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Now that we have formatting on comments, we should have a preview on the comments so that we don't mess up. See my comment where I thought I could use full markdown instead of just the three allowed elements. If I had a little preview I would have not messed it up. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that you can't edit comments. I don't think you should be able to edit comments, but now my mistake will haunt me forever.

In brief: anywhere where you can format something that will eventually be in HTML, we should have a preview.

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I don't understand why this request was declined - what was the rationale behind this decision? (It's easy to mess up the formatting for external links, so previews would have been helpful, IMO.) –  Anderson Green Apr 2 '13 at 0:50

5 Answers 5

up vote 1 down vote accepted

There is no preview, but the formatting options are so simple that I hope that a bit of help text will suffice. Click the help link under [add comment] to see a summary of the available formatting options.

commenting help

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People posted several examples that show an actual preview is useful. I just posted a bug report for one such issue: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/203408/… With the possibility of editing a comment (was that introduced later? I can edit all my comments) you can submit, check, edit, but still a preview would be nice. –  David Balažic Oct 29 '13 at 12:14
    
Comments do not render the same as questions or answers, even though the code is the same. It is for example impossible to create newlines or code blocks in comments. The help by the way says that comments use mini-Markdown formatting and it now provides the link Learn more... (which is missing in you answer), but when clicking the link there is no information about mini-Markdown formatting, nor can you find anything about it on Google. –  HelloGoodbye Aug 20 at 8:26

Before my support answer gets deleted (after the received comments, I don't find it useful any more), I'd like to 'fish' @ShaWizDowArd's answer to it:

Comments are considered a minor thing in Stack Overflow - that's a fact that won't change any time soon, due to the fact we are not a forum. The main focus is on the actual posts i.e. questions and answers. If something is meaningful then it shouldn't be in a comment in the first place. So this means no point making complex system for comments. [Sha Wiz Dow Ard, 2012-09-03]

I guess improving the comments functionality could diverge the focus from answers to comments, and I can live with the current system as it is.

(I will forget this argument if I don't write it here, and will come back again in a few months to support this feature again.)

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Just got hit by a strange bit of comment formatting: how was I to know that a comment

… *p*=100 and *q* something else …

would be rendered as

p*=100 and *q something else …

in a comment if it doesn't do this in the preview of an answer? OK, I could still edit the comment, lucky me, but still…

My point is: there are subtilities to how the syntax parser works, even for the most elementary formatting rules like italics, and the best way to ensure that the actual rendering matches the one intended by the user is show it to the user before he submits his text.

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"I could still edit the comment" -- precisely. For the very few instances where something like this occurs, there's your solution. For the 99% case, it would just be yet another UI complication and a huge amount of unnecessary work for something as lightweight as comments. –  balpha Jul 11 '12 at 8:52

When adding my first comment it was absolutely not clear what markup is available to me. Having asked and answered questions (wow, cool, markdown), the first time I filled a comment I stupidly expected that markdown will also be supported for comments. But, when submitting, surprise, all markup is gone, and the comment looked real bad. Plus, ouch, couldn't go back to edit the comment.

As pointed out elsewhere, editing comments presents other problems (like downstream comments not making sense anymore), so I would agree on disallowing comment editing.

A basic usability principle is to always take every opportunity you have to provide as many and and as much visual cues and feedback to the user as is possible, to help with the task at hand -- different users pick up on different cues!

For the case of comments, there are at least these opportunities to increase instant user feedback:

  • it is very easy for users to either not know about or forget that comment formatting is different than q/a formatting. A preview will make that point visually and immediately obvious, thus avoiding the surprise of losing all markup on submit.
  • when typing text, it often happens (for me at least) that I do not see typos immediately when staring at the text I have typed, but when I see the text presented in a slightly different way (e.g. the preview) the typos stand out clear, so I can correctthem before I submit.
  • should you add support for any markup in comments (to be same as for q/a, or a very small subset thereof) a preview would obviously be essential to remind you of which markup works and which doesn't -- in addition, for this I would greatly appreciate a correspondingly reduced formatting bar, even if this were to be only for Bold and Italic.

For me, preview for comments is a no-brainer!

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I have to disagree. The basic requirements for comments which are bold and italic is the same in the markdown. I personally think even the comment text limit is too long. –  Diago Sep 15 '09 at 10:00
    
The comment max length may well be too long (for what comments are intended for here) but what does that have to do with the possibility to preview the comment? What's wrong with each of the reasons I give above in favour of a comment preview? –  Mario Ruggier Sep 15 '09 at 17:41

There's only bold, italics and quotes. Comments are inline. Previewing them honestly won't do much good, as they'll look the same sans font-weight and style. If you comment was particularly bad, delete it, fix the errors and repost.

Also, if you have never seen comments with the markup other than what I outlined above, what made you think that more markup existed?

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I saw a comment with the syntax. I wanted to use the same formatting (quite useful for small code corrections). The logical conclusion for me was that there was all of the markdown available in comments now. –  jamuraa Jul 24 '09 at 21:11
    
The syntax is an inline code block, done with the ` character –  Ian Elliott Jul 24 '09 at 21:12
    
I know the syntax. My point is, there is syntax there, and if it's not just text, you should preview it. –  jamuraa Jul 24 '09 at 21:24
    
But it looks the same. There's no hidden tricks to formatting sexy comments. I don't see what there is to preview. –  Ian Elliott Jul 24 '09 at 21:26
    
At least tell us we can do that. A lot of people have no idea it's possible to add markup to comments. –  alex Sep 15 '09 at 10:01
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You can do hyperlinks in comments, but the syntax is different from standard markdown (e.g. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/24992). –  Kevin Kibler Dec 17 '09 at 16:21
    
"There's only bold, italics and quotes." There are also hyperlinks now. And more could be added in future... –  David Balažic Oct 29 '13 at 12:15

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