. Or, at the top of every listed comment, you'll also find Selected text. This will give you a preview of the text that was originally highlighted to initiate the comment. If your text preview is cut off, click the down caret beside Selected text to expand it. 

Comment history panel in Google Docs. The comment has a preview of the associated text.

How to print comments in Google Docs 

When I worked at a law firm, every draft of a legal document had to be reviewed on paper—no digital copies allowed for fear that staring at the computer for too long would cause us to miss a critical error. If you also prefer to review physical copies of your document, along with its comments, you can't do that directly from Google Docs. But there's an easy workaround for this. 

  1. In the Google Docs toolbar, click File > Download > Microsoft Word (.docx)

  2. Open the file in Microsoft Word (or Pages on a Mac), and you'll notice your comments have automatically been added to your Word document. 

    Side-by-side view of the same document with its comments in Google Docs and Microsoft Word.

  3. Click File, and then click Print. By default, your comments will be included in your printout. 

    Print preview of a Microsoft Word document with comments.

How to reply to comments 

Contrary to what most of the comments in my Google Docs would have you believe, comments aren't exclusively for reminders to your future self. They're also convenient for chatting asynchronously with others. 

To reply directly to a comment, click the comment thread. In an effort to be helpful, Google Docs will automatically suggest a few responses, which you can choose from. 

Comment in Google Docs with suggested responses.

As you can tell from the image above, Google Docs doesn't always suggest the most exciting responses. To enter your own response, click the Reply text box, type your comment, and then click Reply

You can also tag other people, even if they don't have a Google account, directly in the comments by entering @ immediately followed by their name or email address.

Reply to a comment in a Google Docs document.

Note: If the tagee (not a real word, sadly) isn't part of your Google Workspace account, you'll need to enter their full email address and give them permission to access your document. 

Once you hit reply, anyone tagged in the comment will receive an email notification along with a preview of the entire comment thread. The recipient can even reply to or resolve the comment directly from the email, or they can click Open to go directly to the comment within the doc. 

Email notification from Google Docs with a preview of a comment thread. There are options to reply directly to the comment, resolve it, or open the comment.

Note: This only works if the recipient has enabled their Google Docs notifications

How to react to comments 

Another way to interact with a comment is by reacting to it. To react directly to a comment, hover over the comment itself. Click Add emoji reaction, and then choose an emoji from the emoji keyboard. 

Comment in Google Docs with the add emoji reaction button highlighted.

Your emoji reaction will appear directly beneath the comment. 

Comment in Google Docs with a crown emoji reaction.

If you want to ditto someone else's reaction, click the emoji, and the reaction tally will update accordingly. You can also hover over the emoji reaction to see who reacted with that emoji. 

How to assign action items from comments in Google Docs 

Let's say you want your coworker to review a specific section of your doc. You could tag them using the @ symbol. Or, you can assign it to them to make it abundantly clear who's in charge of completing the task. It's a subtle difference, but in my experience, it gets the job done.

Here's how to assign action items directly from a comment. 

Add your comment as you normally would, and tag your coworker using the @ symbol. Google Docs will automatically populate a checkbox beneath your comment that reads, "Assign to [name]." Click the checkbox, and then click Assign

If someone has set their Google account status to "Out of office," and you have access to their calendar, Google Docs will automatically notify you in the comment as you assign it to them. This is helpful in case you try to assign an urgent task to your coworker who may be sunbathing on a beach. 

Comment in Google Docs, which is assigned to Deb Tennen. The comment also has a notice that reads, "Deb Tennen is out of office - back on August 7."

Google Docs will make the delegation of responsibilities extremely clear by labeling the comment "Assigned to [name]" both directly above and below the comment thread.

Comment in Google Docs assigned to Deb Tennen.

To reassign the task to someone else, assign the action item as you normally would in a follow-up comment, and Google Docs will automatically populate a checkbox beneath your new comment that reads, "Reassign to [name]." Click the checkbox, and then click Reassign

Comment in Google Docs with an option to reassign from Deb Tennen to Grace Montgomery.

If the option to assign or reassign a task to someone from a comment isn't working for you, here are a few reasons why: 

  • You didn't initiate the thread. Only the person who started the comment thread can assign a task within that thread. If you want to assign a task, add a brand new comment and assign away. 

  • You're trying to assign a task in a follow-up comment. Even if you initiated the comment thread, Google Docs doesn't allow you to assign tasks in follow-up comments if the initial comment wasn't assigned to someone. 

  • You're editing an initial comment. Let's say you added a comment, but forgot to tag an assignee. If you edit the comment to add your tag, Google Docs, for some reason, won't populate the assign task feature. It seems to only work if you assign the task in the initial thread—no edits allowed. 

How to share a link to a comment in Google Docs  

Specificity is the key to communicating effectively—especially if you work on a remote team. If I want my editor to review a particular comment, I'll share a link that directs them to that comment. Here's how. 

Find the comment you want to share. Click the More options icon, which looks like three dots stacked vertically (), and then click Get link to this comment

Comment in a Google Docs document with the "Get link to this comment" option selected.

The link will automatically copy to your clipboard, which you can then paste in your team's chat app

How to hide comments in Google Docs 

If you want a comment-free view of your document, click View in the Google Docs menu, and then deselect Show comments

The comments don't disappear entirely, which is a good thing—otherwise, you might forget they exist altogether. Instead, they transform into speech bubble icons, which you can click at any point to view the comments again. 

Show comments option in a Google Docs document, which has been deselected, and all the comments have been collapsed into comment icons only.

If you click any one of the collapsed comment icons, it will reveal every comment. There's no way to reveal only one comment at a time. 

How to resolve comments 

To resolve a comment, click the checkmark () beside the comment—or the initial comment if there's a thread—to mark the task as done. This will also automatically hide the entire discussion.  

Comment in a document in Google Docs with the checkmark to resolve the comment highlighted.

How to restore comments in Google Docs 

If you, like me, tend to be a little click-happy, Google Docs created the re-open comments feature with us in mind—I'm sure of it.  

To restore a comment, click Open comment history. In the panel, click the down caret beside Comments, and click Resolved

Find the comment you want to restore. Click the More options icon, which looks like three dots stacked vertically (), and then click Re-open

Comment history panel in Google Docs with the option to re-open a comment selected.

Google Docs will make your comment visible again directly in the doc, along with timestamped notes of when the comment was marked as resolved and re-opened. 

Comment thread in Google Docs that displays when the comment was marked as resolved and re-opened.

Automate Google Docs 

Google Docs has the ability to automatically notify others when they've been tagged in a comment or they've been given access to a doc. 

With Zapier, you can connect Google Docs with your team's go-to chat app, like Slack or Microsoft Teams, so you can also notify them when a new Google Doc is created. Here are a couple of examples to get you started.

To get started with a Zap template—what we call our pre-made workflows—just click on the button. It only takes a few minutes to set up. You can read more about setting up Zaps here.

Send messages in Slack for new Google Docs documents

Send messages in Slack for new Google Docs documents
  • Google Docs logo
  • Slack logo
Google Docs + Slack

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A Zap with the trigger 'When I get a new lead from Facebook,' and the action 'Notify my team in Slack'