Understanding the Append Changes to Existing Text Option

Within a SharePoint list or library, you have the ability to add columns that are of type Multiple Lines of Text. Within the settings of this column, you are able to select whether or not you’d like to Append Changes to Existing Text. If you’re unsure, this setting is located in the Additional Column Settings section when you create or edit an existing column.

Now if you select Yes, and click OK, unless you have versioning turned on for the list, you will receive the following error:

You must first turn on versioning in this list before adding or creating columns which append changes to existing text.

So it seems as though versioning is an absolute requirement for this setting. I did a bit of testing and wanted to record my observations:

  1. If you turn on versioning for the list and set this setting to Yes, all that SharePoint will really do is display the ‘updates’ to this field in the edit and display forms. There’s nothing else funky going on behind the scenes. Hence the need to have versioning turned on first; all updates are actually managed through versioning. This setting just lets us see into the versions within the edit and display forms.
  2. Changing this setting back to No after you have already made several updates will NOT result in a loss of data. It will simply mean that SharePoint no longer displays the ‘updates’ in your edit and display forms. To verify if this is true, simply check the versions of the item and you’ll see that your edits for that particular field are still there. This is really easy to test and I encourage you to do so.

If you’ve selected Yes, the key thing to note is that SharePoint will store blank entries in the Version History of that item. If this option is set to No, SharePoint will still record any updates to the field as versions of the item, but it won’t store any blank entries. This is an important consideration if you’re building any custom forms or views for this data and are worried about blank entries showing up.

If you’re a developer, you may want to consider not using this option and if you need to show the ‘updates’ to a column in your edit and display forms, then write it yourself by looping through the versions of a listitem (a topic for another blog post).

If you’re working in SharePoint Designer and you’re wondering why your Multiple Lines of Text column is not displaying correctly, try replacing:

1
<xsl:value-of select="@Updates" disable-output-escaping="yes" />

with

1
<SharePoint:AppendOnlyHistory runat="server" FieldName="Updates" ControlMode="Display" ItemId="{@ID}"/>

I just want to point out that attempting to set the DisplaySize property had no affect. If anyone was able to successfully configure this, please let me know.

That’s really all I wanted to say on this topic. I just wanted to clarify a few things I had noticed. I hope that makes sense to everyone. Ping me if you have any questions.

33 Responses to “Understanding the Append Changes to Existing Text Option”

  1. shaz August 30, 2011 at 5:37 pm #

    Top notch, just what I was after (The Appendonlyhistory bit). Thanks for posting!

  2. shereen August 30, 2011 at 9:43 pm #

    np shaz, glad it was helpful!

  3. Saji October 4, 2011 at 6:39 pm #

    Hi Shereen, thanks for the post. I am looking for a column to capture users updates on a single task. The column should be able to display new and previous updates in a history. Can I use Append Changes to Existing Text for this? Thanks a lot

  4. Becker March 6, 2012 at 4:54 am #

    Awesome! Been looking all over the net for this answer! Thanks a lot!!!

  5. Sandeep January 2, 2013 at 3:12 am #

    This is exactly what I was looking for, Thanks a lot Shereen,

  6. shereen January 4, 2013 at 12:25 pm #

    You are most welcome!

  7. Ali January 8, 2013 at 8:23 am #

    Hi, im new in sharepoint designer 2010 ,i want to ask where and how to replace :

    by

    please i need detailed steps, Thank you in advance

  8. Jeff Welch March 12, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    Thanks for this.
    A related question, do you know how to get the information in previous versions of a row to Export?
    When I open the list in Access or Excel views, they don’t show. -JW

  9. shereen March 18, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    Hi Jeff,

    Not entirely sure to be honest, I suppose you could always write a powershell script to export for you.

  10. Stephanie April 24, 2013 at 7:50 pm #

    Shereen, I have a list we use for “work orders” of a sort.
    In one of the fields, my team can leave updates/comments. However, “periodically” this field seems to go “arye” and when someone updates an unrelated field (not the comments field), the item will show the persons info (semiller at 10:45am) but will COPY the last comment made into the “history.”
    I’m not sure why it does this, and its frustrating and I can’t seem to get an answer from our “SP Admin”….has anyone experienced this in SP2010?

  11. shereen April 26, 2013 at 9:10 am #

    Oh gosh, that sounds really weird. I haven’t experienced this myself. Is this behavior isolated to one of your lists, or can you reproduce it anywhere in the farm?

  12. margoins April 30, 2013 at 11:48 am #

    I had a list that had this turned on. I tried to save that list as a list template that included data. When I created a new list with from the list template the data in the multi-lined text was gone. Is there a way to get this to show up again. i am also using the default forms new, edit, and display.

  13. shereen April 30, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    Wow that’s really strange. What version of SharePoint and what patch level are you at?

  14. Alex September 23, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    Hey shereen,
    I am using AppendOnlyHistory to see the history at the overview of my list. However I would prefer to only see the latest comment made in that field with “Append Changes to Existing Text” on.
    At the moment I use a xsl file attached to the webpart to modify:

    Do you see any solution to that?
    Thanks!
    Alex

  15. Shereen Qumsieh October 28, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

    Hey Alex, did a piece of your comment get cut off? Can you email me at shereen at qumsieh dot ca instead?

  16. Sigurást Sigurðardóttir March 16, 2014 at 6:37 pm #

    Hi, hi,
    I just wanted to add a response regarding the problem Stephanie was experiencing regarding duplacte values in a multiple text column into the history when append changes for the column has been checked. This only seems to happen when a user updates other fields in a “Datasheet view” in sharepoint.

    If you are using only sharepoint the following might help:
    http://mekalikot.blogspot.com/2011/01/how-to-remove-blank-comments-on-append.html

    But I found out that if you are using Infopath forms, you can insert að rule by choosing the “History” value field and then press “Add rule”>”New formatting rule”> Add condition: “HistoryValue is blank”> Choose “Hide this control”.

    Then the form will not duplicate the last history comment again when sharepoint list items are edited in Datasheetview.

    Just wanted to share this since I´ve been looking for a solution for this problem for a while now and finally found the solution :)

    best regards, Sigurást

  17. Shereen Qumsieh April 28, 2014 at 5:38 pm #

    Thanks for posting Sigurast, really appreciate it!

  18. Donal June 16, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

    Hi Shereen,

    Is there a modification I can make to the below so that it shows only the latest comment and not the full comment history?

    Thanks

  19. Donal June 16, 2014 at 12:57 pm #

    btw – I pasted in the full <SharePoint:AppendOnlyHistory… line but it looks like your blog comment system is stripping out anything that looks like code – I think the same thing may have happened to Alex's comment.

    Thanks

  20. Olga Federowa June 23, 2014 at 6:03 pm #

    Dear Shereen, dear Sigurást,

    I was absolutely glad to find Sigurást’s post explaining this irregular SharePoint behaviour creating duplicates in text fields with the text append feature (namely: changing of an unrelated field in Data Sheet View). I was even more impressed that Sigurást was providing even a workaround preventing the creation of duplicates. I have added a rule as described in InfoPath but still duplicates are created when the list is edited in data sheet view. Did I miss some relevant step which is described outside the posting from Sigurást or is the Workaround only applicable to SharePoint 2007 but not 2010? I would be very grateful for a short reply.

    Regards,
    Olga

  21. Vishal July 4, 2014 at 10:26 am #

    How to pass these history data in Work flow?
    My requirement to send a mail along with these data(Comments Fields i have)

  22. Salman Ansari July 16, 2014 at 8:16 am #

    Hi Shereen,

    Thanks for the blog, it has given me an assurance that there is a solution exist to my problem.

    I have same query; I have one field “Justification & Comments” with “Append changes to existing Text” ON. But while doing export to excel this column is blank, its not showing anything.
    The column should be able to display new and previous comments in a cell.

    1. What is the steps to reach HTML page in our SharePoint site where we can do code changes?
    2. Will it be there already ?
    3. I should do these edits in the main file or a copy?

    Appreciate your quick response and help,

  23. Maggie July 16, 2014 at 4:07 pm #

    I have added this to a current status field to show progression for specific tasks. Now in our view the Current Status shows “View Entries…” and you have to go in to a detailed record to see the data.

    Is there a way in a view to show only the latest value for Current Status?

  24. kdstegh August 8, 2014 at 2:34 pm #

    I believe if you select the “plain text” option for the notes or comments field that is appended, it DOES NOT list blank entries. Only seems to do it with either the RICH or ENHANCED text options for the field.

  25. Eric Schrader September 3, 2014 at 10:22 pm #

    If code is being stripped out, play around with the disable-output-escaping=”yes” setting. I forget if yes or no prints code to the screen, since the command is disable. Sometimes its a double negative and confusing :)

  26. sabin October 27, 2014 at 1:58 pm #

    Hello Shereen, I have a issues list in sp2013 with a comments field with Append the text enabled. In display form of the list, it properly date and time stamps the and adds new entries in the form. But when i open that view in an access, that field value is returned empty if i have more than one entry in that field. have you had such issues in past, if yes is there a way to troubleshoot this issue.

    Thank You

  27. Pete December 1, 2014 at 1:35 am #

    Perfect solution to my problem thank you very much for sharing :)

  28. Shawn January 2, 2015 at 7:38 pm #

    the other impact of leaving the setting on Yes is when you export to Excel, you will only get the most recent version text

  29. Jwill April 10, 2015 at 10:47 am #

    I have an experience with this field recently, we are still using sharepoint 2007, i have two lists, both versioning enabled, when i tried to copy an item using SPD workflow, the history gets deleted it became “No existing entries”. Why? how to get it back? because i already deleted the previous…silly

  30. Scott April 20, 2015 at 7:22 pm #

    We’re experiencing issues with the search function. For example, content that is listed in paragraph 1 of a multiline text field is found, but no content seems to be found when searched in any other paragraph in the same multiline text field.

    We also cannot seem to search any content within the appended area of our multiline text field.

    It seems than only the first paragraph of the most resent entry is searchable (until a line break or end of paragraph is encored).

    Any idea what might cause something like this?

  31. Nina January 26, 2017 at 2:44 pm #

    Hi!
    My multiple lines of text does look weird (the line breaks and blank lines are deleted in append only columns) but in SharePoint Designer my code looks like the second part already. Any other ideas? Thanks!

  32. Brian Larsen June 16, 2017 at 12:15 pm #

    This is the solution to the problem I was having. Thank you for this post!

  33. ananda August 31, 2017 at 5:59 pm #

    Hello Shereen,
    I’m trying to Implement “Append Changes to Existing Text Option” in to a Document Library Multi Line Text Field of a SharePoint Online site.

    I’ve made changes in Document Version History > Create major versions [On]
    I’ve made a Site Column > Multi Line Text >Append Changes to Existing Text [On] and use it in the Document Library.

    But not able to achieve the functionality.
    Is it doable ? Can you please help me out on this..
    Thank you
    ananda

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