In the last post on this subject, I discussed two hardware matters that increase efficiency: multiple monitors and XKeys (and forgot to mention my Logitech programmable mouse). Today, I explore (albeit very cursorily) some of the software I use — in conjunction with the XKeys — to increase my efficiency and productivity. All of the software involves using Microsoft Word macros and center on being able to use XKeys for one-button access to them.
The software programs are from a variety of vendors, including myself (wordsnSync) and include the following
- various editing macro programs created by Jack Lyon of The Editorium
- Perfect It from Intelligent Editing
- EditTools from wordsnSync, which is my software and company
- Macro Express from Insight
Each of the software applications provides its own productivity benefits, but all, except Macro Express, are based on Microsoft VBA. Not included in the list is Microsoft Word’s built-in VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) programming language. It is well worth every editor’s time to learn at least the basics of VBA, particularly how to do wildcard searches.
Macro Express (ME) is simultaneously a simple and a complex macro writing program. For most editors, nothing more than the simple aspects are required. In fact, I rarely use ME for long, complex macros, preferring to use VBA. But, ME does have a singular advantage over all of the other options: it is program agnostic. Consequently, I can write procedures that I can use in multiple programs or for a specific program. Here’s a simple sample: Think about how many times during a manuscript edit you need to delete a space and replace it with a hyphen. How do you currently do it? Press Delete, press hyphen? I press the + key on the number keypad at the right of my keyboard. It is a simple macro that I have assigned to that particular key and that I have made available for use in all my programs via Macro Express. It means that I can keep my hand on my mouse and simply extend my thumb to press the single key, saving perhaps a couple of seconds with each use.
On the other hand, ME lets me take advantage of some of Word’s features in combination. Back when I wrote this procedure in ME, I wasn’t up to speed with VBA, so ME made life easy. The procedure lets me insert a local bookmark where I am currently at and go immediately to another bookmark. When I begin prepping a file for editing, the first thing I do is insert special bookmarks where the references, figures, tables, and any other special features are. The ME routine lets me travel, for example, from the text table callout to the table and when I’m done editing the table, to return to the callout in the text.
ME lets me create custom “keyboards” for clients and/or projects. These custom keyboards contain macros for the client/project that make life easy. They also contain some universal macros, that is, macros that I know I will use in every project. And ME lets me assign the key combination of my choice to each macro.
When used in conjunction with XKeys, all I need to do is press a single button to run a macro.
Jack Lyon has written several macro programs designed to help speed certain editorial tasks. I have tried many of his macros and they all are excellent. You really can’t go wrong with any of them if they fit your needs. And when I started using macros to increase productivity, I used more of his programs than I do now. I still use on a regular basis List Fixer and Note Stripper. For the editing that I do, these are the most useful and valuable of The Editorium macros. Colleagues swear by — and rightfully so — his other programs, particularly FileCleaner and MegaReplacer. I suggest that if you haven’t tried The Editorium macros that you do so and find the ones that are most beneficial for you.
Perfect It is a relatively recent addition to my armamentarium of editing tools. Perfect It is a series of auto running macros that looks for common mistakes after the manuscript is edited. For example, the manuscripts I work on often are riddled with acronyms. One of the things I try to do is be sure that after an acronym has been defined, future spellouts are converted to the acronym form. That’s one of the things that Perfect It checks. It also looks for missing punctuation in lists, acronyms that are defined multiple ways, and numerous other of the little things that can get past even the most diligent editor. It is a valuable program and well worth its price.
EditTools is my favorite (I am the author and seller of EditTools), probably because the macros were created to meet my specific editing needs. However, they would be a great boon to any editor.
Among the many macros in EditTools, my favorites are Toggle, Journals, and Search Count Replace.
My Toggle database includes more than 1200 entries and Toggle lets me make corrections with a single XKeys button press. For example, I have a medical dataset for Toggle so that when I come across and acronym that hasn’t been spelled out yet, such as CHF, I press a single key and CHF becomes congested heart failure (CHF). And some clients prefer that in-sentence lists be numbered in parens rather than lettered followed by a period [i.e., (1) rather than a.], and Toggle lets me make the change with a single button press. The key is what is in my dataset, and I am the sole master of that — I can add as I wish.
Journals is another major timesaver for me. It isn’t unusual for me to have a chapter with 300+ references. Journals is a macro that searches for journal (or book) names and if they are correct highlights them in green; if they are incorrect, corrects them and highlights them in cyan. Like Toggle, Journals uses a dataset that I create to meet my needs; my current dataset has nearly 5,000 journal names. The highlighting gives me visual confirmation that I do not need to worry about whether a journal name is correct or not.
Search Count Replace (SCR) solves another common editing problem. As I said earlier, many of the manuscripts I work on are riddled with acronyms. SCR lets me determine how many times an acronym is used in the manuscript and if it doesn’t meet the client’s minimum number requirement, I can tell it to replace subsequent instances of the acronym with something else; if the number does meet the client’s requirements, I can tell it to highlight the acronym throughout the document, which tells me later that the acronym has already been spelled out.
EditTools also makes custom dictionaries accessible and usable. Plus there are several other macros included, including one that corrects page ranges in references.
All of these software programs and macros increase my speed, accuracy, and efficiency and better the final product that I deliver to my clients. Most have trial periods; I suggest you try them. With trial periods, you have nothing to lose — and everything to gain — by doing so.