Category Archives: Technical

Windows options for Mac users

In March 2016, the SfEP released a new online course, Editing with Word. I’m sure I wasn’t the only person looking forward to this course, especially as I hadn’t had the chance to attend either of the Society’s old onscreen editing workshops. Editing with Word would be ideal, I thought, because it would be full of up-to-date content, and, crucially for me, I’d be able to take the course online. Contributors to the course included Paul Beverley, Daniel Heuman and Paul Sensecall – all well-known names in the editorial community – so this was a course not to miss.

Perfect.

Then I saw that three of the course’s ten chapters would require some sort of access to Windows. And that got me wondering about how suitable the course would be for Mac users.

Like many writers and editors, I’m a big fan of Apple Macs. But there are times when an important piece of software works only on Windows, and that gives Mac users some questions to answer. Should we stick to using only those tools that work natively on our Macs, foregoing Windows software that might have saved our bacon? Should we keep a PC on standby just in case? Are there any other options?

Below are some examples of software that Mac users might find very useful if only they could get access to Windows. The first three of these feature in the SfEP’s Editing with Word course:

(SfEP members receive a 15% discount on PerfectIt and on ReferenceChecker. Discount codes can be found in the Benefits section of the Members’ area.)

So, there are times when having Windows to hand could really be of help to a Mac-using editorial pro. Now we need to consider what that means in practical terms. Let’s look at the options.

Option 1: use a real PC

PC

There are no two ways about it: for the authentic Windows experience, use a real PC. That doesn’t mean you need the full-on desktop ensemble. An old laptop, netbook or PC tablet might do the job, depending on what software you’re trying to run.

Pros

  • Low-cost option if you already have any Windows-compatible hardware on standby.
  • PC keyboard may be best to use for Windows-specific shortcuts.

Cons

  • Need to use home networking, Dropbox or other sharing methods to move files between Mac and Windows.
  • More clutter: you may need to make space on your desk for that extra computer, monitor, keyboard and mouse.
  • It’s a PC. Prepare for hardware wrangles, blue screens of death and more besides. Why did you buy a Mac anyway?

Option 2: use Boot Camp

icon-bootcamp

Boot Camp is Apple’s built-in software that lets you install Windows on part of your hard drive.

Pros

  • Uses native software built in to the Mac, so should stay up to date so long as your Mac does.
  • No need to install third-party software to run Windows.

Cons

  • Need to restart to switch between Mac and Windows, which significantly slows down workflows and makes it more difficult to share files between operating systems. You’d need to use Dropbox, a USB thumb drive or an external hard disk to shift files between systems. Fun!
  • Usual home-networking routes won’t work: your Mac will be rendered invisible while Windows is running, and vice versa.
  • Requires your hard drive to be partitioned, so you need to decide how much space to reserve for Windows (a headache if you need to change your mind later).
  • Requires installation of a licensed copy of Windows and any other software to be run on the system (e.g. MS Office).

Option 3: use a ‘virtual machine’

icon_parallels

A virtual machine is software that allows you to access an entire operating system (such as Windows) and its programs via a single window on your Mac desktop.

Pros

  • Very easy to share files between Mac and Windows.
  • No need for a second machine, monitor, keyboard or mouse.
  • Windows runs inside a self-contained app.
  • Can share the host Mac’s internet connection or can be used in offline mode, providing strong protection against viruses, worms, etc.
  • Takes up only as much disk space as is required (no need to partition your hard drive).
  • Can inherit an existing Boot Camp installation of Windows.

Cons

  • Requires a powerful Mac.
  • Not the cheapest route (see requirements below).
  • Requires installation of a licensed copy of Windows and any other software to be run on the system (e.g. MS Office).

My recommendation: use a virtual machine

I’ve tried all of the methods above and, for me, the best option has been to use a virtual machine. My old PC took up too much space and was a pain to keep updated and protected. Boot Camp appealed for a while, but losing access to my Mac while Windows was running soon became a no-no. The final option I tried – a virtual machine – is what I’ve stuck with quite happily since around 2010.

There are a couple of big players in the virtual-machine market. In my case, I’ve opted for Parallels. The main alternative is Fusion. Both products do the same job, so, before committing to a purchase, you might want to take advantage of a free trial of each to see which software you prefer. Prices are also almost identical, with each product costing around £65 for a one-off licence. The software is updated every year and there’s a charge for upgrading, but upgrades aren’t mandatory. The latest versions of Parallels and Fusion work well with all modern versions of Windows, so you probably won’t need to upgrade for a few years.

Requirements for running a virtual machine

Here’s what you’ll need in order to run a virtual version of Windows on your Mac:

  • A powerful Mac: running one operating system inside another requires a powerful machine. If you’re using a mid-range MacBook, your computer might not have enough resources to adequately sustain a virtual machine.
  • Virtual-machine software: Parallels and Fusion are the main players. Each offers a free trial.
  • A licensed copy of Windows: even if you already own a PC with a pre-installed version of Windows, you’ll probably need a separate Windows installation disc for your Mac as well as a licence key. If you’ve previously installed Windows via your Mac’s built-in Boot Camp software, you can make Parallels or Fusion use that existing installation rather than having to install Windows again.
  • CD/DVD drive: you’ll probably be installing Windows from an optical disc, but new Macs no longer come with an internal disc drive. If your Mac doesn’t have a slot for CDs and DVDs, you’ll need something like the Apple USB SuperDrive.
  • Licensed copies of all software: an Office 365 subscription is a good option if you wish to run Word and the other Office apps on both Mac and Windows. (Office 365 now works quite well on the iPad, too.)

Note that if you want to make a wholesale move from an existing PC to a virtual machine, Parallels can migrate your entire Windows installation, meaning you won’t need a separate Windows licence, installation disc or CD/DVD drive.

Still, the above represents a substantial requirements list. Take a look at what you already have and see whether running a virtual machine is going to be the right choice for you. In some cases, it will work out better to accept the cons of running a cheap, second-hand PC.

A note about anti-virus software

When Mac users think about installing Windows, they often wonder whether they need to install anti-virus software on their virtual copy of Windows. Strictly speaking, the answer is yes: you’ll be running a fully functional version of Windows that will have access to the internet, and therefore it’s possible for it to be infected in just the same way that a real PC might be. However, there are some mitigating circumstances that might change your thinking on this topic:

  • Your use of the internet inside the virtual machine is likely to be very limited. Do you think you’re likely to use an email program inside Windows, for example, when you already have access to email on your host Mac? Will you be browsing the web inside Windows? Wouldn’t you just use Safari or Chrome on your host Mac, as usual?
  • Virtual machines don’t always need access to the internet. You could disable internet access inside the virtual machine, leaving Windows offline and therefore protected from almost all threats. Even in this state, you could still share your Mac’s files with your Windows installation and vice versa.
  • Virtual machines allow you to take snapshots of your system, so any unforeseen problems (e.g. a virus or worm affecting your installation) can easily be rectified by rolling back to a previous snapshot. You can also delete your entire Windows installation without it affecting your Mac, and then reinstall. This is easier to do with a virtual machine than it is with a real PC.

But I just want to use PerfectIt!

All this information might appear complicated and scary if all you want to do is use the PerfectIt add-in for Word on your Mac. If the above methods aren’t for you, there might yet be hope …

Intelligent Editing, the makers of PerfectIt, intend to release a cloud-based version of the software in late 2016. When this happens, PerfectIt will be able to run on any system, including your Mac. No firm release information is available at this time, but I’ll be keeping a keen eye on developments and will update SfEP members when I know more.

A note about Wine

The more technically minded readers, particularly those familiar with Linux, will probably be wondering why I’ve neglected to mention Wine. This software provides another route for Mac users to run Windows software, but I’ve never had a good experience with it and therefore wouldn’t recommend it. Still, it might be worth a go if the other options above aren’t right for you.

What do you think?

If you’re a Mac user who sometimes uses Windows, which method suits you best and why? Post a comment below to let us know.

John EspirianJohn Espirian (@espirian) is the SfEP’s internet director and principal forum administrator.

As a freelance technical writer, John specialises in producing online help content that’s actually helpful.

How to customise PerfectIt to check your house style

By Daniel Heuman

PerfectItBuilding customised style sheets in PerfectIt helps make sure that all documents you work on reflect your or your client’s preferences for spelling, hyphenation, capitalisation, italics, and other house style choices. There are two ways to build preferences into a PerfectIt style sheet. You can either:

  • Commission Intelligent Editing to prepare the style sheet for you. For government departments, NGOs, and Fortune 500 companies, this is the best way to develop the most comprehensive style sheet possible.
  • Prepare the style sheet yourself. For freelancers and small companies, this lets you put together your own style sheet that is customised to your needs without any additional cost.

To have a style sheet prepared for you, you can get a quote from Intelligent Editing. This article is for people who want to prepare their own style sheet. It guides you through ten short videos that, in less than one hour, will teach you how to prepare your style sheet.

Do I need to customise PerfectIt?

PerfectIt doesn’t need any kind of customisation. You can use it to check consistency without altering any settings. Just run it, click ‘Start’, and the interface guides you through the rest. Most people find that’s all they need, without any customisation. If you haven’t ever used PerfectIt, start with the free trial, which you can download here.

PerfectIt also comes with a number of built-in styles, including European Union, Australian Government, World Health Organization, and United Nations styles. If you’re using those (or if you just want to check UK, US, Canadian, or Australian spelling), you can use the built-in styles without any customisation. Just select the style that you want before you press ‘Start’. You only need to customise PerfectIt if you want it to check your specific house style.

Creating a new style

If you’ve decided that you do want to customise PerfectIt and are ready to learn more, the first thing to do is to add a new style. This video explains how:

You can have one style sheet for every style manual (or client) that you work with. So repeat those steps for every style sheet that you want to create.

Customising settings

When you’ve created a new style sheet, you can edit it in PerfectIt’s style sheet editor. This video looks at the ‘Settings’ tab and shows how to check your preferences for lists, compounds, and headings. For example, you can set PerfectIt to enforce punctuation at the end of a bulleted list or to control title case in headings:

The next video shows how to use the settings for numbers in sentences and Oxford (serial) commas. You can turn Oxford commas off or on, and you can choose whether numbers in sentences should be spelled out or presented in numerals. In addition, it shows how to set a number of style points such as thousand separators and non-breaking spaces in measurements and dates:

Search and replace

You can modify PerfectIt’s tests by adding particular words that PerfectIt should find. In addition, you can choose words or phrases that PerfectIt should suggest as fixes. To see this, go to the ‘Always Find’ tab in PerfectIt’s style sheet editor. Each test within that tab is a little different. This video shows how to add searches to the tests of hyphenation, dashes, accents, and phrases in capitals:

The next video looks at PerfectIt’s different tests of spelling as well as the test of phrases to consider:

The final video on the ‘Always Find’ tab covers the test of comments that are accidentally left in the text and the test of abbreviations that appear in two forms. Then there is a more advanced tip on adding exceptions:

Additional tests

PerfectIt’s style sheet editor has tabs for PerfectIt’s tests of italics, prefixes, and superscripts and subscripts. This video covers all three, and shows how, in addition to switching the settings, you can add additional words/phrases to each test:

If you’re not familiar with wildcard searches in Word, it’s worth reading up on those before watching the next video. Two great sources to look at are Jack Lyon’s Advanced Find and Replace for Microsoft Word (an especially good resource for beginners) and Graham Mayor’s article on Finding and Replacing Characters Using Wildcards (a useful reminder for users who are already familiar with the concepts of wildcard search).

For those who are comfortable with wildcards, this video shows how you can include them in a PerfectIt style sheet:

An even easier way

The videos above explain all of the features in PerfectIt’s style sheet editor. However, if you’re concerned about the time involved in entering all the preferences in your style manual, there is a way to complete the task gradually. And it’s really easy. This video shows how you can amend a style sheet as you work without ever opening up PerfectIt’s style sheet editor:

Sharing styles

The great thing about style sheets is that it only takes one person to prepare them. After that, you can share the style with anyone at your organisation. This video shows how to share your style:

Slow and steady…

If you have spare time to set aside to prepare a style sheet, that’s fantastic. But that’s a luxury that many people don’t have. So what we recommend is to start with an existing style and amend that (as shown in the first video above). Then go through and complete the preferences in the ‘Settings’ tab (the second and third videos). Then stop and just do a few minutes per day after that. Adding to styles incrementally as you work is easy (the ninth video). And if you add just two or three items to a style sheet with each document you check, then you’ll quickly have a style sheet that saves time and improves checking for everyone at your organisation. And it doesn’t cost a penny extra!

Daniel HeumanDaniel Heuman is the Founder and CEO of Intelligent Editing as well as the developer of PerfectIt.

 

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP.

Reference editing solutions for copy-editors

This is a guest post by Inera, who are hosting a workshop on their online reference editing tool Edifix at the SfEP/SI conference.

We’ve all been there. Eager to get started on a new project, you open the first document only to find yourself staring at a long list of poorly prepared references. You are now charged with the task of scrubbing the reference items clean so that they conform to a style (Chicago, AMA, etc.), and you begrudgingly come to terms with the inevitable long days and nights of work ahead before you even begin working on the text itself. Fingers crossed that the reference editing will go smoothly, you pull out the required style manual, take a deep breath, hunker down, and get to work.

Although many of us use time-saving macros to programmatically and quickly address some of the more routine reference editing tasks (see, e.g., the helpful tools offered by Editorium), it doesn’t take long to do some simple maths and come to the conclusion that even at your best, you will perhaps spend more time on reference editing than anything else pertaining to the manuscript. Further to this, if you are being paid a flat fee for the project, your hourly rate decreases dramatically the more time you spend on reference editing. You may find yourself wondering: ‘Aren’t my skills and attention better spent on polishing the author’s writing and correcting for grammar, spelling, and usage errors?’ The answer is yes, yes they are.

Fortunately, there is an online reference editing tool that successfully takes on the task of editing references – whatever their condition. Edifix, a cloud-based solution from Inera Inc., identifies the elements of a reference entry of any style, edits references to conform to the conventions of a selected editorial style, and corrects references with data retrieved from PubMed and CrossRef, automatically inserting PubMed IDs and CrossRef DOIs in the process.

The challenge of efficiently and accurately copy-editing a reference list or bibliography is not a new problem. For years both freelance and in-house copy-editors and managers have struggled with how best to structure a workflow that either reduces or removes entirely the process of reference editing from the copy-editor’s list of tasks. Various (good) online reference authoring tools are on the market (e.g., EasyBib and BibMe), and these have been reviewed on editorial blogs such as Copyediting. But these tools are only useful for the editor who is compiling a bibliography or reference list, and the results still need to be carefully reviewed and copy-edited. Further, these tools do not assist a copy-editor who needs to clean up an untidy reference list or, heaven forbid, transform references that were authored in one editorial style to another. Although there are some tools that assist in editing text content (see, e.g., PerfectIt), none address references/bibliographies.

Edifix allows you to simply copy and paste your unedited references into a web form, and with the click of your mouse retrieve those same references, edited to the style of your choice. The team responsible for Edifix includes not only software developers but also editors with decades of professional and freelance experience. The Edifix tools they’ve created are quick and user friendly, and the results not only save you time but also improve the accuracy of the reference data and your copy-edit.

Achieving accuracy in reference lists and bibliographies is no small challenge. For example, one study published in 2004 sampled three anatomy journals and found that of the references studied 27% contained errors, and of those 38% were major errors. By collecting PubMed and CrossRef data on the references processed, Edifix is able to quickly identify and correct errors in the source that may have been inadvertently inserted by the author.

Edifix gives you multiple options for viewing the results, which include a tracked layout so you can see exactly what Edifix corrected. Results can then be copied and pasted back into your Word document, or they can be exported to JATS XML or converted to RIS for integration with popular reference managers (such as EndNote).

Edifix

Dr Robin Dunford, of Inera Inc., will host an Edifix workshop on Saturday 5 September, at the SfEP/SI first joint conference. Be sure to sit in on this session to see how Edifix can help you save time and increase both your editing accuracy and bottom line! Also, join us on the SfEP Twitter feed to discuss your approach to editing bibliographies:

  1. Do your clients require that you perform fact checking to ensure the accuracy of reference/bibliography entries?
  2. What are the most time-consuming and challenging tasks related to reference/bibliography editing that you encounter in your daily work?
  3. What solutions have you developed or explored to ease the burdens of editing bibliographies?

Since 1992 Inera’s seasoned team of publishing and software professionals have pooled a unique set of skills to bring transformational change to the publishing industry. We develop and license the eXtyles family of Word-based editorial and XML tools, and the new Edifix online bibliographic reference solution. Learn more at: www.inera.com | www.edifix.com | @eXtyles | @edifix.

If you would like to join the discussion on editing bibliographies (in response to the questions above), please use the conference hashtag (#sisfep15) and tag @edifix. 

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP.

Writing out web addresses

Here’s a question I’ve seen a few times of late: when writing out a web address, must we include the whole address or is it safe to omit part of it?

Some house styles set out guidelines for writing web addresses. One would think, then, that the practice is simply a matter of style. In fact, it mostly is – but not always.

So that we know the names of the components that make up a web address, let’s take a look at an annotated example:

Components of a web address

Keeping with protocol

Web addresses begin with a ‘protocol’, the most common being http:// and https://.

From the technical point of view, the protocol isn’t usually required when quoting web addresses. To use the SfEP’s own website as an example, all modern browsers will treat the following addresses as equivalent:

When it comes to being consistent, we wouldn’t usually want both styles of web address to appear in the same piece of work.

The complications tend to come about when we start introducing addresses with other protocols to the same document. For example, if we wanted to make specific reference to a secure website, it would be correct to indicate this by including the protocol in the address, such as:

The intelligent reader will see the protocol and immediately understand that the website is secure, regardless of any other information about the site in the text.

Almost every website that has a secure area will also have rules that discreetly redirect users from the standard protocol (http://) to the secure protocol (https://). To demonstrate this, one can visit the following address:

Now, because a protocol hasn’t been included in the example above, the browser will try to take the user to the http:// version of the site (this is the default behaviour of all web browsers). Seeing that action, the server running the website will automatically and immediately redirect the user to the https:// version.

In short, this means that, even for secure websites, a protocol isn’t usually required in the address. I write ‘usually’ because there are some rare cases where web servers may display the wrong page if the secure protocol is not specified.

In cases where any protocols are included so as to give the reader a cue, it stands to reason that all other web addresses in the same document should also include protocols, on grounds of consistency.

In a document where standard web addresses are the only ones used (i.e., http:// and nothing else), it seems unnecessary to include the protocol. Omitting the protocol is both consistent and technically correct.

Handling new domain names

One common reservation with omitting protocols is when it comes to the newer domain suffixes, many of which most readers may not have heard of. Here are some examples:

If you saw these in running text, would you know that they were web addresses? Or might you think they were the ends and beginnings of unspaced sentences? The caveat here is that if unusual or novel addresses are used in a document, they might be worth qualifying with a protocol – and in turn that would require every other address in the document to include a protocol, too (on the assumption that we’re going to be rigid about consistency).

The cautious editor could use this argument to recommend that protocols be included on all addresses, to prevent a major rekeying effort in the event that some novel address is later added to a work that had previously contained only run-of-the-mill addresses. You’d have to make a decision about whether this would be too cautious an approach. For what it’s worth, I’ve been omitting protocols for quite a while now, having previously been a staunch supporter of mandatory inclusion.

Omitting the ‘www.’ part of an address

Some people don’t know that it’s usually possible to omit the ‘www.’ part of a web address and still be able to retrieve the website. This part of the web address is known as the ‘subdomain’. Most web servers are set up so that the domain (the key part of the address) and the ‘www.’ subdomain each allow access to the website. Here is an example:

Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to omit what would otherwise be a redundant ‘www.’ from the address. Here are some examples:

Trailing slashes

A trailing slash is the forward slash character (/) sometimes added to the end of a web address. This should be added only to the end of a domain name or a folder name in the address. Here are some examples:

  • www.example.com/ – correct
  • www.example.com/folder/ – correct
  • www.example.com/folder/file.html/ – incorrect

One might wonder why a trailing slash would ever be added to a web address, given that the website ought to be displayed just as well without it. The answer is that the appropriate use of the trailing slash eliminates one unnecessary request from your computer to the server, thereby reducing the load on the server. You might not notice any positive effect, but it’s still a good practice to adopt: very busy servers will run better if their load is lightened in any way.

Web addresses followed by punctuation

A web address directly followed by any punctuation mark has the potential to confuse, because some readers may incorrectly interpret the punctuation mark as being part of the address. Word processors and email programs can sometimes be guilty of this mistake, turning an otherwise correct address into a link that doesn’t work when clicked. Thankfully, this is less of an issue than it once was.

It’s quite easy to fall foul of the ‘address plus punctuation’ problem when copying and pasting an address. It’s therefore sensible to avoid directly following an address with a punctuation mark; however, if the context is clear or the readership is web savvy, there may be no need to reword the text.

In my opinion, the omission of a terminal punctuation mark for the sake of clarity is preferable to the occasional practice of adding a space between the address and the punctuation mark. As usual, we should be consistent in the handling of all such matters.

Conclusion

If your client’s style guide sets out preferences for how to write web addresses, you should of course follow those preferences. But be mindful of any newer types of address that might confuse readers, and check that all addresses do indeed work as written.

If you have no style guide from which to work, remember that it’s perfectly fine to use the shortest possible address that will result in the desired website being loaded correctly.

John EspirianJohn Espirian (@espirian) is the SfEP’s internet director and principal forum administrator.

As a freelance technical writer, John specialises in producing online help content that’s actually helpful.

 

Proofread by SfEP Advanced Professional Member Etty Payne.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP.