Saturday, 15 October 2016

SmartComment - Efficient Comment Entry

A Free Document Productivity Tool For Word

SmartComment allows you to quickly enter comments and to reuse those you have already entered

I use SmartComment when giving feedback to others, often I want to refer to the text in the comment, and frequently reuse comments I have already given in other places in the document

Using SmartComment

You select the text that the comment  and then press the SmartComment shortcut key. I use "Control+]" as the shortcut. 

 So far this is fairly standard functionality. 

You can also place the cursor on a given word, the SmartComment will select the entire word for the comment.

When you press the shortcut key again, SmartComment inserts the page number and text you highlighted. 
This forms the basis of your comment.

The cursor is positioned to add more text.

Reusing Earlier Comments

If you press the shortcut key again, 
you get a list of the previous comments you have entered.  

The selected comment will be entered, and the cursor positioned for minor corrections or additional text.

Only your own comments are used, those entered by others are ignored.

Th allows you to reuse comments.

 The dashed line shows the position of the cursor in the document and the comments are presented in the order they appear in the document.

If the comment is long, only the first part of the comment is shown and the remainder of the text indicated by the "...." characters
If there are lots of comments, the amount of text is reduced even further.

Using the filter

SmartComment has a filter function that lets you narrow quickly locate a prior comment by entering a key word or phrase. The list of comments to select from is reduced, and if there is only one comment with the filter value, it will be inserted automatically.

When you have a blank comment, you can type in a filter value. Only those comments you entered with that value in it are presented.

 If only one comment has "editor" then

Then it is inserted for you automatically.

SmartComment Delete

SmartComment Delete quickly removes comments. Just place the cursor in the l

Monday, 1 August 2016

SmartNote - Fast Document Annotation

A Free Document Productivity Tool For Word

SmartNote lets you enter annotations and placeholder text into documents. You can control the layout and highlighting with simple keystrokes. 

Later, you can browse for notes, and then convert them into standard text or remove them with a simple keystroke. 

The value of SmartNote is in the speed and simplicity of entry.

I use SmartNote to mark placeholder text that needs to be expanded later, or to record things that need to be filled in later, such dates or other information that is not currently clear.

I also use this tool when giving feedback to propose new alternate or additional text directly into the document.

The SmartReview tool (see later post) function allows me to check for these gaps before a document is released. Alternatively, you can use the find function to check for the layout character or for highlighted text.

Using SmartNote

When you press then SmartNote shortcut key, a new annotation is started. The "[" and "]" delimiters are inserted and the cursor is ready for typing.

You now type the note.  

You can also start a note by selecting a range of text and pressing the shortcut key.  The shortcut key puts the SmartNote delimiter around the text.

Pressing the shortcut key anywhere in a SmartNote toggles the colour from grey to yellow to Green.

SmartNote remembers the current colour and applies it to the next note.

SmartNote Delimiters

SmartNote uses two different delimiters.

Double tap the shortcut key and the delimiters toggle between [Text] and <<Text>>

SmartNote remembers the current delimiter and applies it to the next note.

Deleting SmartNotes

To delete a SmartNote, place the cursor anywhere in it and press the Delete SmartNote shortcut key.

The delimiter and highlight are removed converting the placeholder in to standard text.

Press the Delete SmartNote key and the text is deleted completely.


I have imporved SmartNote but including a third highlight with no delimiter. This allows you to highlight selected text and toggle the colour as normal, but without the "[" or "<" delimiters. To get into this mode, use the double tap feature until it is selected/

Learning about VBA

This tool is the first one to make use of the Double Tap concept, which allows me to add extra features to a basic tool without expanding the number of keys needed and without introducing additional user.

I have not seen anyone else using this concept.

It uses the VBA Timer functions to detect the time between two calls to the same procedure. If the difference is quick enough (a double tap), alternate code can be called.


I SmartNote because I can enter one with a single key. By pressing the same key I can toggle colours and delimiters and use the latest values for the next one.

I also like the ability to convert the placeholder text to standard text or delete the SmartNote with the same simple keystrokes.

This was one of the first macros I wrote, based on an idea from Ben Read - thanks Ben.

The Downloads tab contains a copy of SmartNote. There is more information on how it works in the release notes.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Upcoming Posts

Free productivity tools for Word

Here is an update on the tools that are currently being worked on for publication.

Please let me know if you have any suggestions for new tools or forums where the tools can be publicised.

Giving Feedback

The next few posts will be focused on the tools I use for giving feedback on documents I have to review


This tool allows you to quickly enter highlighted [placeholder text] or suggested wording changes. I use this to mark up gaps I need fill or draft changes to contract documentation. SmartNote can also be used to record instructions or <<actions that need to be do to be done>>. The tool has toggles to change the display format and to convert the highlighted text to normal.

This tool allows you to select from a range of standard text to use as the basis for comments. With an extra keystroke you can load consistent comment text without lengthy typing  You can add to the text entered by default and add your own default values. 

This tool is a series of shortcuts that allow you to review, browse and manage comments, revisions and highlighted text.  Collectively they are a real time saver.

This tool allows you to extract comments, revisions and highlighted text into a summary document that shows them in the context of the text where it occurs. This allows you to quickly assess the impact of feedback and respond to to it in a consistent and efficient way. This tool has already been published, but I have recently updated it to allow selective extracts, for example for a subset of the reviewers or just some of the feedback types.

Other Features
I have been enhancing several tools published earlier.  New features sets include:

  • A tool that intuitively  selects of a word, paragraph or table
  • Tools to define a master table in the document and have other tables confirm to column sizing and headings, row format and may others
  • Tools to tidy a document, removing unwanted typing and formatting problems.
  • Tools to clean up text copied to and from Excel
  • Simplifying the rules for the B2E typing productivity tool

Many of these enhancements make use of a double-tap feature whereby shortcut keys behave differently if you double-tap rather than single tap them.

I am keen to get feedback and always welcome ideas for new tools.  Leave a comment or checkout my LinkedIn profile.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

SmartSpell - Fast Spelling Correction for Word

A Free Document Productivity Tool For Word

SmartSpell provides fast spelling correction with a single keypress, without interrupting your typing flow. 

It corrects a recent spelling error without leaving your current cursor location. You don't need to backspace or use the mouse, and you can keep typing at speed.

Using the Tool

When you notice a spelling error, press the SmartSpell shortcut key (Ctl+\). 

The error could be up to twenty words earlier.

The tool will work is way back through your recent typing to find the error.

It will correct the error using the most likely suggestion. This is almost always correct.

The cursor is returned to the start location, allowing you to keep typing from where you left off.

The status bar tool shows what the error was, what it was corrected to.

 It will also show any alternative spelling correction choices

If the first choice was wrong, hitting the shortcut key again and again cycles through the available choices.

If none of the choices are suitable, hit the SmartSpellCheck shortcut key (Ctl+Shift+\) and the original word is reinstated and the spelling dialog is opened.

You can use the SmartSpellCheck key any time too, especially if you want to add the word to the spelling dictionary.


I found that I was interrupting my thoughts to correct typing errors, and I wanted a quicker way to correcting them. Word allows you to backspace and make corrections, but it takes time. It also interrupts the my typing flow an breaks my chain of thought. 

I could also use the mouse or several standard shortcut keys to highlight the error, navigate through the choices then navigate back to the start location. However, that means moving from the keyboard to the mouse, breaking the flow once again.

This tool uses a quick keypress to fix a very high percentage of the errors I make without breaking the flow. I like the way it can correct errors quite a way back. This is important because sometimes I don't notice errors as quickly as I should. 

It took me a few days to get used to SmartSpell, the reflect to backspace and fix took a while to break, but now I use the tool without thinking about. The choice of a really accessible shortcut key in a button that is usually larger than most keys also helps. 

Learning About Word Programming

SmartSpell uses relatively simple Word programming techniques. A bookmark is used to record the current location. the tool then works back through the prior text word by word, testing each with the spelling error function until an error is found. 

The location of the error is recorded and the first spelling correction choice is substituted. At the same time, up to 10 other spelling suggestions are stored so that the tool can cycle through them later if necessary. 

The status line is updated and the cursor returned to the start point so that typing can resume. SmartSpell uses two global arrays to store the suggestions and the suggestion pointers.



SmartSpell allows me to smoothly deal with typing errors, and lets me concentrate on capturing my thoughts as efficiently as possible. I use every day.

The Downloads tab contains a copy of SmartSpell. There is more information on how it works in the release notes.

Sunday, 10 April 2016


A Free Document Productivity Tool For Word

This tool marks the current location and returns to it after you have gathered or checked text from another location. When used with SmartExtact, the tool takes you directly to the source location of changes recorded in the extract summary document.

Using the Tool - Normal typing

To use the tool, hit the shortcut key (Ctrl+`).  This places a bookmark at the current location. If you hit the shortcut key again you go directly back to that location.  

This allows you to stop typing, get some text you want to reuse or check something, and then quickly return to where you started.

If you don't return after 5 minutes, the tool abandons the first bookmark and records a new start location.

If you double tap the shortcut key, the tool takes you to the table of contents.

Using the Tool with Smart Extract

Place the cursor in the heading line for an extracted comment or change

Then press the shortcut key. The tool will take you to the relevant page in the source document.

The source document has to be open for this to work.


I use this tool quite regularly because it can be quicker that opening a split screen or manually adding a bookmark. In many cases it also means that I dont have to take my hands off the keyboard. 

I the SmartExtract logic to this tool so that I could quickly go to the source of an edit or comment to check further detail. This really improves the usefulness of SmartExtract.

The basis of this tool was the first one that I build.  It is a good introduction to VBA coding.


SmartGoto is a simple tool that I use every day.

The Downloads tab contains a copy of SmartGoto. There is more information on how it works in the release notes.

Sunday, 29 November 2015


A Free Document Productivity Tool For Word

This tool extracts revisions and comments made by a reviewer and formats them into a table for further management and response.

SmartExtract is used to receive feedback on a document. The comments and tracked changes suggested by the reviewer are collated into a table which shows comment or revision and its context. Tools allow you to go to the page of each entry, and your response to the comment or change can be recorded in the table.

Creating this table allows quick and efficient responses to be prepared for each reviewer. The point-by-point response to their feedback looks very professional and acknowledges the effort they have put in.

Consolidating all feedback from multiple reviewers into a single table creates a great tool to use during review meetings. In addition, if you use placeholders for gaps and highlight areas of rework in your own documents,  this tool can also produce a great summary of the outstanding work needed to complete a working draft.

Here is a sample of a typical report from SmartExtract that includes the author's response to to the feedback.

The key points from the sample are:

Each entry is numbered so it can be tracked. This is especially useful if the report is being used at review meeting.


The context of the change or comment is given, without this, the change or comment is of little use and would require constant access to the source document. In most cases, the context is sufficient to make decisions about the feedback.

If the comment or change is made in the body of a document, the context is the 20-30 words from the proceeding paragraphs. If it is made in a table, the entire contents of the table cell are given.

The page and line number of the change or comment is shown, and a reference to the row in any table is given. Using SmartBookmark (next post) when on the page number will take you directly to that location in the source document for further review.

Insertion and deletion changes are shown as they are normally seen in track changes, in a different colour and with deletions in strikethrough font. The location for comments is shown in grey highlight.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Break Links - Separate a shape from its connectors

A Free Document Productivity Tool For Visio

This tool quickly separates a shape from its connectors allowing it to be moved without dragging the connectors to a new location.  You can then substitute a new shape in its place.

Using The Tool

In this simple example, Process 4 needs to be moved so that Process 5 can occupy the same place in the flow.

If you move Process 4, the connectors get dragged too.  

You could select the connectors and delete them and then reconnect to Process 5 once it is in place.

Instead, use Break Links

To Use the tool, select the Process 4 and then press the shortcut key to load the Smart Tool Menu (ctl+q)

Then select Break Links from the menu.

Process 4 can be moved but the connectors stay in place

If the replacement shape is the same size, it will automatically connect to the connectors left behind.

The tool allows more than one shape to be selected at a time, but I have yet to find a need for this kind of bulk use.  It might come in handy one day.


I use this tool when preparing process flows. I got tired of reconnecting all the time when I needed to insert shapes.  I don't use it that frequently, but it is saves a lot of time when I do need it.  As much as anything, the tool allows me to avoid distractions and focus on the development of the process model. 

I use the menu concept as a holder for tools I need from time to time. I will release the other items on the menu shortly.

Downloading the Tool

The tool can be downloaded from the Visio Downloads tab