With the release of version 2 of PerfectIt, it seemed the ideal time to put some questions to Daniel Heuman, managing director of Intelligent Editing. I've been a PerfectIt user for some years and I'm looking forward to upgrading to the new version.
Visit the Intelligent Editing website for more information about PerfectIt. You might also like the PerfectIt User Forum, where you can ask questions, suggest improvements and download style sheets.
In the meantime, if you're open to complementing your editorial eye with useful ancillary tools, and want to learn a little more from the developer, read on ...
Louise Harnby: For the benefit of those who’ve never used PerfectIt, Daniel, tell us a bit about what it does.
Daniel Heuman: PerfectIt is a consistency checker. Just as you have a spell checker for spelling, and a grammar checker for grammar, PerfectIt checks documents for consistency mistakes. For example, if you hyphenate "copy-editor" in one location in a document, it’s important to make sure that’s consistent throughout. So PerfectIt checks consistency of hyphenation, capitalization, abbreviations, numerals in sentences, list punctuation and many other things.
PerfectIt also helps check points of style. PerfectIt can be customized with house style preferences and used to check those. For example, one editor programmed PerfectIt to check WHO (World Health Organization) style and made that available to all users. Anyone wanting to check WHO style can just load up that stylesheet and PerfectIt will check for over 1600 preferences. From "hyponatraemia" (not "hyponatremia") to "corrigenda" (not "corrigendums"), that’s an invaluable resource to anyone working with the style.
Finally, PerfectIt helps tidy up documents. It checks that abbreviations are defined, that users haven’t left notes to themselves in text (e.g. "NB: insert figure here") and it can create a table of abbreviations (automatically locating all abbreviations and their definitions) in seconds.
LH: I was discussing all things business to a friend of mine who’s a marketing manager. He writes a lot of quite lengthy reports for internal and external use. I suggested PerfectIt to him and his response was: "I don’t see the need for something like that – there’s a spell check on my PC and I’ve got a good eye.” What would you say to him?
DH: I’d probably scream “oh-my-god-you-are-wasting-your-life!” Actually, that’s not true … I’m English, so I’d probably roll my eyes and walk away!
The truth is that there are two reasons why he should be using PerfectIt. The first is speed. How long does it take him to find one inconsistency? He needs to read through his entire text, locate each word that is capitalized and check/remember to capitalize that word throughout. Then he needs to do the same for hyphenation, abbreviations, heading case, and so much more. PerfectIt finds all of that in seconds. He really is wasting his life by doing it the long way.
The second reason for him to switch to PerfectIt is quality. PerfectIt helps users to really take pride in their work. It isn’t possible for the human brain to keep track of consistency once documents pass several thousand words. Some 80% of documents over 1000 words that are published online contain a capitalization inconsistency, and over 60% contain a hyphenation inconsistency (see The Top 10 Consistency Mistakes). Even if we restrict it to spelling, over 20% of documents over 1000 words that are published online contain a spelling inconsistency. There’s nothing a spell checker can do about that last category. The word "adviser" and "advisor" are both correct spellings. But if they appear in the same document, that’s an inconsistency. Some people won’t ever be convinced. But the stats are real. And as soon as they try PerfectIt, they get it.
LH: So PerfectIt’s not just for editors or proofreaders. It feels like you developed it with a much broader audience in mind …
DH: My background is in economics, and I started out as an economic consultant. Most of the tests that PerfectIt carries out are based on real world experience at that time. For example, we’d deliver reports for businesses and government, but at the end of each report we’d have to go through carefully and make sure that bullets were consistently capitalized and punctuated. We’d check that abbreviations were defined in their first instance, and that they were only defined once. So PerfectIt was designed very much for that market, with a focus on consultants, engineers, lawyers, and medical professionals.
It was only when PerfectIt was released that it was adopted by the editing community, translators and technical writers. In terms of overall revenue, the big companies are probably more significant. But in terms of volume, it’s the individual editors who have been most important. I stopped counting sales to members of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders after it reached 100. And the success is similar with other editing societies around the world. But it’s not just about volume. Editors are wonderful customers because they send feedback. Is there any group in the world better at spotting flaws in editing software? You better believe I get a lot emails with examples that PerfectIt has missed. The result is that we’re always improving the product based on the mails we get.
LH: I’ve been pleased to see that you email me and your other customers with updates every now and then. Can you tell us about the driving factors behind these updates? And if f I say to you, “I’d really like it if PerfectIt did X or Y”, might I expect to see my suggestion in future versions?
DH: Yes, we can’t include all suggestions, but we have a place on our user forum where customers can bounce around feedback for future versions. For the first three years, those updates have all been free. And the ones suggested by users include support for multiple style guides, and the system for dealing with tracked changes in documents.
After three years, PerfectIt 2.0 will be the first major version upgrade that users will have to pay for. PerfectIt has a permanent licence (no subscription fee or anything like that), so in order to justify people spending more money on it, we’ve had to load PerfectIt 2 with user requests and lots of other new features. In particular, we’ve added a "Back" button (possibly the most requested feature) and a system for generating reports on errors and on changes made, which is probably the second most requested feature.
LH: And what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced during development?
DH: The constant challenge is to choose between complexity and usability. The more features and tests we add to the product, the more complex it becomes. But what people love about PerfectIt is the ease of use. So we’re constantly trying to balance those two. With any new feature, the first question is: "Can we get the software to do that?" But the second question is: "Will it be easy for the user to understand?"
LH: Does PerfectIt work for customers outside the UK? Some of the North American or Pacific Rim readers may be wondering if they can use it.
DH: PerfectIt is international. It doesn't duplicate the functions of a spelling checker, but it will spot inconsistencies in language. So, for example, it won't correct "realise" or "realize". However, if "realise" and "realize" appear in the same document, that’s a consistency mistake. Whether you’re in Europe, North America or the Pacific Rim, a consistency mistake is still a consistency mistake.
LH: People are often concerned about buying software and then finding out that it doesn’t do what they hoped. Can you try it before you buy it?
DH: There is a free download on the website. Users can try it without giving any credit card details or other personal information. Just download it and run it on a document.
When they try it, most people get what the product is about in seconds. The only suggestion we make is that PerfectIt is intended for longer documents. There’s no point in trying it out on a paragraph of text because that won’t contain many inconsistencies. Try PerfectIt on a document that’s over 1,000 words. Or better yet, try it on a document that’s over 10,000 words. That’ll show you what it can do.
LH: What does the future look like at Intelligent Editing? Do you have any plans for additional software tools or plug-ins?
PerfectIt 2 took an enormous amount of development time and effort, so it might be a while before we start anything new. However, there are a few projects under consideration, so we’ll let you know when we’ve decided.
LH: I often post on this blog about my favourite editorial tools. Aside, of course, from PerfectIt, what are your favourite tools and resources? Anything you like … software, books, online resources and social media.
DH: My favourite free tool for writing and editing is ClipX. It modifies the clipboard so that it shows the last 25 items that were copied, no matter what program they were copied in. After using it, I can’t understand why anyone would choose to work without it.
It’s more for writing than for editing, but I think that Word’s "AutoCorrect" feature is underrated. Why write out the word ‘"necessary" when you can program AutoCorrect to spell the word in full when you type ‘"nry"? You can quickly build yourself up an entire vocabulary and save lots of time typing.
I’m also a really big fan of Jack Lyon’s Editorium macros. Jack has put a lot of thought into the documentation, and the result is a system that helps you to work a lot faster. People don’t believe that faster keystrokes and saving a second or two each time can make a difference. But they really do.
LH: And finally, tell us something that might surprise us!
DH: In my other life, I’m a swing dancer. That’s partner dancing to big band jazz and old-time blues … and nothing at all to do with editing!
My colleague Liz Jones shared a link to a list of time-tracking tools for freelancers. Some are available to download while others are online. The featured tools include Toggl, Klol, Slim Timer, Manic Time, Function Fox, Rescue Time, myHours, Harvest, Track My People, and Fanurio.
Also of note is Word's Edit Time function, which Alison Lees mentioned in the comments below. For instructions on how to use this in Word 2007, click here; for earlier versions of Word, click here. An important point to make about Edit Time is that Word measures the amount of time you've worked on a particular document according to whether the file is open, meaning you'd need to remember to close the document to get the correct measure.
If you use a particular time-tracking tool in your editorial freelancing work, please share your experiences in the comments to help guide us towards which tool you think might me the most useful.
My search for an easy way to upload my CV to my LinkedIn profile led me to Box. It's basically a file-sharing tool, though you can add details to the free personal account including your picture, name, company name, website, address, telephone numbers. You have up to 5GB of storage with the free account.
It's up to you to decide how best you want to use Box – as a backup, to enable collaboration, as a mobile work platform, or as a means to upload particular files, such as CVs, that you want to make digitally available, perhaps for marketing purposes.
There are many reasons to use Dropbox, but my favourite is as an editorial backup tool. Anything in your secure online Dropbox account is available to you wherever you are and on whichever terminal you're using.
I've blogged in the past about the importance of getting into the habit of saving and backing up your onscreen work frequently. When marking up onscreen, I save every change I make.
If I leave my desk I back up the file onto a memory stick. And I make a further full system backup once a month onto a separate hard drive. Overly cautious? Me? Perhaps, but I learned the hard way.
These days I keep any file I'm actively working on in Dropbox so that the recently saved version is always safe and available to me, even if my computer turns to dust.
You get 2GB free which is more than enough for most, and it works for Windows and Mac users.
To sign up for Dropbox, click here.
Developed by Intelligent Editing, PerfectIt is proofreading/editing software that helps professionals deliver error-free documents by improving consistency, ensuring quality and, if desired, enforcing a chosen style guide.
The website also includes a free-trial download, a detailed list of features, a demo video, reviews, and a user-forum.
I've been using this software for a couple of years and highly recommend it.
N.B. Can be used with UK and US English; set it up to suit your own preferences.
How to annotate a PDF with digital proofreading marks
Below are my free proofreading stamps files in red, blue and black. They conform to British Standard BS 5261-2 (2005).
You will not have to resize these stamps – I've designed them to work with the font size that most book files use. Simply upload them into your PDF editor and you’re ready to go!
Tip: In Acrobat you will have to download each stamp individually. In PDF-XChange (even the free Viewer), the process is semi-automatic - just make sure you download the XChange stamps files below and follow the installation instructions.
What users are saying ...
For Acrobat users (PC and Mac)
For PDF-XChange users (PC)
Louise Harnby is a fiction line editor, copyeditor and proofreader who specializes in helping self-publishing writers prepare their novels for market.
She is the author of several books on business planning and marketing for editors, and runs online courses from within the Craft Your Editorial Fingerprint series. She is also an Advanced Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. Louise loves books, coffee and craft gin, though not always in that order.
Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader & Copyeditor, say hello on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or connect via Facebook and LinkedIn.
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