An American Editor

April 2, 2018

Romanized Arabic in English Texts — Part 6: Using AutoCorrect and FRedit for Special Characters

Ælfwine Mischler

As an editor and indexer, I often deal with texts that use diacritics to transcribe Arabic. In parts 1 through 4 of this series (Romanized Arabic in English Texts, Part 1 — Sources of Variations; Romanized Arabic in English Texts, Part 2 — Other Challenges for EditorsRomanized Arabic in English Texts, Part  3 — Spelling the Definite ArticleRomanized Arabic in English Texts, Part 4 — Omitting, Capitalizing, and Alphabetizing the Definite Article), I often mention the use of special characters, but until now I have not explained how to put them in your Word document. In Part 5, Romanizing Arabic in English Texts — Part 5: Inserting Symbols and Creating Shortcuts, I discuss how to insert symbols and create keyboard shortcuts. In this part, I discuss how to use AutoCorrect and FRedit for special characters.


Thanks to Geoff Hart and his Effective Onscreen Editing, for this method (and I highly recommend his book for all editors and writers).

  1. Go to the Insert tab and Symbol menu.

  1. Choose the font and subset.
  2. Find and select the character you need.

  1. Click on AutoCorrect in the lower left.

  1. In the Replace box, type some combination of keystrokes that will be easy to remember — usually best encased in some form of brackets — and then click on OK.

Now every time you type that combination, it will change to the special character you want. In my example, I chose [n-] to AutoCorrect to ñ (Unicode 00F1). If you don’t want the keystroke combination to change in a particular instance, just type Ctrl + Z (Undo). You can repeat this with all the special characters you need. In the screenshot, you can see some of the other AutoCorrect combinations I have created for the work I do.

It is sometimes difficult to find the characters you need in the Symbols table. If you have the Unicode values of the characters you need from your publisher or another source, you can also access AutoCorrect from the Word Options dialog box.

First, collect all the symbols you need and their Unicode values, either in another document or in your current document. I have collected all the Unicode characters that I use in one file, with their Unicode values, and the AutoCorrect coding that I use.

  1. If you are working in Word 2010 or a later version, go to the File tab > Options > Proofing > AutoCorrect Options. If you are working in Word 2007, use the Office button to get to Word Options.

  1. Then follow the steps above to create AutoCorrect codes for each character, using copy-paste to put the character in the With box.

Identifying a Character: More than One Way to Stick a Macron on a Letter

Another useful trick I learned from Geoff Hart’s book is how to identify a special character in a document that I am editing. Put your cursor immediately after a letter and hit Alt + X. The letter will change to its Unicode value. Hit Alt + X again and the character will appear again.

You can also use this method to insert a special character. Type the code and then Alt + X. If your special character is to come immediately after a numeral (such as if you are inserting a degree symbol), insert a space after the numeral, then delete the space after you insert the special character. Allen Wyatt gives more details on this in his Word Tips.

Being able to identify a character this way is handy if you come across an odd-looking character, or if you want to check whether your author has used the correct characters. There are various similar-looking characters to represent Arabic ayn and hamza, and I often have to check them. I can use the FRedit macro to highlight either the correct or incorrect characters as I find the need.

FRedit Macro

FRedit is a free macro available from Paul Beverley at Archive Publications. The FR is for Find-Replace. Paul has also provided videos to show you how to use this and other macros he has written.

You can use FRedit to replace your codes with special characters, similar to the way you would do it with AutoCorrect. The difference is that in using FRedit, your codes can be case-sensitive and your changes will not be made immediately as you type but later, when you run the macro. Collect all the special characters and your codes in one Word document to be used any time with FRedit.

When I have used editing software to check for inconsistencies, it did not recognize the difference between a plain letter and the same letter with a diacritic on it. I told Daniel Heuman of Intelligent Editing Ltd., creators of PerfectIt, about this, and sent him a sample file and a list of Unicode characters that I use for Arabic. He recently wrote to me to say that they had fixed the bug that caused this problem. I have tested it briefly and it is not quite right, but I will work with Daniel on this. With a combination of PerfectIt and FRedit, you should be able to catch most inconsistencies in files with special characters.

If you are editing rather than writing, you can use FRedit to automatically highlight — or, if you prefer, change to a different color — all of the special characters in a document. I find this useful because it draws my attention to the characters and makes it easier to see if a word is spelled once with a diacritic and once without, or if a different character was used.

If you are already familiar with FRedit, this image from the macro library will be understandable. This macro highlights all of these characters in yellow. I added the ones I needed to the ones provided by Paul. You could write similar macros that would highlight all of the single open quotation marks (sometimes used for ayn) in a second color and all of the apostrophes (sometimes used for hamza) in a third color — but note that it will also highlight these characters when they are used for other purposes.

Remember that I said there is more than one way to stick a macron on a letter? I was editing a document with a lot of transcribed Arabic titles at the time I was learning to use FRedit. I used the macro to highlight the Unicode special characters of my choice and was surprised that some letters that clearly had macrons were not highlighted. Using the Alt + X trick, I discovered why: A different character — a macron alone — had been used on those letters. They had to be changed to the correct Unicode character. FRedit made it easy to see which characters needed fixing because they were left unhighlighted.

You should now find it easier to use special characters in Word. In Part 5, I explained how to insert special characters by using the Insert Symbol feature and by creating keyboard shortcuts, which are suitable if you do not need a lot of different characters. In this part, I have explained two methods to use when you need a lot of different special characters. With AutoCorrect, you create codes that change to the desired special characters as you type. With FRedit, you create codes that change to the desired special characters when you run the macro (at the end or periodically as you work on a long file). You can also use a FRedit macro to highlight special characters so you can spot inconsistencies more easily in spelling and see any characters that look like the ones you want, but are in fact something else.

Ælfwine Mischler is an American copyeditor and indexer in Cairo, Egypt, who has been the head copyeditor at a large Islamic website and a senior editor for an EFL textbook publisher. She often edits and indexes books on Islamic studies, Middle East studies, and Egyptology.

October 12, 2010

From Sense to Sensibility: Transitioning from Word 2003 to Word 2010

As you are aware from previous articles (see, e.g., Transitioning in a Microsoft World: Toolbar Toggle, Why, Microsoft, Do You Insist On Torturing Me?, and Different Approaches for Different Folks: The Mechanics of Editing), I am trying to transition from Office 2003 (primarily Word and Excel) to Office 2010 for my business. (I am also transitioning from Windows 7 32-bit to Windows 7 64-bit, which is much easier than than the Office transition :).) I am pleased to announce that the transition is going better than I feared, even though it hasn’t been as problem- and fustration-free as I would have liked. I guess I have been spoiled by past Office transitions that have gone very smoothly.

As previous articles noted, helping me to make the transition was Toolbar Toggle, a very inexpensive add-in for Office/Word 2007 and 2010 that allowed me to continue to use Office 2003-style menus in Office 2010. But also helping were Microsoft articles created to help smooth the transition.

Three important links to Microsoft help make the transition from Office/Word 2003, which is menu driven, to Office/Word 2010, which is ribbon driven are these:

I stumbled upon the Learn Where document and from it found the other sources. As a menu-centric person, these have become invaluable. (For those of you using or transitioning to Office 2007 rather than Office 2010, see Guides to the Ribbon: Use Office 2003 Menus to Learn the Office 2007 User Interface.)

The combined help of Toolbar Toggle and the Microsoft documents has made my transition much smoother and easier, to the point that I am now using Office 2010 without Toolbar Toggle, and am doing so without angst. Yet, I have discovered some other anomalies that frustrate me with Office 2010, primarily Word 2010, which is my workhorse program.

My goal is to automate as much of the editorial process as I can. It makes no sense, for example, to have to replace about with approximately or which with that by selecting the word to be replaced and typing the replacement each time. Yet, I cannot do a Find & Replace because F&R is dumb and will either require me to evaluate each instance and manually choose replace or it will willy-nilly make all replacements, whether appropriate or not. Consequently, I prefer the Toggle macro in EditTools (see The 3 Stages of Copyediting: II — The Copyediting Stage), which allows me to have my cursor in the word and press a single key to make the change as I encounter the problem during the editing process.

Along these lines, I also use a supplementary macro program called MacroExpress (I use the Pro version). This lets me easily combine various independent keyboard commands into a single macro to accomplish certain tasks. For example, when I reach a figure callout in the main body of a chapter, I want to go to the figure legend to edit it and make sure it exists (you’d be surprised at how many figure callouts I come across that do not have corresponding figure legends). So my process is to insert a bookmark where I am in the text and then go to where the bookmark for the figure legends is located. I do this (and the reverse of adding a new figure legend bookmark in the next figure legend and returning to where I was in the main text) using a MacroExpress macro, which requires a single keypress to run, that runs a series of keyboard key commands in Word to accomplish these tasks. Worked simply and easily in Word 2003; failed to work in Word 2010.

The failure of this simple macro in Word 2010 led me to yet another discovery and source of frustration in Word 2010: Contrary to Microsoft’s assertions and my expectations, many of the keyboard commands of Word 2003 do not work in Word 2010 — they simply do not exist in Word 2010. In Word 2003 Alt+k brought up the Bookmark dialog; in Word 2010, the Bookmark dialog doesn’t have a keyboard key command and it doesn’t seem like I can assign one to it either.

Yet there is a workaround. By assigning the Bookmark dialog to the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT), it suddenly does have a keyboard command. But here is the gotcha!: The QAT items are assigned numbers for use with the Alt key (you find them by pressing and releasing the Alt key to display the letters and numbers assigned to the particular ribbon entries). In my case the Bookmark dialog is assigned the number 9 because it is the ninth item, counting from left to right, on my QAT. So Alt+9 will raise the Bookmark dialog. However, should I rearrange my QAT and shift the Bookmark dialog to position 6, the key combination will change to Alt+6. Gotcha! If I want to use the key combination as part of a MacroExpress macro, I can’t move the Bookmark dialog’s position on the QAT without modifying all of the MacroExpress macros that use it. Of course, there are other ways to solve the problem, including writing a VBA macro that calls the dialog box and simply assigning that macro to a keyboard key combination, which is something I will probably do, but what about all of the users who are unable to write VBA macros? The users who at best can record a keystroke macro?

As if that were not enough, in Word 2003, when the Bookmark dialog was open, I could type a bookmark name and press Alt+a to add it to the document or Alt+g to go to it if it already existed. In Word 2010, that doesn’t work and there is nothing to indicate what will work. Ultimately, I discovered via trial and error that in Word 2010 you need to press Alt+Shift+a (or g) to accomplish the same task.

Office 2010 has other “peculiarities,”  not least of which is “Compatibility Mode” and its constantly telling me when I want to save a document that the document has track changes and comments in it. Although I already own a couple of books on Word 2010, it is clear that I need to find yet another one — one that is more complete in explaining all of the changes instituted. The problem, I fear, is that the explanations I seek may appear in books on Word 2007 rather than 2010 because authors view 2010 as an upgrade to 2007 rather than as an upgrade to 2003.

I’m finding that overall the upgrade from 2003 to 2010 is worthwhile. I found that using Toolbar Toggle in the first weeks of my transition allowed me to acclimate to 2010 yet get work accomplished while doing so. Now it is time to walk without holding a hand for support.

One final note: It is being reported that Office 2011 for the Mac will give users the option of using a menu-driven system and deleting/suppressing the ribbons completely or of using the ribbon system. If true, which we should know for certain in a few weeks as Office 2011 is due for release this month, why didn’t Microsoft give the vast majority of its market — the PC side of the equation — the same option? Or will this be the excuse for Office 2012 for Windows? Stay tuned for further updates and speculation.

October 4, 2010

Different Approaches for Different Folks: The Mechanics of Editing

I’m writing this at 4 a.m. on the Saturday of the Finding Your Niche conference, while the topic is uppermost in my thoughts. Yesterday afternoon, I attended a seminar on using Word 2010 as an editing tool. The speaker was my friend and colleague, Hilary Powers, who has a well-deserved reputation as a Word guru for using Word as an editing tool.

Above all else that I learned at the session was this: different folks have different approaches to the same task and problem.

Hilary is keyboard focused and approaches Word as if it were a naughty child that needs to be disciplined. She dislikes many of the options that Microsoft makes available via the options/preferences panels. At first I was amused but then I realized that her choices were really dictated by the way she approaches the mechanics of editing. I then considered my own choices and approach.

In contrast to Hilary’s keyboard-centric approach, I want as little to do with the keyboard as possible. I am mouse focused. I want my right hand to leave the mouse (which, by the way, is a Logitech MX Revolution, which is programmable) as little as possible and my left hand to leave my Xkeys as little as possible. (For what it’s worth, I consider my Xkeys peripheral the best investment I have made in any piece of equipment for my business in the past 15 years. It is the sinlge most must-have device for the way I work, especially when I combine it with MacroExpress Professional software and my own EditTools macros.) Hilary, in contrast, wants her hands to leave her keyboard as little as possible, preferably never. With each approach comes different wants from Word (read Office) 2010.

This is where I believe Microsoft has failed the ultimate user: it didn’t do a good job designing the interface for either customer. It is a compromise position that leaves both disappointed and unhappy. This is not to say that Word 2010 isn’t a big improvement over its predecessors and clearly a worthwhile upgrade — because it is; rather, it is to say that with a little more thought and care, Microsoft could have created a program that accommodates the needs of users who approach using Word from different mindsets.

Of course, I’m ignoring the fact that an editor’s needs are different from an author’s needs or a casual writer’s needs or a student’s needs, but it does seem to me that there really are only two basic approaches to using Word — keyboard or mouse, that is, hands on the keyboard or hands off the keyboard. With only two approaches, it should be easy to offer two choice styles, with options/preferences geared to those approaches.

Yet, there is another difference in how Hilary and I approach Word. Hilary distrusts “editorial” decisions that Word offers to make automatically, such as changing two hyphens to an em-dash. A lot of the options Word 2010 offers are offered cryptically; for example, the explanation for measurement converter is measurement converter. How it works and what it does are not explained; the name is simply repeated. Hilary’s approach to many of these options with which she is unfamiliar is to turn them off. She prefers to make all of the decisions all of the time.

I, on the other hand, take a more relaxed approach. I know that if something flaky happens when I’m using Word it is likely to be because I have some option turned on. But letting that flakiness occur lets me discover what Microsoft had in mind and lets me decide whether I can make it work for me now that I know how it works and/or what are its consequences. If I don’t know what an option does, I tend to leave it on. One thing Word does very well is undo.

And this is where the new right-click context menus really work well (new, that is, compared to the right-click context menus available in Word 2003; I skipped the “beta” Office 2007, so I’m not sure what Office 2007 can or can’t do other than aggravate me with inflexible ribbons). The one truly outstanding feature of Word 2010 is the ability to see visually the effect of making certain decisions, especially with paste. I would almost have considered upgrading to Office 2010 for that feature alone — but note that I said almost.

With my approach to the mechanics of editing, the fact that 90%+ of the keyboard shortcuts that existed in Word 2003 are the same in Word 2010, is meaningless. I never used them before and so didn’t memorize them and so don’t know them. But for those of Hilary’s persuasion, this is the deal maker and why the change from a menu-centric to ribbon-centric interface is so much less traumatic than it is for those of my persuasion. Hilary uses Ctrl+B to bold; I prefer to click the B icon.

A significant reason why we have divergent approaches is automation. Hilary commented, for example, that she has a few standardized author queries and so she can assign each a keyboard shortcut. From her demonstration of it, her automated queries are inflexible; that is, they never need modification. I, in contrast, use a lot of standardized queries and if I were to assign each its own keyboard shortcut, I would quickly run out of available easy-to-use key combinations (and have a time remembering each). More importantly, I use standardized queries as shells that can be used wither as is or easily modified to fit the circumstance. Consequently, I prefer the system found in EditTools, which allows me to store numerous standardized queries (up to 99) and assign all of them to a single key combination. The underlying reason for this difference in our approaches is, probably, the kinds of books we edit.

The bottom line is that there is no single right way to accomplish the same task. The “right way” ultimately is dependent on your approach to Word. What one approach sees as cumbersome and time-consuming is quick and time-efficient in another approach.

What started all of this was my discussion with Hilary about using Toolbar Toggle as a transitional tool from menu-centric Office 2003 to ribbon-centric Office 2010. (See Transitioning in a Microsoft World: Toolbar Toggle for further information about Toolbar Toggle.) So next time you and I disagree about how to approach a mechanical problem, let’s remember that different perspectives mandate different approaches to reach the same goal. All that matters is that we reach our goal in the most efficient way possible for us.

August 11, 2010

Why, Microsoft, Do You Insist On Torturing Me?

I admit that as between a Microsoft world and an Apple world, I’m in the Microsoft camp. I prefer to have my computers custom built with the best components I can buy, rather than being told I need to settle for what someone else has decided is good enough. It’s also a reason why I go to a local shop to have my computers built rather than buy from a mass merchandiser like Best Buy, Dell, or HP.

Occasionally, over the many years I have been using computers, Microsoft has come up with a winner or two. (Can we forget Windows 98/Me?) For me two winners of “recent” vintage were Windows XP (especially with Service Pack 3) and Word/Office 2003. XP worked and worked and worked, essentially without a problem. Similarly, Word/Office 2003 kept on chugging, letting me get my work done efficiently, and all consumer versions, including the Student Edition, included Outlook.

But the Microsoft world moves on and this past weekend, while I was away for 4 days, I had my local computer shop upgrade my system from XP to Windows 7. Subsequently, I added Word/Office 2010 to my system.

Clearly the best way to move from XP to Win7 is with a completely fresh install, which is what I did with one of the computers being upgraded. But I couldn’t do that on my workhorse computer. I am too busy and it would take too much time to install and recustomize all of the programs I rely on to get my work done. So I opted for a temporary solution. I had all the hard drives on my workhorse converted to removable drives. I actually did this for a couple of reasons. One is related to the Win7 upgrade but the second is related to securing my hard drives when I travel. With removable hard drives, I can simply remove them and store them in a bank safe deposit box or have a neighbor take care of them for me while I travel. I do have several backup plans in operation, including Carbonite (which has saved me several times over the past couple of years), but this is just another bit of insurance.

The second reason I converted to removable hard drives for Win7 is that as a temporary fix I did the operating system upgrade path (Win XP > Vista > Win7); everything works just fine. But at the same time, I bought another hard drive for a fresh install of Win7. With this removable fresh install drive, as I have time, I can plug it into my computer, bootup, and install and recustomize my work programs; no need to take a couple of days and just get upgrading but no billable work done. After I am done setting up the fresh install drive, I can just swap drives effortlessly. (One note: Going the upgrade path meant I had to go for 32-bit Win7; but on the fresh install drive, I can go for 64-bit Win7.)

As far as Win7 goes, the upgrade was easy. It took my local computer shop a few hours to do the upgrade route on my workhorse and a few more hours to resetup my computer in my office, and almost no time at all to do the fresh install on our other computers plus a few hours to reset them up in our offices. While I’m at the “Finding Your Niche/Expanding Your Horizons” conference (which was discussed in A Gathering of Freelance Editorial Professionals), my local shop will create the fresh install drive for me and install many of the programs I need for work; unfortunately, they need my computer to create the drive or it would be done by now.

In contrast to my Win7 experience (and after a week of using Win7, I can say it is an excellent OS), is my Word/Office 2010 experience. One was a breeze, the other torture. 

As an editor I rely on Microsoft Word. It’s not because I love Word, but because my clients demand it. It brings a certain amount of standardization to manuscript processing and allows more forward-thinking clients to design templates for editors (and authors) to use. Also, Word comes with a fairly robust macro programming language, VBA (Visual Basic for Applications), which lets me, as well as clients, create efficiency enhancements. EditTools, discussed in The 3 Stages of Copyediting: II — The Copyediting Stage, is a good example of what can be done with VBA to make editing more efficient. I have invested lots of time, effort, and money into creating macros to better the editing process and into customizing Word to make it work most effectively for the job of editing. Word 2003 works beautifully for me in this regard.

Then came Word 2007 and Microsoft’s changes to how Word works. It was like going from Shangri-la to a Tim Burton nightmare. I tried it and it was so bad I passed on it. What took seconds in Word 2003 took minutes in Word 2007. Customizing the ribbons in 2007 was not easily done. I had to buy a book that discussed nothing else but how to reprogram the ribbons. After seeing how difficult customization was and how much more time it was taking to work in Word 2007, I junked the program (and fervently prayed that Microsoft would do the same!).

But I began noticing an increase in the number of manuscripts I was receiving that had been created in Word 2007. The temporary solution was Microsoft’s free converter, but it wasn’t a great or complete solution. So I waited for Word 2010 because Microsoft said the ribbon would be customizable. It is, but so what — it still isn’t easy to use if you have any long-term experience with Word.

Remember WordPerfect and WordStar? The transition from either program to Word was a cakewalk compared to the transition from Word 2003 to Word 2010. It is bad enough that Microsoft has decided it knows better how I should use Word than I do, but it also changed how macros are accessed and how they need to be written. So now I have hundreds of macros that need to be rewritten, I have ribbons with useless commands on them, and I have ribbons that can’t be removed and replaced with something more logical. Why, Microsoft, do you insist on torturing me? You could have made it a seamless transition. You could have given me the option to retain the Word 2003 setup. At minimum, you could have retained the VBA basics so that macros don’t need to be rewritten. Hours of work await me.

What Microsoft has done, besides making my life significantly harder, is typical of big business thinking: paternalism at its worst. Word 2010 is probably a truly wonderful program for the person new to Word or to the person who does simple things with a word processor — or, as seems to be true for many authors, the person who likes to play with formatting every line and character. But for the advanced user and for the user who has invested time and money into customizing Word to make it functional for his or her business, it is a nightmare, perhaps even a catastrophe in the making, at least until sufficient time has passed using it to make peace with the new paradigm and to get necessary macros rewritten. I suspect that 6 years from now, when Word 2016 is released and I need to upgrade again, I’ll be writing the same complaint yet again.

Microsoft truly knows how to make friends of its customers!

(Addendum: As I am discovering, there are signifcant changes in Win7 from WinXP, including where things are located and terminology. Consequently, I decided to buy a third-party manual. For Win7, I bought Windows 7: The Missing Manual [ISBN 978-1-596-80639-2] by David Pogue, the New York Times tech columnist. I spent several hours at my local B&N comparing Win7 books and decided that this was the best of the lot; plus it is an O’Reilly book, which usually means good quality.

Similarly, I decided that if I am going to make the transition from Word 2003 to Word 2010, I better get some help. So I also spent time with Word 2010 books and settled on these two: Microsoft Office Word 2010 QuickSteps [ISBN 978-0-07-163487-8] by Marty Matthews and Microsoft Word 2010 on Demand [ISBN 978-0-7897-4281-0] by Steve Johnson. The book I want but haven’t yet found is one that provides comprehensive coverage of Word 2010 macro writing.)

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