October 25, 2005

Recommended: Editor’s Toolkit Plus

Posted in Editing, Tools, Typesetting at 11:11 am by India

About four years ago, when I was living entirely off my freelance editorial income (which is to say, when I was living off my savings), I spent a month or two trying to keep up with the discussions at Copyediting-L. And while regularly reading this very busy listserv may cause insanity, I do still recommend taking it in small doses, if you’re at all interested in editing. Because no matter how good you think you are at English grammar, reading just a day’s worth of wrangling on CE-L will impress upon you how vast is the portion of that realm that you don’t know. Flexibility is important in copyediting and proofreading, and once you see how even a group of longtime professional editors can disagree on what may seem like the most fundamental “rules” to you, you’re more likely to remember to wield your pencil lightly when changing all those whiches to thats.

I no longer follow CE-L, because I have actual work to do nowadays, but it was while skimming that list that I kept coming across mentions of a site called Editorium.com. Probably people were discussing Word macros, or how to use the Track Changes feature, or something like that. Editorium has an excellent newsletter that gets into all the nitty gritty bits of MS Word that people who work on manuscripts need to know—how to keep the spelling checker from skipping certain words that are correctly spelled but often misused, for instance, or how to delete unused style sheets. If you use Word, you should subscribe; it’s great.

But when I visited the site, I found that the real mindblowing thing at Editorium.com is the software—complex collections of well thought-out and documented Word macros and scripts. It’s these I can’t live without, specifically a package called Editor’s Toolkit Plus. Whenever I have to reinstall Word on my computer, the second thing I do—after turning off practically everything under the Tools->AutoCorrect menu—is install Editor’s Toolkit. Whenever I go to a new day job, I plead until we buy a license. Because without ETK, Word to me seems broken.

How else do you scrub all the gunk out of a manuscript some client just sent you, one that’s got sixteen different fonts in it, and all these random indents, and tabs and extra spaces all over the place, and hyphens for em dashes, and for pete’s sake, letter ls in the place of numeral 1s??? I used to have to wring all these irregularities out by hand—unfortunately, I discovered ETK+ after helping to preparing the enormous manuscript for the aforementioned History of African American Theatre, which was written by two authors on two computers and therefore had two very different patterns of recurring typographic and formatting hickeys. I spent months doing by hand what I could have accomplished in a matter of hours had I been using Editor’s Toolkit. And I probably don’t use even half the features the Toolkit contains. In fact, I use just two components—FileCleaner and QuarkConverter—almost exclusively, but those two have earned the measly $70 license fee twenty times over by now. (More later, perhaps, on why/how I still use QuarkConverter now that I typeset everything I can in InDesign.)

I could easily go into a numbing amount of detail here about what the software can do, but it would be even easier for you to check it out yourself. You can download ETK+ for free and use it for forty-five days; it’s fully functional, and there are no nag screens until late in the trial. Do be sure to read the documentation; it’s good, and without it you won’t (a) be able to install it correctly or (b) understand what all the buttons do. Skim back issues of the newsletter, too; they’ll help you understand Word and its tricksy ways. If by the end of the forty-five days you can bear to work without ETK, just uninstall it and go back to doing everything the hard way. See if I care.

If you like it, pay the nice man and say to him, “Thank you.” (And he is a nice man; I’ve always received prompt and informative responses to my inquiries, directly from the developer.)

No, I don’t work for Editorium; I’m just a completely satisfied customer. I give you this valuable trade secret for free. Because I’m tired of cleaning up your files.

5 Comments

  1. […] That out of the way, I started work on a hugeous (928 pages) military history book that’s to contain twenty-four maps. The design’s not due until mid-September, but the map guy wants to make his lettering match the text design, and it’ll take him about six weeks to draw them all, so I’m holding him up. For this one, I actually had the manuscript files already, as several weeks ago I’d offered to help the editor straighten out the endnotes (which had arrived with roman numerals, numbered consecutively through the book up to eight hundred something). I whacked on it with my trusty Editor’s Toolkit for a day or so, until I had files I could roughly typeset. Then I looked for the castoff sheet and . . . there was none! I had to do my own castoff! The horror! […]

  2. […] This job is the first for me where there is even the option of working with books through the medium of castoff worksheets, and so far I still prefer to design with live text, if it’s available. Ideally, I get the raw manuscript file from the editorial department, run it though FileCleaner, style it back up the way I like it, and dump it into Quark. Then I can see with my own eyes whether the text is going to fit in the allotted page count. […]

  3. […] I’ve heard that some designers actually read the books they’re about to work on, but we never have time to do that in my office. Besides, I’d rather not have some of this stuff in my head. Instead, the first thing I do when starting a design is to scrub almost all formatting from the text in Word and then mark it up again using style sheets. During this process, which takes one or more hours, depending on the complexity of the book, I get a good sense of the structure and an adequate sense of the subject matter and tone. I also read the catalogue copy and, of course, any paperwork that came with the files. […]

  4. andrew said,

    THANK YOU!

    Sweet jesus if I’d come across this info a few months ago I could have saved myself a world of pain but you’re still an absolute lifesaver for bringing it to my attention…you SUPERHERO :)

  5. India Amos said,

    Now, that is the kind of comment I like.


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