Excel comments let you display information about the values in a cell. The notes might be for you or they can be information for users. Excel displays the comment when you mouse over the cell – you don’t have to select the cell, just move the mouse over the cell. Consequently, comments can obscure data that you’re trying to view and some users find this behavior annoying. If you’re in that group, there’s an alternative. You can use Data Validation to attach information to a cell and Excel will display it only when a user selects the cell.

To use Data Validation to attach text to a cell, do the following:

  1. Select the cell.
  2. Click the Data tab and then choose Data Validation from the Data Validation dropdown in the Data Tools group. In Excel 2003, choose Validation from the Data menu.
  3. In the resulting dialog box, click the Input Message tab.
  4. Enter a title and message. The title isn’t necessary; you can omit it if you like. Notice that Excel checks the Show Input Message When Cell Is Selection option by default. For this technique to work, you must check this option.
  5. Click OK.

Now, change the selection and then move the mouse over the cell – Excel doesn’t display the text you entered. Select the cell and Excel does display the message.

This technique is easy to implement, but it uses Data Validation in an unusual way so you might not think of it. It’s a good tip to share with users because they can easily do it themselves.