Like many of you, I am already a PerfectIt user. I love to do a PerfectIt pass after I’ve edited a document and fix all those contrary hyphens and stray capitals. I’ve been meaning to do a course for ages (or actually read the documentation or watch the videos). I think I may have done the introductory one when I first downloaded the software in 2014, but I haven’t been back to the website much since then and … you know.
So when I got an email from SENSE saying that Daniel Heuman, the creator of PerfectIt, was going to a deliver a course here in Amsterdam, I signed up.
For those who don’t know already, PerfectIt is an add-on to Microsoft Word that checks for consistency and enforces style. It is not a grammar or reference checker. PerfectIt leaves each decision to the editor, so you always have control over changes being suggested and made.
Daniel developed it for consultants working on long reports because he knew from his previous job how difficult and time-consuming these fiddly things are to find. Daniel says it took him six months to realize that editors are a key market. Who would have guessed that we editors even care about details?! At any rate, it’s now almost ten years later and PerfectIt is also being used by professional translators, government institutions, universities, the European Space Agency – it’s an impressive list of clients.
After that background, the workshop was split into three sessions: beginner, advanced and Daniel’s other favourite software picks for editors.
In the beginner session, Daniel showed the recently released Cloud version, which can be used on Mac and PC, and he walked us through some of the tests PerfectIt does. I’ve become so used to it that I had forgotten how amazed I was the first few times I ran it over a document and it picked up all those ‘broad-acre’ and ‘decision making’ instances when I wanted ‘broadacre’ and ‘decision-making’! It is much faster than me having to manually check for these.
PerfectIt also has a bunch of functions I haven’t used, particularly those at the end of a pass, such as generating a report of changes and compiling the comments in a document. I also didn’t know if it could check just part of a document, so I gave it a test and sure enough, it asked me ‘Do you want to check only the selected text?’
In the advanced session, Daniel talked about enforcing style manuals. PerfectIt comes with a number of built-in styles such as Australian Government Style, United Nations Style and US Spelling. You can either use these styles as they come or make copies of them to tweak. For example, I use UN style for one client, but they like ‘program’ instead of the UN’s preferred ‘programme’. In this session we went through the tabs in the ‘Edit Current Style’ function, which was a great reminder to me of how much control I have over all the tests PerfectIt runs.
Daniel also talked about using PerfectIt’s wildcard check which makes some tests very powerful and much faster because it searches for patterns of text, rather than individual instances. For those unfamiliar with wildcards, he recommended Jack Lyon’s Wildcard Cookbook which is available for free here.
The company that sells PerfectIt is called Intelligent Editing and their website has 10 online video tutorials, ranging from between about two and five minutes long, that talk you through PerfectIt’s functions, ranging from between about two and five minutes long. I’ve already had a look at one to remind me how to do something I saw in the workshop.
In the last part of the session, Daniel shared with us a range of other tools that he thinks are helpful for editors. Daniel recommends trying a new piece of software every few months – you’ll keep learning, and you could well find a tool that revolutionizes your working day. He suggested a variety of software to include in such try-outs, although not all are available for both PC and Mac and not all are free. But I’m providing the links here so you can have a look at them.
|ClipX||Creates a system-wide clipboard that holds 25 items; no more going back and forth to paste things between applications!|
|WordRake||Simplifies complex writing; very handy to turn text into plain language.|
|TextExpander||By using shortcuts, lets you quickly insert boilerplate text.|
|Edifix||Fixes reference lists by looking for the citation in Cross Ref; super, but expensive.|
|File Cleaner||Corrects messy documents and fixes common typesetting problems.|
I’d been meaning to do such a workshop for a while, and I’m so glad I did. It gave me confidence to know that I’ve mostly been using PerfectIt the way it should be used, but also reminded me how I can take more control over style sheets for individual clients. There is a Facebook group called PerfectIt Users, and I think I’ll be able now to contribute to that rather than just lurking, as I have been.
Ruth Davies is an Australian freelance editor currently living in the Netherlands. Through her business centrEditing, she edits research reports about all sorts of interesting things, including climate change, remote Australia, and agricultural development in Africa. She joined SENSE at the beginning of 2018.
For more information on the recently released Cloud version of PerfectIt, take a look at Michelle Luijben-Marks' review here on the blog.