Computer tools for copy editors: macros

Computer tools for copy editors: macros

close up photo of computer control (ctrl) keyThe few macros I use have made my editing better and faster, but I still only use about three consistently. What am I missing out on? Illuminate me! Tell me what your macros do.

My macros currently do this:

  • clean up or flag word choices and minor style points
  • add selected words to a separate style sheet (thanks Carla for opening my eyes to that possibility, and to Macros 4 Editors for the code)
  • add a “start here” comment with one click instead of 12

This week I made a macro that inserts a photo copied from a website because I was building a 209 image photo manuscript for the photo researcher. That macro also did the format fiddling and saved the file, saving me thousands of clicks and lost effort due to how crashy Word gets with an image-heavy file. And after a thousand years I finally can. I’ve been thinking of adding a macro that creates a comment prepopulated with “AU: Does the suggested change capture the intent? If I have misunderstood, could you please explain it to me in another way so that I can suggest different wording? Thank you.”

Maybe I don’t use many macros because I’m still new to macros, use a lot of alternatives (like existing shortcuts and autocorrect), or because I do mostly development/ substantive editing that is not repetitive and lasts 3–9 months on each title; or because I do not work with reference lists.

The quick access toolbar on my screen has been customized with icons for whatever macros I’m using in a project. Right now I have five such icons. The next thing I’ll figure out is adding a macro ribbon, now that Michelle Horn told me that was possible.

Macro primer for copy editors and proofreaders

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A free book of macros for editors

Computer Tools for Editors is a free resource that contains over 600 macros that make routine tasks more efficient. It also includes instructions for installing and creating macros. This title appears to have been recently renamed — I first new it as Macros for Editors. It is available from Paul Beverley at Archive Publications.

A free tutorial for using macros

This tutorial will walk you through the basics of macros in 20 minutes, it says. It was created by Corina Koch McLeod, the woman who first showed me that macros can do more than what existing shortcuts accomplish.

Instructional blog posts

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Electronic Editing: With Your Computer, Not Just On It—Tipsheet, EFA

The Only Thing We Have to Fear: Wildcard Macros, An American Editor

This list and the reference works come from the “Editing Tools” page of the Copyeditors’ Knowledge Base. The links are spread out throughout the page. To find even more on that page, use command + f (ctrl + f in Windows) to search the page for “macro”.

Reference works to buy

Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word
Making Word 2010 Work for You: An Editor’s Intro to the Tool of the Trade

Microsoft Word for Publishing Professionals

Word 2007 Macros & VBA Made Easy

Ready-made macros for sale

There are ready-made macros you can buy. They tend to perform very complicated tasks or long sequences of tasks. Presumably the price comes with some quality assurances and technical support. The most common one I hear of is Editorium’s FileCleaner. It now works with Word 2011 for Mac as well. They sell other macro packages too, that they promise will soon be Mac-compatible as well.

Hardware for macro lovers

Several macro-crazed colleagues suggested this extra keyboard as alternative to remembering your 24 favourite keyboard shortcuts.

Also check out these software plug-ins that KOKedit just found: MacroExpress and KeyboardExpress.


Let me know what is working for you!


— post listing alternatives to macros —

This post was inspired by and collated from my colleagues in the informal Editors Association of Earth. You’ll find this global collection of wise and generous people with an amazing array of experience and perspective over on Facebook. I summarized the “findings” of our discussion here so that what we learned wouldn’t get lost in the timeline of social media.


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