Archive for November, 2017


Word: Find a year followed by a comma and replace with a semicolon

November 22, 2017

Another early morning question posed on Facebook…

The person was trying to use Word’s wildcard find and replace to convert all strings of Authorname nnnn, Authorname nnnn, Authorname nnnn, Authorname nnnn (i.e. any author’s name, followed by a 4-digit number for a year, such as Smith 2005, Jones 1997, etc., followed by a comma, followed by another author’s name etc.). He wanted to convert all the comma separators to semicolons, ending up with Authorname nnnn; Authorname nnnn; Authorname nnnn; Authorname nnnn. (I’ve italicised the text for clarity — it wasn’t in his original.)

Wildcard find/replace is all about finding the pattern and then figuring out how best to interpret that pattern in a meaningful way in how you search for what you want, and how you replace it with what you want.

In this example, an author name always ends in a lower case letter, is followed by a space, then four numbers for the year, a comma, a space, then an upper case letter for the next author’s name. The last item in the list doesn’t quite match the pattern (no comma, space, upper case letter following it),  but that one doesn’t need to change so we can ignore that variation to the pattern. He wanted to keep everything except the comma, which he wanted to change to a semicolon.

Here’s how I solved it using Word’s wildcard find and replace  (there may be a more elegant solution, but this one worked for me):

  • Find: ([0-9]{4})(,)( )([A-Z]) 
  • Replace: \1;\3\4

If you need to use this, I suggest you copy it as there’s a space in the third set of parentheses that you can’t see.

How this works:

  • Find: Look for any number from 0 to 9 [0-9] that has 4 digits {4} — this is the first element and is surrounded by parentheses. Then look for a comma (another element, so also surrounded by parens). Next look for a space (wow, more parens), and finally look for any upper case letter [A-Z] and as it’s a unique element, surround it by parens too.
  • Replace: Replace the first element (the 4-digit number) with itself (that’s the \1 bit), then a semicolon, then replace the third and fourth elements of the find with themselves (e.g. \3\4).

You keep everything you don’t want to change (elements 1, 3, and 4) and only change the second element by typing a semicolon in between elements 1 and 3.




Word: Wildcard replace with a backslash

November 22, 2017

This morning, well before I was properly awake, I solved a problem someone had posed on a Facebook group I’m in. They had an issue getting Word’s wildcard find and replace to do what they wanted and had asked members of the group to help. I’m writing this up for my own future reference as there’s some information in here about the peculiarities of the backslash character that I may need to use again in the future. [Random fact: The backslash character is known by several names, including the reverse virgule and the reverse solidus.]

The person was trying to find an easy way to find all instances of 3x and replace with 3\x\. Actually, she was trying to do more than that — if she’d only been looking for that, then a normal find/replace should work. For the rest of the string, however, she really needed to use wildcards. Where she was getting stuck was defining the Find correctly, and then the Replace.

Here’s my solution (using wildcards):

  • Find: (3)(x) 
  • Replace: \1^92\2^92

How this works:

  • First, look for 3 followed immediately by x. I separated them in the Find string with parentheses so that I could treat them as separate elements in the Replace string.
  • Next, for the replace, type \1 to replace the first element (the 3) with itself, then type ^92 to add a backslash character (you can’t type a \ as that won’t work), then \2 to replace the second element of the Find with itself (i.e. the x), then another ^92 for a final backslash character.

Two things to note:

  • The backslash is an escape character in a Find, so if you need to find one, you need to surround it with square brackets and ‘escape’ it — i.e. [\\] in a Find.
  • The backslash is a special character in Replace too as it designates the element you want to replace with itself. Instead, you have to use ^92 in place of a \.



Word: Print Comments only

November 14, 2017

You can print comments and track changes with a document easily enough, but what if you JUST want to print the comments in a Word document?

It’s a bit fiddly, but it can be done. Here’s how:

  1. Open the Word document that has comments.
  2. Go to the Review tab.
  3. Click the drop-down arrow next to the Show markup button.
  4. Turn off everything except Comments. You can only turn them off one at a time, so you’ll have to do the previous step and this one several times to turn off all the options except Comments. When you’re finished, only Comments should have a check mark next to it.
  5. Go to File > Print.
  6. Under Settings, the default to Print all pages. You don’t want that, so click the drop-down next to those words.
  7. Select List of Markup. Note: The Print Markup option at the bottom of the list should be ticked; if it’s not, select it too.
  8. Choose your printer as you normally, then click Print.

If you want to print out just one reviewer’s comments, repeat the steps above. When you get to Step 4, follow those instructions and then select Specific people from the Show Markup list and choose the person or people whose comments you want to print. Once you’ve done that, continue on from Step 5 above.

NOTE: I couldn’t find how to print just the comments in a Word document converted to PDF. Adobe Acrobat doesn’t recognise Word’s comments as comments, only its own.


ASTC 2017 Conference

November 12, 2017

I attended and spoke at the Australian Society for Technical Communication (ASTC) 2017 Conference, held for the past two days in Sydney. Although it was a small conference with only one track for sessions, it had lots of valuable information presented, and the small size allowed for more regular and personal interaction among the attendees.

There was a great mix of sessions — from highly technical information, to case studies, to new ideas and approaches. I usually take notes of the sessions I attend, but this time the super-smart Sarah Maddox was also attending and speaking, and she takes far more comprehensive notes than I ever could. So if you want to read about the sessions, head over to Sarah’s blog and check out her summary of the conference, and the links to her blog posts for each session:

[Link last checked November 2017]