Friday, September 14, 2007

Migrating AutoCorrect Formatted Text to Office 2007

Entries that have been saved as formatted text are saved in the Normal template, and the process for migrating them across from you old Office software to the new 2007 version is a little more complex.

1. Open any folder in Windows, then click on Tools/Folder options/View (tab).

2. Scroll down the list and check to make sure that you have ticked to box next to ‘Display the full path in the title bar’.

3. Scroll further down the same list and activate the button next to ‘Show Hidden Files’.

4. Do a search on When it comes up on the search list, copy it and paste it across to your desktop. This is assuming that you have retained your old version of Office on your computer. If not, then at least make sure that you have saved your old template and your MSO<number>.acl files before you remove it.

5. Right-click your mouse and click on Rename, then rename the file you have just pasted onto your desktop as Normal.dotx.

6. Do a search on Normal.dotm. Make a note of it’s path: C:\Documents and Settings\<username>\Application Data\Microsoft\Templates. Application Data will be a faded out, hidden folder but you should be able to see it clearly.

7. Locate the Templates folder as above and remove the existing Normal.dotm template across to your backup folder or disk.

8. Replace it with your renamed Normal.dotx sitting on your desktop.

9: When you open Word 2007, it will rename the file as your new Normal.dotm.

10. This process should be done as soon as you purchase Office 2007. If you delay it, you will start to build up entries in the Normal.dotm template that will be lost when you migrate in your old template. If you know that you don’t, for the present, have that many formatted text entries in your AutoCorrect list, it may be better to stay with the existing Normal template and just rebuild some of your entries.

Jay Freeman’s Template
I put Jay’s AutoCorrect backup template for Office 2007, AutoCorrect.dotm, to the test and found that it worked a treat for me, even though it ran to 127 pages and included formatted entries, pictures, etc. So it’s nice to know that as far as the latest version is concerned, I am now fully back up and running with AutoCorrect and can carry on as usual. It can be downloaded from the following extension:

Those Pictures Do Work
One thing that is different about the new AutoCorrect lists occurs when you highlight a picture and go into the AutoCorrect Menu window to give it a code, such as 'mymumpic'. When you select 'Formatted text' there will appear to be nothing in the Replace window. The picture is stored there, however, and will be inserted every time you type the code (plus spacebar of course, which is necessary to trigger each code).

Thursday, September 13, 2007

AutoCorrect in Office 2007

As most of you have probably guessed by now, I use an earlier version of Microsoft Office and Microsoft Word, the 2000 version to be precise.

Right now I’m watching eBay for a sealed version of Office 2003, which I’m hoping to pick up for a really, really good price, so wish me luck.

I had originally planned to buy the new Office 2007 when it was released. For the last few months, however, I have been experimenting with the online trial version and I have decided to delay purchasing beyond the 2003 version for a while.

I don’t want to be a big sook about Office 2007. On the contrary, I have honestly tried to love it - but no such luck. I can accept that there may be lots of people out there who already think it’s the ant’s pants, but for me it is a disappointment in many respects.

The AutoCorrect Function
Microsoft no longer appears to have much interest in the AutoCorrect function, but fortunately you can still get into the AutoCorrect window by typing Alt then t then a. I wouldn’t like to guarantee that in the next update version you will still be able to do that.

Having easy access to the AutoCorrect window is essential if you want to create your own entries, and not simply rely on Microsoft to create all the entries for you.

Migrating the Plain Text Entries
It is still possible, as I understand it from Microsoft technical reports, to migrate your old AutoCorrect list from an earlier version of Office across to 2007. However, since I don’t have 2007, I can’t confirm their details personally - but it does sound plausible.

Basically, you will need to locate the new .acl (AutoCorrect List) file for the language you are using among the hidden files for 2007, and replace it with your old .acl file. That will transfer across all the old entries you made in plain text. You can save the original file from 2007 to your usual backup folder or CD/DVD.

The new .acl files are still stored in C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\Microsoft\Office, and the file may be hidden so you will need to do a search for it.

I save all my AutoCorrect entries in the MSO file attached to the English (Australia) dictionary, which is MSO3081.acl. For English (US) it is MSO1033.acl, while for International English it's MSO2057.acl. The quickest way to check which .acl you are using is to add some plain-text entries to AutoCorrect. Then do a search for any .acl file that has been modified in the last day and that will be your file.

Backing Up
If you want to back up any new plain text entries you make in 2007, you can do it in the way you have always done it. Locate the file you are using and copy it across to you usual backup folder or disk. You won't be able to use the old backup tool with 2007, since it creates a Word document with the old .doc extension.

However, Jay Freeman has created a new AutoCorrect.dotm backup template for use with Office 2007, and it can be downloaded from the following extension:

Many thanks to Jay for what is clearly a much-needed tool. I haven't yet had the need to use it personally, but Jay is a reliable expert when it comes to all things Microsoft.

I am currently in the process of downloading the 60-day trial version of the smaller home and student version of 2007, and I went to the American host site to get it. The download is impressively fast, about five times faster than Australian broadband speed. Once I've got it (all up about three hours download time), I will be able to play around with AutoCorrect in 2007, but I'm anticipating that it's going to be a more positive and useful experience than the online trial.

Migrating the Formatted Text Entries
AutoCorrect entries that have been saved as formatted text are saved in the Normal template, and the process for migrating them across from you old Office software to the new 2007 version is marginally more complex, so I will cover it fully in the next blog once I've had a chance to test it personally.

Would, Could and Should

I will just briefly cover the past tenses 'would' and 'could', which you will certainly encounter frequently. 'Should' is much less common but it’s part of the group, so it makes sense to deal with it at the same time. These words and their extensions are deserving of codes so you might like to consider bulk-adding them to your AutoCorrect entries and these are my suggestions:

..................................wd................ would could
..................................wdt............... wouldn't
..................................cdt................ couldn't
..................................shdt............. .shouldn't
..................................wdth............. wouldn't have
..................................cdth.............. couldn't have
..................................shdth.............shouldn't have

Now you could go on from there and add codes for the 'had' and 'been' extensions, such as:

..................................cdhh...............could have had
..................................wdthb............ wouldn’t have been

and so on, which would involve adding another 'h' or another 'b' to the end of your existing codes to form new codes. Notice that you start moving into phrases, you start to add the first letter only of each new word. Once you have developed a simple technique that suits you, it's a good idea to stick to it.

I tend to find, though, that short codes work best because you can remember them and type them automatically. If you have to hesitate to remember the code, then it’s much quicker simply to type the words. So you might prefer:

..................................chh...............could have had
..................................whb.............. would have been
..................................shh............... should have had
..................................wnhh............ would not have had

and so on. To complete the exercise, open a blank document and give yourself some practice exercises typing out the 'would', 'could', and 'should' words and phrases. Then read them aloud over and over, while typing along with your codes. Quickly start increasing your reading speed until you are automatically typing the codes literally 'on the fly'.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Using the Microsoft English Dictionaries

In Australia and New Zealand we get the Australian version of Microsoft Office. That’s both a bad thing and a good thing. It’s bad because we have to pay a fortune for our version of the software, and we can only look at our American counterparts with envy.

It’s good because the Australian version is also the best version - at least if you happen to live in Australia or New Zealand. It includes not only the English (US) and International English (UK) dictionaries, but also English (Australia).

The English (Australia) dictionary contains every postcode in Australia (and also possibly New Zealand) and I really do mean ‘every’. Every city, every town, every hamlet or one-horse town, every suburb of every city and every suburb of every town that has a postcode. They are all in the dictionary and they are all available to the spell-checking function.

English (Australia) also includes place names for America and the UK, of course, although perhaps the lists are not quite so comprehensive as the Australian list.

Get Rid of Those Junky Spelling Corrections!
Having more than one Microsoft English dictionary can be useful in another way as well. If you have ever read an Australian online forum or discussion group, you will be aware that Australia has a lot of shocking spellers.

If Microsoft is anything to go by, however, then America must be full of people whose spelling is even worse than ours! Oh my goodness, just check out the list of the default spelling errors in AutoCorrect compiled by Microsoft. Most of the spelling mistakes are totally bizarre.

Since I’m not aware that American schools are any worse than Australian schools, I have to conclude that the Microsoft Corporation is full of crazy spellers and leave it at that.

The rest of America, along with the rest of the world, would be well advised to get rid of most of the rubbish that Microsoft dumps into AutoCorrect. All it does is clog up the system. And that’s where the different dictionaries come in.

Chose One Dictionary for Your Personal AutoCorrect List
If you live in America you can, if you wish, hang onto all that junky spelling in the .acl file attached to the International English language, and completely clean out the AutoCorrect list attached to the US language dictionary of all entries except those that cover the spelling errors that you commonly make, or the entries that you suspect that you will have difficulty spelling. Make a backup of your MSO<number>.acl files before you start, just in case you change your mind.

In England, Australia, and New Zealand it’s vice versa. We keep all the junky AutoCorrect entries attached to the US language dictionary and also on backup disks, and thoroughly clean out the list attached to our own dictionary, so that we end up with a lean, mean and totally efficient AutoCorrect list ready for our own entries. The quickest way to do this is via the backup tool if you have one of the earlier versions of Office (ie prior to 2007). That way, you can clean out all the crap in a minute or two before you reimport the list back into Office. If you are using Office 2007, check out Jay Freeman's AutoCorrect.dotm template (see earlier blog for link).

By doing this, you will delete perhaps thousands of entries, the majority of which you would never have used.

Your Personal Spell Checker
You will still be wanting Word to check your spelling but you can add your common typos to AutoCorrect as you make them. Go into Tools/Options/Spelling and Grammar, and make sure that you have ticked the boxes for ‘Check spelling as you type’, ‘Always suggest corrections’, and ‘Suggest from main dictionary only’. Then if you do make a spelling error that Microsoft doesn't automatically correct from your language dictionary, you will be prompted and given the opportunity to add it to your AutoCorrect list. And yes, you’ll very quickly add misspelt words like teh for the, adn for and, alos for also - plus some regular pearlers of your own.

Bad Spelling: Is AutoCorrect Really to Blame?
In my view, if young people are bad spellers then there is a flaw in their schooling. No school computer should have the AutoCorrect and spell-checking features activated until children are well into high school. There’s not a lot that teachers can do about the home computer, however, apart from insisting on handwritten assignments in at least primary school. That said, a hell of a lot of older people (like me) will admit that we, too, find the AutoCorrect and spell-checking features very convenient for automatic spelling correction. It’s not entirely a generational thing.

Storing Simple Forms in AutoCorrect

Fields are real time-savers. The general technique is to create a form in Microsoft Word using empty form fields (Control F9 with F Lock key on), then give the document a descriptive name and save it as a Word template.

Every time you press Control F9 you create a field, which on the template is indicated with those curly brackets. You can’t just type those brackets. They are inserted automatically every time you press Control F9. An example of simple form might look something like this:

Patient’s Name: { }
Age: { }
Address: { }
Referred by: { }
Date of this visit: { }
First seen: { }
Medications: { }
Allergies: { }

Comments: { }

An alternative technique to saving the form as a document template is to highlight the entire form, including fields and borders, etc., then go straight into AutoCorrect while the form is still highlighted, and give the formatted text a descriptive code, such as pnotes. Make sure you save it as ‘formatted text’.

The next time you need to insert the form into a blank document, you just type the code and your form will appear looking like this:

Patient’s Name:
Referred by:
Date of this visit:
First seen:


As you can see, the brackets have gone but the fields are still there and you can jump from field to field by pressing F11 (with F Lock key on), and fill in the relevant details. The entry will be saved in the normal template.

I wouldn’t say that AutoCorrect entries are necessarily better than templates, since both work equally well, but I think AutoCorrect is excellent for storing forms such as thank-you notes, doctor’s notes, memo forms, receipt forms and the like.

As a general rule-of-thumb, if I am going to insert the form into an existing document, I always save it as an AutoCorrect entry.

If you want to include a date field on your form, this can be done through:Insert\Date and Time (Alt + i + t). This technique will work for all versions, including the latest, 2007. If you want the date to be dynamic so that it always displays the current date, you will need to tick the box labelled: Update automatically. This is the usual method for pre-formatted forms.

To save this feature across to AutoCorrect, highlight the date field (it will be shaded grey when you do) then open the AutoCorrect drop-down window and save the date field as formatted text with the code \date. Then every time you want to insert the current date you can either insert it as described above, or just type in the code. Choose the method that is quickest for you.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Bulk Entries with the Utility

If you don't already have the useful backup tool, it can be downloaded at the following site:


You will find it very user friendly and self-explanatory. When you make your first backup, you will end up with a Microsoft Word document consisting of a simple table. To ensure that you are able to reimport your backup into Word, you must not change the heading ‘AutoCorrect Backup Document’, or the column headings, ‘Name’, ‘Value’, and 'RTF' (stands for Rich Text Format).

The first column, ‘Name’, is where you enter your shorthand codes for words and phrases. It is preferable to make your codes a single, short entry and avoid including any actual words, or you will get unwanted expansions.

The second column, ‘Value’, contains what you want the codes to expand to, and it could be a word, a phrase, a graphic, a table, a letter, a form, a chapter of a book and so on. The tool will accept all of these. The last column, ‘RTF’, indicates whether you want it formatted. ‘˜False’ stands for plain text and ‘True’ stands for formatted text. If your text expansion is greater than 255 characters, you must also store it as ‘True’. I have yet to encounter the size limit for a single entry, but no doubt it does exist. A lot will depend on your own computer’s capacity, I suspect.

Error Messages
The most important thing to remember about the entries is that there must be no empty cells and no cell must contain an unwanted space at the end of the entry. The tool will only accept legitimate spaces between words. If you attempt to reimport the backup into Word and it contains empty cells or empty rows, or any unwanted spaces, you will get an error message and the backup will stop.

Empty cells and rows are easily located and deleted. To eliminate all unwanted spaces, click on Show Invisibles then do a Find Next and Replace through the entire document and remove all trailing spaces at the end of entries, but leave intact all legitimate spaces between characters and words.

I generally don’t recommend phrases in the ‘Name’ column because of the risk of unwanted expansion, but there are acceptable exceptions. For example, I use i m to expand into I mean, simply because im already expands into I’m, but I could just as easily use ime.

The ‘Value’ column, on the other hand, is capable of storing very complex entries, provided that they don’t have that dastardly trailing space at the end of them.

Once you have a clean table, you are ready to make your own bulk entries. Leave the Show Invisibles on while you are doing them, so that you don’t reintroduce any unwanted trailing spaces.

Adding Extra Rows
Insert five blank rows at the bottom of the table. Highlight and copy those rows. Then every time you press control + v, you will add an additional five rows. You are now ready to spend a pleasant hour or so creating your own shorthand typing. For example, if you do work for a radiology department, enter codes for all of the common words and phrases that you encounter in your work, including proper nouns - the names of people, places, equipment, procedures, companies, drugs, treatment, etc. Don’t forget that if you want formatting, you will have to type ‘True’ in the last row. Just make sure that you don't have any blank rows left over when you finish.

You can now reimport the list back into the Microsoft Office programs using the tool. If you encounter an error message, take a note of where the backup procedure stopped and go back to check for unwanted spaces. The backup should proceed smoothly and quickly.

Adding Large or Formatted Entries
The next step now is to go ahead and create your own more complex entries for forms, tables, patient notes, formulae, sentences, etc. Give them an AutoCorrect code and don’t forget to save them as ‘True’ for a formatted or long entry. The general rule is that if you are planning to insert it into an existing document, use AutoCorrect. If it’s going to be the style for an entire document that you will be using frequently, you should save it as a template.

You will know when you have overloaded the normal template because:

(a) Microsoft Word will take much longer to load, and

(b) AutoCorrect will start to play up and you will get bizarre expansions.

One of the drawbacks of AutoCorrect may be that it saves all formatted text to the global Normal template, which is why it's advisable to delete entries you no longer use, to avoid overload.

Group Your Formatted Text Together
To make codes for formatted text easy to remember, I begin my entries with ‘my’ as in ‘mypic’, ‘myCV’, ‘mypricelist’ and so on. That way, if I forget the code, all I have to do is go instantly into the AutoCorrect dropdown window (press Alt then t then a), type 'my' into the Replace: field and I can then scroll down the list of all my large, formatted entries. If I am creating similar entries for a client, I will begin the code with their initials.

You will have spent an hour or two creating your formatted entries but it could save you hundreds of hours of work in future and the best part is that you can keep on adding to and deleting from the list. It will always be tailored to your current needs.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Recapping Keyboard Shorthand English

Before moving on to other aspects of the AutoCorrect function, I will briefly repeat the simple techniques required to create your own shorthand English.

Every 'root' word in the English language can be uniquely identified by its first few letters, commonly the first four or five letters but frequently less, occasionally more. This unique identity becomes your AutoCorrect code for that word.

When you need to go to five letters or more before you obtain a unique identity, there will be one word in the group that you use more frequently than the others and you can choose to code it with its first three or four letters. An example would be vin for vindicate and vind for vindictive, vinc for vincible and so on. It's nice to be able to type vindn for vindictiveness and vinn for vindication but I use invin for invincible. It sure does save a lot of typing time and once you have shortened all your long words with AutoCorrect codes, you won't go back to the old way.

It is generally not worth you while to further shorten words that are already short. Concentrate instead on shortening the long words you frequently encounter, especially those with multiple verb endings or multiple suffixes.

If an extension of the word ends in -ed, -ing, -ion, -ent or-ant, -ble, -ly, -ive, -ish, -ous, -ious, -eous, -or, -ar, -er, -eur, -ence or -ance, simple add the last letter of each extension to create a new unique identity. For plurals, add an extra 's'.

If the extension of the word ends in -ful, -less or -ness, add the first letter of the extension.

If there are multiple extensions, follow the above examples, as in thankfy for thankfully and thankg for thanking, but thankfn for thankfulness and thankln for thanklessness. Or how about errosy for erroneously and lawln for lawlessness?

Words with prefixes can be treated like any other word. So resus is okay for resuscitate, resusn for resuscitation, resusrs for resuscitators. Alternatively you can use prefix + hyphen + code and decide to either keep or remove the hyphen. A good example would be anti-cathm for anti-Catholicism, although if it is an expression you use frequently you might prefer something like aca instead. The technique is very flexible and can be tailored to individual needs.