Force comment entry when editing a list item

Wed, Feb 10, 2010 2-minute read

Quick tip: custom lists are a great way to store data about a business process or operation that doesn’t necessarily fit in a standard list. They can be used to store virtually any type of data, that makes sense in list form. For instance, you might record the configuration details of all the switches on your network. They’re especially helpful in that by enabling versioning on a list, you can create an audit trail of when things changed. Critically, though, when something changes, you’re likely to want to know why. Therefore, when someone changes an item, you might want to insist that they add a comment to quickly describe the change they have made, and why.

It’s easy to enable this basic functionality.

  1. On your List, enable Versioning. Optionally set how many versions should be kept - this will also limit the number of comments you see in the list.
  2. Create a new field called “Comments” of type “multi-line text“, select “Require that this column contains information” and finally the kicker “Append changes to existing text” should be set to Yes.
  3. Save and go back to your list and create and edit a new item.

You’ll see that when you now edit an item, any previous comments have been automatically removed from the Comments box - and you are forced to enter a comment before you can save it. You can see comments about a specific version by going to the version history.

  • Slight caveat, there seems to be a bug when using “edit in datasheet” - the current comment isn’t always removed and therefore you’re not always prompted. Indeed, this is no different to a human bug- that is, if this is really mission critical, then you’ll need a workflow in the background to validate the entry to ensure the comment added is actually meaningful.