1 September 2006

Time-saving tools for writing

I'm just about to start the third volume in my TRENT series, so my thoughts are
partly on how to save time in the writing process. Here are my best tips.
The best bit comes first - if you do nothing else, get the InsertBible tool.

1) InsertBible tool
2) Pen Scanner
3) Summary and Bibliography
4) Speed tips for Word


1) InsertBible tool




[UPDATE: this is now updated and available at http://www.biblecrawler.org/]
Michael Stead unveiled a wonderful new tool at the Tyndale Fellowship conference.
It inserts a Bible verse or passage into a Word document in several versions:
* ESV (including footnotes in curly brackets) & RSV
* MT (corrected BHS, plain, or pointed or with full Masoretic markings)
* NA27 (same as NA26 and UBS3/4)
* Translitteration of MT & NA27 Hebrew and Greek (with full accents etc)
* LXX (Rhalf's, I guess, but Quinta looks as if it will be very similar)
* Vulgate (well, why not? Useful for historians if no-one else).
* Inserts as a series of paragraphs, or as a table
* Versification to match the versions used.
This works well in Word 2003, but struggles elsewhere, even though theoretically
it should be OK in all versions of Word (we've heard that from MS before!).
The Settings allow you to pick the fonts to use. I recommend you get Cardo and
use that for them all - it is a Unicode font which has Hebrew, Greek, transliteration,
and looks good for English too. Get it as part of the free Tyndale Unicode kit
at http://www.tyndalehouse.com/Fonts.htm
He is offering this to the academic community FREE, and has negotiated free access
for us with the various copyright holders. All we have to do is send a signed fax
which we can printout from his website at http://stead.streetlinemedia.com/
This is a no-brainer if you use Word 2003on a PC. Do it now
(though it is a 12Mb download, so make sure you are on a fast connection).
If you use Word on a Mac, just keep badgering MS to bring out a version which works properly with Unicode.

2) Pen Scanner
When I read library books, I highlight key phrases with a pen.
Before you call the Librarian, I'd better add that I use a pen scanner.
Just draw it over a sentence and the words are ready for your computer.
Note: they only works for European fonts, not for Greek & Hebrew.

There are several pen-scanners available.
Some only work when connected to a computer which runs the software
eg C -Pen 20, Iris Pen
Some work away from the computer (much more convenient), though you
can also link to a computer and insert directly into a document,
eg C-Pen 600, C-Pen 800, Wizcom Elite or InfoScan
For some reason, Amazon appears to be the best place to buy these. Search for "Pen scanner"
I recommend the C-Pen 600 or 800 (http://www.cpen.com/) - pricey and hard to find, but worth it.
The Optical Character Recognition software is very fast and accurate.
You can add dictionaries, eg German, to give you instant translations for a word you scan
Note: I find the batteries drain, so I flip up one end of the batteries when not in use.
If you want to scan lots of text, you need a flatbed scanner. I recently saw someone using
the wonderful HP ScanJet 4670, which is like a piece of glass you place on top of a book.
Much faster than constantly turning the book over in order to turn to the next page.

3) Summary and Bibliography
You were probably told this at Junior school: Write summaries of what you read.
And add page numbers - you know how much time this would have saved in the past.
I use an endless Word file - easy to search and copy and edit.
I include full bibliographic details in a "Heading 2" style (click on Style in the Formatting toolbar)
- then I can search the bibliography separately from the summaries
(eg click on "Find" - "More" - "Format" - "Style" - "Heading 2")
- or I can view just the bibliography data
(eg click on "View" - "Outline", then click on "2" in the outlining toolbar which appears)
I use Heading 1 for subject areas, so I can display only the entries in a particular subject.
Or you could put your summary in your Endnote database, if you find that quicker.
If Endnote slows down your computer, try adding extra memory.

4) Speed tips for Word
Use abbreviations which automatically expand as you type
eg when you are writing an article about the eschatological banquet,
set up an abbreviation ".et" which automatically expands when you write it:
1) type "eschatological banquet" and highlight it
2) click on "Tools" then on "Auto-correct" and type ".eb" in the Replace box
3) click on "Add" then "OK" and try it out - just type ".eb" then hit the spacebar
Note: The abbreviations are case-sensitive, so ".EB" can abbreviate something different
The abbreviations don't have to start with a dot, but this works better for various reasons.
Use Styles. They are powerful and necessary for book-long projects.
- turn on the Style area so you can see what you are doing
(click on "Tools", "Options", "View" and type "0.5" in the "Style Area Width")
- to format or create a style, double-click on the name in the left-hand Style Area.
- Click on "View" - "Normal" to see the style area, or "View" - "Print" to hide it
- assign a style for chapter headings and paragraph headings, paragraphs & quotes,
- apply them rigorously and try to avoid adding other formatting
Use exact line spacing
- exact line spacing for footnotes fixes a bug in Word97 which reappears if someone
accidentally opens and edits your document in Word97. So best to do it for all documents.
Footnotes can appear on the wrong page or flow wrongly without this fix.
- to do this, double-click on "Footnote" in the "Style Area" (see previous note)
then click on "Modify", "Format", "Paragraph". Select "Line spacing"="Exactly"
- exact spacing also prevents Hebrew or Greek fonts making a wide line when they are used,
so exact spacing is useful for the main text as well.
Use Unicode fonts for Greek & Hebrew - this will future-proof your work
- get the free Tyndale Unicode kit at http://www.tyndalehouse.com/Fonts.htm
Use formatting in Find and Replace- to find all Italics: click on "Find" and press Ctrl-I.
- to find all Arial font, click on "Find", "More", "Format", "Font" and type "Arial"
Use Tracking and Compare Document for editing
- click on "Tools", "Track changes" to mark changes as you make them
- another person can quickly find them, and accept or reject them.
- if tracking has not been used, to compare an edited text with the original,
click on "Tools", "Compare" and find the other document.
(Note: it is best to use a copy of your document when comparing with another)
Indexing - follow the instructions at http://www.tyndalehouse.com/TTech/TTech006.htm
Use Tables instead of columns, then make the lines invisible
- tables give you much more freedom for formatting and editing

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