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Adrienne Montgomerie

Software for Editors


kitten_laptopThe 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.

EndNote and Note Stripper are two plug-ins that editors who work with footnotes, citations and bibliographies swear by.

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.


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6 Comments on “Software for Editors”

  • Dwain Richardson


    I recently downloaded a trial version of PerfectIt. It’s effective because it can detect spelling and terminology inconsistencies that a traditional spelling and grammar check cannot catch. I discovered that PerfectIt works well with short texts. (Somehow I imagined the program was effective only with longer documents. Reality has certainly proven me wrong!) I’ll have to purchase an official version as soon as finances allow.

    WhiteSmoke is also a good software. (WhiteSmoke is an equivalent of Antidote—a renowned program many of my French-speaking colleagues use when editing their texts.) Although WhiteSmoke does not detect terminology inconsistencies, it can certainly detect spelling, grammar, and stylistic errors (e.g. repeated words, wordiness, and so on). Catch: WhiteSmoke does not recognize (or should that be “recognise”?) British and Canadian spellings.

  • Andy Carroll


    For XML editing I’ve been using oXygen XML Editor (the Author version). It allows Word-like track changes and comments in XML editing, which is easier to cope with than using the regular diff feature of most XML/text editors.

    Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the company I use it for made it their standard XML editor and paid for it.

  • Anne


    Hi, Adrienne:
    Another wonderful post on software; thank you! My question, though, is about a book: you mentioned having written the technology section within the 3rd edition of “Editing Canadian English.” [Sorry; I have no idea how to italicize within a reply on a blog.]

    Do you know when the 3rd edition of this book will be available to the public? (Has it even been published yet?) Is the 3rd edition being sold at the 2014 EAC conference?

    • A Montgomerie


      The next edition of ECE will be available via online subscription early in 2015 if not any day now. Print versions will be available “on demand” sometime thereafter, is my understanding.

  • Sarah


    I’m not Canadian, but just found your very helpful blog and noted the comment on PerfectIt. I’ve used it for two years and it has saved lots of time by starting lists of acronyms and abbreviations and identifying inconsistencies. Your fellow Canadian Geoff Hart’s e-book (Effective-onscreen-editing) contains many suggestions for automating comments–thanks to him, I have automated nearly 100 editorial comments (after seeing the same errors at multiple companies for 25 years. I’ve probably saved a year of editing time, thanks to Geoff. You can find his book at

    • A Montgomerie


      I just found Geoff’s book and it _is_ wonderful. Thanks for mentioning it.

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