Review: Geoff Hart’s Effective Onscreen Editing, 3rd Edition

Back in 2007, I reviewed the first edition of Geoff Hart’s book Effective Onscreen Editing, which I still keep close at hand on my bookshelf. Why? Because it’s one of the best books ever written about how to edit on a computer, packed with real-world information you’ll find nowhere else.

My own books (such as Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word) are related specifically to a certain piece of software, but the beauty of Geoff’s book is that it applies to any software an editor might use, on either Macintosh or PC (or a Linux box, for that matter). As Geoff explains, “The overall goal is to teach editing strategies, not specific software.” And in that, the book succeeds admirably.

Geoff covers all of the essentials a working editor needs to consider, including the kind of technical matters that most interest me:

  • Personalizing your software
  • Navigating and selecting text
  • Inserting and deleting text
  • Tracking revisions
  • Using comments
  • Using search tools to improve consistency
  • Developing style sheets
  • Using spelling and grammar checkers
  • Automating editing tasks

He also covers business matters, such as:

  • Determining your pay rate
  • Negotiating with clients
  • Dealing with contracts

But Geoff also addresses the ever-important human side of the editing equation, discussing such matters as:

  • Encouraging dialogue and communication
  • Security and confidentiality
  • E-mail alternatives
  • Avoiding repetitive-stress injury and other physical problems

In this new edition, Geoff has added important information about recent developments that I’ve seen covered nowhere else:

  • Collaborative, real-time editing over the Web.
  • Important new software tools for imposing consistency and applying publisher style requirements.
  • Proofreading PDF files, online documents, and Web pages.

You’ll find more information about the new edition here. And you’ll find a detailed table of contents here.

If you’re a working editor, you owe it to yourself to buy and read this book, which is available in print, as a nicely formatted and hyperlinked PDF, and as an ebook (free with the PDF) for use with small tablets and smartphones. I make no money from the sale of this book; I’m just an ardent fan. As I said of the first edition, I give it my highest recommendation. And besides, as an excellent writer and a respected teacher known for generously sharing his expertise, Geoff deserves your support. You can purchase the book here.

Many thanks to Geoff for creating this wonderful resource.

Hart, G. 2016. Effective onscreen editing: new tools for an old profession. 3rd ed. Diaskeuasis Publishing, Pointe-Claire, Quebec.
Printed version: 518 p. ISBN 978-1-927972-04-5
PDF version (suitable for most table computers): 827 p. ISBN 978-1-927972-05-2
EPUB version: (unpaginated) ISBN 978-1-927972-06-9


Posted in Books, Editing Tools | Comments closed

Lyonizing Word: Before Typesetting

by Jack Lyon

I need your help, Gentle Reader. I need your ideas. Back in 1996, when I started selling Microsoft Word add-ins at the Editorium, getting a Word document into QuarkXPress was tricky: Quark was prone to crashes and didn’t handle footnotes at all. To solve these problems, I created QuarkConverter, and NoteStripper. A few years later, when people started switching to InDesign, I created InDesignConverter.

In the past several years, however, both QuarkXPress and InDesign have become much better at importing Word documents directly, without the need for a converter. The crashes are mostly gone, and footnotes come right on in. Nevertheless, I’m wondering what else might be done to a Word document to save time and trouble when importing into a layout program — and I’d greatly appreciate your thoughts about that. Here are some examples of the kind of thing I have in mind:

  • Add nonbreaking spaces to dates and initials.

For example, if the text includes a date like “August 17, 2016,” most typesetters want “August” and “17” to stay together; adding a nonbreaking space between the two elements does the trick. Similarly, if a name like “C. S. Lewis” shows up, it’s nice to keep the “C.” and the “S.” together. (To add a nonbreaking space in Word [Windows] 2007 and newer, hold down the CTRL and SHIFT keys as you press the spacebar. For Word [Mac], press the Option key as you press the spacebar.)

  • Remove formatting “overrides.”

Typesetters typically want to handle formatting with styles, so that changing a style attribute in InDesign automatically changes formatting throughout the document. If an author or editor has applied styles in a Word document, those styles can be imported and used in InDesign. But if an author or editor has applied direct formatting using various fonts, that formatting will be imported as “overrides” on the text, which can be a bit of a pain to clean up.

Override Options

Override Options

In its Styles pane, Microsoft Word offers to “Clear All” formatting and styles from selected text.

Clear All Option

Clear All Option

The problem is, “Clear All” really does mean “Clear All,” including not just font overrides but also such local formatting as bold and italic, which needs to remain intact. InDesign’s “Clear Overrides” feature has the same problem. Do you really want to remove italic formatting from the hundreds of journal titles in that giant manuscript you’re editing? If you’re proofreading or setting type, do you really want to put all that formatting back in again by hand? My FileCleaner add-in includes an often-overlooked feature (“standardize font formats”) that removes font overrides but leaves bold, italic, and other local formatting intact, which is exactly what’s needed.

Standardize Font Formats Option

Standardize Font Formats Option

  • Turn straight quotation marks into curly ones.

InDesign can do this—sort of. But it can’t handle things like “’Twas the night before Christmas” or “A miner, ’49er” (dreadful sorry, Clementine). FileCleaner does a much better job of dealing with this; it properly handles ’til, ’tis, ’tisn’t, ’twas, ’twasn’t, ’twould, ’twouldn’t, and ’em, as well as single quotation marks in front of numbers, all of which then come into InDesign correctly. If you have other items that should be included in this list, I’d love to know what they are.

  • Remove multiple spaces between sentences.

In the 1800s many books were set with extra space between sentences.

Sample of 1800s Typeset Page

Sample of 1800s Typeset Page

But, frankly, the 1800s were not exactly the golden age of typesetting.

1800s Poster

1800s Poster

Modern books include just one space between sentences. Still, many authors continue to use two, following the instructions they were given by their high-school typing teacher back in the twentieth century. And that means the double spaces need to be removed at some point. InDesign has built-in find-and-replace routines that will fix this and a few similar items.

InDesign Find & Replace

InDesign Find & Replace

FileCleaner, however, fixes many such things. And the version that’s included with Editor’s ToolKit Plus 2014 fixes many more.

FileCleaner Options

FileCleaner Options

  • Change italic and bold formatting to character styles.

Using character styles in InDesign provides much more stability and flexibility than local bold and italic formatting. It would be nice to have these styles already applied in Word before the document is imported into InDesign. My tools don’t currently do this, but they probably should.

QuarkConverter and InDesignConverter include some other useful fixes.

Quark Converter Options

Quark Converter Options


InDesign Converter Options

InDesign Converter Options

Nevertheless, I can’t help thinking that there must be things I’ve overlooked. I’m an editor, not a typesetter, so I don’t really know all of the things that typesetters have to fix that they really shouldn’t have to deal with. (This probably includes the most common errors that proofreaders mark.) So if you do typesetting or proofreading, would you help me out? I’d really like to know what I’m missing — things that could be cleaned up in an automated way in Microsoft Word before a document is ever imported into InDesign. What problems do you routinely encounter that you wish would go away? If you’ll let me know, I’ll try to come up with an add-in designed specifically to fix such things. Your suggestions for this would be most welcome.

Of course, typesetters and proofreaders aren’t the only ones who can benefit from this kind of cleanup. It’s also valuable to editors, allowing them to focus on words, structure, and meaning rather than deal with these tiny but pervasive problems. Little things like double spaces and straight quotation marks may not seem all that bothersome, but like pebbles in your shoe, they create subliminal annoyance that really adds up, making editing much more difficult than it should be. At least that’s my experience. What do you think?

Jack Lyon ( 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, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

Posted in Computers and Software, Contributor Article, Editing Tools, Lyonizing Word | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Responses

Lyonizing Word: Inside Notes

by Jack Lyon

As useful as they are, Microsoft Word’s footnotes and endnotes are amazingly easy to mess up. Let’s look at some ways that can happen — and how to fix the problems.

First, we need to open a document that has footnotes — or make one. Then, to really see what’s going on, we’ll do this:

  1. Click “View” and then “Draft.”
Click "View" then "Draft"

Click “View” then “Draft”

2. Click “References” and then “Show Notes.”

Click “References” and then “Show Notes”

Click “References” and then “Show Notes”

That should take you into Word’s “Notes Pane,” which should look something like this:

Word’s “Notes Pane"

Word’s “Notes Pane”

Deleted Reference Numbers

The superscript numbers in front of each note are called reference numbers. By default, they’re formatted with a character style — either Footnote Reference or Endnote Reference, which you can modify if necessary. What’s interesting about these numbers is that it’s possible to delete them, so the notes look like this:

Deleting Note Numbers

Deleting Note Numbers

Deleting them, however, is an extraordinarily bad idea. Those numbers may look simple, but under the hood they have a lot going on. The number itself is automatically generated based on the reference number in the text itself. (If you create footnote number 9 in your document, the note itself will start with the number 9. If you delete footnote number 9 in your document, the note and its number will be deleted.) The number also signals the start of a new note, and if it’s gone, document corruption is probably not far behind.

You can often tell if a reference number is missing by looking at the other note numbers. If they’re numbered like this, you know something’s wrong:

A Clue That Something Is Wrong

A Clue That Something Is Wrong

That’s actually a fairly easy problem to fix: just copy the reference number from one of the other notes and paste it in front of the note that’s missing its number. For example, if you copy the number for note 3 and paste it in front of the numberless note 2, you’ll actually get a 2 in front of the note. Microsoft Word is smart enough to know what the number should be.

Usually, the reason a number is missing is because the author has directly deleted the entire text of the note, like this:

When Note Is Deleted Directly

When Note Text Is Deleted Directly

Why Microsoft hasn’t prevented this is beyond me. If the author had deleted the note number up in the main document text, there wouldn’t be a problem.

Typed-In Reference Numbers

Sometimes, in an effort to make notes look “pretty” or meet a certain style, authors will format reference numbers as regular text rather than superscript, then type a period after them. There’s really nothing wrong with that, other than introducing extraneous periods when importing the file into a typesetting program. But some authors actually delete the numbers and type in new ones by hand. You can tell when that has been done by putting your cursor in front of a double-digit note number and pressing the right cursor key. If your cursor moves past the entire number, the number has been automatically generated. But if your cursor moves forward only one digit, the number has been hand-typed.

Again, you could fix the problem by copying an automatic number and pasting it over the hand-typed number, but what if all of the numbers have been hand-typed? Where will you get an automatic number to copy? Simple: just insert a new footnote and copy the number from that. After you’ve finished pasting, delete the extra note (up in the text, remember).

If you have lots of these numbers, you probably won’t want to fix them by hand, so here’s an easier way:

  1. Select all of the notes in the notes pane.
  2. Copy the notes.
  3. Paste the notes at the end of the document.
  4. Using Word’s Find and Replace feature, search for ^f (the code for footnotes) or ^e (the code for endnotes) and replace all of the existing note numbers with a superscript 1. (That will also delete all of the automatic notes in the document.)
  5. Use the “Text to Notes” feature of my trusty NoteStripper add-in to turn the text notes into automatically numbering ones.

“Special” Carriage Returns

Sometimes when editing notes, you’ll try to make a deletion and get the message that “This is not a valid action for footnotes”:



What that cryptic message should say is “You can’t delete the carriage return that ends a footnote.” The carriage return that marks the end of a note isn’t a regular return; it’s a special return, and you can’t delete it — Word won’t let you. So what often happens is that authors will delete the note text and its reference number, leaving the carriage return behind. But there is a way to get rid of that return: delete its note number up in the main text of the document. If you can’t tell which note number that is, copy the number of a different note and paste it in front of the note’s carriage return. That will give the note a proper number, and you can then delete the note up in the main text. If you have lots of these extraneous carriage returns, you can get rid of them with a macro, as described in “Lyonizing Word: Deleting Extraneous Carriage Returns in Footnotes and Endnotes.”

Microsoft, Are You Listening?

We wouldn’t have such problems with notes if Microsoft would implement just a few changes:

  1. Make it possible to delete a note by selecting the entire note, including the note reference number, the note text, and the “special” carriage return at the end of the note, and then pressing the Delete or Backspace key (which should also remove the note number from the main text). That would keep authors from leaving behind misnumbered notes and extraneous carriage returns.
  2. Provide additional numbering options for the reference numbers in front of the note text, in particular the option to use full-sized numbers followed by a period. That would keep authors from typing in numbers and periods by hand (maybe).
  3. When trying to delete the reference number or carriage return, provide a message that says “Select the entire note before deleting” or “To remove a note, delete the note number in the main text of your document.”

These changes would do a lot to prevent problems caused by authors who don’t know how to properly use Word’s notes. You can help by letting Microsoft know about these needed changes. Give your feedback at Microsoft’s “Welcome to Word’s Suggestion Box!

What about you? Have you seen other odd problems with Word’s notes? If so, how have you solved them?

Jack Lyon ( 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, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

Posted in Computers and Software, Contributor Article, Editing Tools, Editorial Matters, Lyonizing Word | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Responses

Can I Publish This Photograph of the Mona Lisa?

by Jack Lyon

In a departure from my usual technical stuff, I recently finished writing a rather specialized book on Christian symbolism, featuring numerous works of art from the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Rather than publish the book myself, I decided to go with a publishing company that has considerably more marketing mojo than I do. And of course, that’s when the fun started:

Dear Mr. Lyon:

We would respectfully request that you please send documentation of your permission(s) to use third-party images and a list of the images for which you feel permission is not required. The list should include (1) the title of the image, (2) where the image can be found online, and (3) why you feel permission is not required.

Here is my reply:

I respectfully decline your request as unnecessary. The images I’m using are in the public domain.

The publisher’s representative replied:

If I take a photograph of a Leonardo da Vinci painting, I own the copyright in that photo. And even though it’s a photo of a public-domain item, you still need my permission to use my photograph.

So what do you think? Is the publisher’s representative correct? After all, that’s the common understanding. But actually, it depends on the nature of the photograph. In both the United States and in Europe, a photo that is merely a reproduction of a public-domain work (such as an old painting or stained-glass window) is not protected by copyright. To quote the U.K.’s Intellectual Property Office (based on the opinion of the European Court of Justice), “Copyright can only subsist in subject matter that is original in the sense that it is the author’s own ‘intellectual creation’” (for more information, see Wikipedia).

In the United States, this issue was decided in the case of Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp., in which the court ruled that exact photographic copies of public-domain images could not be protected by copyright in the United States because the copies lack originality (which, by the way, is the deciding factor).

So even if someone claims copyright in a photograph that reproduces a public-domain image, no permission is needed, because photos that are simply copies of public-domain works and lack any aspect of originality are themselves in the public domain. In fact, the more faithful the reproduction, the less originality there is. Wikipedia has an excellent example — a photograph of the Mona Lisa.

The whole point of that Wikipedia photo is to reproduce the Mona Lisa as accurately as possible — which is precisely to eliminate any elements of originality. In fact, dozens of such photos might exist, all indistinguishable from one another. And that’s why such reproductions are not protected by copyright.

Now, if you took a photo of the Mona Lisa that was not simply a copy of the painting but rather had its own original elements (such as special lighting or camera angle), that photo would not be in the public domain; you would indeed own the copyright in that photo. Here’s an example of an image that is not in the public domain: non–public domain Mona Lisa.

Here’s another version that would be under copyright because it includes original content: original content Mona Lisa.

Rich Adin raised an interesting question about this: Would a black-and-white photo of the Mona Lisa have enough originality to be protected by copyright? It would probably depend on how much originality the photo might be judged to have, and perhaps that would have to be settled in a court of law. Please note that just because you use someone’s highly accurate photograph of a public-domain image doesn’t mean the person can’t sue you for doing so, even though that person might lose the case.

Interestingly, contemporary photos of statues are always under copyright, as there’s no way to accurately reproduce a three-dimensional object in a two-dimensional photo. A photo of Rodin’s Thinker will always have elements of originality based on framing of the statue, lighting, focus, and so on.

But what about a photograph of artwork that’s not in the public domain? For example, consider the fine art of Carolyn Hutchings Edlund (who happens to be Rich Adin’s better half). If she takes a photograph of one of her paintings and posts it on her website, can I legally use that photograph as the cover image for my next book? No, I can’t. Why? Because Carolyn’s painting is not in the public domain. It’s her original creation, and she owns the copyright. Even though her photo of the painting may lack originality, her painting does not, and I’m not at liberty to use that image without her permission.

One question I haven’t addressed yet is how to know whether or not something is actually in the public domain — something that can be tricky to ascertain. In the United States, anything created before 1923 is generally fair game. In other countries, however, copyright terms may be more stringent, so care and caution are needed.

As the standard disclaimer goes, I am not a lawyer, and you should not consider this article as legal counsel in any way. Nevertheless, I hope that my experience with all of this might be useful to you in your own battles in the wonderful world of publishing.

Jack Lyon ( 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, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

Posted in Contributor Article, The Business of Books & Publishing | Tagged , , , , | 6 Responses

Lyonizing Word: Using the “Find What Expression” Wildcard

by Jack Lyon

Rich Adin recently sent me an interesting challenge. He was using his EditTools Journal feature to mark journal titles in references. The power behind that useful tool comes from lists of incorrectly styled references with corresponding correctly styled references. He creates a separate list for each reference style. The list he sent me was for AMA style, in which the reference uses the PubMed abbreviation followed by a period. It looks like something like this:

A Gesamte Exp Med, | cyan -> Z Gesamte Exp Med.
A Gesamte Exp Med. | cyan -> Z Gesamte Exp Med.
A JR | cyan -> AJR Am J Roentgenol.
A M A Arch Ind Hyg Occup Med. | green
A of LTC | cyan -> Ann Longterm Care.
A of LTC, | cyan -> Ann Longterm Care.
A of LTC. | cyan -> Ann Longterm Care.
A&D | cyan -> Aging Dis.
A&D, | cyan -> Aging Dis.
A&D. | cyan -> Aging Dis.
A. M. A. Arch. Derm | cyan -> AMA Arch Derm.
A. M. A. Arch. Derm, | cyan -> AMA Arch Derm.
A. M. A. Arch. Derm. | cyan -> AMA Arch Derm.

The text to the left of the pipe (|) is how the entry might (incorrectly) appear in the references supplied by the author; the entry to the right is how it should appear. Each entry includes a color, either cyan or green, which tells the program to use that color in highlighting the reference.

Rich knew that some of the entries included duplicates, like this:

Arch Intern Med. | cyan -> Arch Intern Med.

In other words, the item on the left was identical to the item on the right, which meant that it shouldn’t be marked. That also meant the entry didn’t need to be on the list at all. But the real problem was that Rich’s reference list included more than 117,000 entries!

Rich’s challenge? Use wildcard find and replace to remove such entries, thus shortening the list and preventing unnecessary marking.

First, let’s look at that entry again to see what we might need to do:

Arch Intern Med. | cyan -> Arch Intern Med.

There’s a pipe symbol (|) in the middle, which gives us something to differentiate the left side of the entry from the right side of the entry. So we might set up the first part of our wildcard string to look like this:

([!^013]@) |

That tells Word to find any character except a carriage return, an unspecified number of times, until it comes to a space followed by a pipe symbol.

The wildcard for a carriage return is:


The wildcard for “except” is:


And we have to put both of those in square brackets so Word knows that’s a set of characters. (After all, [!^013] finds any character, no matter what it is, unless it’s a carriage return.)

The wildcard for “an unspecified number of times” is:


Finally, we have to put all of that into a “group” by enclosing it with parentheses. And that’s important. You’ll see why in a minute.

Testing that part of our search string, we see that, yes, indeed, it finds the following:

Arch Intern Med. |

In fact, it finds the beginning of each entry, which is just what we want.

Now let’s look at the right side of our entry:

 cyan -> Arch Intern Med.

You can’t see it here, but there’s a space in front of “cyan” — the space that follows the pipe symbol. So we need to include that space in our search string, along with the word “cyan” (in the following examples, I use [space] to represent a space so you can see it; [space] should not actually be entered; use a real space created by pressing the space bar):


There’s also a space after cyan, so we’ll need to include that as well.


That needs to be followed by a hyphen, a right angle bracket, and yet another space, like this:


But now you may be wondering why I put a backslash in front of the angle bracket. It’s because the angle bracket is itself a wildcard (a subject for another day), so we need to tell Word we’re using it as an actual character, which is what the backslash does.

Finally, the rest of our search string looks like this:


This part of the string —


— is the “Find What Expression” wildcard, which is what this article is about, and it certainly took us a long time to get to it!

Remember back when we grouped the very first part of our search string in parentheses?


That “group” is the “expression” that the 1 wildcard represents. In algebraic terms:

1 = ([!^013]@)

And that means 1 will find whatever is found by the ([!^013]@) expression, which, my friend, is extremely cool, because it will allow us to weed out the duplicate entries on our reference list—entries like this:

Arch Intern Med. | cyan -> Arch Intern Med.

Now, for the first time, let’s look at our entire search string:

([!^013]@) | cyan -> 1^013

By now, you probably understand this quite well. The string finds any characters except a carriage return until it comes to a space and a pipe symbol; then it finds a space, the word “cyan,” and another space, followed by a hyphen, a right angle bracket, and a space. Finally (and most importantly), it finds whatever was found by the parenthetical group, followed by a carriage return.

Now we simply need to make sure that Word’s “Replace with” box is empty and click “Replace All.” All of those unnecessary entries will be deleted. (We’ll need to repeat with “green” for the entries that don’t include “cyan.”)

Which would you rather do: Find and delete such entries manually (with just 117,000 to look through) or have Word do it automatically?

That’s the power of the “Find What Expression” wildcard. In future articles, I’ll show you more uses for this wonderful tool, along with other Word wildcards.

Jack Lyon ( 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, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

Posted in Computers and Software, Contributor Article, Lyonizing Word | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Lyonizing Word: But Which Styles?

by Jack Lyon

In my previous article, Lyonizing Word: Taming Styles in Microsoft Word, I explained how to make Microsoft Word display only the paragraph styles you want to use. But that raises an important question: Which paragraph styles do you want to use?

If you’re writing a simple business letter, the only style you may need is Word’s default of Normal. But if you’re editing a book, things immediately become much more complicated. Consider: What different kinds of text exist in a book? Let’s start with the title page; at a minimum, it includes the following elements:

  • Title
  • Author
  • Publisher

It may also include these:

  • Subtitle
  • Publication date

And that means you’ll probably need a paragraph style for each one of those. Why? Because the designer may want to format each element differently. Even if that ends up not being the case, you’ve at least allowed for the possibility. In addition, using a different style for each element makes it possible to use those elements as metadata, and that can be important in electronic publishing. Back in the late 1990s, I was involved in the production of an enormous electronic library. Most of the books were already styled with—that’s right—Title, Author, and Publisher, making it fairly easy to access those elements through a database and thus allow the user to sort books by title, author, and so on.

What styles will you need as you get into the book’s chapters? You might want to pull a couple of books off your shelves and see. You’ll probably find that you’ll need (at a minimum):

  • Chapter number
  • Chapter title
  • Body text

And as you get deeper into the book, you may need some of the following:

  • Block quotation
  • Poetry
  • Subheading
  • Subsubheading

Most books include a multitude of other elements, such as:

  • Dedication
  • Epigraph
  • Caption
  • Notes
  • Bibliography

And on and on and on.

Do you really need all of this detail? Yes, you do. Even if epigraphs and captions are going to look the same (e.g., both will use left-justified 10-point New Century Schoolbook), you as an editor, working in an editorial capacity, shouldn’t be thinking about how epigraphs and captions will look; you should be thinking about whether a specific bit of text is an epigraph or a caption and applying the metadata (a style) that marks it as such. Otherwise, the designer and typesetter won’t know for sure which text they need to format in a certain way. In addition, applying the proper metadata (styles) to epigraphs and captions makes them accessible and manipulable in various ways for later electronic publishing.

Can’t you just let the designer or typesetter take care of all this styling? No, you can’t. Deciding what text should be marked with which style is an editorial matter, not a design or typesetting one. Is this bit of text a subheading or a subsubheading? Should that bit of text be run in or pulled out as a block quotation? Is this line really an epigraph or just part of the body text? Is that line a chapter title, or should it be relegated to a subheading? All of these are editorial decisions; they have to do with what the text is and with what the text means.

Design decisions, on the other hand, have to do with how the text looks. The editor has styled this line as an epigraph. Should it be set in Comic Sans? (Horrors!) Should it be set in italics? Should it be a smaller point size than body text? Should it be centered?

So what styles do you really need? It depends on the book. And there’s no way to know without actually going through the book to find out. I tend to do this as I work, creating new styles as the need arises. Hey, that’s a poem! Guess I’ll need a poetry style (which I then create and apply).

And what should my poetry style look like? For editorial purposes, it doesn’t matter, as long as I can tell that the poetry style has been applied. For example, I might set up the style to be indented half an inch on both sides, with the text color set to blue. When the designer and typesetter bring the text into InDesign, they can redefine the style any way they like. But for now, I can tell that I’ve styled that text as poetry, which, for me as an editor, is all that matters.

In this article, I’ve assumed that you’re creating the styles you need to use, as that’s how I usually work. But for the most part, editors who work for publishers don’t need to do that. Publishers often have their own sets of styles that they require editors to use, and these styles are usually stored in a Word template. For example, you can download the Springer template and the Wiley template. Both templates are well worth looking at, just so you can get an idea of what publishers are looking for in the way of styled manuscripts. Wiley provides additional information in an online article “Applying Formatting Styles.”

You may also be interested in my Author Tools Template, which is a collection of styles that make it easy for authors (and editors) to produce properly styled manuscripts, which means that publishers can then use those manuscripts without having to restyle the text.

In addition, if you’re working with styles as I’ve explained in this article, you owe it to yourself to check out the Style Inserter in Rich Adin’s EditTools. This is a slick feature that overcomes the problems with styles that I discussed in my previous article (see Lyonizing Word: Taming Styles in Microsoft Word) and makes it easy to apply publisher styles to a manuscript.

bodytextIt’s worth noting that some publishers don’t use styles at all. Instead, they require editors to mark up text with publisher-supplied codes like the one at the beginning of this paragraph. In that case, it’s important not to type the codes in by hand, as doing so can easily lead to errors. Instead, editors should use something like Code Inserter, which is included in EditTools.

In the 1980s, I worked on the Penta system, which used such codes extensively. During the 1990s, however, I switched to WordPerfect 6.0 and finally to Microsoft Word, and marking text with styles became a more intuitive way to work.

So what styles do I routinely use today? Here’s the minimal list, which I use in all of the books I publish at Waking Lion Press:

  • Half-Title
  • Title
  • Subtitle
  • Author
  • Publisher
  • Copyright
  • Dedication
  • Epigraph
  • Epigraph Source
  • Part
  • Chapter
  • Section
  • Subsection
  • Block quote
  • Poem
  • Poem Heading
  • Poem Source
  • Bibliography
  • Notes

How about you? What styles do you routinely use? And do you have any tips on how to use them? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

Jack Lyon ( 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, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

Posted in Computers and Software, Contributor Article, Editing Tools, Lyonizing Word | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Responses

Lyonizing Word: Taming Styles in Microsoft Word

by Jack Lyon

Microsoft Word includes a powerful feature for marking the various levels of a manuscript (such as headings, block quotations, poetry, and so on). That feature is styles, which are valuable for many reasons, including:

  • They make it possible to reformat a whole document simply by redefining styles or applying a different template using those styles.
  • They make it possible to find and replace only text using a certain style. For example, you might want to find source citations by searching for parentheses in text styled as block quotations.
  • They make it possible to generate a table of contents based on specified styles.

So styles are very useful. The problem is that Microsoft Word, in its usual “helpful” way, tries to manage which styles are available, in which document, and how those styles can be accessed. Finally growing tired of this nonsense, I decided to take the matter firmly in hand by writing this article.

My first gripe is that Word decides which styles to show in the Styles area of the Home ribbon, which decision seems to be based on nothing that makes any sense. Right now, it’s showing the following:

Quick Style Gallery

Quick Style Gallery

Of the styles available, I use Normal and Heading 1. But Strong? Subtle Emphasis? Intense Emphasis? Who makes this stuff up? Not an actual writer or editor, that’s for sure. So the first thing to do is get rid of the icons for the styles I never use:

  1. Right-click the icon (such as that for Strong).
  2. Click “Remove from Quick Style Gallery” (which, evidently is what the Styles area is called).
Remove from Quick Style Gallery

Remove from Quick Style Gallery

Now, the question is, when I restart Word or create a new document, does the Strong icon come back? Let’s find out. (Now restarting Word.)

Ha! It’s gone! But what happens if I create a new document? (Now creating a new document.)

Shoot, Strong is back again. So we can conclude that removing a style from the Quick Style Gallery applies only to the document in which we remove the style.

I could get rid of Strong and then save what I’ve done as a Quick Style Set:

Save as Quick Style Set

Save as Quick Style Set

But I’d like to get rid of Strong once and for all. How can I do that?

Well, I’ll start by showing Word’s task pane (by clicking the little arrow at the bottom right of the Styles area):

Word's task pane

Word’s task pane

Now I should be able to click the drop-down arrow next to Strong and delete it, right? Nope. Word won’t let me. How annoying!

Delete Strong

Delete Strong

Well, then, where does the Strong style live? In Word’s Normal.dotm template, of course. Can I get rid of it there? I open the folder where the template lives, which on my computer is here:


Then I open the Normal.dotm template. Now can I delete the Strong style?

No, I can’t; same problem as before. Word really, really, really wants to keep its built-in styles — which is why they’re called “built-in,” I guess. So my only recourse is to (1) set how the style will be displayed and then (2) tell Word which styles to display. Here’s how:

  1. Open the Normal.dotm template, which is where your default styles are stored.
  2. Under Style Pane Options (the blue “Options” link at the bottom of the task pane), set “Styles to Show” as “Recommended.” Select “New documents based on this template.”
Show styles as recommended

Show styles as recommended

  1. Under Manage Styles (the third button at the bottom of the task pane), set all styles to “Hide” or “Hide until used” except those you want to show. (Even now, Word won’t let you hide everything.) Select “New documents based on this template.”
Hide Strong

Hide Strong

  1. Make any other adjustments you’d like, such as the order in which the styles will appear in the task pane.
  2. Save and close the Normal.dotm template.

After you’ve done that, every time you start Word or create a new document, you’ll get only the styles you want to see. I think. I hope. Maybe.

How about you? Do you have any helpful hints about how to tame Word’s styles? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

Jack Lyon ( 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, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

Posted in Computers and Software, Contributor Article, Editing Tools, Lyonizing Word | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Zen of Editing: Tales of the Pen Master

by Jack Lyon

If you’ve ever read much about Zen Buddhism, you’re probably aware of its strange but wonderful stories of masters, monks, and enlightenment. Here is an example:

The Emperor asked Zen Master Gudo, “What happens to a man of enlightenment after death?”

“How should I know?” replied Gudo.

“Because you are a master,” answered the Emperor.

“Yes,” Gudo said, “but not a dead one.”

In that spirit, here are some tales not of the Zen master but rather of the Pen master, whose job is to open the minds of editors everywhere. As is usual in Zen tradition, each story is followed by enlightened commentary.

Following the Precepts

An assistant editor went before the Pen master, saying, “Lo, these many years I have faithfully followed the precepts in Garner’s Modern American Usage and The Chicago Manual of Style. Why am I not yet enlightened?”

“Because,” said the master, “you have faithfully followed the precepts in Garner’s Modern American Usage and The Chicago Manual of Style.”

In true Zen spirit, this story illustrates the importance of following the rules and not following the rules. Editors have “rules” for an important reason — to make sure that the author’s intended meaning is clearly communicated to readers in a consistent, coherent way. But blindly following the “rules” can also result in miscommunication. That is why, since its initial publication in 1906, The Chicago Manual of Style has included the following disclaimer: “Rules and regulations such as these, in the nature of the case, cannot be endowed with the fixity of rock-ribbed law. They are meant for the average case, and must be applied with a certain degree of elasticity.”

Editing Is More Than Mechanics

One day the Pen master was passing an assistant’s cubicle.

“Oh, master,” said the assistant, “I’m so glad you came by. Look at this wonderful new editing software. It flags incomplete sentences, finds dangling modifiers, and much more. With this software, the manuscript practically edits itself!”

“Interesting,” said the master. “How does it know when a paragraph should be deleted?”

Editing is not simply a matter of mechanics; if it were, a computer could do it. Fortunately for editors, a human mind is required. At the Editorium, I create and sell Microsoft Word add-ins to help editors do their work. These add-ins, to some degree, automate parts of the editing process. But in the end, cognitive judgment is needed to decide which parts should be automated and which should not, and if any of the automated parts should in some cases be overridden. In addition, there are many parts of the process that simply cannot be automated. Language is complex and subtle, and something as small as a misplaced comma can literally make the difference between life and death (as in a medical journal).

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

An assistant editor was reading a manuscript that had already been gone over by the Pen master. To her surprise, the manuscript contained not a single correction.

Questioning the master about this, the assistant remarked, “You said you had edited this manuscript, but it contains no corrections at all.”

“Nevertheless,” said the master, “now that I’m finished with it, the manuscript is perfect.”

What if you went completely through a manuscript without making a single correction, because, as far as you could tell, no corrections were needed? Would you have done your job? I believe that you would have. An editor’s job is not to make corrections; an editor’s job is to make sure the writing is clear, and if it is, no corrections are needed. Of course, in real life, that is probably never the case. But it’s an interesting thing to think about.

Something Is Always Broke

An assistant brought a new book, hot off the press, to the Pen master. “Master, look!” she said. “The book is beautiful! The cover is bright and attractive, the marketing copy is appealing, the typography is excellent. Surely this is the finest book we have ever published.”

The master opened the book to a random page. “Read the first line,” he said.

“‘When this matter came to the attention of the pubic …’”

These are the things that haunt our lives. I started my publishing career as a proofreader at a university press. On prominent display in our office was a book on whose cover the title had been misspelled — a reminder of the need for constant vigilance on every part of the book during every part of the publishing process. At a later job, thousands of copies of a publication ended up being shredded because of a photograph that should not have been included. So pay attention! As a famous Zen story (a real one) teaches:

A student said to Master Ichu, “Please write for me something of great wisdom.”

Master Ichu picked up his brush and wrote one word: “Attention.”

The student said, “Is that all?”

The master wrote, “Attention. Attention.”

The student became irritable. “That doesn’t seem profound or subtle to me.”

In response, Master Ichu wrote simply, “Attention. Attention. Attention.”

In frustration, the student demanded, “What does this word attention mean?”

Master Ichu replied, “Attention means attention.”

(Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special: Living Zen. [New York: HarperCollins, 1993], 168.)

Editing Reveals Meaning

After receiving his edited manuscript for review, the author was furious. “How dare you!” he said to the Pen master. “This manuscript is covered with corrections.”

“You must not look at the corrections,” said the master. “You must look at the meaning behind the corrections.”

Here we have the opposite case from the one above, where nearly everything needs fixing. Again, however, the process is not about correcting “errors”; the process is about making sure that the author is clear — and not just to the reader. An editor is not out of place to say to an author, “You seem to be saying this, but what I think you really mean is this. Is that right?” It’s all about meaning.

It is not the editor’s place, however, to add meaning, to “improve” the author’s ideas. Editors who feel the need to do so should write their own books.

Context Matters

An editor and a designer were arguing about which was more important, layout or words.

“The layout is finished,” said the designer. “You’ll need to edit the wording to fit.”

“The editing is finished,” said the editor. “You’ll need to change the design to accommodate.”

Finally, they took their argument before the Pen master, who looked at them severely. “What matters is neither the design nor the words,” he said. “What matters is the meaning.”

“And how does one know the meaning?” asked the editor.

“By looking at the design and the words.”

And this is what makes publishing so interesting — and so difficult. The meaning of a word or a sentence or a paragraph always depends on what’s going on around it. Ideas are not fixed; as we change the words or design of a publication, meanings change too, so we must be constantly on our guard.

A student once asked Zen master Shunryu Suzuki, “Can you reduce Buddhism to one phrase?” His reply was spontaneous and profound: “Everything changes.” (David Chadwick, Crooked Cucumber: The Life and Zen Teachings of Shunryu Suzuki [New York: Broadway Books, 1999], xii.)

Here’s another of my Pen Master stories that illustrates the same principle:

One day an assistant came to the Pen master for help with an awkward sentence.

“No matter what I do, I can’t seem to fix this sentence,” he said. “If I delete a word, the sentence no longer makes sense. If I add a word, the sentence seems bloated.”

“If fixing the sentence doesn’t fix it,” the master replied, “perhaps it doesn’t need fixing.”

The next day, the assistant came to the Pen master for help with another awkward sentence.

“Again,” he said, “I can’t seem to fix this sentence. If I delete a word, the sentence no longer makes sense. If I add a word, the sentence seems bloated.”

The master picked up his pen and deleted the sentence entirely. “There,” he said. “Now the fixing is fixed.”

The following day, after a sleepless night, the assistant came again to the Pen master.

“The first day, you said the sentence didn’t need fixing. The next day, you simply deleted the sentence. How does one know when to fix, when to stet, and when to delete?”

The master looked at him shrewdly. “It doesn’t depend on the sentence; it depends on the sentences around it.”

Thinking to outwit the master, the assistant replied, “And what if there are no sentences around it? Then how does one know what to do?”

The master gave a great sigh. “One doesn’t,” he said.

Sometimes It Doesn’t Matter

An assistant came to the Pen master for advice about reconciling proofs.

“One proofreader fixes an error one way; another fixes the error another way,” said the assistant. “Which way is right?”

“Neither is right; neither is wrong,” said the master. “What matters is that the error was fixed.”

Editors sometimes argue about the “right” way to fix something. But in the end, it may not matter as long as the meaning is clear. There are other considerations, of course, such as elegance, euphony, and even beauty. But these are in the realm of enlightenment beyond enlightenment.

What Is Perfection?

An author brought her manuscript to the Pen master. “This new book is my masterpiece,” she said. “It needs no editing at all; it is perfect just as it is.”

“Truly the book in your mind is perfect,” said the master. “But this is not the book in your mind.”

The real job of an editor is to capture what an author means to say and convey that meaning intact into the mind of the reader. This, of course, is impossible in reality, but that doesn’t keep us from trying, and sometimes we may come close. As the Zen masters say, “Practice itself is enlightenment.”

Subhuti was Buddha’s disciple. He was able to understand the potency of emptiness, the viewpoint that nothing exists except in its relationship of subjectivity and objectivity.

One day Subhuti, in a mood of sublime emptiness, was sitting under a tree. Flowers began to fall about him.

“We are praising you for your discourse on emptiness,” the gods whispered to him.

“But I have not spoken of emptiness,” said Subhuti.

“You have not spoken of emptiness, we have not heard emptiness,” responded the gods. “This is true emptiness.” And blossoms showered upon Subhuti as rain.

(Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki, comps., Zen Flesh, Zen Bones [Boston: Tuttle Publishing, 1985], 53.)

Jack Lyon ( 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, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

Posted in Contributor Article, Philosophy & Ethics, The Pen Master | Tagged , , , | 9 Responses

Lyonizing Word: Why Computers?

by Jack Lyon

Dan A. Wilson, of The Editor’s Desktop, once advised editors that a computer is “far and away your most valuable tool, your ultimate enabler, your brain’s second-in-command. A brain with a pencil in its hand cannot compete — indeed, cannot even credibly challenge — a brain with a computer and computer-sophistication at its disposal.”

Why would that be so? After all, even under the guidance of the most brilliant programmer, a computer can’t ensure that a manuscript has accuracy, clarity, or elegance of expression. But a computer can fix hundreds of mechanical problems that editors shouldn’t have to worry about, and it can do it quickly and consistently.

If something can be automated, then automate it! Let the computer do the heavy lifting. Why is that important? Because it enables you to do more work in less time, and it frees your mind to concentrate on the things that a computer can’t handle (like accuracy, clarity, and elegance of expression). If you’re working for a corporation, that makes you more valuable as an employee (making raises more likely and layoffs less likely). If you’re working for yourself, it enables you to earn more money for the time you put in (as long as you’re charging by the job, the word, or the page, which you should be [see, e.g., On the Basics: Dealing with the Perennial Question of Setting Rates for Our Work]).

Editors working on a computer almost always use Microsoft Word. Love it or hate it (I do both), it is unquestionably the de facto word processor in the publishing world. So how can you use Word to automate whatever can be automated? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Learn to use the full power of Word’s find and replace feature, including wildcards. My Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word will teach you everything you need to know. (No brag, just fact, as we used to say in grade school.)
  2. Learn to record and run macros to automate repetitive editing tasks. My Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word is a good starting place.
  3. Use Microsoft Word add-ins (like the ones I create at The Editorium) that expand Word’s features to automate various editorial tasks. Let’s look at what some of those add-ins can do to ease your workload.


We’ll start with one of my most popular add-ins, FileCleaner, which cleans up some of the most common problems in electronic manuscripts, including:

  • Multiple spaces in a row
  • Multiple returns in a row
  • Spaces around returns
  • Double hyphens that should be em dashes
  • Hyphens between numbers that should be en dashes

And much, much more. Here’s a screen shot of the options available:

FileCleaner Options

FileCleaner Options

Want to try it? All of those options are included as part of my Editor’s ToolKit Plus 2014 add-in, which I highly recommend that you download and try. The program offers a 45-day trial period so you can make sure it does what you need before deciding to buy. And if you need help using it, I’m always available by email.

I’d like to point out one special feature of FileCleaner that is frequently overlooked. See that option (under “Formatting”) to “standardize font formats (remove overrides)”? It removes all those odd, inconsistent uses of different fonts that authors like to use, but at the same time it leaves italic, bold, superscript, and styles intact. You won’t believe what a difference this can make in cleaning up a manuscript!

FileCleaner also offers to clean up the active document, all open documents, or all documents in a folder, which means you can run the program on a whole batch of files at once while you go back to reviewing manuscripts (or spending time with family and friends).

Document options

Document Options

Remember all of my talk about automating what can be automated? This is what I’m talking about. Instead of manually doing dozens of find-and-replace routines on dozens of documents, let FileCleaner do the work.


FileCleaner is great for cleaning up common problems, but what if you have uncommon problems that you need to clean up? What if you need to go through three dozen documents and change millenium to millennium in all of them, along with dozens of other misspellings (manger to manager, rarify to rarefy, and on and on and on)? That’s what MegaReplacer is for. Again, it works on the active document, all open documents, or all documents in a folder. But unlike FileCleaner, it allows you to define your own find-and-replace items and then run them en masse. You start by creating a list of the items you want to find and replace, with the find item on the left and the replace item on the right, separated by a pipe symbol (|), which you’ll probably find under your backspace key. Your list will look something like this:


Save the list as a Word document, and you can use it over and over again.

So far, so good. But you’re not limited to finding and replacing individual words; you can find and replace whole phrases that you’d ordinarily have to fix manually while editing:

at this point in time|now
alright|all right
an historical|a historical
a large number of|many
a small number of|some

To give you even more flexibility, MegaReplacer allows you to specify Match Case, Whole Words Only, both Match Case and Whole Words Only, or Use Wildcards by appending a code to the items on your list:

“+c” for Match Case
“+w” for Find Whole Words Only
“+&” for Match Case and Find Whole Words Only
“+m” for Use Wildcards

Here’s an example of each:

per|according to+w
p ([0-9]@.))|p. 1+m

To get you started, MegaReplacer comes with a long list of useful corrections that you can modify to meet your needs.

Editor’s ToolKit

The most basic functions of Editor’s ToolKit Plus reside in the section called “Editor’s ToolKit”:

Editors ToolKit Menu

Editors ToolKit Menu

In particular, they automate some of the most common editorial tasks:

Text Features

Text Features

Furthermore, Editor’s ToolKit assigns these tasks to the function keys on your keyboard. Need to italicize (or romanize) a word? Press F8. Want to transpose two words? Press F11. To lowercase a word, press F10.

Please note that these keyboard assignments are the default setting for Editor’s ToolKit, which Rich Adin has correctly pointed out should not be the case (and will not be the case in the next version of the program). You can easily go back to Word’s original settings, however, by clicking the Editor’s ToolKit Plus icon and then clicking “Clear Keyboard Shortcuts.”

Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard Shortcuts

But if you find that you like the Editor’s ToolKit keyboard assignments, you can activate them by clicking “Set Keyboard Shortcuts.” The program download includes a keyboard template that lists the default shortcuts; print it out and place it above your function keys, and you’ll have a handy guide to which key does what (remember WordPerfect 5.1?).

The keyboard shortcuts for Editor’s ToolKit are not arbitrary, by the way. I’ve tried to arrange them so that the most common editorial tasks are right at your fingertips. For example, F7 toggles italic on and off. Yes, CTRL + I does the same thing, but after you’ve used F7 a few times, CTRL + I will seem clunky and annoying. Something that small does make a difference in how easily and smoothly you’re able to work in Word (see Lyonizing Word: The Right Tool for the Job and Lyonizing Word: Assigning Macro Shortcut Keys).

Many other features are available from the keyboard, but my favorite is Cap Title Case. To use it, select the text you want to put in title case and press F9. But doesn’t Microsoft Word already have that feature? Yes, it does. But take this example:

The call of the wild

Microsoft Word will turn it into this:

The Call Of The Wild

Editor’s ToolKit will turn it into this:

The Call of the Wild

In other words, Editor’s ToolKit properly handles common articles and prepositions. (The next version of the program will allow you to specify those you want to use.)

All of these are small things, but in the pressure-cooker of day-to-day editing, small things make a big difference in the ease and even the pleasure with which these tiny tasks can be accomplished. I’ve been a working editor since 1978, so I’ve been doing such tasks a long time. I created these tools (and the many others included with Editor’s ToolKit Plus) so that my computer can handle the boring, repetitive, mechanical tasks, allowing me to do the more enjoyable and important work that a computer, no matter how sophisticated, simply cannot do. That, right there, is the reason for computers.

How do you use your computer to make your work easier and faster? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Jack Lyon ( 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, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

Looking for a Deal?

You can buy Editor’s Toolkit Plus 2014 in a package with EditTools and PerfectIt and at a special savings of $78 off the price if bought individually. To purchase the package at the special deal price, click Editor’s Toolkit Ultimate.

Posted in Computers and Software, Contributor Article, Editing Tools, Editorial Matters, Lyonizing Word | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Responses

Lyonizing Word: Secrets of the Ribbon

by Jack Lyon

From the beginning, Microsoft Word used a standard menu interface that looked like this:

Word's Original Menu Interface

Word’s Original Menu Interface

Click a menu item, and you’d get a list of more items:

Original Menu Interface Submenus

Original Menu Interface Submenus

Keep clicking, and eventually you’d activate the feature you wanted to use. All of this was straightforward. Then came Microsoft Word 2007, with its “Ribbon” interface:

The Ribbon Interface

The Ribbon Interface

According to Microsoft, the idea was to bring Word’s “most popular commands to the forefront” rather than burying them under a series of menus. For users, this took considerable getting used to, but, mostly, it worked. Unfortunately (and a little ironically), a few of the Ribbon’s features are still less than obvious, which prevents some users from understanding the full power of the features available to them.

Feature 1: Split Buttons

Most of the buttons on the Ribbon interface are just that—buttons. For example, here’s what the NoteStripper button looks like in my Microsoft Word add-in Editor’s ToolKit Plus 2014:

Notestripper Split Button

Notestripper Split Button

If you click that button, either on the pencil-sharpener icon or on the little arrow underneath it, here’s what you’ll get:

The Notestripper Menu

The Notestripper Menu

But now consider the button for FileCleaner, also included with Editor’s ToolKit Plus 2014. At first glance, it looks like the same kind of button used for NoteStripper, with a graphic icon at the top and a tiny arrow at the bottom:

The FileCleaner Button

The FileCleaner Button

Click the arrow, and here’s what you’ll get:

The FileCleaner Menu

The FileCleaner Menu

What many people don’t realize, however, is that the FileCleaner button is a split button. If you hover your cursor over a split button you’ll see a horizontal line splitting the button in two:

Seeing the Split

Seeing the Split

The bottom half, with the arrow, works just as before. But the top part is a different matter. If you click it, you’ll get full access to all of FileCleaner’s batch cleanup options:

FileCleaner Dialog

FileCleaner Dialog

Unfortunately, many people don’t realize that these options exist, which means that they’re missing much of the program’s power. This isn’t my fault, by the way; it’s a result of the way Microsoft designed the Ribbon (although possibly I should use two FileCleaner buttons, one for individual items and one for batch options). At any rate, now that you understand the problem, you can do a bit of exploring, looking for buttons that offer more than at first appears.

Feature 2: Dialog Box Launchers

At the bottom right of many of the groups on the Ribbon is a tiny box with an arrow:

The Tiny Arrow

The Tiny Arrow

Some users overlook these arrows completely, missing some of Word’s most useful features. Microsoft calls these arrows “Dialog Box Launchers,” and if you click one of them, you’ll see more options related to its particular group. Usually these options appear in a dialog box (hence the name) but sometimes in a task pane. For example, if you click the launcher in the “Paragraph” group, you’ll get the dialog box for paragraph formatting:

Launch of the Paragraph Dialog

Launch of the Paragraph Dialog

If you’re now saying “So that’s where that went,” I’m glad I could be of help. Again, it’s worth the effort to systematically explore all of the features that are hidden under these “launchers.”

Feature 3: Contextual Menus

Some of the items on the Ribbon are contextual — that is, they don’t appear until you’re actually working with something for which they’re needed. Tables provide a good example. If your document includes a table, and your cursor is actually in that table, you’ll see the following menu on the Ribbon:

Table Tools

Table Tools

Click it, and you’ll get this:

Table Contextual Menu

Table Contextual Menu

Wow, lots of options! But if you didn’t know about contextual menus, you might miss them. Other contextual menus appear if you’re working with any of the following:

  • Headers or footers
  • Text boxes
  • Graphics
  • Clip art
  • Equations
  • Shapes
  • SmartArt
  • WordArt

There are probably other items that use contextual menus, but those are the most obvious ones that come to mind. Remember, contextual menus show up only when they’re needed, so keep an eye out for them; you’ll be glad you did.

Now that you know some of the secrets of the Ribbon, would you say that Microsoft succeeded in using it to bring Word’s “most popular commands to the forefront”? Or does the Ribbon actually hide more features than it reveals? Perhaps more important, do you like the Ribbon, and if so, how do you use it to work more effectively? What do you think?

Jack Lyon ( 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, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

Looking for a Deal?

You can buy Editor’s Toolkit Plus 2014 in a package with EditTools and PerfectIt and at a special savings of $78 off the price if bought individually. To purchase the package at the special deal price, click Editor’s Toolkit Ultimate.

Posted in Computers and Software, Contributor Article, Lyonizing Word | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Responses