PerfectIt is the premier consistency-checking software for many professional editors and proofreaders around the world. Developer Daniel Heuman and I sat down for a chat about what's new!
So Daniel was in New York, and I was in a tiny hamlet in Norfolk called Panxworth. Despite the 6,000 miles between us, the construction works going on outside his apartment, and the internet-connection problems in my somewhat rural neck of the woods, we managed to produce a video of our chinwag!
For those of you who want to jump to specific parts of the conversation, here are the key themes and associated time stamps:
▶️ Louise introduces Daniel Heuman, developer of PerfectIt: 00:00:00
▶️ What PerfectIt does and why it’s useful: 00:00:24
▶️ PerfectIt Cloud – the new solution for Mac users: 00:04:08
▶️ Windows users: Should we buy PerfectIt Cloud?: 00:06:12
▶️ The subscription model and a new lower price: 00:09:27
▶️ The benefits of up-to-date editing kit: Stability and support: 00:12:27
▶️ PerfectIt and Office 2016: 00:14:54
▶️ PerfectIt 4: Online, in the cloud, or both? 00:18:35
▶️ Features of PerfectIt 4: 00:20:24
▶️ Sign-off: 00:25:44
And below is the conversation in full. Click on the Play button to begin listening. I've included subtitles in case you need to turn the sound off or can't understand our British accents!
There's a full transcript below. I've edited this for readability but essentially it's the words as they were spoken on the day.
THE FULL TRANSCRIPT
Louise introduces Daniel Heuman
LH: My name is Louise Harnby and I’m a fiction editor, and today I’m going to be talking to the founder of Intelligent Editing and the developer of a piece of software beloved by many editors all over the world. And that’s PerfectIt.
Before Daniel and I start chatting about all the PerfectIt news, Daniel’s going to tell us a little bit about what PerfectIt does, because some of you might not know. So over to you Daniel!
What PerfectIt does and why it’s useful
DH: Thank you! It’s lovely to speak to you! This is very exciting. I don’t know that they’ve ever done a video interview like this before so thank you! OK. PerfectIt – for the people who have not come across it before (which is probably exactly who won’t be watching this, but hopefully they are!)
LH: You never know!
DH: You never know! Exactly! So PerfectIt is mostly consistency-checking software, and the key place where it comes in is that when you’re editing work it’s almost always under, you know, time pressure, and with a pressure to produce perfect work.
It’s ultimately dealing with the fact that everything is going to be on a budget. So given a limited time, what is the best document you can produce? And PerfectIt really fits in there. It saves time; it helps you edit faster.
And the way I was trying to explain it the other day was at the ACES conference. I have new way of explaining it ... I thought a little bit about what gets people into editing. And I think that without delving into the deep psychology of what makes anyone an editor, I think one of the things that does not drive people is the difference between tiny consistency mistakes.
So, yes, it’s fun sometimes when you spot ‘e-mail’ with a hyphen in one place and not in another but mostly that’s not what’s driving people. People get into editing because you care about words, you like reading, you care about communication, you want to explain stories, you want to help people connect better with readers.
And these little tiny mistakes that take so much time to spot are not the reason. They are a distraction. They’re significant because they jump out at readers but they’re not the reason why we get into this. And they’re certainly not the reason why one should be spending a lot of time on a document.
LH: And you’re so right because they take so long to deal with. I’ve had manuscripts before where, actually, particularly if an author’s got a budget, people like me are spending perhaps hours and hours and hours when we’re using just our eyes, dealing with these tiny inconsistencies, which as you say are red flags.
And, yet, actually what we want to do is immerse ourselves in the narrative in front of us and to make it better. And the more time we can spend focusing on the flow of the words ... because every time you come across a hyphen that’s inconsistent, or inconsistent capitalization, as an editor, you’re dragged out of the flow of the work as well.
And so being able to do that, to save time by having a piece of software like PerfectIt to do that for you is just wonderful. And you still get the pleasure of knowing that you’re bringing this consistency to the work. But it is back-breaking doing that manually. I think that’s the thing that a lot of editors feel. It’s just back-breaking work.
And I would rather an author paid me to do other things with my time. I want them to feel that I’m going to do those things but I don’t want to have to spend more time than necessary doing it, and that’s where your software comes in.
DH: Absolutely, and we put on the homepage something like: you spend the time on what matters most, which is your words and their meaning.
LH: Yeah, yeah, that’s exactly it.
PerfectIt Cloud – the solution for Mac user
LH: So, Daniel, in the past, PerfectIt’s only been available to Windows users.
Well, that’s not quite true. I do have Mac-using friends who have been able to use PerfectIt but they have to be running something like Parallels, or I think it’s called VM Fusion Ware or something. Or they’ve had to go buy a cheap Windows laptop.
So I suppose that’s the thing that everybody’s talking about. Like, what’s new for Mac users?
DH: That is the news! So first off, it’s been touching and amazing, the extent to which people have been going to use PerfectIt.
Like you say, they’ve been installing Parallels. People have been buying computers to run this program, which is touching. I know that buying another computer doesn’t cost as much as it used to but, still. But for Mac users who hate Windows and just run it for one program has been phenomenal to see. But yes, no longer!
So we are producing PerfectIt Cloud, which is ... you’re going to have to forgive ... in the background you can probably hear the construction noise! I’ll do my best to speak over it. So we’re producing PerfectIt Cloud, which is an Office Store add-in.
And the great thing about Office Store add-ins is that they are compatible in any version of Office 2016. So if you are on a Mac, if you’re on a PC, if you’re on an iPad, even in Word Online (which I don’t know that anyone actually uses), no matter which version you’re on, you see the same add-in. So the functionality is exactly the same across.
And we’ve been developing this for ... I mean, you know, the amount of times people have heard me saying, ‘A Mac version is coming soon. It’s just a few months. It’s just a few months.’
But, no, as of 26 June we will have PerfectIt Cloud, which brings compatibility to Mac and to iPad for the very first time. So it’s really exciting!
Windows users: Should we buy PerfectIt Cloud?
LH: So what about Windows users? I have PerfectIt 3. I’ve had all the versions since it first launched. I work on a PC. Should I rush out and get PerfectIt Cloud?
DH: In a word, no. So the introduction of PerfectIt Cloud is primarily for Mac and iPad users at this stage. So if you’re using PerfectIt 3, if you’ve got a Windows PC, that’s still going to be the best version that we offer.
And it’s going to be strange because PerfectIt Cloud looks so much better! The interface is even easier than it was before. It’s a beautiful product, but underneath there are a few things that PerfectIt 3 can do that we haven’t been able to do for Cloud yet.
So the most important one of those is customization of styles. That’s still going to take some time to bring into PerfectIt Cloud. The ability to check footnotes – we’re going to be dependent on Microsoft for them to make some changes before we can bring that in.
So if you have PerfectIt 3, if you have a PC, in most cases the thing to do is not to rush out, and not to buy this at least until we produce a new version for the PC, which will be PerfectIt 4.
There’s one exception, which is, you know, all those people who ... the ones, the amazing wonderful users that you’ve described who have gone and bought VMware, and Parallels, and even separate computers.
A bunch of those users are really frustrated with having to turn them on every time, and going through Windows updates, which take forever. And just to get PerfectIt up and running takes two hours. And it’s saving them a lot of time so they do it, but if you’re one of those people who has both a PC and a Mac, in those cases, yes, you would.
Not all the options are included but it’s close enough that you may not want to be uploading and updating your Windows computer each time just to run PerfectIt.
LH: Yeah, and I suppose also for people perhaps who are, I don’t know ... I was thinking about the increasing number of editors who are location-independent. And, actually, maybe they don’t always have the latest ... you know, they’re don't want to be worried if their computers break ... and the idea perhaps of just knowing that it doesn’t matter which PC you’re on, or which Mac you’re on, that if you’ve got something, a machine in front of you, you can do your work and you can access the core functionality of PerfectIt wherever you are.
And that’s an important thing, I guess. I mean, I’m not location- independent. I am very much dependent! I’m in Norfolk with a rubbish broadband speed and so I’m kind of quite keen to keep things offline and local when I can. But knowing that I’ve got the choice – that will be a big issue for me.
The subscription model and a new lower price
LH: Can we talk about price now? Because in the past, once every two or three years, you bring out a new version, and I’ve paid you, I don’t know, $90? I can’t remember the price off the top of my head. So that’s the way it’s worked. But you’re doing things slightly differently now, aren’t you?
DH: Yes. So we are switching to a subscription ... sort of a subscription.
And I know the minute I use that word people are turning off this video, don’t want to know anything more. because everyone is sick to death of subscriptions with, you know, Netflix and Amazon, and, oh my God, you can get a subscription for your vegetable delivery now, which is bonkers!
But I think what we’re doing is really different to that. We switched to a once-a-year payment. At this point at least, there’s no handover-your-credit- card or anything like that. You pay each year if you want to continue using it.
And switching to that kind of model means we can drop the price by a lot. So instead of being a $99 one-off purchase, we’ve made it $70 per year.
And on top of that, we’ve really dropped the price for, you know, independent editors. So we’ve worked with as many of the editing societies around the world as we can – certainly all the big ones – to have a kind of a discount.
And that’s going to be an additional 30%, so the price is going to be just $49 per year for independent editors who are, you know, a member of any of the big editing societies anywhere in the world.
So subscriptions mean we can get down the price down a lot, and they mean we can create a really compelling, simple offer, which is that you will buy PerfectIt and then you will get any version you want on any number of devices you want, and not pay a separate charge, which I think is really what bothers a lot of people.
So you buy PerfectIt and you can install the PC version on your PC, you can install the Cloud version on your iPad. You only pay once for that and you don’t get stuck with that additional charge you described, which was the upgrade charge.
So, yes, we used to have a one-off price but people liked this product and much more than 60% of people paid the upgrade price anyway. So, really, there was a hidden recurring element.
And by switching to ... we can call it a subscription, we’ve made everything included in that price very transparent. And you get all the upgrades, you get all the updates, you get support. So I think the way we’ve switched the pricing is really gonna be attractive, and especially attractive for independent editors.
The benefits of up-to-date editing kit: Stability and support
LH: I think it’s wonderful because, I mean, I’m a big fan of the subscription model, even with things like Microsoft Office, because I’m a professional, I want the latest software, and I want it to work in an environment that’s stable as well. And so I like having the most up-to-date version of Word.
I had a situation a few years back when I first plonked a download of Windows 10 on my Windows 8, or Windows 7 computer or something, and I was trying to get PerfectIt to operate in an environment basically with two operating systems, and guess what? It wasn’t happy.
And so at that point ... because PerfectIt was key to my editorial day-to-day working, it was one of the things that triggered me to actually think, ‘You know what? You need to get yourself an up-to-date computer with the latest operating system already installed, so it's not fighting with anything else.’
And to know now that I’m always going to be running the latest edition of Word on the latest operating system and that the plugins that fit into that software, like PerfectIt, are going to be the latest editions too ... for me, that’s just one less worry.
It means that I can get on doing the business of editing rather than thinking, ‘I want to be able to do X, Y or Z but I can’t because it’s broken.’
And so I’m really excited about this because, as you say, it’s upfront, it’s clear, everybody knows what they’re gonna pay and what they’re getting.
And you mentioned something there as well, and that was the issue of support. Because in days past, it was the case that if you decided to stick with an older version of PerfectIt you wouldn’t have access to you.
And sometimes, you know when you get stuck on things, you just want to be able to ask the person who actually really knows the answer. It’s not guesswork. And knowing that that’s always going to be ... you get the full package. So I’m really excited about it. I think it’s a really good deal.
I think the price is a steal as well. And for those of us who are members of professional societies, what a perk of membership to know that you can get one of your core pieces of editing software at such a huge discount! Thank you!
DH: Yeah, those societies and the editors within them are absolutely the reason why we are where we are today. That’s been the core of this business so now I absolutely think that it’s important to support them.
PerfectIt and Office 2016
DH: And I agree with you completely about thinking about Office and updates that way.
I know that a lot of editors have been disappointed when we’ve said that PerfectIt Cloud is only gonna work in Office 2016. And they said, ‘Well, I’m never moving to Office 2016 because I’ve heard all these terrible things about it.’
And I just wonder every time I hear that ... I think, I know those stories are true – when you have a piece of software like Microsoft that is installed everywhere then you always are going to have some things that don’t work and that are gonna get on Facebook. And they’re gonna look to seek help. And they’re always going to be the ones who have some kind of problem.
You never get someone who installs the latest version of Microsoft and says, ‘Yep, that worked’ and tells all their friends.
So our perception of these versions has been really sort of distorted by, I think, the relatively lower number of people who have had problems in perspective to the total, in relation to total.
And as you say, when you actually look at the package and what Microsoft are offering, I think it’s really good. And I’m fortunate that I’ve never had any sort of problems with it. I’ve used Word on the iPad, I use Word on the PC. I think they’ve done a really good job of making those two similar and in line. In the past, there’s been big differences between those things.
You know, I was able to switch as a long-time PC-user to the iPad version. I had no trouble doing that. And they do it at a low monthly price. And what I’ve sort of been saying to anyone who’s asked about it is something like, yes, there are some users who’ve had problems, and there have doubtless been lots of glitches, and there always are with endless Microsoft updates, but what about trying it for one month? They offer a monthly price. And see if it works for you.
And you’ve got your old version and you can always go back, but those old versions, they’re at this point ... you know, Microsoft has stopped supporting Office 2011 anyway, so we’re out of that period really.
Yeah, I think I think as you say, the package they’re offering is very good, and especially the kind of value in the monthly offer. It makes a lot of sense.
LH: Yeah, and I think the other thing to mention is that, you know, I think sometimes there are people in, well, not just the editing community but all sorts of communities who are trying to run say 2016, or with all the updates, 2018 software but on decade-old computers.
And that’s a bit like taking your mobile phone to medieval times and complaining you haven’t got signal!
You know, we need as editors to be, I think, working with the latest equipment. Within a budget, of course. Most of us aren’t rich. But I always think, get the best RAM you can ... get the best processor you can for your money.
And then things like PerfectIt, within Word, within Microsoft Office, will work the best for you.
DH: Absolutely! And we all make these mistakes! I’ve been screaming at my printer all morning and pressing over and over again, and wasting so much time trying to get this printer to work.
And I know the reason why it doesn’t work – it’s because it’s really old, and would cost next to nothing to replace.
But, you know, we’re old enough to remember that these things used to be very expensive, and it’s so difficult to get rid of them. But, actually, you know, when running a business, to spend my morning yelling at a printer is probably not the best use of my time!
PerfectIt 4: Online, in the cloud, or both?
LH: So can I just check something with you? Can we talk then about the next version of PerfectIt that will be also usable locally?
So we’ve got PerfectIt Cloud but there’ll come a point I’m assuming when there’ll be the next version, like PerfectIt 4 that will be in the cloud. Will that also be something that someone like me who’s got a little bit of an iffy broadband connection can, if they want to, download to their computer?
DH: Oh, so we are NOT moving to the cloud in any way, shape or form. We’re doing very much that kind of approach that Microsoft has gone for where you pay once and you have different parallel versions for different devices.
We are not switching to the cloud. There will always be a local version. As I said earlier, it’s still kind of the best version for a number of reasons.
And so at the moment, if you get a subscription, you will get PerfectIt 3 and PerfectIt Cloud, and as of the end of this year you’ll get PerfectIt 4 and PerfectIt Cloud.
And we’ll keep the two in parallel so that they’re running off ultimately the same code, so that you’ll get the update for PerfectIt 4 locally, and at the same time, almost at the same time, we will update PerfectIt Cloud automatically, and they’ll offer the same checking.
LH: OK, great, that’s good. I just wanted to be sure of that because ... just because my broadband is a bit of a nightmare here!
DH: No, no, I don’t think we communicated that properly in our in our literature so it’s a really good question to ask. I’m sure a lot of people will be concerned about that.
Features of PerfectIt 4
LH: So can we talk about ... do you have any specific plans for what will be new with PerfectIt 4 yet, or can we suggest things?
DH: Well, obviously, I’m going to dodge that question because the trouble with that question is that if I start saying we’ve got plans for PerfectIt 4, that we’re working on ... I suspect if I start saying the things that I’m working on, the disappointment that will follow when we say we’ve failed ... [laughing].
But I like the idea of suggestions. As I said, this business has very much been built by support from editors, and feedback from editors.
So if we wind the clock like all the way back to the first time that I was at SfEP conference, I remember someone mentioning en dashes and and why they could be in the hyphenation-consistency check.
And let’s let’s be honest, at that point, which was been ten years ago or so, I didn’t understand the significance of that. Why would we need to be looking for en dashes and hyphenation? What’s the point?
And actually it was that feedback which we then took on. And it got quite a few people explaining and saying, well, actually, this is the error that we’re looking for. This is what comes up. It’s really difficult to spot because of this. Is there anything you can do?
And I think it was in PerfectIt 2 but certainly in PerfectIt 3. And we’ve built in an en dash versus spaced-hyphen consistency check.
LH: And em dashes too.
DH: Yes, the way we do the checking for those is a little different but, yeah, it ultimately came down to the same reason, which is editors suggesting that these were the things that they wanted to see.
And I’d love to get those suggestions for PerfectIt 4. So, particularly ...
LH: I’m thinking legal and medical might be obvious.
DH: Yes, legal. I’ve got a long, long list of changes that we want to make for legal, but medical, pharmaceutical scientific ... I know we have a lot of editors working in those kinds of fields and I feel like we haven’t done as much for them as we should and could.
So I’d love to get suggestions from every kind of editor, but especially those ones would be really good, because we need to do more in that area.
LH: And speaking as a fiction editor as well, I think there are certain functions I’m using ... the possibilities are there but there are certainly things I could think of in terms of the similar-word-find function that maybe even we could put forward some suggestions that might help you to push that stuff further forward, and help us to adapt the style sheets more so that we could get more benefits in that field too.
And I’ll certainly be thinking if there’s anything else from a fiction point of view that I can push your way.
DH: Definitely. You know, we always get a nonfiction writer saying, ‘Can this be used for nonfiction too?’ We get fiction writers saying, ‘Can it be used for fiction?’ And we hadn’t been quite communicated clear enough that, yes, it’s for all of those things.
And, yeah, the similar-words function. Lots of people are using that for character names. Can we improve that? Can we make it clearer that that’s a possibility for character names? Can we look and see if there are ways of improving that?
And already you have got me talking about features that I swore just two seconds ago I wouldn’t get into! Some of those things people are really gonna be telling me, ‘But you promised, but you promised!’
I will avoid saying more about that but I am excited by that kind of change and by doing things that are specific to different kinds of editing, for sure.
LH: I think from my point of view as an editor, and for people who are watching this who haven’t tried PerfectIt yet, knowing that you’re responsive to ways in which you can develop the software is a really important thing to emphasize, because the various iterations that I’ve used over the years have just got better and better. And that means I’ve saved more and more time.
And so I want to say to people that when you invest in this software you are working with a company and a business owner who will listen to you, and that's a good thing.
DH: Thank you! And my guess is that at this point in the video, between the dogs barking outside and the helicopter going overhead, anyone who is completely new to this software will probably have stopped watching 20 minutes ago!
But, yes, anyone with us longer hopefully has experienced that we are ... it’s actually the other way around. It’s editors who’ve helped build this and made all this stuff possible, so we are absolutely listening, and will continue to iterate and improve.
If we improve the product for actual editors, everyone else who uses the software benefits. And, you know, we really have the best people in the world advising us, so I think it’s fantastic.
LH: Daniel, thanks very much! That’s been really, really useful. So I’m excited about ... not just the cloud but also PerfectIt 4 coming out. I’m excited that I’m going to be able to use it on multiple platforms, in different spaces. I’m excited that I’m going to be able to get it cheaper than I did last year!
So thanks for taking the time to talk to me. It’s been brilliant.
DH: Thank you! And thank you for all the support through all the years.
The excitement and enthusiasm is so encouraging after we’ve been telling people, you know, soon, soon just another month, just another couple of months. Now that it’s done, now this here, it’s fantastic! Thank you.
Louise Harnby is a fiction 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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