How to Activate Versioning then Create and Display a Comments Column in a SharePoint Tasks List

We left off yesterday having demonstrated how to create and populate a SharePoint Tasks List, and now it's time to reveal the question that set this little mini-series of posts in motion: 

I am creating a big Task List for all the different marketing projects I will be working on in 2010.  I wanted to use comments and version so we can see a running list of the changes and updates to the projects.  But on the view I would like to show the Latest Comment and I can only get it to say View Entries and you have to click to see the progress.  Do you have a suggestion of something I can do so I can view the latest 'comment' in my task list?? Or any suggestions as to how I can accomplish this?

As I mentioned yesterday, in order to begin researching this question, and following the patented three-step SharePoint Blank Path to Discovery (1. Try and figure it out on my own through the use of brute force, 2. Google, and if all else fails, 3. Consult Jeff Kozloff, aka the Patron Saint of SharePoint Blank), I embarked upon the creation of a new tasks list for my brute force testing purposes.  I'm embarrassed to admit that I wasn't even able to get as far as seeing the View Entries… result in the Comments column described above before I required the first of what would ultimately prove to be two brief consultations with Jeff.

After that first chat, I was armed with the information that I needed to finish setting up my test environment, which is to say that I knew then that I had to turn on versioning for the list, and then add a new column for Comments.  To do so, I began by choosing the List Settings button under the Settings drop down:

Next, under the General Settings heading on the resulting Customize page for the tasks list, I clicked the Versioning settings hyperlink:

On the resulting Versioning Settings page, I turned Item Version History on by switching the radio button selection from (the default) No to Yes:

Having made that selection and clicking OK, I was returned to the Customize page for the list.  Handily, among the (loads of) customize options available, one of them is Create column, which hyperlink appears as an option under the Columns heading.  Clicking that hyperlink will surface the Create Column page, and for our purposes, the first two things we want are right near the top in the form of the Column name field, and the Multiple lines of text radio button selection:

Note: You can also create a new column from within the list itself by simply clicking the Create Column button under the Settings drop down.  In the image above I've already filled in the "Comments" name and have made the Mutiple lines of text selection.  While you're not limited to the multiple lines of text option for a comments column by any means, it does seem to be the one that makes the most sense in terms of providing flexibility for your users.

Once you've selected the Multiple lines of text option, the Additional Colum Settings area at the bottom of the form will change accordingly, and it is here that you'll make several decisions regarding the behavior of your Comments column, including whether to require that the column contain information (default is No), which type of text input to allow (default is Rich text), and whether to Append Changes to Existing Text (the default is No, but in order to accomplish our desired result, you'll need to change this radio button selection to Yes):

Having clicked OK to create the new column, your browser will refresh with the Customize page again, and you'll now see Comments listed under the Columns heading as an existing column for the list.  When you edit an existing (or create a new) list item from here on, you'll see the Comments section on the item page:

Since we've already turned versioning on, comments will be associated with version numbers from this point forward.  My next step was to add some comments to existing test items, and add a new item to my list with a couple of different instances of test comments, hoping that the next time I viewed the list I'd see the most recent comment on at least that new item.  Alas, what I discovered was exactly the issue that I was hoping to solve – the dreaded View Entries… hyperlink appeared in the Comments column for each of my test items:

With apologies in advance for keeping you in suspense, I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask that you tune in Tuesday for a couple of different approaches to solving this problem, and actually surfacing the most recent comments directly within the tasks list itself.

Read the entire Working with Tasks Lists series:

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