Thursday, May 08, 2008

OT: Tech tips--Xobni and Autotext

These are probably not news to everyone, but they are to me, so I thought I'd mention them here.
  • Xobni (inbox spelled backwards) is an indexer for Outlook. I usually use Google Desktop to find things, but this is faster. (Also, Google Desktop will sometimes tell you that you do have a message from the person you're looking for but won't open it, tantalizing you with its vagueness.) When you click on a message in your inbox, Xobni tells you the person's phone number (if the person has ever sent it in an e-mail) as well as telling you who else is in this person's "network." This freaked me out a little at first, because I thought there was some kind of web magic involved, but it turns out that it's all based on what's in your inbox already.
  • Autotext in Word. I've been using Word for years, but this was a revelation; it's perfect for inserting repetitive text ("You need a comma here") into student papers. If you're still running Word 2003--and everyone I know who has 2007 wants desperately to go back to the 2003 version--here's what you do:
    1. Highlight the chunk of text you want to have as autotext.
    2. Click on Insert, Autotext, New.
    3. Give it a name in the box that pops up.
    4. To use Autotext, Click on Insert, Autotext, Autotext, and scroll down until you find the short name that you gave it. I kept all the names to 2-5 letters for maximum speed.

    Now, if you're like me and would prefer a faster way to do this than messing around with the mouse and toolbar, try this keyboard shortcut:
    Alt-I-A-X and type your short name. The autotext appears in the document.
    Want to put this into a comment? First, insert the comment: Alt-I-M. Then Alt-I-A-X (these don't have to be capital letters) and the short name.

    I had never tried Autotext because of being scarred by Word macros at a tender age. To this day, one of my ancient computers has a copy of Word that, when you open it, opens Visual Basic first and demands that the macro be completed or canceled. I obviously screwed up the macro-making process badly at some point but could never get Visual Basic to stop harassing me. If I'd only known about Autotext, I'd have realized that I didn't need a macro after all and have spared myself two years of shutting down Visual Basic before I could open a document.

    The benefit of all this is that I am, yes, actually looking forward to the first set of assignments from the summer school class because I'll get to practice my mad Autotext skillz on them.

    Anonymous said...

    I have a custom Grading toolbar that presents all my AutoTexts (e.g. "this just states a topic, it doesn't make a claim") right in front of my face for me to insert with one click. Obviously, I only bring it up when Grading. It also gives one-click access to my macro to resize the text in the Comment balloons, which I find too small. You can make one easily enough in Word 2003 or Mac versions, not sure about Word 2007.

    Setting up custom AutoCorrects (look under Tools) is also glorious, and may be faster for short phrases than invoking AutoText.

    undine said...

    This is brilliant--thanks. I've just made a grading toolbar of my own and am ready to start grading . . .sort of.

    Peter said...

    Yepe, Word autotext has lots to recommend it and until a couple of years ago I used Word's autotext to manage all my online grading comments. I then wanted to extend autotext so I could do the following:

    * Easily move autotext entries from one machine to another (work to home), or send them to other markers in the same course, or back them up in case my Word died.
    * Word autotext entries in Word 2007 are shown so small that they can't be readable so you have to remember what each comment is called
    * use them in exactly the same way in Word 2003 and Word 2007
    * spell check or update all the autotext entries as a whole by exporting them to a file and then reading them back in from the file
    * I wanted to "harvest" comments from folders of assignments that I have marked in the past.
    *rename them and pick them from a floating toolbar

    eMarking Assistant stores all the comments in autotext entries and then gives you additional tools allow you to more easily create, manage, update, and use them. It also has the advantage that it works in exactly the same way Word 2003 and Word 2007.

    See for a demo and a 60 day trial.

    Peter Evans