An American Editor

March 31, 2014

Lyonizing Word: Deleting Extraneous Carriage Returns in Footnotes and Endnotes

Deleting Extraneous Carriage Returns
in Footnotes and Endnotes

by Jack Lyon

During my editing career, I’ve often run into problems with footnotes and endnotes in Microsoft Word. Many authors have no clue about how notes are meant to work, and Microsoft certainly hasn’t made it obvious. In fact, they’ve made it easy to mess notes up beyond repair.

One mistake authors make is to insert extraneous carriage returns before or after a note. Why? Because they don’t like the positioning of the note on the page, which they’re trying to make “pretty,” not understanding the problems that will cause in editing and typesetting.

You can try to remove the extraneous returns like this:

1. Click View > Draft.
2. Click References > Show Notes.

Your cursor should now be in the Notes pane.

3. Click Home > Replace.
4. In the “Find What” box, enter two paragraph codes:

^p^p

5. In the “Replace With” box, enter one paragraph code:

^p

 6. Click the “Replace All” button.

Word will replace some of the double returns, but not all of them. And if you try to delete some of the remaining returns, you’ll get an error message:

“This is not a valid action for footnotes.”

What’s going on there is that not all carriage returns are created equal. Some of the returns are “special” note returns, and the only way to delete them is to delete the note itself back in the text.

The solution? A macro, of course. But a macro with a twist. As we’ve seen, the macro can’t just find double returns and replace them with a single return. And trying to delete extra returns results in an error. So let’s use that error!

Before running the macro, you must be in Draft view, with your cursor at the top of the Notes pane. (How to get there is explained above.)

In the macro, you’ll see a couple of “comments,” which are explanations or instructions intended for the person reading the code. Comments are preceded by a single quotation mark (‘), which tells the macro to ignore the rest of the text on that line. For example, the first comment in the macro reads:

‘To clean returns in endnotes rather than footnotes, change “.Footnotes” to “.Endnotes” in the following line:

And now, here’s the macro:

Sub CleanReturnsInNotes()
‘To clean returns in endnotes rather than footnotes, change “.Footnotes” to “.Endnotes” in the following line:
NoteCount = ActiveDocument.Footnotes.Count
Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting
With Selection.Find

.Text = “^p^p”
.Replacement.Text = “”
.Forward = True
.Wrap = wdFindContinue
.Format = False
.MatchCase = False
.MatchWholeWord = False
.MatchAllWordForms = False
.MatchSoundsLike = False
.MatchWildcards = False

End With
Selection.Find.Execute
On Error GoTo TrapTheError
While Selection.Find.Found

Selection.MoveLeft
‘The following line may trigger an error!
Selection.Delete
Selection.Find.Execute

Wend
GoTo TheEnd
TrapTheError:

ErrorCount = ErrorCount + 1
Selection.MoveRight
Selection.Delete
If ErrorCount < NoteCount Then Resume Next

TheEnd:
End Sub

Let’s look at some of those lines.

NoteCount = ActiveDocument.Footnotes.Count

NoteCount is a variable; that is, it’s a container that can hold a numerical value—in this case, the number of footnotes in the document. We get that value with the VBA command ActiveDocument.Footnotes.Count.

Selection.Find.ClearFormatting
Selection.Find.Replacement.ClearFormatting

Just to be safe, these lines clear any formatting that might already be applied to the “Find What” and “Replace With” boxes in Word’s find and replace feature.

The following lines, from

With Selection.Find

down to

Selection.Find.Execute

simply find any instances of double paragraph returns. The replacement text is set to nothing, as we’re not trying to replace those returns with anything:

 .Replacement.Text = “”

Instead, we’re going to try to delete the second return, which (unless the notes are really messed up) is a regular return rather than a special note return:

 Selection.MoveRight
Selection.Delete

If it’s a special note return, then trying to delete it will cause an error, and the macro will execute this line—

On Error GoTo TrapTheError

—which sends the macro to this line:

TrapTheError:

Here’s what happens next:

ErrorCount = ErrorCount + 1

Using the variable ErrorCount, we count the number of errors, adding 1 each time we find one. (ErrorCount is initially empty, or zero.)

Selection.MoveRight
Selection.Delete

We move right and delete the next return.

 If ErrorCount < NoteCount Then Resume Next

If the number of errors is less than the number of notes, we’re not through yet, as one of the remaining notes may still have a bad return next to it. So, we tell the macro to Resume operation at the next command after the error occurred. That command is:

Selection.Find.Execute

In other words, Word looks for the next occurrence of a double return. And this construction—

While Selection.Find.Found

Selection.MoveLeft
‘The following line may trigger an error!
Selection.Delete
Selection.Find.Execute

Wend

—ensures that it will keep looking as long as (While) double returns are found. (“Wend” is short for “While End”—it marks the end of the While construction.)

GoTo TheEnd

When no more double returns are found, this line is executed. It exists simply to avoid executing the error trap (TrapTheError and the following lines) after the macro is finished, at which point

TheEnd:

marks the end of the whole operation.

I hope this explanation has helped you understand better how macros work, and in particular how you can actually use Word errors to force Word to do what you want it to do—something that gives me great pleasure.

Even if you don’t understand everything that’s going on in this macro, you can still use it to clean up extraneous returns in notes—something that should make your editorial life a little bit easier.

Jack Lyon (editor@editorium.com) owns and operates the Editorium, which provides macros and information to help editors and publishers do mundane tasks quickly and efficiently. He is the author of Microsoft Word for Publishing Professionals and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

March 3, 2014

Lyonizing Word: The Next Character Macro

Today’s column by Jack Lyon marks the first essay in a new monthly series, “Lyonizing Word.” In this series, Jack will discuss using Microsoft Word, especially macros, to best advantage during the editing process. Please welcome Jack as a new columnist for An American Editor.

______________

Lyonizing Word: The Next Character Macro

by Jack Lyon

Macros and mastering Microsoft Word are keys to success in the business of editing. One can be a great editor and not master either, but it is more difficult, if not near-impossible, to have a successful editing business if you aren’t master of the tools you use.

My plan is to help you master Word and Word macros. My hope is that you will learn from each of my columns and will take the lessons learned and build on them yourself — for example, by building more complex and more useful macros that fulfill a need in your editing business. Here’s my first installment, which I hope you’ll find useful.

The NextCharacter Macro

I often use character codes while finding and replacing in Microsoft Word. What’s a character code? Here are some common ones:

^09 is a tab
^13 is a carriage return
^32 is a space

Especially in a wildcard search, you may have to use such codes because Word’s wildcard search engine can’t handle certain characters and will give you an error message if you try to use them.

But what if you don’t know the code for the character you need? You can probably look it up online or in a computer book, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a macro that would tell you immediately? Just put your cursor in front of the character and run the macro to get the code number. Here’s a macro that will do just that:

Sub NextCharacter()
Dim NextChar As String
NextChar = Str(AscW(Selection))
MsgBox “The code for the next character is” & NextChar
End Sub

That’s pretty simple, but there’s still a lot going on. Let’s look at each line in the macro.

Sub NextCharacter()

Here we tell Word the name of the macro, which is a subroutine (Sub) named NextCharacter. You can use pretty much any name you like, as long as it doesn’t start with a number or include any spaces. And the parentheses at the end of the name? I’ll reserve that discussion for a future article.

Dim NextChar As String

I just made up the name NextChar but not the commands around it, all of which are part of VBA (Visual Basic for Applications), Microsoft’s programming language for Word and other programs in the Office suite. If you want to learn more about “Dim,” “As,” “String,” and other VBA commands, here’s a good place to start: Getting Started with VBA in Word 2010.

In this line, we’re “dimensioning” (Dim) a variable to hold a value (NextChar) that we’ll use later in the macro. A variable is just a placeholder that can hold a value, like X in your high-school algebra class. Dimensioning just tells Word what *kind* of value we’re using — in this case, a string of characters rather than, say an integer, which can only hold numbers.

NextChar = Str(AscW(Selection))

This assigns a value to the NextChar variable. What value? The one produced by this:

Str(AscW(Selection))

“Selection” is the character to the right of your cursor (in the Western world).

“AscW” tells Word to find the ASCII or Unicode value of that character.

“Str” turns that value into a string — that is, characters rather than a value. Why? So we can see those characters in the message box produced by the next line:

MsgBox “The code for the next character is” & NextChar

This displays a message box (MsgBox) that gives us the code for the next character (as stored in NextChar), preceded by the text “The code for the next character is” just to pretty things up.

End Sub

This line simply ends the macro, or subroutine.

Now, here’s how to put this macro (or any other) into Microsoft Word so it will be available when you need it:

  1. Copy the text of the macro, starting with the first “Sub” and ending with the last “Sub.”
  2. Click the “View” tab on Microsoft Word’s ribbon.
  3. Click the “Macros” button.
  4. Type a name for the macro in the “Macro name” box — probably the name used after the first “Sub.” For this macro, that’s “NextCharacter.”
  5. Click the “Create” button.
  6. Delete the “Sub [macro name]” and “End Sub” lines that Word created in the macro window. The macro window should now be completely empty (unless you already have other macros in there).
  7. Paste the macro text at the current insertion point.
  8. Click “File,” then “Close and Return to Microsoft Word.”

To actually use the macro:

  1. Place your cursor directly in front of the character you want to identify.
  2. Click the “View” tab on Microsoft Word’s ribbon.
  3. Click the “Macros” button.
  4. Click the name of your macro to select it.
  5. Click the “Run” button. (If you wanted to delete the macro, you could press the “Delete” button instead.)

After the macro runs, a dialog box will appear with the numeric code for the character. To dismiss the dialog box, click OK.

Now that you know the code for the character after your cursor, you can use that code in Word’s Find dialog. Or you can insert it into your document. To do so, hold down the ALT key and enter the code on the numeric keypad. For example, the code for an uppercase A is 65. You could insert that character by holding down the ALT key and entering 65 on the numeric keypad. Of course, it’s a lot easier just to hold down SHIFT and hit the A key, but what if you need to enter something more esoteric? Microsoft provides a code chart here: ANSI Character Codes Chart.

That’s it! I hope you find the macro useful, and that my explanation here helps you understand a little more about how macros work.

Jack Lyon (editor@editorium.com) owns and operates the Editorium, which provides macros and information to help editors and publishers do mundane tasks quickly and efficiently. He is the author of Microsoft Word for Publishing Professionals and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

November 22, 2013

Articles Worth Reading: More on Ransomware

Recently, I wrote about being attacked by ransomware (see Business of Editing: URLs, Authors, & Viruses). It appears that the problem is getting worse. I thought you would be interested in this short Ars Technica article (and the comments that follow it):

Soaring price of Bitcoin prompts CryptoLocker ransomware price break.”

The ransomware mentioned in the article is even more frightening (to me) than the ransomware I “caught,” and makes clear that it is more important than ever to regularly backup and image my hard drives.

Although the article is short, it is worth spending a few minutes to read. There are a lot of comments, but the first few are enough to emphasize the danger of ransomware and the need to be increasingly vigilant.

November 13, 2013

Business of Editing: URLs, Authors, & Viruses

Filed under: Computers and Software — americaneditor @ 4:00 am
Tags: , , ,

One of the things I most dislike about editing is the need to check author references. Aside from the mishmash manner in which the references are provided (e.g., it is not unusual to find two journal cites, one following the other, in completely different formats), I find that I am becoming increasingly angry at having to check URLs.

The Internet Age has brought many positive things to our world, but one negative is that authors increasingly cite URLs as a reference. Aside from the transience of URLs, they present a hazard to the editor who has to verify them.

Checking URLs has become expensive for me. Why? Because the links provided have become dangerous.

Twice in the last 3 months, I have inadvertently (i.e., unknown to me) downloaded ransomware (malware) to my computer as a result of clicking an author’s reference URL cite. Each of those incidents cost me several hundred dollars to remedy. In addition, my antivirus/antimalware software has protected me against another half dozen potential threats.

I’m not so angry about the threats against which I was protected by my antivirus software as I am about the ransomware ones that cost me money to cure. Fortunately, I have a local computer expert (the person who built and maintains my computers) who is willing to put me at the top of the list when I have a problem. Of course, it also means I pay for the service — and clients are unwilling to reimburse that expense.

What happened is that I clicked on a URL, found it was not good, and then moments later found that I could not access my computer’s primary screen — instead, I was faced with a demand for $300 to unlock my computer. Apparently, this is a regular scam. Sometimes the demand is labeled as coming from the FBI, sometimes it is from Homeland Security. According to my computer expert, if you pay the $300, you get a code to “unlock” the screen but then, sometime down the road, it locks up again and another demand for payment is made.

At least this bit of malware is less vicious than it could be. It only blocks access to the screen; it doesn’t attack data files.

I would be less angry about this if I thought the authors even cared a little bit, but considering that 75% of the URLs cited in the reference list in the latest project were either invalid (the URLs returned “Error 404: File Not Found” errors) or took me to clearly irrelevant sites, I have little faith in the idea that the author cares that at least one of the listed cites caused major problems for me — and would do the same for the reader who decided to check the cite.

We all know that the Internet can be a dangerous place. For the young, it is a source of never-ending bullying; for the elderly, it is a way to lose life savings; and for editors who have to check the validity of a cited URL, it is a way to infect one’s computer and suffer financial loss.

I am also mad at myself for getting caught by this malware twice. I am very careful about how I use the Internet and I make sure that I use up-to-date protection software. I even use the “pro” versions so that I get hourly updates. I also avoid likely troublesome sites. And for years I never suffered an invasion of malware.

Getting caught twice in 3 months is making me wonder what else I can do. It is hard to avoid the risk exposure when I have to check URLs as part of my job. And there is no way to know (at least not that I am aware of) in advance that a particular URL is going to make me wish I was retiring.

One colleague suggested that I simply not check URLs. Unfortunately, I cannot see an ethical way to do that. Instead, I am thinking of adding a clause to my “contract” that basically says, “client warrants that all URLs cited in the manuscript are virus- and malware-free. In the event that verifying a cited URL causes a virus or malware attack on my computer and/or network, client agrees to pay the cost of expert removal plus for my lost work time.”

I suspect that few clients would be willing to accept such a clause, especially if the client is a publisher or service provider rather than the author. But I need to do something, and the additional clause seems the best option at the moment. It would at least make my client aware of the potential for the problem.

For those of you who are interested in seeing what this particular virus is about, here is a link to Yoo Security. Should you get the virus, getting rid of it is a problem because you can’t easily access your desktop and rebooting doesn’t get around the problem. I suggest that you go now to your antivirus software’s website and search for ransomware under Support. There should be an article that tells you the steps you need to take to rid your computer of this malware. Print it and save it. Even if you can’t do it yourself, it may save you some money when you have someone else do the fix.

Have you experienced virus or malware attacks from client files? How did you deal with it?

October 28, 2013

EditTools 5.1 with Code Inserter Released

A new version of EditTools has been released. It is available at wordsnSync and is a free upgrade to current registered users of EditTools.

In addition to some minor bug fixes, version 5.1 includes a powerful, new macro, Code Inserter — an easy way to insert codes into a manuscript — and Assign Hotkeys — a new function that provides an easy way to assign hotkey combinations to EditTools macros.

Code Inserter

The idea behind Code Inserter is to make inserting codes, such as <ca>…</ca>, quick and easy. Code Inserter is a new top-level menu item. The process begins with the Insert Code Manager, which is shown here:

Code Inserter 3

As you can see from the image, there is a lot going on in the Manager. The Manager has the usual Open and New options. You can create a generic coding system for a client or one tailored to a specific project. You can also copy codes from one file to another using the Move/Copy Codes button.

If it is a new file, the Manager will be empty. You enter a name for the code in the Name: field (Chapter Author in the example) and the code that is to appear in the manuscript in the Code: field (<ca> in the example). You then indicate where the code is to be inserted: At the start of the line (At Start), at the location of the cursor (At Cursor), or at the end of the line (At End). You also indicate whether, after inserting the code, your cursor should move to the next line automatically. Finally, you indicate whether an end code is needed.

If you look in the main data field (where all of the codes in the dataset are listed), you will see that Chapter Author is highlighted. By looking across, you can see the name you gave the code, the code that will be entered, and which options you chose for that code (the Xs).

Note the Setup Hotkey button. Hotkeys are a new feature for several of the EditTools macros. This allows you to assign a key combination to run the macro. As shown in the image below, you can assign any keyboard combination to be the hotkey for this macro. (The hotkey runs the Code Inserter macro; it does not open the Manager.)

Code Inserter 4

When you run the Code Inserter macro, it brings up the box shown below, listing all of the codes you have created alphabetically by the name you assigned to the code.

Code Inserter 5

Just click on a code’s name or the checkbox next to the name, and the code will be automatically inserted according to the instructions you gave.

Code Inserter 6

If you also need an end code and checked that option for this particular code in the Manager, this dialog box will appear:

Code Inserter 7

Clicking OK will cause the end code to be inserted where you indicated and your cursor will return to where the beginning code was placed.

Code Inserter 8

As currently setup, to run Code Inserter you either need to click on Code Inserter in the main menu, then Run Code Inserter in the drop down menu, and finally on the code to be inserted. Alternatively, if you assigned a hotkey to the macro, you can press that key combination and then click on the code to be inserted.

However, there is a third option: You can assign to the main menu bar a Run CI button. The Code Inserter menu has an option called Activate “Run CI” Button. If you click this option, a button called Run CI appears in the main menu bar as shown below. Instead of using a hotkey to activate the macro, you can use this button. (The Deactivate “Run CI” Button deactivates this button and removes it from the menu bar.)

Code Inserter 9

Hotkeys

New in version 5.1 is an easy method for assigning certain macros to hotkeys. Not all of the macros are assignable; only those macros that are likely to be used more than once while editing a document. For example, it is expected that the Never Spell Word macro will be run just once on a document, whereas the Enhanced Search, Count, & Replace macro might be run multiple times.

In the case of Toggle, you run its Manager, and for Insert Query, you run the macro to access the Setup HotKey button. The Toggle Manager is shown below:

hot key 1

For those macros that can have hotkeys assigned to them but that do not have Managers, you access the Setup by going to Preferences > Hotkeys > Setup Hotkey for Macro, as shown in the image below. This opens a dialog from which you can choose which macro(s) you want to assign to a hotkey.

hot key 4

The other macros for which hotkeys currently can be set are Enhanced Search, Count, & Replace and Smart Highlighter. Select the macro to which you want to assign a hotkey, and then click the Setup Hotkey button. When done click Close.

hot key 3

These enhancements to EditTools have been under beta testing for a while and the reports are that Code Inserter has made coding quicker, easier, and typing-error free.

Information about these and the other macros included in EditTools is available at wordsnSync. If you haven’t tried EditTools, you should. To download the latest version of EditTools, go to the Downloads page and click on “Download EditTools v5.1″.

If you are interested in the ultimate deal, take a look at “A Special Deal: Editor’s Toolkit Ultimate!” This package includes the latest versions of EditTools, Editor’s Toolkit Plus, and PerfectIt at a significant discount.

September 16, 2013

At Long Last — EditTools 5.0

It has been a long time since the last update to EditTools was released. Macros can be troublesome things, and it has taken longer than I had hoped to make some of the macros perform as I wanted.

EditTools 5.0 is a free upgrade for current registered users of EditTools. It is available at wordsnSync.

EditTools IS Usable By All Editors

Before I describe some of the enhancements in version 5, I want to discuss a couple of common misconceptions about EditTools. First, EditTools is usable by ALL editors — whether the editing subject area is STM, humanities, law, business, fiction, science fiction, or any other area. Alas, too many editors take a look at EditTools and the examples of what various macros do, see that the default labels and the examples are for medical books, and go no farther. The labels and examples are because I do medical editing and I created these macros for use in my work.

However, most of the tabs in the dataset managers are easily renamed. There is a button on the tabs titled Change Tab Name. Just click it and you can change, for example, Never Spell Words to Always Change These Words or to Matilda’s Vocabulary Checker or to whatever has more meaning for you. And the datasets that these tabs use can be named anything you want and contain the information you choose.

Although not all of the macros are usable by every editor in every editing job, most editors who use EditTools have a few macros that are favorites and used regularly; but as is true of any macro collection, there will be macros that are not used at all by a particular editor. Several of the macros that I used with great frequency 5 years ago, I rarely use today (e.g., MultiFile Find and Replace); others I use many times an hour, every day, and on every editing job (e.g., Toggle and Search, Count, & Replace). Some of the macros are intended to be used only once on a document (e.g., Never Spell Word and Journals).

My point is that if you have not tried EditTools because you think it is for STM editing only or because you  see some macros that you think you would never use, you should rethink your view of EditTools and give it a try.

I push EditTools, the Editorium’s Editor’s Toolkit Plus, and Intelligent Editing’s PerfectIt because I know, from my own experience and from the experiences users have related to me, that these three programs can help you increase your productivity, efficiency, speed, and profitability. In the case of EditTools, the need to increase those aspects of my editing is what led to the original creation, and the continuing enhancement of, EditTools.

New in EditTools 5.0

New in version 5 of EditTools are these macros: Cleanup; the complementary macros Convert Highlights to Styles & Convert Styles to Highlights; Change Style Language; and Quote Conversion. In addition, numerous fixes and enhancements have been made to other macros. What follows is a brief introduction to the new macros.

Cleanup

Although I run the Editorium macros that clean up my files, there is always something that Editorium’s FileCleaner (included in Editor’s Toolkit Plus) doesn’t do because no one would have imagined an author doing this. That’s where Cleanup comes into play.

Cleanup lets me design my own cleanup macro. It has a manager that makes it easy for me to enter things I would like changed universally without tracking on. (Cleanup does not offer the Track Changes On option.) For example, if a client wants all em-dashes changed to spaced en-dashes, I use Cleanup to do it.

Cleanup has both a general (things I want done on all files) Manager that saves to a general file, and a Specialty Manager that lets me create a separate, special cleanup file for a particular project or client. Cleanup should be run on a file before any other EditTools macro is run.

For more information, see the explanatory page at wordsnSync.

Convert Highlights & Styles

The Convert Highlights to Styles and Convert Styles to Highlights are paired macros; that is, you run Convert Highlights to Styles before you begin editing and — very importantly — before any other EditTools macro except Cleanup. Convert Styles to Highlights is the very last macro you run and — very importantly — it must be run after Remove All Highlighting.

This macro pair is useful in many situations, but here are the two primary uses I make of the macros.

The first situation is when I receive files from clients where some material has been highlighted and the client wants the highlighting to remain. Before these macros, this was problematic because EditTools relies on highlighting to communicate with the editor. Consequently, the client would receive either a file loaded with extraneous (to the client) highlighting or without any highlighting at all, unless I manually rehighlighted what the client wanted left highlighted, which would be a waste of my time and cost me money.

The second situation, which is the more usual one, is when I receive a file with no highlighting that the client wants kept but that has callouts for figures and tables (or anything else) that have to be brought to the compositor’s attention. In these cases, I like to use highlighting but haven’t been able to unless I searched for and manually highlighted each callout/item after I ran Remove All Highlighting. That wasn’t so bad when there were only a couple of tables or figures, but I have had files with dozens of each called out.

In the first instance, running Convert Highlights to Styles converts all of the client’s highlighting to a style and removes the highlight. Then, when I am done editing and have removed all of the highlighting I have added, I can run Convert Styles to Highlights and the client’s highlighting is back in place. And for callouts, I can apply the style to them so they are highlighted as well.

In the second instance, I search for the first callout and I apply highlight to it. I then run the macro to convert it to a style. This adds a style to the list of styles. Now when I come to a callout, I simply apply the style. Then, when I am done editing and have removed all of the highlighting I have added, I run Convert Styles to Highlights and all of the callouts are in highlight.

For more information, see the explanatory page at wordsnSync.

Change Style Language

I find it frustrating when I receive a file and the document language is not set to English. So, I apply English to the “whole” document only to discover that in many of the multitude of styles the document has, the language has been set to something other than English and/or Spell Check has been turned off in the style, and my attempt to set the whole document to English and turn on Spell Check has failed.

Change Language Style lets me choose a language and choose to turn Spell Check on or off and have that information made a part of each style in the document. Running the macro means it goes through all of the styles in the document and changes all of the language and spell check settings to what I have chosen. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work on all styles. Microsoft has some built-in styles that cannot be changed this way (particularly “attribute styles”), but the change is made to the great majority of styles. It may not be perfect, but it makes life easier and solves a problem editors often encounter in a minimum amount of time.

Quote Conversion

The final new macro is Quote Conversion, which has two submacros: American Quotes to British and British Quotes to American. This macro is simple but effective. If you receive a document that uses British quotes that need to be Americanized, run British Quotes to American. To go from American to British quotes, run American Quotes to British.

EditTools 5.0 adds valuable macros to an already existing array of valuable macros. Check it out and if you are a registered user, be sure to download and install your free upgrade.

July 29, 2013

Making the Decision to Move to Lightspeed

The one thing that is true about technology is that obsolescence is built-in. Whatever you buy today will, after a manufacturer-predefined time, begin to turn to dust.

Before we go further into my tale, let’s sidestep for this bit of music:

As I have mentioned in other posts, I have my computers custom built locally. That allows me to choose higher-quality components from manufacturers that I prefer. One part from here, one from there. More importantly, my local computer shop warrants those components for 3 years.

For years, I replaced our computers every 18 to 24 months. The technology was changing rapidly and by the time 2 years had passed, it was like moving from the paleolithic era of computing to the future. And the more complex my macros became and the more I wanted them to do, the greater the computing power I needed and wanted. The one thing I didn’t want was to have time to twiddle my thumbs while waiting for my macros to do their tasks.

About 6 years ago that changed with the building of our current computers. I had finally hit the top of the hill. Sure changes continued to occur and components continued to improve, but none of them would have had much of an impact on my needs. The machine I had custom built would outlive my editing career – or so I hoped.

As with all such wishes, there was something I forgot: components are designed to fail. Manufacturers don’t want things to live forever, so obsolescence is built-in.

This past week, my boot drive began to fail. I could tell because it took longer and longer to boot up my computer each morning; because where once the computer easily handled a dozen open applications simultaneously, now it struggled to hand three or four; because I would be working and suddenly everything would freeze for a few seconds.

I also began to notice that my data drive also was generating errors. Reads and writes to the data drive (a separate physical drive from my boot drive) took a little bit longer; instructions weren’t being carried out quite as fast (or so it seemed) as in previous times.

Although these two hard drives were high-quality drives when purchased, time had passed them by. All traditional-type hard drives have moving parts, parts that eventually wear out. The one thing I didn’t want to happen was for the drive to start writing data to bad sectors, causing corruption, so I took the hints I was being given and called my local computer shop.

It took 3 hours of downtime, but in that time, I went from what now seems like crawling to near the speed of light. It previously took a little more than 90 seconds to boot up; now it takes less than 20 seconds. The cure was not only new drives but going to solid-state drives (SSDs).

Unfortunately, SSDs are expensive, at least double the price of traditional drives. But with that increased price comes compactness (four SSDs fit within the same space as one traditional drive), no moving parts to wear out (although these drives do eventually lose the ability to write to the disks, they, supposedly, never lose the ability to read from them), no heat generation, and no noise (no moving parts to make noise).

An advantage of custom building my computers is the ease with which these types of repairs can be made. As I have noted previously, all of my hard drives are hot swappable, which means that I can pull them out of their slot without turning off and opening the computer, and I can put a different hard drive in the slot and access it. It makes for great backup and for easy storage when I travel. It also means that my computer shop could do the repair in my office — I didn’t need to be without the computer for more than a few hours. (Most of the time I was “down” was spent cloning my old drives to the new SSDs. The physical replacement of the drives and getting Windows to recognize the new drives took only a few minutes.)

Now that I have new primary hard drives, I am thinking about updating my remaining traditional hard drives (six of them: one for storage of completed projects; one to hold my imaging backups; four in my NAS [network-attached storage] box for my daily backups) to SSDs. I am unlikely to do that upgrade soon because of the cost and the lack of real need. None of those drives get the use that my two primary drives receive.

The upgrades I will be doing in the coming few months are upgrades to my motherboard, processor, RAM, and video cards. With the new SSDs, my Journals macro that took nearly 26 minutes to run through 15,000 dataset entries on a list of 500+ references now takes closer to 11 minutes (see Business of Editing: The Logistics of Large Projects). It will be even faster once I upgrade the motherboard, processor, and RAM to ones that can take full advantage of the SSDs.

With my computer working great with just the SSD upgrade, why would I consider spending even more money to upgrade these other components? Because I will get a high return on my investment — I will make back the cost of the upgrade in just a couple of projects. Remember, I charge by the page so that the faster and more efficiently I can process data, the higher my effective hourly rate will be (see Thinking About Money: What Freelancers Need to Understand).

In other words, I am investing in my business. My pre-SSD computer configuration performed well for about 6 years. I received an excellent rate of return on that investment. Now it is time to invest for the next 6 years (or longer). When I make decisions about whether to buy new equipment/components, the biggest factors in my decision-making process are the answers to these questions: “Will it help to increase my effective hourly rate?” and “If it will, how quickly will it do so?”

If the answer to the first question is no, then I proceed no further. The only time I will buy is when I must because of, for example, a component failure. I haven’t bought a tablet for work because a tablet can neither improve my speed/efficiency nor positively affect my effective hourly rate. If the answer to the first question is yes, but the answer to the second question is a time frame that I think is too long, such as 20 or more projects or 1 year or longer, then I also do not buy. The return on investment is not sufficient to justify the investment. I need to wait for further technological improvements.

In the case of the hard drives, the decision had to be made whether to buy traditional drives or the SSDs. I decided to buy the SSDs because the answer to the first question was yes and to the second it was no more than 2 projects to recoup the price differential; in other words, it made fiscal sense to spend more now to reap long-term benefits.

What analysis do you do when deciding whether to buy new equipment or to upgrade your current equipment or even what type of equipment to buy?

May 6, 2013

Business of Editing: Preparing for Disaster

I run a business; I am a professional editor; I work full-time as an editor. In addition, I have several professional editors who work for me. All of us rely on my ability to obtain work and keep clients happy and returning. Fortunately, I have been successful at this for many years.

Yet always in the back of my mind is a worry. I worry about what will happen should I be struck by a virus, by malware, or have equipment failure. I worry because my business depends on my equipment.

My worrying was much greater in my early years than it is today. The years have seen significant improvements in both hardware and software. Additionally, over the years I have learned how best to prepare myself for an emergency.

Let me begin with hardware. Over the years, it was my practice to replace our computers every 18 to 24 months. Technology was making great strides and I wanted to stay abreast — not cutting edge but just one step behind. In the very beginning, I bought, as most people do, off-the-shelf computers. I learned very quickly that I was throwing away my money.

I have never owned an Apple product. I do understand why people swear by Apple computers, but I look at Apple computers and see a high price for mediocre equipment. I do not mean that negatively. Apple’s mediocre components can be much better than many of the off-the-shelf computers’ components. What I do mean is that for the same or a little more money (or even a little less money), I can have a custom-built computer that uses the best-quality individual components. Apple’s mediocre quality is in comparison to high-quality custom-built computers. The other problem with Apples has been the behind-the-times support for Word’s macro language. I rely on macros and Microsoft’s Apple support has always been half-hearted, and Apple itself hasn’t shown much interest in supporting Microsoft VBA on its computers. The combination of inability to customize my computer and lack of robust macro support led me to the Windows world, where I have remained.

What I want are computers that meet my future needs, not my current needs. I also want computers that work with me to prevent a disaster from destroying my business. Thus, I have our computers custom built. Our current computers are now about 5 years old and still going strong (although I am thinking about a couple of upgrades this summer, even though the upgrades will make no visible difference in my work).

There are two things that are absolute must-haves for my computers: (1) an Antec (or similar) case and (2) hot-swappable hard drives. The Antec case is required because I like quiet and want superior component cooling. Although expensive, the Antec cases are very quiet and offer superior cooling. If I unplugged my NAS (network-attached storage) box, you would be able to hear a pin drop in my office because my computer is so quiet, and I’ve never had to worry about hardware failure from overheating. This is purely a luxury must-have as the case doesn’t enhance performance; it just eliminates annoying sounds and minimizes the risk of component overheating.

But the hot-swappable hard drives are very important. These are drives that can be easily and quickly (in a couple of seconds) be removed from the computer and replaced with another drive. It isn’t so much the being replaced with another drive that is important as that I have duplicate drives — one in safe storage, the other in the computer — which minimizes the risk of downtime and lost work. And when I travel, I can remove all of the hard drives and put them in a safe deposit box and not worry about something happening in my absence that would put me out of business (or let thieves get hold of my data). (Removable hard drives are available aftermarket for Macs.)

The removable drives also let me take weekly images of my hard drives on a dedicated drive as a way to protect against a disaster that would require all new drives or a new computer. The image would let me recreate my computer in minutes. Combined with Carbonite‘s remote backup, which occurs automatically every time I modify a file, I can recreate my current computer in a few hours. (Carbonite is available for Macs.)

Also important hardware-wise are my triple-monitor setup and the NAS box. The NAS box has four hard drives (two paired sets) in it and is responsible for storing my daily backups. I like easy and automatic backups, so I use Backup4All, which backs up the files into standard zip files. The NAS box lets me store several months worth of backups. (NAS boxes are available for use with Macs.)

Software also plays an important role in my disaster preparations. I have already mentioned two, Carbonite and Backup4All, and I use the built-in imaging software that comes with Windows 7 to do the disk imaging. But a very important program is PC Tools’ Registry Mechanic. I have been using the program for a number of years and it has come to the rescue a couple of times. I have it run every day after bootup. What I especially like about Registry Mechanic is that it creates a restore point so that I can restore a problem Registry to an earlier one that was problem-free. To do the restore takes a few seconds – a couple of mouse clicks and a reboot.

Being able to go back in time and replace my Registry is an important tool in fighting malware. Malware often changes entries in the Registry and sometimes it is very difficult to remove the malware from the Registry. Restoring an older version of the Registry, from before the malware invasion, often can solve the problem. In all my years of using a computer, I have never had to completely erase my boot drive and reinstall all my software in order to remove a virus or malware or to fix a problem Registry.

I also use BitDefender Internet Security for antivirus and firewall protection. Over the years, I have used various antivirus and firewall software programs, including free ones, but for the past 5 years, my choice has been BitDefender. I am not a fan of free antivirus software. It is not that such software cannot be good, but I know from my own business that I cannot give away my services and survive. So there has to be something that is held back or that doesn’t work as well with the free versions; otherwise, what would induce you to upgrade to a paid version? And if there is limited income coming in to an antivirus/antimalware company, how does the company generate enough income to constantly update the virus and malware signatures? (One exception may be Microsoft’s AV software because Microsoft generates a lot of revenue from other products.)

As I’ve said before, if my computer is not working, I’m not working. If I’m not working, I’m not earning any money and I’m not meeting my client’s needs. It is not uncommon to read about an editor whose computer got infected with a virus and now is having problems. I can say that in all my years of editing on computer — and I started back in the late 1980s — I have never been down because of virus or malware invasion. I attribute this to using the right tools in the right combinations.

Passwords also concern me. I worry about password theft. I don’t care if someone steals my password to Consumers Report, but I do care if they steal my banking passwords or the passwords to my websites and e-mail. Consequently, I use RoboForm to store and input my passwords. I have been using it for many years, since version 1. Letting RoboForm enter the information avoids the problem of keyloggers grabbing my password as I type.

Finally, as we have discussed in previous articles, I use an online stylesheet. This stylesheet is at my website. If my website goes down, I’m in trouble. Over the years I have tried several different website hosts. About 9 years ago, I moved to 1and1, where I have remained. In the past 5 years, my website has been unavailable a total of 2 hours (approximately), with one exception, which was my fault, when it was down nearly 4 hours while 1and1 restored my website. (In doing a programming upgrade, I accidentally erased all of the coding of the live site rather than of a sandbox site. I called 1and1 tech support — they always answer with a live person within 2 or 3 minutes, and usually less — and it took them a few hours, but they did fully restore my websites.)

Although some of the programs may not be available for Apple computers, I suspect that equivalent programs are. We rely on our computers to earn our living, which means we should be taking those steps necessary to ensure that any downtime is minimal — and that all our data is safe.

What special steps do you take?

(Disclosure: I have no financial interest in any of the products mentioned. They are products that I have purchased and use.)

March 6, 2013

When Editors and Authors Fail

Filed under: Computers and Software,Editorial Matters — americaneditor @ 4:00 am
Tags: , , ,

There is at least one area of the manuscript process in which authors and editors equally fail: Their lack of mastery of the tools of their trade, especially Microsoft Word.

What brings this to mind are recent queries on several fora by editors and authors asking how to accomplish what I view as basic procedures in Word, as well as queries asking how to do something in Word for which they already own an add-in to Word, such as EditTools or Editor’s ToolKit Plus, that easily accomplishes the task. I would probably have ignored those fora queries were it not for a manuscript I was asked to look at which was a nightmare of formatting.

What is it about text boxes that attracts authors? What is that compels authors and editors to create yet another new style in a futile attempt to make the manuscript look visually like what they think it should look like as a typeset product? What is it about Word that seduces authors and editors into needing to try “features”? What is it about the tools we use that entices us to take the lazy way of learning how to use them?

Word is a great product except when it is the bane of my existence. I used to curse Microsoft every time I received a manuscript that was riddled with poor formatting choices and myriad styles — more styles than there are pickles in the universe, or so it seemed, and certainly more than needed – as part of the basic (Normal) template. Now I don’t curse Microsoft so much because I realize that it is us end users who succumb to the lure of Word’s “exotic” options who are the primary problem.

Have you ever wondered why Word isn’t flagging a word as misspelled when you think it should? Some basic possibilities that every Word user should know and should check before threatening to punch out their monitor are: Is spell check turned off for the document or for text to which a particular style is applied? Is the wrong language governing the manuscript? Yet, much too often neither the editor nor the author has checked these possibilities.

The problems begin with the author of the document. Every author should know how their manuscript is going to be processed. Is it going to be edited and then typeset in a program like InDesign? If yes, then why worry about “formatting” the manuscript to make it look like you want it to look when published? The reality is all that work will be for naught, and 99% of the time will be done wrong anyway.

If you are writing a manuscript that will be published in English, shouldn’t you make sure that English — not French or Spanish — is the language choice for the document? I am always amazed when I receive a manuscript  that is to be published in English and the language preference is French. Of course, the very first thing an editor should do is verify that the correct language module is being applied by Word and fix it if it is wrong — yet, I often receive for review a document that a client has had edited only to find that the wrong language module is applied.

And why text boxes? Of all the things that are wrong about Word, the text (and graphic) boxes are the absolute worst. Text boxes don’t stick in place; text boxes do not break over pages; if the text box is too big for the page or not big enough to display all of the text it holds, it gives no clue that there is hidden in-box text; text boxes obscure text and other text and graphic boxes — basically, text boxes are evil and not easy to get rid of. Need to box some text? Use a table cell. It works just as well and has none of the evil features of a text box.

More importantly for the author: If the author is paying the editor, the author will save money by not using text boxes because you can’t convert a text box to text like you can convert a table. To avoid the evils of text boxes, the editor has to find each text box, select the text, copy it, paste it outside the text box, then delete the text box — and hope that all of the text was copied.

I know it is called a text box by Microsoft; that doesn’t mean it should be used to put text in a box!

Consider the styles that you create. Is it really necessary to have 18 of the same style with the only difference being the amount the text is condensed or expanded (and why expand or condense the text?) or the fraction of an inch of spacing there is between lines (why not have equal spacing between all lines?). Of course, the editor should be cleaning out excess styles, but there are usually so many, we all give up and let it be someone else’s problem.

What is being missed from this picture is that if the manuscript is going to be professionally typeset, all of these efforts by the author and/or editor to “design” the manuscript and make sure that what is wanted on a page actually displays in Word on a single page are wasted. All will be ignored by the designer and the typesetter; they will use programs and tools appropriate to the design and composition function, such as InDesign, not Microsoft Word, which is a strong word processor but a very weak composition and design engine.

There is much more, but you have the idea. The real problem is that neither author nor editor has taken the time to master the basic tool of their trade. I know editors who use Word but do not even have a single dedicated reference book for the version of Word they are using. They prefer to stumble through, thinking that their role is limited and so they need limited features. Perhaps they do only need limited features, but they can never know if there is another feature that would make their job easier if they were aware of it in the absence of stumbling across it. (When I buy a new version of Word, I also buy several different manuals and spend a full day going through them and the new version.)

Authors use text boxes without thinking about the feature because they think to themselves “I want this material boxed” and so they use a text box — after all, why would it be called a text box if it wasn’t intended to be used to box text? Authors want text to be in columns so they use tabs (or worse, spaces) to try to align the material, when a table would be so much better. (Did they not ever notice that the text they have so beautifully aligned using tabs or spaces is no longer aligned when they change computers or fonts? Or that it often wraps and becomes confusing when moved to another computer?) Why not use the table feature? Usually authors tell me it is because they do not want lines (rules) around the material. OK, but tables do not have to have visible rules.

Authors and editors fail to create the best and least-expensive document to process because neither understands Word’s functions. If both took some time to master the basic tool of their trade, the author could save some money, and the editor could focus more on the editing and less on the peripheral matters that take up so much our time (and thus either raises the author’s cost or decreases the editor’s effective hourly rate and profit).

A lost point is that a feature’s name is not always indicative of what the feature is best used for. To know what feature to use, one must be knowledgable about the tool and all of its features. An editor should be asking, “Why do I need to ask in a forum how to change the language preference from French to English? Why don’t I know how to do this already?”

When it comes to formatting a Word document, less is infinitely better than more.

February 27, 2013

Losing Money the Paper Way

A reader of An American Editor asked: “Can you comment on copy editing on paper vs. MS track changes? What do most clients expect and is there a difference in your opinion on the quality of the editing?” I had thought these were matters long resolved, but apparently not.

I began my freelance career in 1984, which was the dawn of the computer age as regards online editing. This was before Microsoft Windows and was in the days when WordPerfect ruled what world there was to rule in word processing. This was still the age of editing on paper.

By 1985, I was refusing to accept freelance editing work that was on paper. In fact, I advertised — including with graphs and charts – that I could save clients money by editing online rather than on paper and that I could improve consistency, reducing EAs (editor alterations), the correction of which the client would be charged by the compositor a handsome sum (each EA and AA [author alteration] bore a charge).

Within a year, I had convinced several clients that online editing was the way to go and I was one of the very few editors who had that capability or — more importantly — who was willing to edit online rather than on paper. And so my business boomed.

It was many years, however, before paper editing was truly abandoned by publishers. In fact, I recall taking an Editorial Freelancer’s Association class on editing with several of the people who worked for me (the hope was that I would learn something I didn’t already know about the editorial process) and being shocked when, in response to a question, the instructor said it wasn’t necessary to learn how to edit online because few authors provided digital files and few publishers were encouraging the move away from paper. The instructor claimed online editing was a fad that would pass. And so no time at all was spent on electronic editing.

Needless to say, the instructor and those who shared the instructor’s thinking were wrong and were rapidly being left behind as the technological revolution hit even staid publishing houses.

I tell you this history because there is a reason why authors and publishers migrated from a paper-based world to a digital world: technology really was everyone’s friend when it came to publishing.

I made the transition early because I quickly recognized that paper-based editing was a way to lose money, not make it. Recall the recent article Editing Tools: MultiFile F&R and Search, Count, Replace. In paper-based editing, how would you find, for example, every instance of the phrase “, and on days” in both the chapter you are working on and in the ten preceding chapters that you have already edited? Or how about ascertaining whether an acronym is repeated in a chapter, how many times it is repeated, and whether the spelled out version also exists, and how many times it exists?

With the computer it is easy, but on paper it is unlikely you will find every instance and to do so would require an excessive amount of time. If you have to do such searches frequently, in paper-based editing, you would rapidly exhaust your client’s budget and thus your prospects of earning a decent return for your efforts.

Of course, searching for items that need correcting is just one facet of editing that a computer can do better than paper-based editing. Let us not forget the “what-you-expect-is-what-you-see” phenomenon. I discussed this some time ago in The WYSIWYG Conundrum: The Solid Cloud. It is not unusual for an editor to see the correctly spelled word because it is expected when what is actually written is misspelled. In paper-based editing, too often the error remained and was picked up by the proofreader, which resulted in an EA. Online editing doesn’t cure the problem, but does help minimize it with spell checking.

(Another phenomenon of the EA/AA allocations in paper-based editing was that if there were too many, the publisher reserved the right to charge the editor or the author for the excess, thereby, in the editor’s case, reducing the editor’s earnings. The usual penalty for the editor was, however, simply to not be hired again and not told why.)

No matter how you cut it, paper-based editing is time-consuming, subject to more errors not being caught, and likely a money-losing proposition for the editor unless the client has an unlimited budget and is willing to spend it. Because paper-based editing is slower, schedules have to be longer, but in my experience few clients consider that need.

As between paper-based editing and online editing, I do not think there is much of a contest. I wouldn’t accept a paper-based editing project nor would I recommend someone else accept one. Yet, there is a caveat to this: If the paper-based project is, for example, a five-page journal article, then some of the benefits of online editing are not so overwhelmingly beneficial. Most of the benefits of online editing as compared to paper-based editing are evident with long documents such as books and reports. This is not to imply that there aren’t benefits for short documents as well, just that the benefit-to-nonbenefit ratio comes closer to 1:1 the shorter the document to be edited. In my case, I would not accept a paper-based project regardless of length.

As for what most clients expect, I think today that most expect an editor to edit online, not on paper. Considering that few authors submit a paper manuscript as opposed to a digital manuscript, client expectations would seem to me to follow; that is, digital file equals online editing. Publishers today generally will not accept a paper manuscript, except in very exceptional cases.

Tracking an editor’s changes in Microsoft Word seems to be the standard today. Publishers give authors the option to accept or reject changes, and tracking makes it easier to know what changes have been made. I know that in my business we always edit with tracking on.

The final question was addressed to the quality of the editing. This is a very complex question. No matter whether a project is paper-based or online, in the first instance, the quality of the editing depends on the skill of the editor — the more skilled the editor, the better the quality of the editing.

I think the real question is less addressed to quality than to consistency and accuracy, which are part of quality but also separate. I think that consistency and accuracy are much greater in online editing than in paper-based editing because there are so many tools available to help increase consistency and accuracy, tools that are not available for paper-based editing.

What are your thoughts regarding paper-based versus online editing?

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