Annotating, Commenting, and Reading Groups


Annotations are a means for readers to engage with the texts they read on Manifold. Annotations can be private and serve as one’s own marginalia, left publicly to foster conversation among other readers, or they can be associated with reading groups, described later in this section.

If you’re logged into Manifold, when you highlight text with your cursor a pop-up menu will appear providing you various options to interact with the text, along with the current reading group to which you will commit your interactions—i.e., annotations or highlights.

By default each reader’s account is associated with two reading groups: My Public Annotations and My Private Annotations. Interactions associated with the My Public Annotations group are public to everyone viewing the text, regardless of whether they have created an account on the instance or not. Interactions associated with My Private Annotations are only viewable to the reader who makes them.

Annotation Modal

To change the group you’re committing your annotation or highlight to, simply click on the Current Goup listing at the bottom of the pop-up. This will show you all the groups with which you are a member. By selecting a new group or by clicking the Back button you will return to the original pop-up menu, where you can choose to annotate or highlight the passage you selected.

Default Groups
In addition to the two default groups, this reader is also a member of two additional groups: Peer-Review Team and Terence's Treehouse.

If you select Annotate, a sliding drawer will open from the right where you can compose an annotation that will be associated with the passage in question.

Reading Group Options
In the annotation drawer you have another opportunity to change the group to which you are committing your annotation.

Once you have clicked Save, your annotation will be attached to that project.


Commenting is a related but distinct functionality from Annotating. Unlike annotations, comments refer to responses to annotations. Comments can themselves be replied to and are set off visually from those they are responding up through four levels of nesting. After the fourth level, responses to comments aren’t visually distinct, but replies are always possible, regardless of how deep a conversation may go.

Readers can comment on any user’s annotations left to their My Public Annotations group as well as any annotations left to groups of which they are a member. The one exception—comments are disabled in Anonymous groups. See the Group Privacy section for more.

Comments can also be applied to project resources. See the resource section to learn more about how comments function in the resource space.

Note. Comments are not collected in the Visibility Menu.

Reading Groups

Reading groups allow readers to annotate texts as a cohort. This features is geared toward classroom and peer-review use cases. With reading groups, readers can create public, private, and anonymous annotation groups; invite others to their groups; and manage group membership. When engaging with a text, readers can associate their annotations with those groups of which they are a member.

Readers who create a group are considered the group’s moderator. Those who join a group are group members. Presently a group can have only one moderator. The following sections detail reading groups along the following lines:

Accessing Reading Groups

To access reading groups, click the user profile icon in the upper right and select “Manage Groups” from the dropdown. Once selected you will be taken to the Manage Reading Groups Page.

Manage Groups
Accessing reading groups from the Manifold landing page.
Manage Groups Reader
Accessing reading groups from within a text.

Alternatively, if you highlight any text in the reader a modal will pop up indicating the current group under which your annotations and highlights will be associated.

Reading Group Modal

When the current group name is clicked the modal will display all the reading groups which your account is associated. The last entry after the list is a link to the Manage Groups page.

Current Group Modal

Note. You need to have an account on the Manifold instance in question and be logged in, in order to see the Manage Groups option.

On this Manage Reading Groups page you can create new reading groups, join a group, and see a listing of those groups you moderate or are a member.

Group view

Each group in the list includes a tag beside its name indicating whether the group is Public, Private, or Anonymous. The listing also indicates your relationship to the group—Moderator or Member—the number of members in the group, and a summary of the number of annotations and highlights the group has made.

Clicking on a group entry in this listing will direct you to a specific group’s dashboard, where you can see and sort through various engagements the group members have made across texts.

Creating a Reading Group

To create a new reading group, navigate to the Manage Reader Groups page and click the Create New Reading Group button.

A drawer will open from the right with fields prompting you define the dynamics of the group:

New Group

Group Name

A group name is required to create a new reading group; however, the name can be modified at any time.


Groups have three privacy options—public, private, and anonymous—that function along the following lines:

  • Public. Annotations and highlights made in public groups are viewable to everyone—even to readers who have not signed up for an account on the Manifold instance in question—but only group members are able to leave annotations and highlights under the auspices of the group.
Public Annotation
When a reader annotates in a group, the group name—here “Jojo’s Book Club”—is included as a tag beside the annotation.

Annotations made in public groups can be used by instructors to guide classroom conversation across sections, as a means to enhance/transform texts into scholarly editions, to organize engagement around public happenings occurring on campus or at a particular institution (e.g., Frankenreads).

  • Private. Annotations and highlights made in private groups are only visible to other members of the group. Private groups can be employed in the classroom setting as a means to facilitate discussion among specific students in a safe environment, without concern of unaffiliated members interrupting the flow and dynamic of that space.
Private Group
Private groups (which also encompass Anonymous groups) are designated with a lock beside their name in the group selection modal.
  • Anonymous. Like Private groups, only fellow group members can see those annotations and highlights that have been committed to the group. Additionally the identities of group members are masked from one another—save the group moderator—allowing for texts to be peer-reviewed in the system.
Anonymous Annotation
Here one member of the group reviews another member's annotation without being able to see their identity.

Note. Comment threads are disabled in Anonymous groups. However, readers annotating anonymously can still engage in cross-communication by adding an annotation of their own to the passage in question by way of the Annotation button, located below the quoted annotated passage:

Annotate Button

Invitation Code

The invitation code serves as a key to accessing a group. The code supplied in this field is automatically generated by Manifold upon the group’s creation, and it can be modified or swapped out entirely for a manually input key that may be more pertinent or meaningful.

The code can be shared with those intended to be part of the group—via email, text, etc.—and recipients can input it on the Manage Reading Groups Page to join the group:

Enter Code

Note. Any manual alterations made to the code on this page will be reflected in the corresponding Invitation URL, described below.

Clicking the Regenerate button on the right will create a new invitation code for the group, rendering the previous access code inactive, though users who joined the group previously with an old code will still be members of the group.

To remove a reader from a group see the Removing a Member section.

Invitation URL

An alternative means for readers to join a group is by way of the Invitation URL, which can be sent out via email or included on a classroom homepage. Readers who click on this link—whose value is determined, in part, by the active Invitation Code value–will be taken to the Manifold instance and asked to confirm their intent to join the group.

Readers who aren’t logged in or don’t have an account on the instance will receive an error message when they click the link, indicating they don’t have permission to access the group. Once they log in or create their account the page will resolve to the group confirmation prompt.

Invitation Security

Security around the reading group invitation system is presently “soft.” If a group moderator selects an invitation code already in use they will be alerted that the code is already taken—a tell that provides them the means to join a group to which they were not invited.

Taken Code

To ensure other moderators do not intrude on your group, we suggest employing an invitation code not easily guessed by others and enabling notifications, discussed in the next section.


When the Notifications field is checked, Manifold will alert the group moderator via email when someone joins the group. This can be used as a guard to ensure only those readers targeted for the group become members.

To remove a reader from a group see the Removing a Member section.

Join a Reading Group

There are two ways for readers to join a reading group: by inputting an invite code or by clicking on an invite URL. Both means are supplied by way of the group moderator. Readers cannot presently request access to join a group within Manifold.

Readers who have been provided an invite code can join a group by selecting “Manage Groups” from the user profile dropdown on the instance’s landing page and entering it in the “Join a Group” field:

Enter Code

Alternatively, if the group moderator has encoded the invite URL on a class homepage or in an email, readers need only click the link to be taken to the instance to confirm their interest in joining the group.

Note. See the Invite URL section for concerns that may arise for readers click on an invite link and who aren't presently logged in or don't have accounts on the instance.

Pro tip: the phrase that follows join= in the invite URL is the group’s invite code and can be input by readers on the Manage Groups page. In the following example, the invite code would be I05TAPB9.


Leave a Reading Group

To leave a group, navigate to the Manage Reading Groups page and click the name of the group you want to leave from the list of groups you’re currently enrolled.

Group List

You will be directed to the group’s dashboard, displaying high-level information about the group as well as a paginated collection of the group’s engagements with texts across the instance. Select the “See All Members” button on the top-right:

Member Button

On the group’s member list there is a “Leave Group” button that will allow you to remove yourself from the group. Once clicked you will be prompted to confirm your desire to leave the group.

Leave Group

Note. Any annotations or highlights a reader commits to the group prior to their leaving will still be accessible to remaining group members.

Deleting a Reading Group

When deleting a public reading group, all annotations and highlights a user made within the auspices of a public reading group will remain in their My Public Annotations group. Annotations and highlights made in private or anonymous groups will persist for each individual reader in their My Private Annotations group.

For details about the process of deleting a group, see the Edit Group section below.

Remove a Reading Group Member

Reading group moderators can selectively remove individual members from their groups. When a group member is removed they will not receive any notice of their removal; they will simply not have the option to commit their annotations/highlights to the group.

See the See All Members section below for the process of removing a reading group member.

Managing Your Reading Groups

The Manage Reading Groups page includes a list of all the groups of which you are currently associated. Clicking the name of any group listed there will take you to that reading group’s dashboard.

Group List

The first element of the dashboard is the group’s name. If you’re the moderator of the reading group there will be two buttons to the right: Edit Group and See All Members. If you’re only a member of a reading group, only the See All Members option will be available.

Dashboard Edit Options

Edit Group

Clicking the Edit Group button will open a drawer from the right of the screen that allows a group moderator to reconfigure any of the group options that were set when it was created, from adjusting it’s name to changing notification settings.

Additionally, above the Group Name field, there is an option to delete the group entirely. See Delete Group section above for the implications group deletion has on annotations and highlights that were committed to the group.

Delete Group

Location. Navigate to the Edit Group button from the Manage Groups Page and then clicking on the group name in question from the list available, below the Join a Group field. On the resulting group dashboard, the green Edit Group button will be on the right of the group name. This option only appears when you're the moderator of the group you're viewing.

See All Members

The See All Members option allows members to leave, moderators to remove, and everyone to see what other members have done in the group.

If you’re a member of the group you’ve selected the See All Members option, there will be a “Leave Group” button that will allow you to remove yourself from the group. The Leaving a Group section above details this process.

From this view group moderators can selectively remove members from the group by clicking the Remove button beside their name.

See All Members
Moderators of Anonymous Groups will see in the list of members both the member's name as well as their anonymous identity placeholder in parentheses.

Group moderators and members can click on the names of any group member from this view to see all of that user’s annotations and highlights they’ve committed to the group.

Location. The views described here can be accessed from the Manage Groups Page and then clicking on the group name in question from the list available, below the Join a Group field. On the resulting group dashboard, the green See All Members button will be on the right of the group name.

Group Information

Below the name and Edit/See All Members options, the dashboard displays high-level information about the group—it’s type (public, private, anonymous), your role in relation to the group (moderator or member), how may members are presently a part of the group, as well as the number of annotations and highlights the group has maded in total across the projects in the instance.

High-Level Group Information

Group Interactions

Below the high-level information is a paginated, interactive list, documenting all of the reading group member’s interactions with the texts across the instance. In this space members can sort to see the work done on specific texts or by specific users—or both. Thus, if you’re curious to see what everyone has thought of Moby Dick, you can select that text from the first dropdown (labelled A). If I want to see what only a particular group member thought it, you would adjust both dropdowns. That said, it is only possible to select one (or all texts) and only one group member as sorting characteristics at a time.

When the list is sorted to a reader’s preference they can peruse and then select any item in the resulting list to take them to the location of the annotation or highlight to engage with the material further.

Group Sorting Options
A, readers can sort the list to display reading group interactions on specific texts and/or B, by specific members of the group.