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 »  Articles Overview  »  Technology  »  Software and the Internet  »  Creating shortcuts for common terms in Word

Creating shortcuts for common terms in Word

By Esteban Flamini | Published  09/28/2005 | Software and the Internet | Recommendation:
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Esteban Flamini
անգլերենից իսպաներեն translator

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If you are like me, then you are 36 years old, male, myopic and you just can’t resist doing silly jokes when occasion arises.

And you probably like finding ways to do the same with less work... A teacher I had in high-school, when I was learning to program computers (I was a programmer before becoming a translator) once told me he was capable of doing anything in order not to work... even thinking. I found this so funny, I adopted it as my motto; now, each time I am looking for better ways of doing anything—from doing the dishes to checking the index of a book— I remember my teacher’s witty words.

Yes, I am an efficiency-freak. If there is a way to do the same task with less work and in less time, why don’t use it? I don’t like to work, do you? (I like to translate, but it isn’t work; it’s getting paid for learning something new every day. And as Mark Twain said in Tom Sawyer, it isn’t work when you like it. Just don’t spread the word, lest translation agencies become aware of it.)

Now, translating isn’t work for me. It’s fun. I read a text in English and can’t help thinking ways to say the same in Spanish. Typing, on the other hand, is work for me. I never took a course in typewriting. I probably type faster than the average person, but not as fast as I wished. I look forward to the day when they finally create a direct interface between the human brain and the computer. Think about it: wouldn’t it be great if you could just think the words and they appeared on your computer screen at the speed of thinking? When that day comes, I hope they also connect my brain to the TV set; my remote control has not been working very well lately.

Meanwhile, there are a couple of tricks you can use to create shortcuts for common words and phrases and reduce the number of keystrokes you need to type a given text in Word.

The first way involves creating an autotext. Suppose you are a Klingon-to-English translator working mostly with texts on biochemistry and you find yourself typing over and over the words adenosine-triphosphate. (From Wikipedia: adenosine-triphosphate, or simply ATP, is a molecule involved in intracellular energy transfer.) You need exactly 22 keystrokes to type that! But help is in its way. The next time you write adenosine-triphosphate (oh, names of chemical compounds look so nice!) select (highlight) the text you want to create a shortcut for and press Alt+F3; an autotext creation dialog will pop up, where you can enter any sequence of characters to become the abbreviation for adenosine-triphosphate; for example, enter ATP and then Enter. That’s it! The next time type ATP, press F3, and Word will do the hard typing for you. You use just 4 keystrokes instead of 22. Autotexts are saved into the default template, so once you create them, they are available for all your documents. Tip: if you are creating an autotext for a term which already has an established abbreviation, it would be advisable to use it.

A word of caution: once you begin to use autotext, it can become addictive. And soon you can find that your "abbreviation space" gets a little cluttered. This is prone to errors if you are not careful. Suppose your next job is a financial statement for the Association of Telephone Phreakers (a reputed organization which is always looking for translators) and you would like a shortcut for it, but you don’t want to lose the one you have for adenosine-triphosphate (adenosine-triphosphate, adenosine-triphosphate, it’s music in my ears...). So you define ATPH as the abbreviation for "Association of Telephone Phreakers". Later on, you need to enter Association, blah, blah, blah for the hundredth time in this job and you make a little mistake: instead of ATPH F3 you type ATP F3. This can spell disaster! A single-keystroke typo without autotext is just a small error; a single-keystroke typo with autotexts can create the most funny, nonsensical sentences. Try not to create autotexts "too close" to each other (that is, differing only by one keystroke—specially when the keys are near to each other in your keyboard) and if you do, always revise carefully a translation where you used autotexts before sending it. (You always revise translations two or three times before sending them, don’t you?) On the other side, a proper usage of autotexts can reduce the overall likelihood of typos. (When you have to write the same long-and-difficult-to-type-nightmare over and over again, it is likely you will misspell it now and then. With autotext, you can minimize this risk down to zero.)

If you need to edit, delete or otherwise mess with already created autotexts, go to the Insert, Autotext menu. You can also redefine the meaning of a shortcut by just defining it as autotext for something new; Word will kindly ask you if you want to overwrite the existing definition.

Tip: it is not simply a matter of creating autotexts only for long terms. You may as well save a lot of typing effort by creating autotexts for common, medium-sized words. (When you do, you will be surprised to realize how frequently you use certain words.)

There is a second way to create abbreviations, but I don’t like it too much, notwithstanding the fact that it allows you to save even more keystrokes. It involves not autotext, but autocorrection, another useful (though sometimes annoying) feature of Word. Go to Tools, Autocorrect; a window will open where you will find a list of misspelled words at the left, and the correct spelling at the right. There are many "off-the-box" autocorrections predefined for you, for those misspellings people at Microsoft thought most likely to occur, and you can add whatever you like. (There are a number of words in Spanish I tend to misspell when I am typing in a hurry; for example, nine out of ten times I have to write "valor" –value– chances are I will type "valro" instead. I have autocorrections for this and other common misspellings—common for me.)

You can twist this autocorrection feature to serve your abbreviation needs. Just create an "autocorrection" as if your abbreviation were the misspelling and the expansion of the abbreviation were the correct spelling. In the former example, you can fool Word into believing that your brain is so heavily damaged by all those nights you spent up reviewing a translation to meet a deadline, that now each time you have to write "adenosine-triphosphate" you miss a lot of keystrokes and type "atp" instead. Now, Word will not complain about your proficiency as a typist; instead, next time you type "atp", it will assume last night you were painting the town red once again and will silently replace it with "adenosine-triphosphate". You don’t need to type F3 after the abbreviation; Word will assume it’s time to correct your misspelling as soon as you type a space, a comma, a colon or any other character that can’t be part of a word. The upside is that you reduce Yet Another Keystroke in relation to autotexts (in this example, 3 against 4, against 22). The downside is that you can’t use as abbreviation anything that could appear as a standalone word in your text. I once believed it was a great idea to set "q" as an autocorrected abbreviation for "que", a very common word in Spanish. Then I had to translate a text on economics where the letter "q" was being used intensively as a variable, and I had to give up my autocorrection. That’s why I finally decided to stick to the autotext thing. Hope it helps you!

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