Think Macros! — cool tricks to save time and cut the “wear and tear”

Fred Brown
Allegro Technical Indexing

Do you find yourself entering the same set of key strokes over and over? Do you ever repeat the same steps time and time again? Or do you simply wonder, “How can I save some time and reduce the ‘wear and tear’?” Think macros!

Macros can perform many handy tasks that would otherwise drive you crazy. Macros are “micro midgets” that will happily do a given task again and again—and in double-quick time too. When you want to perform a procedure, you run your macro and it sends all the key strokes and mouse actions to your computer. Presto, your job’s done!

Most software applications such as Macrex, Microsoft Word and Excel allow you to create macros to help speed your work. Macrex comes with built-in macros to automatically add “See” and “See also” references. You can also use macros in Macrex to assist with double-posting, adding annotations, or adding comments inside an entry. I use a macro in Microsoft Word to code index entries so they can be entered directly into FrameMaker. SKY Index Professional and CINDEX also have macro capability.

So how do you create a macro?

  1. It’s wise to begin by writing down the steps that you do when performing your task.
  2. Then test your written procedure on a number of different index entries, complete indexes or whatever it is that your are automating. Once you’ve got your procedure working well manually, you’re ready to record the macro itself.
  3. To start recording a macro, instruct your application that you are about to record a macro. In Macrex, you start recording a macro by pressing Ctrl+F1.
  4. Next, you decide how you want to invoke the macro later. Depending on the application, you can invoke a macro by using a function key, a key combination or a menu item.
  5. Follow your written procedure by entering the key strokes or performing the mouse actions. Once you’ve completed doing your procedure, instruct the program that you’ve finished recording the macro. In Macrex, to stop recording the macro you press Ctrl+F1 again.
  6. Be sure to test your macro in the same way you tested your written procedure in Step 2. Sometimes a macro will behave in unexpected ways when presented with a case that’s a little different from what you had originally anticipated. Often, the only way to discover these special cases is to try your macro out on a wide variety of real material.

So when you find yourself doing the same thing over and over and over again, write down the steps and create a macro. You’ll save time and feel like a genius!

Published in the Bulletin, Indexing Society of Canada, Autumn 2002.

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