Comment Shortcuts in Word

Shortcut

by C.K. MacLeod

Editors use the Comments feature in Word to ask writers clarifying questions or to make suggestions. Beta readers can use this feature to provide feedback, too.

In Word 2016, you could, of course, wander over to the ribbon, click on the Reviewing tab, and select New Comment in the Comments area. But that’s a lot of clicks if you have to repeat this action hundreds of times in a week.

To save your wrists from repetitive strain, click anywhere in a word and use the keyboard shortcut Alt + R, C.

If you work on multiple documents like I do, you might discover that you’re typing the same comment repeatedly. You can create a shortcut for these “standard” comments, too! Here’s how:

In Word, click on File, Options, Proofing, Autocorrect Options. In the grid that pops up, type a two- or three-character shortcut in the Replace box. In the With box, type the sentence that you want your computer to type for you.

Autocorrect dialog box in Word 2016
Create your own "text expander" using shortcuts.

Here’s what that looks like:

Replace: .cl
With: Could you check this link?

Your computer will type the sentence for you when you type .cl.

or

Replace: .wi
With: Could you write a one-paragraph intro to frame the module?

Tip: Begin your shortcut with a period, so you don’t accidentally choose letter combinations that are words (".at" for "insert alt text" is better than "at," for example). Choose letter combinations that you’ll remember easily. For me, .cl means “check link” and .wi means “write intro.”

Creating shortcuts can save your wrists from too much mousing, clicking, and typing. It can also save you loads of time.

What are your favourite shortcuts? Are you a Mac user? What shortcuts do you use? Feel free to share in the comments below.

Image by Daniel Lobo

How to Ease Repetitive Strain Injury

By C.K. MacLeodGraffiti of words repeat again

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Is your wrist starting to ache and your fingers starting to tingle? If so, you could be experiencing early signs of repetitive strain injury.

You're not alone. I've gotten away with the same computer practices I've used for years, without a bodily complaint. Until now. Thankfully, it's not too late to develop new computer-healthy habits.

In dealing with RSI, it's important to do whatever you can to interrupt or reduce the actions that are causing you discomfort. Cycling through a variety of strategies on a daily basis can help. Here's what I’ve tried:

  • left-hand mousing (I typically mouse with my right hand—and yes, the first left-hand day was rough)
  • a new kind of mouse (to change my hand position)
  • a new way of mousing (on my pant leg—a lower hand position can ease strain)
  • a new keyboard, with a different configuration than my old one
  • keyboard shortcuts (to reduce mousing)
  • macros (to automate editing and proofreading tasks)
  • speech-recognition software (to reduce keyboarding and mousing)
  • writing in markdown (to prevent mousing for formatting operations)
  • frequent breaks (with the assistance of Workrave, a free RSI prevention app)
  • roller derby wrist guards (to temporarily immobilize my wrist and prevent further strain—yes, I play roller derby, and surprise! I sustain more injuries from my computer) — use with caution because, as my chiropractor pointed out, "mobility is better than immobility"
  • old-school technology (to reduce mousing)
  • hand exercises (thanks to J Washburn for this tip)
  • physiotherapy (thanks to Ahmed and Mike for sorting me out)
  • chiropractic (for a derby injury—but this will be my first stop if I have the misfortune of of sustaining a computer-related back injury)
  • rest

Disclaimer: I am not an authority on RSI—only a victim of it. But I did query an occupational therapist, a kinesiologist, and a physiotherapist, and they agreed that changing things up is a key to reducing strain. If you have pain in your wrist and fingers, your wisest course of action is to first consult with your physician, physiotherapist or chiropractor.

I suspect that the best way to deal with RSI is to prevent it. What are your RSI prevention strategies?

Image by Feral78

Dictate Your Writing with Speech Recognition Software

Microphoneby C.K. Macleod

Have you tried dictating your writing with speech recognition software? Dictation is another tool in your toolkit for easing repetitive strain injury (RSI).

If you use a PC, your version of Windows likely comes with Windows Speech Recognition (WSR). This dictation software has been compared to Dragon Naturally Speaking, the gold standard of speech recognition software.

Tips for Getting Started

1. Complete the tutorial. The first time you launch WSR, it takes you through a 15-minute tutorial. I'd recommend taking the time to work through the tutorial because it'll help you learn commonly used voice commands while training WSR to listen for your voice. All speech recognition software requires training, so don't skip this step.

Note: You may need a microphone in order for WSR to work.

2.  Decide how you'll use WSR. You can use speech recognition software for a variety of purposes:

  • to write an article
  • to compose email messages
  • to open and close applications and navigate your computer
  • to surf the internet

To reduce my use of the keyboard and mouse, I decided to use WSR to dictate email messages and to navigate my computer. I initially attempted to write an article in Scrivener—my preferred first-draft software—but I encountered two road blocks:

  • WSR only works with Microsoft products (e.g. Word, Windows Live Mail, Internet Explorer); and
  • learning to talk out your writing is an acquired skill.

So, I cut my WSR teeth by dictating email messages to a recipient who would be gracious about my learning curve. (Bonus: I won't be at all surprised if WSR helps me to improve my speaking skills.)

3. Learn a short list of voice commands. This is easy enough to do if you work through the WSR tutorial (see step 1.). There are hundreds of voice commands for WSR. Here are the ones I use the most:

Tip: If, while using WSR, you say "How do I say," WSR will pull up a menu of voice commands for you.

By using WSR in my workflow, I reduced my keyboarding and mousing enough to ease the pain in my wrist. Learning WSR took time, but it was well worth the effort.

Image by Grant

A New Kind of Mouse for Writers

By C.K. MacLeod

Genius Pen Mouse
Genius Pen Mouse

Repetitive strain injury (RSI) can be caused by too much mousing. You can reduce the amount of mousing you do by using keyboard shortcuts, but sometimes it also makes sense to change the way you mouse.

Switch Hands

My editing colleague, Adrienne Montgomerie, suggested I try mousing with my left hand. While that first day of mousing with my left hand was horribly inefficient, it did take the strain off my right hand. Sometimes, though, with the work I do, I need to be precise and controlled with my mouse movements (something my left hand cannot yet do), so I still need to use my right hand, at least some of the time.

Try New Hardware

If you change your hardware, you can change your hand position. So I set off in search of a different kind of mouse, and discovered the Genius Pen Mouse. It's not a traditional mouse—the kind you palm—but it's one you hold like a pen.

Initial Concerns

I'll admit it, I had some reservations about switching my mouse. Could my fingers and brain adapt? The reviews of the Genius Pen Mouse were mixed, and I wondered if I'd be bothered by having to put down and pick up my mouse each time I wanted to use it. For $40 (and prompted by my throbbing wrist), I decided to give it a try.

Pleasantly Surprised

When the pen mouse arrived (start viewing this video at the three-minute mark), it took me about ten minutes to set it up and learn how to use it.The instructions were clear and to the point, and the onscreen prompts were helpful.

It took a bit more time to get my fingers to coordinate the movements for right-clicking and scrolling (left-click is a breeze), and after two days of practice, I'm still developing the finger dexterity required to master the right-click. (If you've studied piano, you'll know what it's like to develop finger dexterity for specific movements). But I'm of the opinion that anything worth learning takes a bit of time and commitment.

Tip: Still can't master that right click? Another way to right click is to hold down the Ctrl key while you execute a single click.

Oh... and picking up and putting down the mouse didn't bother me at all.

Overall Impressions

My overall impressions? The Genius Pen Mouse is surprisingly precise and easy to control. I think it'll be particularly helpful for proofreaders who do PDF mark-ups because you have more control with it than a traditional mouse. It appears to be sturdy, and the price is fair.

In terms of helping with repetitive strain injury: changing hand positions is always a good idea. There's no doubt that I could develop hand strain with this mouse, too, but if I switch between my right and left hand (you can do this with the pen mouse), and switch my hardware to mix things up, I have yet another strategy for reducing hand and wrist strain.

Have you tried something other than a traditional mouse?