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Paul Cipywnyk

Basic Tools for Productive Editing

Your computer set-up can determine whether you have a smooth editing experience or suffer headache after IT-related headache, so let’s look at some of the tools that help editors succeed.


Buy a computer with lots of memory (RAM), a minimum of 8 GB and preferably 16 GB. Having lots of memory enables you to keep many applications and windows open, and running smoothly. Don’t stew about processors (CPUs), because anything these days has enough oomph for editing applications. Don’t worry about graphics or huge hard drives unless you’re heavily into photography or video. Get an external drive for regular backups.

Get a large monitor, or two. Increasing display space is the best boost to productivity. I’d say the minimum size and resolution to look at is 20” at 1,600 x 1,200 pixels. The HDTV size is common at 1,920 x 1,080, but I prefer monitors with at least 1,200 vertical pixels. Why? Because 95% of my work is editing portrait-oriented letter-size pages, and at 1,200 pixels I can see a full page in 100% view. You can also get a monitor that can physically rotate from landscape to portrait mode.

Brand? Online search is your friend. Read reviews on reputable websites, and then go out and look at monitors.

Have a laptop? Buy a big external monitor so you have that screen real estate while you’re in your office.

Operating System

Windows or Mac, use what you know and like.


You have to get the Microsoft Office suite. It’s the de facto standard, and while open-source products like LibreOffice are very good, you don’t want some compatibility issue to arise at midnight before a deadline.

Should you buy outright or get a subscription? The two main issues to consider are upgrading and the number of computers you want to use the software on. I consider keeping my software current a cost of doing business. You can use a version of Word that’s a couple of releases old, but someday you’ll run into a glitch.

One machine? An off-the-shelf package may be most economical. But if you have several computers, a small-office business subscription is the way to go.

There’s no driving need for Adobe aside from Acrobat, which is free. You should be editing text, not stumbling around in InDesign. Adobe rules in layout and design, but is that what you do?

I’ve used a dozen text editors. They’re amazing at manipulating text and include markup styles for the web and e‑books. This is a topic in its own right, so search reviews and comparisons.

One application that I install on all my (Windows) machines is ClipMate. It captures everything you copy or clip and lets you manipulate it, run filters on it, swap cases, store it in folders, etc. Lots of editors rave about PerfectIt. I like Evernote for saving online articles (dozens a week), and I can access it from any computer, tablet or smartphone.

I used TraxTime to track hours for years, but since support ended, I’ve shifted to Toggle.

Learn your software. Read a manual. Gasp! OK, at least get a good guidebook. For example, learn about macros and extended search and replace. A little time here can save hours of editing effort.


Previous post from Paul Cipywnyk: Mourning the Demise of Newsroom Copy Editors.

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