Tag Archives: software

What’s e-new? How to be your own IT department

This article by Andy Coulson, for the regular What’s e-new? column in members’ newsletter The Edit, looks at how to cope when things go wrong with your technical set-up, from initial troubleshooting to simple fixes, and where to look for more help and advice.

The article covers:

  • Backing up before you start
  • Being methodical
  • The power of the off button
  • Diagnostic tools.

As self-employed professionals, we have to wear a number of hats. One of the least popular and worst fitting is the IT hat. Let’s face it, for most of us faced with IT problems the challenge is avoiding a rapid descent into playing laptop frisbee. But there is a lot you can do to resolve IT problems for yourself and build your confidence and skills in tackling those in future.

Before you start

If you read no further, please, please, please take this one thing on board. Back up all your important files regularly. Also, do it before you try making changes to your system. If you have Microsoft 365 and Windows 10 this should be automatic for a lot of your documents, but here’s how to do it: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/office/back-up-your-documents-pictures-and-desktop-folders-with-onedrive-d61a7930-a6fb-4b95-b28a-6552e77c3057. If you use a Mac, it is a little more complex: https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/office-for-mac/how-to-use-onedrive-for-backup-on-mac/m-p/29589. Both Mac (Time Machine) and Windows (Backup/File history in settings) have good internal backup systems that also back up the Windows or MacOS. Take a little time to learn how to use them, buy an external disk drive and set them to automatically back up on a regular basis.

When you have a problem with IT there are typically three areas: simple hardware, like a loose plug, covered below in ‘Be methodical’; simple (often inexplicable!) software issues, covered in ‘The power of the off button’; and more complex problems, covered in ‘IT A&E’.

1. Be methodical

When a problem occurs, you need to step away for a moment and be really methodical about it. Say your printer isn’t working. The first port of call in the absence of any other clues (such as a message on screen) is to check physical things: Is it switched on? Is the power plugged in? If it uses a cable to connect to the computer, is that plugged in? At both ends? You don’t need to know much about computers to check these things – you need to look carefully, wiggle plugs to make sure they are fully pushed in, and follow cables to make sure the right ones are plugged in. But the point is to be methodical and thorough.

2. The power of the off button

If a program appears not to be working then closing and restarting it is a good starting point. If the program has frozen, then in Windows, press Ctrl, Shift and Esc at the same time. This causes Task Manager to pop up, and from here you can right-click on the frozen application and select ‘End task’ to close it. On a Mac you use the Option, Command and Esc keys, select the app in the Force Quit Applications window, and then click on ‘Force Quit’. If you then reopen the application, it should run normally.

If this doesn’t work then try restarting the computer. I’m always slightly concerned by how often turning something off and back on is a solution to software issues, but it is nevertheless a fairly reliable method. This can cure some apparently serious issues. For example, if I try and do a reboot on my laptop, I get an alarming-looking blue screen saying ‘Do you want to start Windows in Safe Mode?’ when it restarts after shutting down. With a little help from Google I quickly realised a) this was not a drastic problem, and b) I couldn’t fix it easily, and if I simply used the power button to switch off and then start up again all was OK.

A related solution worth trying if you are having Word issues in Microsoft 365 is to use the repair function. In Windows 10 if you go to ‘Settings’, then ‘Apps’ and find Microsoft 365, click on ‘Modify’ and you will get a pop-up that prompts for a ‘Quick repair’ or ‘Online repair’. Try a Quick repair, and if this doesn’t work run the Online repair (but be prepared to be patient).

3. IT A&E

If you have an error message or make no headway with the earlier fixes, then you need to try some diagnostics to get to the bottom of things.

Google is one of the simplest diagnostic tools to use. If you have an error message, search for the text and any error number in Google. For Windows and Word issues it will often have answers from Microsoft’s knowledge base near the top. These can sometimes be a bit techy, but they are generally accurate and safe. As you get away from Microsoft and Apple’s pages be prepared to be cynical and critical about where the information comes from, as there are bad sites out there. (For example, I would trust a reputable technology site or magazines like Tech Republic or ComputerWorld over a random post on Reddit.)

Device drivers (the software that speaks to the hardware) have a reputation for being a source of problems. With Windows 10 these are generally updated automatically, but occasionally a manual install can resolve a problem. This windowscentral.com article – windowscentral.com/how-properly-update-device-drivers-windows-10#page1 – can guide you through the various options in the order in which you should use them. If you can use the first method, it will be the safest as it uses drivers that Microsoft has tested.

Both Microsoft and Apple provide inbuilt diagnostic tools that can help to identify issues, particularly in hardware. For example, Windows has a number of these tools:

  • Task Manager – Run this using Ctrl-Shift-Esc to see what software is running and how much memory and CPU effort it is using. This can help you spot programs that are doing something odd (for example using a lot of CPU %).
  • Performance Monitor – This can give you an idea about what might be slowing your PC down. You can find it under the ‘Windows Administrative Tools’ section in the Start menu. You can also see something similar under the Performance tab in Task Manager.
  • Reliability Monitor – This is quite well-hidden, but it allows you to visualise how reliable your system is and get historical access to error messages. The easiest way to find it is to search for ‘Reliability history’ in ‘Settings’.
  • Windows Disk Management – This can flag potential issues with disks. This is under the ‘Windows Administrative Tools’ section in the Start menu.

As you go along, it is worth keeping notes on things you fix, preferably not on the computer. This will help by reminding you of what you have done, so you can fix things that happen again. It’s also a good thing to look back over and realise how much you have learned.

Finally, it is worth finding a local computer repair person and building a relationship with them for the times when you can’t fix it yourself.

Summing up

The article has looked at:

  • The importance of backing up files before performing fixes
  • Where to start with diagnosing and fixing problems
  • Simple fixes
  • Finding out more about problems
  • Where to go for more help

What else is e-new?

Andy has written many articles demystifying software and technology. Check out:

About Andy Coulson

Andy Coulson is a reformed engineer and primary teacher, and a Professional Member of CIEP. He is a copyeditor and proofreader specialising In STEM subjects and odd formats like LaTeX.

 

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: dog desktop support by Pavel Herceg; blue screen by Joshua Hoehne, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

What’s So Exciting About PerfectIt Running on a Mac?

Daniel Heuman, CEO & Founder of Intelligent Editing, brings us some long-awaited news about PerfectIt.

In a world where cars are driving themselves, computers are recognizing faces, and hackers are stealing elections, it’s perhaps unsurprising that proofreading software is not the tech that’s on most people’s minds. However, by January of this year, more than 600 people had written to us to request a Mac version. In editing circles there is no doubt that a Mac-compatible version of PerfectIt is the cause of considerable excitement. Why so much fuss?

PerfectIt doesn’t involve artificial intelligence. However, in many ways, that’s exactly why it’s right for editors. As the authors of PerfectIt, we believe that humans make the best editing decisions and that they always will. We build technology to help people edit faster and better. What that means in practice is:

  • PerfectIt finds mistakes that are tedious, time-consuming and difficult to locate.
  • PerfectIt can substantially reduce the number of readthroughs an edit requires.
  • PerfectIt is the difference between spending your day on mundane consistency checking or using that time for substantive editing where you add the most value to clients.
  • PerfectIt is intuitive and doesn’t require any training.
  • PerfectIt leaves all decisions to the editor and doesn’t get in the way of how you work.

Up until now, PerfectIt has only been available for PCs. As a result, some Mac users have bought Parallels, Windows and Word just to run PerfectIt. Some have even bought laptops just for the purpose. On 26 June, those days will come to an end with the launch of PerfectIt Cloud. But after all of that, can PerfectIt on a Mac live up to the excitement?

I can’t wait to show everyone. However, one reason why I’m writing before launch is not to drum up excitement, but to dampen it down a little! We launched PerfectIt in 2009. We’ve had almost ten years to build it into the product that it is today. PerfectIt Cloud is just a first version. It requires Office 2016. It needs an internet connection. It can’t drive a car for you. However, it is at the cutting edge of what is technically possible for a Word add-in. Being at the forefront means that at launch you won’t be able to customize styles or check footnotes. We’re committed to building those, but it’s going to take time and it’s going to take your support.

That said, I’m delighted about what we’re delivering. As well as Mac, it works on iPads, PCs or Word Online. Almost all of the checks that PerfectIt 3 runs are built into PerfectIt Cloud at launch. That includes checks of hyphenation consistency, capitalization consistency, abbreviations without definitions, punctuation and capitalization of lists, consistency of headings, and much more. Moreover, PerfectIt Cloud shares the same codebase as PerfectIt 3. That means the results it finds are almost identical to those found in the PC version. When it comes to checking text, it is every bit as good as the original.

The feedback we’ve been getting from the beta trials has been phenomenal. Users describe:

“My working life is now so much more time-efficient and I feel the surety of not having missed spacing, spelling or consistency issues.”

“I’ve just started to use it but already I can tell it’s helping my speed and consistency while editing.”

“This product is fantastic! After switching over to Macs a few years ago, PerfectIt was the one thing I missed, and I am thrilled that it’s now available to Mac users.”

In some ways PerfectIt Cloud is better than PerfectIt 3. It updates automatically. You can add it directly from the Office Store without downloading an installer. And we’ve built a new interface that makes it easier, faster and more intuitive than ever (as you might expect from a Mac-compatible version). You can see that from even one screenshot. Which of the below would you rather use?

I’d like to think that another reason for the excitement is that while Intelligent Editing has grown, we’ve never forgotten where we’re from. PerfectIt’s development has been driven by feedback from professional editors (and it still is). PerfectIt Cloud probably wouldn’t even exist without that support. So we’re working with editing societies around the world to keep the price down for editors. If you’re a member of SfEP, ACES, EFA, Editors Canada, IPED, PEG or others, we’ve set up an affinity discount that’s 30% below the price others pay. With the discount, PerfectIt is just $49 USD (+VAT) per year which pays for itself quickly if you’re in the business of editing.

PerfectIt won’t carry out surgery, control drones or launch cars into space. Its launch doesn’t yet include all the features that we’re looking forward to adding. However, from 26 June, what it will do is provide an affordable way to improve the working lives of editors. There is a reason why so many are so excited!

Daniel HeumanDaniel Heuman is the creator of PerfectIt and the CEO and Founder of Intelligent Editing. His software is used by thousands of editors around the world as well as more than 500 members of SfEP. Members of professional editing societies (including the SfEP) can get a 30% discount on PerfectIt here.

 

 

 

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP