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Do I need a style guide?

October 17, 2021

A client recently asked me if they should have a corporate style guide and whether I could help them with that. They’re a small consulting company, with probably fewer than 30 employees. They write a LOT of reports.

Below is a summary of my response to them.

**********

I strongly recommend that every company of more than a few people has an in-house style guide, especially if they’re doing a lot of writing. Plus a standard dictionary they use for general terms, and possibly a specialist dictionary for terms used in their industry. Together, these save you from answering questions all the time about whether certain terms are hyphenated or capped, whether to use indents (no), double spaces (never!), etc. The ‘I’ve always done it like this because my Year 5 teacher told me so’ method of writing for corporate reports etc. is NOT a valid style guide. Times change, language changes, and there’s a good chance the Year 5 teacher got the ‘rule’ from their Year 5 teacher, who got the rule from their Year 5 teachers and so on.

Most in-house style guides are based on an official published style guide, either for the industry, a professional body, or for a publication (e.g. in the US, they mainly use the Chicago Manual of Style or AP for general works). Most style guides will list the dictionary that they base spellings, hyphenation etc. on. In Australia, that’s typically the Macquarie Dictionary, and I would suggest that you take out an annual online subscription to it—it’s pretty cheap, and you don’t have to have the very weighty tome on your desks. I use my Macquarie subscription EVERY day; if it was the hard copy, I’d rarely open it. (https://www.macquariedictionary.com.au/shop/home/?category_selection=True#subscriptions)

In Australia, we have the Australian (government) Style Manual (ASM) that many corporate/industry/professional style guides are based on—it’s available for free online and was recently (2020) updated from the previous printed edition (2002): https://www.stylemanual.gov.au/. There’s also AMOS https://stylemanual.com.au/contents/introduction-amos, which focuses mainly on scientific writing (I’m not a subscriber to AMOS so I don’t know much more about it). AMOS helpfully lists where their guide differs from the ASM: https://stylemanual.com.au/sites/default/files/amos-quickguides-dta_vs_amos-0122dec20.pdf

I’ve created a style guide for [name of corporation]’s health, safety, and environment documents (not shared for client confidentiality reasons). For other clients, I use their in-house style guide for the documents I edit for them. In addition, for some clients I also create a style sheet to go with their edited document that details the choices I made for THAT document that aren’t covered by the style guide. NOTE: A style sheet is specific to a SINGLE document, whereas a style guide applies to ALL documents produced (for example, the style guide might say no apostrophes in geographic names and give a couple of examples, but the style sheet might list all the geographic names used in that document).

It takes a while (several months on and off) to develop a style guide and there’s a lot of back and forth between those involved to nut out and come to agreement on what ‘rules’ you want to enforce (remember, there are no real rules, just traditions and conventions—it’s a guide, not something set in stone). There should only be ONE point of contact in the company for whoever develops your style guide. That contact person discusses style guide issues in meetings with others in the company and relays the decision back to the person developing the style guide. Be warned—discussions can get HEATED!* (yes, I’ve been there, done that!) And you’ll be surprised how passionate some people are about commas, dashes, and semicolons! And spaces… (all those rules from the various Year 5 teachers over various generations and education systems will come spilling out).

You also need to decide whether you want your style guide to be fully searchable online (as per the ASM), or a printed guide (e.g. PDF) available online. If fully online, that adds another (expensive) layer to the mix as the website for it has to have full text search capabilities and a navigable table of contents.

So, short answer – yes, I can help you develop a style guide, but you have to do a lot of groundwork at your end before you start thinking about producing a document. You need to decide:

  • what has to go in it (I’d recommend only variations from the standard ASM, for example; for scope, use the table of contents from the examples I’ve attached as a guide [not attached to this bog post, of course])
  • what your corporate (not personal) decision is on all these things, then start noting those decisions for whoever prepares your style guide.

Once you send your notes and decisions to whoever is developing the style guide, they’ll come back to with lots of ‘what about?’ scenarios that you’ll need to make further decisions on. You can save yourself a lot of time and therefore money by sticking to a standard style guide and ONLY using a in-house guide for exceptions/variations or to summarise what’s in the standard style guide.

***********

Further to this, many style guides, especially those from professional bodies, may include a list of terms and how to write them. In mining/resources/geology, do you write ‘down hole’, ‘down-hole’, or downhole’, and does the word form vary depending on whether you’re using the term as an adjective or a noun? (for an example of a terms list like this, see p50 onwards of the Society of Petroleum Engineers Style Guide: https://www.spe.org/authors/docs/SPE_Style_Guide_2019.pdf). Having a list like this in a style guide, or as an appendix to it, saves a LOT of time for those who are doing the writing, whether they are experienced writers, or just new to the company or industry.

* Some 15 years ago I was working as a technical writer for a software company. They had several programs that they’d developed and were about to start marketing, but there was NO consistency in how they named one particular program. Let’s call it ‘Jet Forms’ — was it ‘Jet Forms’, ‘JetForms’, ‘Jetforms’, ‘Jet-forms’, ‘Jet-Forms’, ‘jetForms’, or any other variation on this? Between the marketing people and the developers and the website content people, I saw almost every variation you could imagine for just this one product name! I raised the inconsistency in a meeting as I had to document this product and thus use the name hundreds of times, and said we HAD to make a firm decision on what to call it so that EVERYONE used the same term to avoid confusing our customers. We had 8 people in that meeting (2 of whom were the owners of the company), and I couldn’t believe they spent an hour discussing it! It cost the company 8 hours of wages while we haggled over a single word. And no, some 15 years on, I can’t recall what they decided, but I certainly recall the long discussion that was a waste of time and money when just one of the owners should have said, ‘It’s xxx’, and we’d have been done.

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Word: Doubled-up user name in comments

October 16, 2021

Here’s a strange one Adrienne M in one of my editors’ Facebook groups was able to solve for me a couple of weeks ago.

One of my clients (Dr Jun X) was getting a double-up of his first name in his comments. Just his first name, not his surname or his ‘Dr’ title.

I got him to try these things:

  • Check the User name setting under File > Options > General. It was fine.
  • Modify the XML file to change the reviewer’s name (using parts of these instructions: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/word-removing-reviewer-names/), and that seemed to work, but doesn’t hold for a new document he tested a comment on, as I expected.
  • Do a Registry search for his doubled-up name in case it was lurking somewhere in the bowels of the system (last resort, and not done as we found a solution).

He thought it might be a conflict between a global name that he’s used for Microsoft products vs the internal name set by Word (I wasn’t sure what he meant by that). I also asked him if he’d only ever opened this document locally, or if he’d worked on it in the online version of Word. Or if it had come from someone else use Word for Mac. Yes, I was clutching at straws…

I then posted the question on one of the editors’ Facebook groups and a few people came back suggesting it was likely a conflict between various Microsoft account credentials (which didn’t surprise me—I have several: my own, plus different ones with different clients and Microsoft just CANNOT deal with that! It’s so bad trying to find anything with the various credentials that I refuse to use OneDrive etc. as I invariably have a different login for it than I thought or that Microsoft wants me to use. I think Microsoft assumes everyone only works for one employer and therefore only needs one credential, but we freelancers work with many clients, which potentially means different credentials for each organisation—it’s all very confusing and Microsoft certainly doesn’t make it easy. But I digress…)

The different Microsoft accounts was the trigger that Adrienne needed to point us in the right direction. Underneath the username area in the Options is a checkbox for Always use these values regardless of sign in to Office (how have I never noticed it before???) Checking that box solved the problem. My client said: ‘I went back and ticked that option and it solved the problem. To test, I then went back and unticked it and the problem comes back.’ Thanks Adrienne!

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Using personal pronouns in corporate and academic writing

October 13, 2021

There’s an unwritten rule (no doubt written, in some places) that you should never use personal pronouns (we, us, I, our, etc.) in corporate or academic writing. Instead, you need to use the third person (e.g. ‘the authors’), or eliminate altogether the person or organisation responsible. Blog posts are different—they’re more informal, so using personal pronouns is accepted there.

But why not everywhere?

I certainly don’t have an answer for that, but saying ‘it’s traditional’, ‘that’s how it’s always been done’, ‘that’s the rule’ just doesn’t cut it, in my opinion.

I’m sure the plain language people, and others, have done studies on this, but it was brought to mind when a client asked What are your thoughts on using personal pronouns in a scientific publication? I’ve occasionally seen it but it’s an unwritten rule that scientific publications are written from the point of view of a third party.

Their question reminded me of a 300p government report on hydrogeology I’d edited recently, which DID use personal pronouns. It was a refreshing change! As I wrote back to that client: ‘… I also like how you used ‘we’, ‘our’ etc. in a government report—it made it much more readable, and far easier to edit because I wasn’t trying to figure out or add who (person, department, role) was responsible for doing things.’

An example from that 300p report (‘we’ refers to the authors of the report):

‘We measured the initial groundwater level in all bores …

Before 2016, we had opportunistically monitored ….

Because the water levels in bore [XYZ] were likely to be tidally influenced, we recorded water levels hourly …’

Back to corporate/government writing… Often the third person is used to hide the person/entity responsible for an action or a response, and it may be quite deliberate. Government and corporate reports are very good at this—it’s CYA* at its best! By saying something was (or should be) done, but never saying WHO did it or is to do it, or WHO is responsible for any actions arising from it, no-one bears responsibility if it fails. The proverbial buck can be passed around forever, without ever stopping on someone’s desk.

My recommendation: Unless your style guide (in-house, external) says otherwise, consider using personal pronouns in your corporate/government/academic writing. And if your in-house style guide says not to, question WHY the authors of the style guide recommend this. ‘It’s tradition’ is not an acceptable answer, in my opinion. Your responsibility as a writer or editor is to your readers and ensuring they can not only read but also comprehend the material they’re reading.

* CYA = cover your arse (‘ass’ for those in the US)

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Best. Unsolicited. Testimonial. Ever

October 11, 2021

One of my geology clients wrote a LinkedIn article that both praised me enthusiastically AND promoted the use of editors (October 2021). The article is here: What to do when the write right words won’t come out, and a PDF of it is saved here.

Two other clients also added their praises for my work in their comments for that LinkedIn article; my client had referred me to both of them in the past year:

  • We worked with Rhonda Bracey on a major project in the past year and had a fabulous experience – we all agreed that having a professional editor was worth the additional cost. (JL, Canada, minerals exploration company)
  • Rhonda is a godsend Jun! I’m so grateful you put me onto her! This article is great; shows everyone they CAN share their ideas and contribute to our science, even if they lack the confidence in writing to do so – they just need to source the right help! Love it (MH, Perth, structural geologist)

Yes, I blushed! But I think I might be able to put that imposter syndrome to bed now.

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Word: Show comments only

August 6, 2021

One of my work colleagues asked how to set a document so that only Comments showed in balloons, not all the insertions and deletions etc. As far as I know this setting is Word-specific, not document-specific, so if you need to share a document with others, you may need to give them these instructions to show just the comments.

I’m using Word 365 for Windows, with traditional comments, not Modern Comments, so these instructions may not apply to Modern Comments.

Quick method

  1. Go to the Review tab > Tracking group.
  2. Click the dropdown arrow for Show Markup.
  3. Clear all the checked options EXCEPT Comments (you have to do them one at a time).
  4. In the same Show Markup dropdown, click Balloons and choose Show only Comments and Formatting.

Longer method

  1. Go to the Review tab > Tracking group.
  2. Click the tiny little grey arrow in the bottom right corner of that group.
  3. On the Track Changes Options window, change the Balloons in All Markup View Show to Comments and formatting.
  4. If track formatting is off, then you’ve finished and can stop here. If it’s on, then do the rest of these steps.
  5. Click Advanced Options on the Track Changes Options window
  6. Clear the Track Formatting checkbox.
  7. Click OK, then OK again to close the windows.
  8. Now you have to accept all formatting changes. Go back to the Tracking group on the Review tab.
  9. Click the dropdown arrow next to Show Markup, then UNCHECK all options except Formatting (you have to do them one at a time).
  10. Check again that Formatting is the ONLY option checked.
  11. Click the dropdown arrow underneath Accept, then chose the Accept All Changes Shown option – be careful as these options look alike. This accepts all the formatting changes (if they were tracked).
  12. Now go back to the Show Markup dropdown and recheck the Comments option.
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Camtasia: Some tips

August 4, 2021

As I mentioned the other day, I’ve been testing Camtasia for creating mini Microsoft Word training and tips videos. I’m recording actions in Word on my computer, not people, places, or things.

Here are some things I’ve discovered in my first few days of testing that may help others (no particular order):

  • If the Speech to Text option is grayed out, you may need to install all parts of the language packs for the languages you use in Windows (see https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2021/07/31/camtasia-speech-to-text-not-available/)
  • Avoid using earbuds to record audio as the result will likely not be as clear as you’d like—instead, use a proper microphone, or a headset with a microphone that comes near your mouth. Keep the microphone a few centimetres away from your mouth (preferably above or below your mouth) to avoid ‘pop’ noises on the ‘p’ and ‘b’ words. NOTE: Some microphones are very good at picking up all sorts of ambient noise, so you may need to dampen that noise by screening yourself with blankets (or similar). Or purchase a microphone that only picks up immediate noise (I believe these are called ‘dynamic’ microphones; ‘condenser’ mics pick up all the noise).
  • Use the option to turn off system sounds when recording a screen.
  • Smooth out jerky mouse movements by applying the Cursor smoothing option to the recording.
  • Check the sound level of any music you add as an intro or outro, or across the whole video; reduce the ‘gain’ if it’s too loud.
  • MP4 is the main video output from Camtasia. WAV and AVI are other options, but not MKV.
  • Split the recording track into separate video and audio tracks if you initially record the audio as you create the video. If you decide to rerecord the audio because of too many ums and ers etc., you can just add the new audio as a new track and hide (then delete) the original. You don’t have to record the new audio outside Camtasia either—start a new recording and turn off all recording options except Audio.
  • If you use one of Camtasia’s inbuilt music tracks for intro/outro music, instead of fading the track out for the duration of the main recording, consider exporting that track as an MP3, then using a program like Audacity to cut out the bits you don’t want, leaving you with two short MP3 clips—the intro and the outro—that you can import into any new video you create. Add these to your custom library and template, if you will use them often.
  • When you initially start a new recording of your screen, check and set the dimensions (green dashed lines) so that you don’t capture anything you don’t want others to see (e.g. your taskbar, your name in the title bar of a Word window). If you do record bits that you don’t want the viewer to see, use Camtasia’s blur function to blur out those bits—you should be able to add the blur and stretch it to cover the whole recording without having to rerecord your steps.
  • If you’re going to do several similar videos, consider setting up your own library of ‘assets’ and a template with your main start and end bits (intro/outro music, title screen, ending screen etc.). Consider adding a date (month and year is OK) to the title or end screen so the viewer can see when it was made.
  • Camtasia can only import and export SRT closed caption files, not VTT files or other file formats used for captioning. There are plenty of free conversion apps that will convert SRT to VTT and vice versa, as well as other captioning formats.
  • If you import an SRT file that you’ve modified, and some closed captions are missing in Camtasia, it’s likely because you inadvertently added extra line spaces to the file in Notepad (or similar). There should be NO empty lines between the parts of each caption (number line, time stamp line, caption line or lines), and only ONE empty line between the last line of each caption and the next number line at the start of the next caption. Ask me how I found this out…
  • If you haven’t written a script and you record your voice as you’re doing the recording and you want to transcribe that audio and edit it to create the closed captions (and possibly to rerecord the audio so that it follows your captions script), then consider exporting the audio track to MP3, then using a transcription service to convert the speech to text. A couple of free transcription options are available if you have access to Office 365 online (you cannot do this on an installed version of Word 365 on your PC, only via the web app)—use Word online to transcribe it for you (see https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2020/11/10/word-convert-voice-to-text/), or use another Office online app, Microsoft Stream, to do the transcription (time stamps get added, but they are not in SRT format). You can then edit the resulting Word document, then copy/paste the text into the Captions in Camtasia. Once that’s done, you can also export the SRT file as you’ll need to add this if you’re uploading the video to YouTube. A note about using Microsoft Stream: Upload your video (or audio?; I only experimented with a 1-hour recorded presentation), set it to ‘just you’, click Publish and wait…. you could be waiting a while; my presentation took about 2 hours to process. When Stream has finished processing, go to My Contents > Videos, click the pen/edit icon (‘Update video details’). In the Options panel, click Download File next to Captions.

See also:

[Links last checked August 2021]

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Word: Reinstating the old spellcheck dialog

August 4, 2021

Recent upgrades to Word 365 (for Windows) have included changes to how spellcheck displays—you now get the not-at-all-user-friendly Edit button and Editor panel, and you might get grammar checks too, even if you have turned them off. Like other recent changes, I’m not sure Microsoft ever tested these ‘features’ with power users of Word such as editors.

However, there is a way to get the old spellcheck window back. It requires you to install a macro into your Normal.dotm template (in your Templates folder) OR other specialised macros document (in the Startup folder), and then to assign a Quick Access Toolbar icon and/or a keyboard shortcut to run the macro.

I cannot take ANY credit for the macro—it was listed by Charles Kenyon on a forum back in November 2018, and works well with my version of Word 365 (currently Version 2008, Build 13127.21506):

Sub DisplayTraditionalSpellCheckDialog()
    Dialogs(wdDialogToolsSpellingAndGrammar).Show
End Sub

[Link last checked August 2021]

 

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Blog: Hitting 17 million views/visits

August 2, 2021

Another milestone passed today when this blog logged its 17th million viewer!Blog stats 17,000,392 hits

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Camtasia: Speech to Text not available

July 31, 2021

I’m testing out Camtasia. I used to use it for creating training videos years ago, but haven’t used it in a long while, so the new version is a just a little bit different… Anyhow, one of the features of Camtasia 2021 is that you can convert your audio narration to caption text, using their Speech to Text function (open the Captions option and click the cog wheel settings icon for it). But there was a problem — the Speech to Text option was grayed out and unavailable. Off to the internet…

Something someone said on a forum about Windows language settings led me to find the solution; however, I tried several things, so I’m not sure exactly which one was the critical one. My Windows language settings were set to both English Australian and English US, but when I looked a bit further (click on the language name and select Options), I didn’t have the language pack for Australian English installed and the speech ‘pack’ for US English wasn’t installed either. I downloaded and installed both, then check the Speech to Text settings in Camtasia. No change. So I shut down Camtasia and restarted it and the Speech to Text option was now available. Hopefully this will help someone else.

(Aside: Despite training my voice for speech recognition as Camtasia suggests, my experiments using their Speech to Text function were abysmal. The words in the captions that Camtasia created bore NO resemblance to anything I’d said!! I’ll try again tomorrow with a different microphone [I was using earbuds with a built-in mic, so next I’ll try a plug-in headset microphone to see if that makes any difference.] Meantime, I wondered if it was Windows speech recognition that was at fault or Camtasia, and in my minimal testing I can say that it was Camtasia. I exported the narration to an MP3 file, then used the online version of Word to transcribe it to text and it was perfect, whereas the Camtasia version was unintelligible.)

Further to the audio issue: Yes, my headset microphone made the world of difference to the audio, but despite that, the speech to text conversion in Camtasia for the captioning was still awful. Here’s what the transcription function in online Word had, followed by what Camtasia thought I’d said. The Word one needed a little editing; the Camtasia one needed to be rewritten from scratch. And when I imported the transcription as an SRT file (using the same time stamps as the Camtasia SRT file), it left out all by about 5 seconds of audio, so that wasn’t a good option.

Here’s what Word transcribed it as:

00:00:02

In this simple find and replace, we’re going to find a particular word, change it to another word, but we’re going to add a twist to that, and we’re going to make the second word in italics.

00:00:13

So what we’re going to find is the company name in this case here XYZ, and we’re going to replace it with another name and make that name.

00:00:21

Italics first thing we’ll do is we open the find replace window. We do need extra functions, so we need the one that’s under control H, so I press control H, just move it up a little out of the way here. Going to search for XYZ.

And here’s the SAME audio converted from speech to text within Camtasia:

00:00:00,100 –> 00:00:10,433

If in the civil fine to replace dead to find a particular word tragic to another live within 11 twisted left with kind Q of the 82nd would be

00:00:10,433 –> 00:00:20,766

the targets so if we could find if the company name and face. It’s like C wood and replaced with another nine can make it nine attempts to

00:00:20,766 –> 00:00:31,132

sink as we often find replacement that we do need if function so we need the one that under control page to press control H

00:00:31,133 –> 00:00:37,999

move it up and-white hit did a search for its YC

Just amazingly BAD.

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Windows: Customize file/folder view in Explorer by customizing the template used

July 25, 2021

A recent major Windows update on my PC totally screwed with the settings I had for folder/file views in Windows Explorer (which I’ll call Explorer in this post). This post is not about changing the file attributes displayed for one or two files/folders—there are plenty of other sites that will tell you how to that. No, this post is on how to change the displayed attributes for a file type template and thus ALL files/folders that use that template. Microsoft rarely calls these templates, but that’s what they behave like, so I’ll call them templates here.

What am I talking about? Well, when you create a new folder in Explorer and add files to it, by default the attributes shown for that folder and its files in the Details view use the General Items template (you can see the template used by right-clicking on a folder, selecting Properties, and checking what is set on the Customize tab under Optimize this folder for). If Windows detects that all the files are image files or music files or document files, it might default to the attributes of those templates instead. The template used dictates what attribute columns you see in Details view in Explorer (View > Details).

Below is a folder with Documents set as the template—in Details view you can see that the file name, date modified, file type, and file size attributes are shown.

Explorer properties for Document include Name, Date Modified, file Type, and file Size

This one has Videos set as the template—its Details view has similar attribute columns, with the addition of the length of the videos in hours, minutes, and seconds.

Explorer properties for Videos include Name, Date (created), file Type, file Size, and Length of the video in hours, minutes and seconds

You might ask why this is important. For most people, this is of no consequence and they can live with the default settings, or perhaps change them every so often if they want to see other attributes. Many others have no idea that these attributes shown can be changed, or have no need to change them. But for some people the attributes shown in Explorer are hugely important—for example, photographers or anyone who needs to curate their photos; musicians or those who have an extensive music collection on their computers; movie buffs with thousands of videos etc. These people work with their files every day and need to see at a glance the attributes that interest them. So when Microsoft stuffs up the attributes displayed, this can anger these users because they likely have many thousands of files in many hundreds or thousands of folders that get reset to the default values. Changing the attributes one folder at a time is NOT what you want to do!

But if you change the underlying template’s attributes, you can then apply that template to a high-level folder containing files with that type of content, and the changes you make cascade to all subfolders and to other folders that have the same template applied to them. Unfortunately, this is NOT an intuitive process and requires going into two places—one to set it up how you want, then another to save it to that ‘template’. It took some Google sleuthing and trial and error based on some of the clues I found before I could test and then document these steps. Hopefully they will help others who are equally frustrated by this.

Part 1: Pick the template suitable for the types of files

  1. Open Windows Explorer and go to a folder that contains files of the type you want to amend. In this example, I’ll use a folder containing music subfolders and files.
  2. Right-click on the folder’s name in the left panel, and select Properties.
  3. Select the Customize tab.
  4. Select one of the drop-down options for Optimize folder for. In this example, I’ll select Music.
  5. Check the Also apply this template to all subfolders checkbox.
  6. Click OK.
  7. Go to the next set of steps.

On the Folder Properties window, select the type of files (Music is selected) and check the box for Also Apply this Template to all Subfolders, then click OK

Part 2: Set up the attributes you want to see in Detail view

  1. Change the Explorer view to Details—click the View tab, then click Details in the Layout group.
    View tab in Explorer showing Details in the Layout group selected
  2. At the top of the right panel are column headers, named with file attributes (e.g. Name, Size). Right-click anywhere in this column header area.
  3. The current attributes for the template are checked. You can click on any (except Name) to show or hide them (if already selected, clicking will deselect them; if not selected, clicking will select them). Yours will likely look different to this example, which is set for what I was testing with Music.
    Right-clicking on a column header shows the attributes selected to display in Details view
  4. Click More at the bottom of the list to see the full list of attributes you can choose from, arrange the order shown across the screen (Move Up moves the column closer to the left; Move Down moves it to the right), and adjust the column widths (all optional). Once you’ve made any changes here, click OK to close the Choose Details window.
  5. Adjust the column widths and positions, if required.
  6. Go to the next set of steps.

Part 3: Save those attributes to the template

  1. Once you have your folder set up with the attributes you want to display for the template you selected in Part 1, step 4, you need to ‘save’ it to the template. Go to the View tab in Explorer, if you aren’t already there.
  2. Click Options (far right on the View tab).
  3. On the Folder Options window, go to the View tab.
    Folder Options window where you click the Apply to Folders button
  4. Click Apply to Folders.
  5. You will be asked if ‘you want all folders of this type to match this folder’s view settings’. This message is a little confusing—what it’s really asking you is do you want to apply these settings to the TEMPLATE you selected for this folder. Click Yes if you do. Then click OK to close the Folder Options window.
  6. ALL folders on your PC that use the template you choose when you changed this one should now update their Details view to reflect the attributes you chose.

Details view for a folder using the Music template now shows Bit Rate, Size, Year, and Length (time)

NOTE: This isn’t an exact science! You may find that some folders/subfolders don’t change as you expect, and others you didn’t think would change, do. With luck there shouldn’t be too many of these and you can reapply the correct template to them (e.g. if the attributes for some General Items folders changed to reflect the Music attributes, then change those folders back to General Items.)

Part 4: Optional: Apply those attributes to other folders

If you have, say, music files stored in folders that use another template (e.g. the default General Items), then you can change the attributes shown just by changing the template for those folders. To do this, follow steps 1 to 6 in Part 1 above.

Tip: If you have LOTS of folders/subfolders containing a particular type of file, change a top-level folder and make sure you select the checkbox to apply to all subfolders.