Archive for December, 2018

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Word: How to fix formatting and case differences in a Word index

December 26, 2018

A reader contacted me asking about his index in Word. It seems some entries were showing as bold, italics, etc. and some, which were the same words but in different case, were showing as separate entries. He wanted all index entries that were the same to be in plain text and listed under the one entry.

Now, it’s an awfully long time since I created an index in Word, but I did remember that you have to create index entries (XE fields in Word) before you can create the index itself (Index field).

I did some testing and found out a few things:

  • Entries in different cases are listed separately. Solution: Make them the same case (see below).
  • If the first entry for a term has manually applied character formatting (bold/italics etc.), then the formatting in the index takes the manual character formatting of that first entry. If the manual formatting is applied to second or subsequent entries, then it still remains plain text in the index—it’s the formatting of the FIRST entry for that term that’s critical.
  • The index only reflects manually applied character formatting, not an applied paragraph or character style (I tested with a Heading paragraph style and the Emphasis character style and each time the entry in the index remained in normal text).

Solution

The solution requires you to see what’s going on, so the first step is to turn on field shading—this will show the hidden text that is the XE fields. Once you can see what’s going on, you can work on fixing it. Just don’t break those XE fields—they are surrounded by curly brackets, the index entry is surrounded by double quote marks, and a colon separates the main entry from the sub entry. These MUST remain intact.

(click an image to see it full size)

  1. Make sure your field codes are showing (File > Options > Advanced > Field Shading = Always).
    File > Options > Advanced > Field Shading = Always
  2. Once your fields are visible, you’ll see your index entries as field codes (e.g. {XE “Main entry:Sub entry”}). NOTE: When you make changes DO NOT delete the curly brackets, the colon, or the quote marks. In the example below, you can see the index entries and the resulting mess of an index.

    manually applied formatting and different cases are reflected in the index
  3. Go to the first index entry and check its formatting and case. If bold, italics etc. have been manually applied to it, continue to the next step.
  4. Select a field code only (the XE part) and press Ctrl+space to remove any manual character formatting and take the text back to the base paragraph style.
  5. If the case is wrong for the main or sub entry elements, manually change it. Don’t add any spaces between the colon and the sub entry.
  6. Go to the next entry and check its formatting and case (as for step 3).
  7. Repeat steps 4 and/or 5. Do this for several more.
  8. Test that it’s working. Go to the index, right click anywhere in it, then select Update Field. Check the entries that you changed in the earlier steps—they should have gone back to normal text and the case should be correct, therefore putting the same entries together. In the screen shots below, the first test showed that the formatting had been sorted out, but the case issues still remained. I went back and fixed the case in the individual entries and then updated the index again—the second screenshot shows the final result.
    manual formatting issues are now fixed, but the case issues aren't resolved
    All entries are correctly under the one main entry
  9. Repeat for the rest of the index entries that have formatting and case issues. Don’t forgot to update the index when you’re finished and check for any that you missed.

 

 

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There’s always a word for that: tmesis

December 23, 2018

I learned a new word a few weeks back. It’s a word that describes another word/phrase, and is ‘tmesis/ (pronounced teh-MEE-sis).

So what does it describe? Well, according to Australia’s Macquarie Dictionary, it’s a noun that describes the ‘separation of words that constitute a compound or construction by the insertion of other elements’.

Macquarie gives these examples: kangabloodyroo or a great man and good instead of a great and good man.

Personally, I prefer the more Aussie colloquialisms like ‘abso-f***-lutely’ or ‘fan-bloody-tastic’. However, I think there’s probably a rule for its use within another word, and I think that rule might relate to the number of syllables of the surrounding word. Of all the words I’ve tried in my head, the only time tmesis really works is with a word of at least three syllables. But not all words of three or more syllables work. ‘Fan-ta-stic’ works, but ‘brill-i-ant’ doesn’t’; ‘ab-so-lute-ly’ works, but ‘gen-er-ally’ doesn’t; ‘un-be-liev-able’ works, but ‘un-us-ual-ly’ doesn’t.

According to Merriam-Webster and Wikipedia, the origin of ‘tmesis’ is Greek, meaning to cut. And its usage was first recorded in the mid 1500s, so it’s been around a while.

 

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Using VLC to split a video file

December 23, 2018

These notes are for me, for when I next need to do this (I always forget steps 7 and 8)! They are based on this CNET article in case it ever goes missing: https://www.cnet.com/how-to/how-to-create-video-clips-in-vlc/ and only apply to Windows.

Actually, the title of my post is a little misleading—as far as I can tell, you can’t split a video using VLC, but you CAN record sections of it, which is effectively the same. If you have a very large file, you may have to do these steps twice or more, one for each section you want as a separate file. (If anyone knows how to cut or split a video file using VLC [similar to how you can split/cut an audio file in Audacity] and without doing it in real time, let me know in the comments and I’ll test it and update this post with that information. I also couldn’t find a way to save the recorded video [original was mkv] as anything other than MP4—if anyone knows the VLC setting for that too, I’d be most grateful.)

  1. Open the video with VLC media player. Do not press Play. If it starts playing automatically, pause it.
  2. Make sure you can see the Advanced Controls (View > Advanced Controls).
  3. Use the slider to get to where you want to start recording the new video.
  4. Press the Record button (the one in the Advanced Controls panel with the red dot).
  5. Press the Play button.
  6. Let the video run to the point where you want to stop recording. It will run in real time, so you could be waiting a while if it’s a long video.
  7. Press the Record button again. This stops the recording and saves it to your hard drive. Yes, Record both starts and stops the recording. (The original video will continue playing in VLC if it hasn’t finished—you can stop or pause it if you don’t want to finish watching it.)
  8. IMPORTANT: By default, the recording saves to your default Videos or My Videos folder in Windows (what it’s called depends on your version of Windows). You can change this location: In VLC media player v2.2.4 (the version I have), you do this here: Tools > Preferences > Inputs/Codecs > Record directory or filename — click Browse, and choose the folder where you want your recordings to save.
  9. The file name will start with VLC, have date and time information from when you started the recording (e.g. vlc-record-2018-12-23-11h30m16s), and the original file name. Rename the file as required, then copy it to where you want it to go.

[Link last checked December 2018]

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The perils of global IT support

December 5, 2018

I had an issue with connecting to some of my main client’s network locations today. The second-level support person (in the Philippines?) solved it, but not after checking some stuff in DOS where he saw that the last time I rebooted the laptop was April this year. Um, no. I shut down every night, and had also restarted about an hour earlier before contacting support to see if that would fix it.

He insisted it was April when I last rebooted and highlighted the date on the DOS screen. Yeah, 4/12/2018 is April 12 in US date format, but is legitimately 4 December in Australian date format, which my laptop is set to! He apologised, and hopefully learnt that different countries display their dates in different ways.

I don’t know why the backend of computers don’t store and display the date in ISO date format (e.g. 2018-12-04 — YYYY-MM-DD) — it would solve a lot of issues.

See also:

[Links last checked December 2018]

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Editing: It saves your readers’ sanity

December 1, 2018

Bottom line: Even something as simple as a birthday invitation can benefit from editing!

A client and I have recently been discussing academic journal writing and lamenting why it’s so stilted, wordy, written in the third person, and generally hard for an audience (especially a general audience) to understand. Our email discussion was triggered by an article in The Atlantic: The myth of dumbing down.

A few days later he shared with me a birthday invitation he’d received from an academic he knew. It was some 950 words long! While it mostly used plain conversational language (there was at least one ‘therein’…), it was way too wordy. The essentials of the message were lost or well hidden in the word salad.

I couldn’t help myself—I edited it down to 250 words and sent it back to my client, purely as an example of how editing could keep the message but communicate it in clear, plain language.

Below is the original version (with all personal and place names changed) and my edited version. The original also included the names of those who were attending and those who’d put in their apologies, which I deleted from both versions.

Original version (950 words)

Dear Family and Friends,

This email will communicate (hopefully final) details regarding the re-scheduled 50th-birthday dinner-party for me at Gurpreet’s Indian Restaurant at 280 Highline St., Anytown, on Saturday 1st December.

VENUE: I realise that some of you have eaten at Gurpreet’s Anytown restaurant in the past and so will know how to find it. But for those of you who need instructions about its location I detail them in the following section. The restaurant is on the south side of Highline Street (= Main street of Anytown and Rosella) and is just two-shops east (i.e., towards the Melbourne CBD) of what used to be the Main Town Hotel on the SE corner of Highline Street and Mountain Street (which former hotel is opposite the Anytown Post Office). The restaurant occupies a converted terrace-house and is conspicuously signed at the front above and at street level; its map location is: 2018 edition UBD, Map 32 A6; see also Google Earth image attached).

PARKING: Highline Street is metered along its entire length as are many of the side streets running off it to the north and south. The meters on Highline Street are turned off each day at 7:00 pm but not on the side streets (so I’m told) and resident-permit restrictions apply in some of these side streets after business hours.

There is a 30-minute FREE parking concession along the whole of Highline Street, but you still need to get the relevant ticket from the meter and display it on your dash board. So if you were to find a parking space on Highline Street relatively close to the restaurant after 6:30 pm and obtain a 30-minute free ticket and display it on your car dash, you would not have to worry about getting a parking fine for the rest of the evening.

Nearby to the restaurant, there is also a Council-owned free parking lot on the north side of Battle Street (2018 edition UBD, Map 32, B7) just west of its acute-angled junction with Highline Street at Federal Square (this lot is not exceptionally large off, and possibly ‘busy’ on Saturday nights). This lot is best accessed while driving east on Battle Street (so as not to have to turn left against the oncoming traffic if otherwise driving west). There is a 2-hour time-limit in this parking lot but I think that restriction ends at 6 or 7 pm (read the signs therein); so if you park there after 6:00 pm there shouldn’t be any trouble about being fined (see Google Earth image attached for location of this parking lot).

Additionally, there is free unlimited parking on all four sides of the MacDonald Terrace, a divided-lane street (with very wide intervening green-strip) that runs parallel to Highline Street one block north of Highline Street between Birchbroom Road (on the west) and Roundhouse Street (on the east). There is also free parking on Carton Road (= eastward extension of MacDonald Terrace; see attached Google Earth image). Parking on MacDonald Terrace and/or Carton Road will entail having to walk up-slope for a whole block to the restaurant, so is not recommended for anyone with mobility problems.

Anyone with a disability parking-permit can park anywhere free of charge any time unless signed-posted otherwise.

TIME OF ASSEMBLY: Can I suggest that we start assembling at Gurpreet’s between 6:45 and 7:15 pm? If we are all assembled by say 7:00 or 7:15 pm, then we could begin the dinner at 7:15 or as soon as possibly thereafter. Please try to be punctual so as to facilitate an ordered start to the dinner.

DRINKS: Gurpreet’s is both licensed and BYO. I suggest you buy the house beers (which include both Indian and local brands), but bring your own wine (because the restaurant wines are relatively expensive — this is true of all restaurants because the licence to sell alcohol is very expensive!). A large variety of both Indian and local non-alcoholic drinks are available. Also, there is a bottle shop with a large range of beers and wines just around the corner from the restaurant (= the only surviving licensed element of what used to be the Main Town Hotel), so if necessary additional drinks can be purchased there.

MENU: Some of you I know have dietary restrictions. Hence I suggest that those persons order their main course(s) separately, while the rest of us share the Banquet Menu. Anyone who doesn’t want to share in the banquet menu can order separately. I have already discussed this suggestion regarding the menu with the proprietor and that is OK with her.

RESTAURANT CONTACT DETAILS: In case anyone has last minute problems with attending the get-together or arriving there on time and need to alert the restaurant, it’s landline’s and mobile numbers are: Landline: 5555-5555; Mobile: 0413-555-555

Proprietor: Shivani Singh (= Gurpreet’s wife; she usually now looks after the Anytown restaurant and her husband [Gurpreet] and their two sons [Deepak and Vikas] look after their other restaurant at Highline Harbour and at their Function Centre at Congress; I don’t know whether Gurpreet and/or either of his sons will be at the Anytown restaurant on Saturday night).

PUBLIC TRANSPORT ACCESS: Busses 41 and 57 leave from Stand A at the QVB in the Melbourne CBD and stop in Mountain Street beside the Anytown Post Office (and across the road from the bottle shop). Both these buses will return you to the Melbourne CBD from bus-stops virtually outside the restaurant.

Edited version (250 words)

Details for my 50th birthday dinner

Date and time: 6:45pm for 7:00pm, Sat 1 Dec 2018

Place: Gurpreet’s Indian Restaurant, 280 Highline St, Anytown (almost opposite the Anytown PO); 5555 5555 or 0413 555 555

Food and drinks:

  • Banquet Menu. If you have dietary restrictions, order your main course separately
  • The restaurant is licensed and BYO. Suggestion: Purchase beer there, but BYO wine. There’s a bottle shop around the corner

Parking:

  • Metered parking to 7pm along Highline St (first 30 minutes free—so you could get there at 6:30, but you must display a ticket on your dashboard)
  • Free but small parking lot on the north side of Battle St, near the junction with Highline St at Federal Square; usually 2-hour limit, but check signs as likely no limit after 6 or 7pm. Best access is if you’re driving east on Battle St
  • Free unlimited parking on all sides of MacDonald Tce between Birchbroom Rd and Roundhouse St (parallel to Highline St and one street away). Avoid if you have mobility issues as you have to walk up a hill
  • Free parking on Carton Rd (extension of MacDonald Tce). Also avoid if you have mobility issues
  • Side streets: Avoid; likely only for residents with permits.

Public transport: Take bus 41 or 57. Both depart from Stand B at the QVB and stop in Mountain St beside the Anytown PO (across the road from the bottle shop and restaurant). The bus stop for the return trip is outside the restaurant.

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Contact me (details on the About page) if you think your written communications could benefit from editing such as this.