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February 4, 2002

Tech Tips

Okay, so you've mastered how to send or receive email attachments-a great way to share documents and files with anyone. But if you want to keep the collaboration going, learn how to add comments or revisions to the files you attach. They will provide more context than chicken scratches on a return fax, and it will be easier to incorporate more than one person's set of revisions. Here are some cool tools that can help:

1. Open the "Reviewing" Toolbar in Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint

Go to "View" ' "Toolbars" ' "Reviewing."

You can use the yellow sticky note to add comments (available in all three programs), or actually insert or cut text and have it show up on your screen as well as your recipient's screen (available only in Word). You can even dictate audio comments tied to any part of a Word document. If you repeatedly work with a group of people on the same document such as a brochure, report or presentation, this is a great way to keep track of everyone's revisions and selectively incorporate them. Some faculty are even collecting students' papers as Word files and then returning them as attachments as comments-something you can do anytime, not just the hectic rush before class starts. For examples of comments and edits on this article, click here.

2. Write PDF Files with Adobe Acrobat

Anyone who's surfed the Web is likely to have come across the free, ubiquitous plug-in called Acrobat Reader to read PDF (Portable Document Format) files. But for less than $65 you can purchase the full version of Acrobat to also create or "print" PDF files, which are electronic snapshots of any file that will look the same on anyone's computer. This is a great way to review a brochure before it's printed or even a web page before it's launched. And like the MS Office products above, you can add sticky notes or drawings to elaborate on what your recipient is seeing. The UMBC Bookstore sells Acrobat at a very reasonable educational price, but if you want multiple copies so everyone in your work group can use it, you can get it for as little as $16 a copy. For an example of how you might use Acrobat for more than just reading PDF files, click here.

3. Use Blackboard

In addition to embedding comments or revisions in document files, you could attach them to discussion boards in Blackboard, or clean them up and make them permanent files others can access anytime, anywhere. The advantage of using Blackboard (or any website) is that your colleagues have a centralized, web-based clearinghouse for common files, and don't need to keep their emails to view a document. Also, if your workgroup or subcommittee is willing to use a discussion board, the related threads can be sorted, searched or even saved as text files that might serve as a rough draft others can view later. For more information on using Blackboard, visit

If you have questions about these tips-or have some tips of your own that you'd like to share-contact John Fritz at

Posted by dwinds1 at February 4, 2002 12:00 AM