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Electronic Commenting Tools

It seems like more and more of us are moving toward electronic commenting methods for providing feedback on student writing.  Having recently transitioned to electronic commenting myself, I can honestly say that it has definitely been a positive experience.  My comments tend to be more thorough and completely formed, and the process of exchanging and keeping track of student documents is much more efficient – not to mention environmentally conscious.

So far, I have been relying on the native MS Word commenting feature, which seems to work pretty well.  It allows me to make comments on student writing without actually interrupting the writing, and it seems to be going over pretty well with my students.  

However, I recently stumbled upon a useful piece of add-on software for MS Word called Annotate.  Essentially, it allows users create pre-written comments, organize them by category, insert them effortlessly, and tailor them easily to individual student needs.  It even allows users to easily provide links to online resources like Purdue’s OWL.

The one catch is that it is not available for the latest version of MS Word for Mac (2008).  Because Microsoft decided not to support Visual Basic for its latest version of Office for Macs – to the frustration of many – it doesn’t support many of the automated features that are available for the Windows version (2007).  Additionally, many of the software add-ons like Annotate are built with Visual Basic, so Mac users are out of luck in this regard for now it seems.

However, there are some glimpses of hope.  One work around, of course, would be to work with one of the many Window’s emulating programs now available for Macs.  This would allow users to run the Windows version of MS Word, which would be compatible with Annotate and other add-ons and functionalities.  Moreover, Craig Eisler, the General Manager of the Mac Business Unit for Microsoft, has recently indicatedthat the next version of MS Office for Mac will support Visual Basic.

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