Outlook tips

Can I use the preface comments feature in Outlook to track changes on draft emails?

June 7, 2024


Daniel Yim

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What is the preface comments feature?

The preface comments feature in Outlook is designed to assist people who want to respond to an email by typing directly into the email chain. It’s been around for a long time, but hasn’t been widely adopted within the legal industry.

When switched on, the preface comments feature automatically inserts a pre-defined phrase (the default is your username, but you can change it) in bold and italics square brackets before any edit you make to the body of the original email.

You are probably familiar with emails that start with ‘see my comments in red below’. The preface comments feature is essentially for those situations, except it doesn’t style the freshly inserted text in any way, or put it in square brackets, or really do anything except insert something along the lines of [Username] before anything you type into the email chain.

How do I turn it on?

Preface comments is only available in Outlook for Windows.

  1. Go to File > Options.
  2. Under the Mail tab, scroll down to Replies and forwards.
  3. Check the box which says Preface comments with. You can also edit the phrase you want to use as the preface here.
  4. Click ‘OK’.

Can I use it to track changes on draft emails?

If you’re looking to make edits to the text of an email you’re reviewing, the preface comments feature is not going to help. Although Microsoft’s support article for the feature is entitled ‘Reply with inline comments within the original message text’, this isn’t referring to editing the text of the original email. Instead, you’ll want to ensure the preface comments feature is turned off, and look at other ways to track changes on draft emails.

Even for those ‘see my comments in red below’ situations, there are other solutions much better suited to law firm workflows.

So does the preface comments feature have any good use case for lawyers? I’m honestly struggling to think of one. Indeed, on the very few occasions lawyers have asked me about this feature, it’s been about how to turn it off rather than on!

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