The editing of words is well into the technological age now. While paper still exists, it would be surprising to find an editorial or production workflow that doesn’t involve computers. What programs are editors using? Editors I interviewed when writing the technology section for the third edition of EAC’s Editing Canadian English said this is what you need:
Word remains the dominant word processing program for editors. While we love to hate it — with its many snafus and temper tantrums — it has useful features such as tracking changes, advanced find and replace, customizable spellchecker, and macros and other automation features.
Macros can be made from scratch, bought from suppliers or even shared among editors — such as Macros for Writers and Editors: a book full of macros for all sorts of editorial tasks. These even cover complex tasks, some of which I had thought too sophisticated to automate.
Plug-ins made by other software companies add to the editor’s toolbox. PerfectIt is one common program that editors use to check files for consistent style. That manufacturer even made Canadian add-ins that check for The Canadian Style and spelling preferences from the Canadian Oxford Dictionary.
MathType Equation Editor is another common Word plug-in used by editors of science and math materials (and related subject areas). LaTeX is a more sophisticated program for equation-heavy writing, but it’s still restricted to specialist circles and quite a bit less user-friendly than MS programs.
A PDF reader and markup tool is practically as necessary as a word processor, as page proofs move back and forth via email and as editors get called upon to work on words that will never be printed — such as video captions, apps, slide decks and websites. Anything that can be displayed on-screen can be turned into a PDF that an editor can mark up on-screen with free Adobe Reader software.
That’s the software I couldn’t edit without. Word and Adobe Reader/Acrobat are business standards, so a great majority of businesses expect freelancers to have them. Niches vary, however, and many editors have success with alternative software such as Pages and Google Docs. Some niche work requires editors to work in design software such as InDesign.
I consider my camera essential and a suitable replacement for a flat-bed scanner for shooting “sketches” for the art department. A drawing program such as the free Inkscape or Note Anytime on my iPad are similarly helpful.
As for the business side of freelancing, tasks are easier with spreadsheet software such as Excel, at a minimum. Accounting software, time trackers, an FTP program and of course email are all helpful. Some editors find project management or organization software essential too — such as Evernote.
That’s enough to get your editing done. I hope you’ll leave a comment to tell us what other software makes your editing easier and more productive.