The Right Tool for the Job
by Jack Lyon
The sardine fork. The oyster ladle. The cake breaker. The butter pick. Those persnickety Victorians had a utensil for everything! You’ll find some interesting examples here:
Was all of that really necessary? I still eat the occasional sardine, and an ordinary table fork gets the job done. But I’m willing to bet that if I ever tried an actual sardine fork, I’d immediately realize the advantages of doing so. If I ever needed to ladle out oysters, I’ll bet an oyster ladle would be the perfect tool for the job.
The Wrong Tools
Every editor I know uses Microsoft Word. It’s the standard solution, the default program, the accepted tool for word processing. But is it the best tool for editing? Out of the box, it’s not. It has too many features that editors don’t need, and they’re always getting in the way.
When you’re editing, how often do you use SmartArt? How about WordArt? Page color? No? Then why not get rid of them? Why not turn Word into a lean, mean, editing machine? You can do this by customizing Word’s Ribbon. To do so, click File > Options > Customize Ribbon.
On the right side of your screen, you’ll now see a list of the Ribbon tabs and groups, like this:
Notice that I’ve unchecked the “Mailings tab.” I don’t want it showing because it’s something I never use. (Note: If you use macros, you should probably keep the “Developer” tab; it allows access to those macros and also allows you to load various document templates that may include macros.)
Now see that dropdown list at the top of the window? The one that says “Main Tabs”? Click it and select “All Tabs.” Now you’ll have many more options to uncheck:
Do you really need Chart Tools? Drawing Tools? Picture Tools? If not, make them go away. (Don’t worry—if necessary, you can always get them back again.)
So far, we’ve been removing whole groups of features at once, but you can also remove individual items from a group—if they are items you’ve previously added. Unfortunately Microsoft won’t let you remove the individual default features they think you need to have.
The Right Tools
The other problem with Microsoft Word is that it doesn’t have enough of the tools that editors need—at least not by default. Here again, the solution is to customize the Ribbon. Again, click File > Options > Customize Ribbon. This time, look at the window on the left. In the top dropdown box, select “Commands Not in the Ribbon.” Very interesting!
These are Word’s “hidden” commands, the features I encouraged you to explore in my previous article “Let’s Go Spelunking!”
Using the buttons in the window, you can add these features to the groups of your choice on Word’s Ribbon. You can even add your own custom tabs and groups by clicking the buttons labeled “New Tab” and “New Group.” How about adding a tab called something like “Editing Tools,” with all of the features you need for editing? If you’re also a writer, you could add a tab called “Writing Tools.” Some of the features would be different; some of the features would be the same. There’s nothing wrong with having certain features duplicated between tabs or groups, if that makes your work easier.
You can select other features by clicking the dropdown list and selecting “All Commands.” You can even select macros and add them to the Ribbon.
Unfortunately, even with the wealth of features that Word provides, there are other editing tools that Word doesn’t provide. For example, how often do you need to transpose two words? Two characters? How much time do you spend lowercasing articles and prepositions in titles? How often do you have to reach for the mouse in order to apply a style?
This is where add-in programs come in. “What’s an add-in program?” you ask. An add-in program is a Microsoft Word template that includes custom macros, Ribbon items, and keyboard shortcuts created specifically for a particular task—kind of like those Victorian utensils. As the name suggests, an add-in isn’t an independent piece of software; it actually works inside Microsoft Word, adding new features that then seem to be an integral part of Word. This isn’t some kind of hack, by the way; Microsoft Word was designed to support such add-ins, which is what makes them possible.
I’m partial to my own add-ins, of course, the ones I sell on the Editorium website. I’m really an editor, not a programmer, and I created these add-ins to make my own work easier. But I think you might like them too.
One of my favorites is the “Cap Title Case” feature in Editor’s ToolKit. When I’m working on a manuscript and come across a title like “The Ghost In The Machine,” or worse, “THE GHOST IN THE MACHINE,” I select the title and press the F5 function key (which activates the “Cap Title Case” feature). Like magic, the title is now capped like this: “The Ghost in the Machine.”
If I want to transpose two words, I put my cursor anywhere in the second word and press the F11 key. To transpose two characters, I press F12. Rather than reaching for the mouse to apply a style, I press F5, which puts all of the styles at my fingertips. And as they say on television, there’s much, much more!
All of these are small things, but those small things add up to big savings in time. And when you’re editing for a living, time is money.
So how much is an add-in actually worth? If it saves you an hour on a single project, it’s probably paid for itself. On the next project, it pays for itself again. And on and on, into the future. Seldom does such a small investment reap such big rewards.
These tools can make a real difference in how efficiently you work and how much money you can make. With that in mind, why not get them all, at a very special price?
Don’t think of these tools as an expense; think of them as an investment. Then the next time you need an editing tool, you’ll have it—and it will be the right tool for the job. Instead of dishing out tomato slices with a fork, you can use a tomato spoon! Instead of picking up bacon with your fingers, you can use a bacon fork! Using the right tool for the job makes all the difference in the world.
Jack Lyon (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.