Archive for the ‘Software’ Category


Word: Italicise numbers inside parentheses

December 2, 2021

In a comment on another blog post, one of my readers asked if there was an easy way to find all numbers and change them to italic. Well, there is (Option 1 below), but there was a further complication—some of these numbers were a range separated by a dash, and some were separated by commas. For example:

  • (123456)
  • (1-4)
  • (1, 5)
  • (1, 5, 12)

I couldn’t find an easy way to do this all at once, but you can do it by running several wildcard find and replace routines. If someone else has an easier or more elegant solution, please add it in the comments.


  • Tip: Just in case anything goes wrong, make a copy of your document before you start and do this in the copy until you are satisfied it works as you expect.
  • Tip: Only click Replace all once you are confident that it works.
  • Numbers are whole positive integers—no decimals, no ordinals, no negative numbers.
  • ‘Dash’ is the standard hyphen character on the keyboard, NOT an en or em dash, or a minus symbol.
  • All find and replace routines are done with Use wildcards turned on (Ctrl+h, click More, select Use wildcards).
  • Tip: Copy the find strings from here and paste into your Word find field.

Option 1: Find all numbers and change to italics

  1. Find: ([0-9])
  2. Replace: \1
  3. When in the Replace field, click Format > Font, and choose Italic.

Note: EVERY number in the document will be italicised.

Option 2: Find whole numbers only inside parentheses and change to italics

For example: (123456), (789), (23)

  1. Find: \(([0-9]@)\)
  2. Replace: ^&
  3. When in the Replace field, click Format > Font, and choose Italic.

Note: The numbers AND their surrounding parentheses will be italicised. See Option 6 for how to change the parentheses back to normal text.

Option 3: Find whole numbers separated with a single dash inside parentheses and change to italics

For example: (12-3456), (7-89), (2-3) [there are NO spaces before or after the dash]

  1. Find: \(([0-9]{1,9})(-)([0-9]{1,9})\)
  2. Replace: ^&
  3. When in the Replace field, click Format > Font, and choose Italic.

Note: The number ranges, the dashes, AND their surrounding parentheses will be italicised. See Option 6 for how to change the dash and the parentheses back to normal text.

Option 4: Find 2 numbers separated by a comma and a space, inside parentheses, and change to italics

For example: (1, 2), (25, 67)

  1. Find: \([0-9]{1,9}, [0-9]{1,9}\)
  2. Replace: ^&
  3. When in the Replace field, click Format > Font, and choose Italic.

Note: The numbers, the comma, the space, AND their surrounding parentheses will be italicised. See Option 6 for how to change the comma, space, and the parentheses back to normal text.

Option 5: Find 3 numbers separated by commas and spaces, inside parentheses, and change to italics

For example: (1, 2, 3), (25, 67, 345)

  1. Find: \(([0-9]{1,9}, [0-9]{1,9}, [0-9]{1,9})\)
  2. Replace: ^&
  3. When in the Replace field, click Format > Font, and choose Italic.

Note: The numbers, comma, spaces, AND their surrounding parentheses will be italicised. See Option 6 for how to change the commas, spaces, and the parentheses back to normal text.

Option 6: Change all commas, spaces, dashes, and parentheses back to normal text

  1. Find: ([, \(\)-]) (Note: there’s a space after the comma in this string)
  2. When in the Find field, click Format > Font, and choose Italic.
  3. Replace: ^&
  4. When in the Replace field, click Format > Font, and choose Not Italic.



PowerPoint: Remove alt text but preserve links when creating a PDF

December 1, 2021

One of my clients had a problem. When he created a PDF from his PowerPoint presentation, the PDF displayed the auto-generated alt text for each picture in his slide deck. He’s a geologist so some of the alt text for the images of rock formations was just totally wrong (see the second half of this blog post for examples of weird auto-generated alt text: He didn’t want the alt text, but found that if he turned off the accessibility features in Acrobat, his URL links no longer worked either. He wanted the links, just not the alt text.

I figured out how to achieve what he wanted (i.e. no alt text and clickable URL links) in PowerPoint before you create the PDF. Here’s how:

  1. Click on an image in PowerPoint.
  2. Go the the Picture Format tab.
  3. Click Alt Text in the Accessibility group. This displays the Alt Text panel, populated with some auto-generated text that Microsoft THINKS describes the image.
  4. You can now either:
    • click the Mark as decorative checkbox, OR
    • clear the auto-generated alt text and leave it blank (or type a space).
  5. When you’ve finished your PowerPoint slide deck, go to File > Save as Adobe PDF. The resulting PDF should preserve any URLs you have, and there should be no alt text for any of the images you cleared it from.

A note about alt text: Alt text is absolutely necessary for those with vision issues who use screen readers to navigate computers, website, and digital files, so if your images are of something (and not just decorative), it’s best to add your own alt text describing what’s in the image. Certainly NEVER leave it up to Microsoft’s artificial intelligence as could get some very weird results.


Word: Apply a keyboard shortcut to a style

November 5, 2021

I realised I hadn’t written up one of the tricks I use every day! And that’s to use the keyboard to quickly apply a style to a piece of text. I’ve set up different keyboard shortcuts for the styles I use most (e.g. Body Text, Table Bullet).

Update: Some common styles already have inbuilt keyboard shortcuts:

  • Heading 1: Ctrl+Alt+1
  • Heading 2: Ctrl+Alt+2
  • Heading 3: Ctrl+Alt+3
  • List Bullet: Ctrl+Shift+L

Here’s how to add keyboard shortcuts for other styles:

  1. Go to File > Options > Customize Ribbon.
  2. Click Customize (the button next to Keyboard Shortcuts, below the left panel).
  3. Scroll to the end of the Categories section.
  4. Click Styles, which is the second-last category. The right section changes to list all the style names in the template.
  5. Click on a style name (e.g. Body Text).
  6. Check the Current Keys box to see if there’s already a keyboard shortcut assigned to it. If not, go to the Press new shortcut key field and PRESS the keyboard combination you want to use (DO NOT type the keys—you must press them as though you were using the keyboard to do the action). If a keyboard shortcut is already assigned to the selected style, you can cancel out of these screens and use it, or change it by continuing with the steps below.
  7. Check for any message below the Current Keys box to see if this key combination is used for something else in Word. If so, press another combination. Once you see [unassigned] listed, you know you can use that keyboard shortcut.
  8. Click Assign to assign your keyboard shortcut to this style.
  9. Repeat Steps 5 to 8 for any other styles you want to assign keyboard shortcuts to.
  10. When you’ve finished, click Close, and then OK to exit the windows.
  11. Test that it works by adding some plain text then pressing your keyboard shortcut—the plain text should now be styled with the style assigned to that keyboard shortcut.

Bonus: If you have a lot of documents that use different templates, provided a document has the same named styles as you’ve set for your style keyboard shortcuts (e.g. Body Text is used across documents—even though it might be styled differently in each document), the keyboard shortcut will work across all of those documents and apply the correct Body Text style from each template.



Word: Replace HTML em markers with italics

November 1, 2021

In a comment on another post, J had this problem: the text file that they’d copied into Word had the HTML code markers for emphasis (em enclosed by the greater than < and less than > arrows)and they wanted to get rid of these markers and change the text between those markers into italics. Unfortunately, WordPress won’t allow me write that code as it wants to automatically convert it into italics!

I solved their problem by using a wildcard find and replace in Word. Here’s how:

  1. Press Ctrl+h to open the Find and Replace window.
  2. Click More.
  3. Select the Use wildcards checkbox.
  4. In the Find field, type this (copy it if you think you’ll get it wrong; there are NO spaces in this string): (\<em\>)(*)(\</em\>) 
  5. In the Replace field, type this: \2
  6. While still in the Replace field, click Format (bottom left of the find/replace window), then Font, then select Italic. Font: Italic should display below the Replace field, as shown in the screenshot.
  7. Click Find Next. if you’re happy with what it found, click Replace. Only click Replace All if you’re confident that every instance of em has a closing em marker nearby.

How this works:

  • Each element of the Find is enclosed by parentheses. There are three elements — the opening em marker (#1), the text in between (#2), and the closing em marker (#3)
  • Because the greater than and less than symbols have special functions in Word’s wildcard find/replace, you have to ‘escape’ them by putting a \ in front of each
  • Because we don’t know which word or words or phrases or numbers are between the em markers, we use * to represent anything between an opening and a closing em marker
  • In the Replace, we don’t need the em markers anymore, so we omit them from the replace. But we do need the words that are enclosed by those em markers, and that’s the second element in the Find, so we type \2 to tell the second thing found to be replaced by itself.

An introduction to Word’s styles

October 21, 2021

I’m a huge fan of using styles in Word. Once you understand how they work, they can save countless hours of tedious formatting. This article from Office-Watch explains, in clear language, what styles are and how they are used:

It’s worth reading, even if you think you know a lot about styles. And despite using Word for 20+ years, I learnt what a Linked style actually means in practice.


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:, 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!


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.

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
  • 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, 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]


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()
End Sub

[Link last checked August 2021]



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:


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.


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.


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.