Does using Word add-ins save time?

Hilary Cadman Software 4 Comments

When they were first brought out, ‘labour-saving devices’ such as washing machines, dryers, vacuum cleaners and dishwashers were sold as great time-savers. Sadly, the promised additional leisure time has simply been absorbed into yet more work. It seems to be the same with editing. We now have a host of different tools, including various MS Word add-ins, to make editing more efficient, yet the process of editing seems to take just as long as it used to.

Are manual editing techniques a thing of the past?

Before the days of Microsoft Word add-ins and tools, editing was an activity that required long hours of focus
and repetitive actions, checking and checking again for accuracy, going back and forth between the reference sources and the main document and so on. It’s not surprising that we’ve turned to new tools and technology to ease the load on our brains.

Microsoft Word’s tools can make editing faster

Some of the most useful MS word tools for editors are:

  • keyboard shortcuts, which avoid the need to continually switch between mouse and keyboard operations
  • the Quick Access Toolbar, which can be customised, making it easy to access your favourite Word tools
  • styles and templates, which make it easy to create a table of contents, move text, or see the document structure.

It’s easy to forget how long it used to take to perform all these functions manually.

Microsoft Word add-ins can save time and improve quality

When you find the built-in Microsoft Word tools don’t quite hit the mark, it’s worth investigating the many Microsoft Word add-ins. My favourites are PerfectIt, Editor’s Toolkit, PhraseExpress (which actually works across all programs) and EndNote.
Editors can use these add-ins to both save time and create a better end product.

Do MS Word add-ins really save time?

There’s no easy answer to this question. Although the MS Word tools and add-ins can speed up your work and make it easier to do a great job, client expectations have increased, so the editor is expected to do more. In the same way that washing machines have given us the expectation that we can have clean clothes every day (or several times a day), onscreen editing has meant that clients now expect things like sophisticated page layout, automated numbering (e.g. for headings, figures and tables), and the ability to make major changes quickly and accurately.

Have MS Word tools and add-ins made the editor’s job quicker and easier, or have they just changed the nature of the work as client expectations increase? What do you think?

Hilary CadmanDoes using Word add-ins save time?

Comments 4

  1. Karin

    Hi Hilary – food for thought indeed! I was recently reminded how much I take the ease and convenience of technology for granted, when a client asked me to edit on hard copy using handwritten symbols rather than in Word. I estimate it took about 50% longer than it would have done if I’d been able to edit on screen and use my old friend PerfectIt. The experience reminded me to be grateful for all the magic electronic tools I usually use …

    Cheers, Karin (in Canberra)

  2. ozeditor

    Hi Karin, interesting to hear that there are still clients out there who want editing done on hard copy. I keep learning more about PerfectIt — I just shared a customised PerfectIt style sheet with a colleague and was interested to see that the export can be set to allow the style sheet to be edited by the recipient or not.

  3. Ruth

    I think very high expectations are part of the problem – and also that tight budgets are usually accompanied by tight timelines. I sometimes forget that every project should start with a good discussion with the client to clarify expectations about what editing involves and how long it takes. Many people have little appreciation of how time consuming it can be. In a previous role I was usually the default ‘in-house editor’ – which often meant receiving a 150-page report two hours before the deadline (‘so you just edit it and then we’ll send it’). This is okay when the expectation is a once-over with PerfectIt, fixing the headling levels so the TOC works, and skimming for mysteriously unfinished sentences. But not okay when people get grumpy because you missed a typo on page 20!

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