This is something new I started using this week and I think it’s going to be a great asset in my research!

Several years ago, I fell in love with a free program called Fototagger.  (  I used it to identify people in photos or to add information about locations and such.  I especially loved to use it with newspaper clippings – specifically for obituaries.  I could add little balloons around an image to point to specific pieces of data and add information that I knew.  For example, in a list of survivors, I could add balloons with birth/death dates, relationship to deceased, corrections to information, questions to follow up on, etc.  If another researcher had the Fototagger software on their computer, they could see my balloons and add information and send it back.  If a person didn’t have the software, they would see the original image, but no balloons.  I absolutely loved the program!  BUT, when I upgraded my laptop to use Vista, the program caused my computer to shut down any time I opened an image, whether I had used it with Fototagger or not.  I checked the web site several times for updates, but it didn’t appear that anything had been done with the program for quite awhile and I had to stop using it.

This week, I decided to see about creating my own version of this using Excel and it’s ability to add comments.  This is my first time using comments with my genealogy stuff, so I may eventually find more uses for this, but I’m excited with what I’ve come up with so far.  Here is an image of one of my group sheets with no comments. (Click on the image to see a larger version in another window.)

Because I know I’ll want to have comments on both sides of my chart, I’ll add columns to the left side.  I can change the width of the columns if needed to give me more room.

If I have a question or comment (or source citation, since I can’t add those to Excel like I do in Word) I can add a comment that shows up in a balloon next to the cell I click on.  To do this, click on the cell and then under the “Review” tab, click “New Comment”.  The balloon shows up with the cursor in place to type my comment.  I can always go back and change the comment just like I would for any text.


When the balloons pop up, they are directly to the right of the cell – which means that at times, the balloon is right in the middle of my chart.

I can move the balloon to any part of the page I’d like, change the size of the balloon and have a line point to the piece of information I’m referring to. To move the balloon, put your cursor along the edge of the balloon until the cursor becomes a cross.  Click on the balloon and move it wherever you’d like.  To change the size of the balloon, place your cursor on one of the corners or center of an edge.  The cursor become a double arrow.  Click and drag the box into any size you’d like.

I like these balloons for source citations, follow up questions, “to do lists”, information on other researchers I’m sharing info with or why I think information might be wrong.  I can then email my file to other researchers who can see my questions and comments and then add their own before emailing it back.  With one click of the button, I can hide individual comments or all of the comments.  Small red triangles remain in the upper right corner of any cell that has a comment.  The comments do not show up in the print out (or at least I haven’t found a way to make them show up.)

I think I’m most excited about leaving post-it notes behind!  Adding comments to my pages as soon as I think of things will help keep my thoughts organized in the midst of the dozens of interruptions that I experience every day!