Tag Archives: computer tools

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.

Computer tools for proofreaders

Computer tools for proofreaders

Computer tools for proofreadersThanks to continuing developments in computer technology, there are more and more tools available for editors, but is there any help for proofreaders? The short answer is yes. To start with, there are tools for on-screen mark-up of PDFs, but they only give you a more efficient ‘pen’ to put your mark-up on the ‘paper’. To see how computers can help more fundamentally, we need to think about what you, as a proofreader, actually do.

Obviously, you have to read every word of the text, to check that it conveys the author’s meaning properly. But you also have to watch out for all sorts of other things: spelling, punctuation, hyphenation, layout glitches, numbering, etc. And that’s just the words – there are also figures, pictures, tables, etc. to check.

You have a lot to think about as you read, and you can easily be distracted from the meaning of the text by the smaller, mechanical changes needed, or you can miss some of the mechanical changes while concentrating on the meaning. This is where using computer tools can help, because they are good at dealing with the routine changes so that you can concentrate on the communication of the author’s ideas. You can rely on the computer, knowing that it will work consistently, without being distracted by the phone or by the cat walking across your keyboard.

By ‘computer tools’ I’m talking about powerful programs that you can buy, such as PerfectIt, as well as the sort of pre-programmed macros that I use. Now, to many people a ‘macro’ is just ‘a shortcut to a task you do repeatedly’, to quote one website, but pre-programmed macros are far more powerful and versatile than that.

There are plenty of pre-programmed macros available, and you even can tailor them to your own way of working with very little programming knowledge – Jack Lyon’s Macro Cookbook is a very useful resource.

So, the main way that computer tools help me in proofreading is by analysing the text as a whole and alerting me to issues of (in)consistency, and they do so before I start to read. Am I the only person to have made a hyphenation decision (say, changing ‘non-linear’ to ‘nonlinear’) based on Chapters 1 and 2, only to find that Chapters 3 to 12 are consistently the other way round? What a waste of time! Do I undo my changes in Chapters 1 and 2, or persist in deleting all the hyphens from ‘non-linear’?

Now, I can’t tell you the ‘best’ way to use computer tools, because every job is different; proofreaders are all different too, in the way they like to work. And I certainly can’t give you unbiased advice, because the only tools I use are my own home-grown macros, but I hope I can give you an idea of what’s possible. Here are some areas where macros can provide aids to consistency – the macro names in italic will allow you to find details of them in my free book, Macros for Writers, Editors and Proofreaders:

• Hyphenation – HyphenAlyse provides a list of all the hyphenated words (or potentially hyphenated words, e.g. nonlinear) in a document, showing how often they appear as a hyphenated word, two words, or one word (e.g. sea-bed, sea bed or seabed).

• Proper nouns – ProperNounAlyse creates a list of proper noun pairs that could possibly be variant spellings of one another, and how often each occurs, e.g. Brinkman (3), Brinkmann (1).

• Spelling – With SpellingToolkit, you can create a copy of the document (in Word) with all the likely misspellings highlighted, and IStoIZ or IZtoIS will indicate all the -is/-iz inconsistencies, e.g. organise/organize.

• Other inconsistencies – DocAlyse creates a list of the frequency of other issues, such as inconsistencies in capitalisation, alternative spellings, and serial (or not) commas.

Other tools that can be used for proofreading include MatchBrackets, MatchSingleQuotes, MatchDoubleQuotes and AuthorDateFormatter.

Using these tools does take time and effort – both in learning how to do it, and also in implementing them on a given job – so only you can decide if it’s worthwhile. Certainly, the longer the job, the bigger the pay-back from the time spent in preparation.

But, regardless of the time saved, if these tools enable you to produce a better standard of work, it seems to me to be a good investment.

Members and associates of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) can find out more about macros on the SfEP discussion forums.

Which computer tools do you find most useful when proofreading?

Paul Beverley

Paul Beverley

At 65, Paul Beverley doesn’t want to retire – he finds freelance proofreading and editing far too enjoyable. He loves polishing text for optimum communication, and finds it very satisfying to use his programming skills to write macros that increase his own and other people’s efficiency and effectiveness. As an OAP with government support he can also cherry-pick his jobs – a great privilege.

 

Proofread by Jane Hammett, an advanced member of the SfEP.

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