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Adrienne Montgomerie

PerfectIt 3: Quality Software for the Experienced Editor

Keyboard with New key

Editors use add-ins to Word to make their work faster and more consistent. PerfectIt is one of the more well-respected add-ins for Windows users, and Intelligent Editing was kind enough to provide the Editors’ Weekly with a copy of the newly released PerfectIt 3 for review. Contributor Adrienne Montgomerie has written a detailed review of the software.

Keyboard with New keyFor two years I have been using PerfectIt to check book-length works in the copy editing and proofreading stages. I have even exported text from PDF printer’s proofs to run it through PerfectIt. That it finds single instances of inconsistency separated by 300 pages (e.g., breast-feeding and breastfeeding) has always had me singing its praises. Its ability to check for punctuation style stuns me.

Testing this new version of the add-in made me dig deeper into the settings and run more tests than ever before.

Best new features

  • Ribbon — There are now three ways to access the PI3 settings: through the ribbon, the menu or the side panel that opens once you launch PerfectIt.
  • Built-in style sheets — Eight style sheets are now built in to the software. More style sheets are still available for download through the PerfectIt website.
  • User customization — On top of the ability to create your own house style sheet — or one for each client — PI3 adds detailed customizability for a long list of tests.
  • Serial comma test — This tricky test is often requested by users. With as many false positives as the check for hyphenation consistency, the value of it is that you can check them all in one swoop.
  • Heading level capitalization — You can set capitalization style preferences for four different heading levels. You can also set preferences for words that should never be capitalized in the Fine-Tuning tab.
  • Skipping types of material — You can set PI3 to skip errors that appear within certain parameters, such as anything in quotes or anything in a certain style (such as captions). This means such content won’t raise flags for inconsistency.
  • Close parentheses and quotation marks test — This is a difficult check that editors have sought for a long time.
  • Moving automatically to the next test — When this option is selected, there is no need to click Next after making or ignoring each fix.

Points of confusion

Once you’ve been editing for a while or editing for several very different clients, you learn that style is about preferences rather than absolutes, and style terminology is used inconsistently. Scrolling through the tests, I made many erroneous assumptions about what they would flag. What I really need to do is review every single option (under the Edit Style Sheet button) and be sure my preference is selected.

If you’re not using one of the preset style sheets, the PI3 default is to check for consistency or not to check at all. So, though you may have selected a check for serial commas, the default is only to check that they are used consistently, not that they are used. Not using a serial comma is consistent.

Reading the help files for each test is necessary to make sure it’s doing what you think it is, but more detail is required to make sense of some of the test parameters. For instance, I would like to know what defines a long bullet point and what defines a short one. I consider any list or bullet item longer than one line to be at least medium length, but all the points in my test document were treated as “short.”

Points of frustration

PerfectIt doesn’t run in Word automatically. Before you can access the ribbon buttons, you have to click the far left ribbon button that says Launch PerfectIt.

Tests with Word 2003 were particularly fraught. Granted, this is Very Old Software now, but the system requirements say it will work. The ribbon got lost periodically, and my old custom style sheet wouldn’t run without giving an error message. I didn’t encounter these problems testing PI3 with Word 2007.

If comma-separated clauses in your manuscripts run longer than four words each, you’ll want to adjust the setting for the maximum number of words in the serial comma test.

There doesn’t appear to be an option to set the preferred terminal punctuation for the last point in a list or in bulleted items. That means remembering to check each list yourself.

There is only one option concerning dashes and whether they should be surrounded by spaces. But I would like it to check both en and em dashes, and the preferences are unlikely to be the same.

The verdict

The customization options in PerfectIt 3 make it vastly superior to earlier versions, though they do add a deep layer of complexity for the user. You’ll need to spend time setting your preferences to make the most of this product — perhaps a lot of time.

As the developer says, this product doesn’t replace a human: you need an educated eye to spot the false positives (of which there can be many), to add the terminal punctuation in lists and properly place the closing parentheses and quotation marks that are flagged. It’s possible that a user who isn’t a trained and experienced editor would be completely flummoxed by the choices.

Imposing house style across many users still seems like the most brilliant use of this add-in, especially when those users come and go (at agencies, for instance) or work with many style sheets at a time (whose nuances are hard to keep straight).

PerfectIt will still save your bacon, can save you time and tends to make you look eagle-eyed. If you take the time to set up style sheets for repeat clients, you can free up your eyes for content issues and lingering style issues. I will definitely be taking the time to make the most of this add-in for my largest clients, and I’ll continue running it on all documents.

The Editors’ Weekly is the official blog of Editors Canada. Contact us.


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17 Comments on “PerfectIt 3: Quality Software for the Experienced Editor”

  • I just purchased PerfectIt 2 a few months ago. I was under the impression that users of PerfectIt would get upgrades like this for free, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Can you clear this up for me, Adrienne?

      • Thanks, Adrienne. Hmm, but I don’t want an «upgrade discount.» I want a free upgrade. I’m not spending any more money on PerfectIt after so recently buying it. In any case, as you know, I like PerfectIt but I’m not exactly blown away by it. For example, yesterday I spent an hour running it on a 90,000-word nonfiction MS that I Canadianized. It found a half dozen tiny hyphenation inconsistencies and two instances of American spelling (modeled and modeling). Is it worth it? Yes, even if it finds one single error or inconsistency, it’s worth it. But it’s not worth it for me to spend any more money on an upgrade.

    • A Lees

      says:

      Little tweaky upgrades are free. This is a serious big change. Moving from PerfectIt2 to PefectIt3 is more than a little tweaky upgrade.

  • I’m hoping that offer comes soon. Marketing fail, really, for it not to go out at the same time as the launch. I’d really like to upgrade immediately so I can enjoy what everyone else is raving about.

    • I was hoping for an upgrade discount. I bought it last July. I evidently didn’t register, when I click the link in the only e-mail I have in my Receipts folder, it doesn’t work, so I don’t know if I have an account there or not. It doesn’t look like there are user accounts. Anyway, there have been a few issues I’ve had with the software, so any improvements would be most welcome, though I wouldn’t want to have to pay full price for the new version.

      • Claire and Bonnie,

        All the upgrade discounts have been sent now. We’re not a big company, so given the choice between sending all the emails at once (marketing win, but customer service fail), or spacing it out over two days so that I could answer emails in reasonable time, it was a no-brainer. I’m really sorry you couldn’t purchase as soon as you wanted to, but I hope that makes sense.

        If you haven’t had your upgrade discount yet, please email Intelligent Editing and I’ll get it out to you right away.

  • I bought PerfectIt last August, and I received the 40% discount email today. Bonnie, Claire, and any others in the same boat, why not email Intelligent Editing and ask about the discount email.

    As I understand that today is only the soft launch and the real/hard launch will be in the next week or two, I don’t think any glitches can be seen as a marketing fail.

    FWIW, even if there wasn’t a discount for previous users, having used PerfectIt3 for the past 6 or 7 weeks as one of the beta testers, I’ve been so impressed that I would have cheerfully paid the full price for it again, even with having only bought it about 8 or 9 months ago.

  • Thanks for this thorough review, Adrienne. I do plan to take advantage of the 40% discount to purchase the upgrade. The new features you outline convince me it’s easily worth it. With the discount, it’s only $71.28 — a low price for such a useful work tool.

  • Arlene and Claire, as a long time user of PerfectIt, I have to chim ein and to clarify a few things for you. This is not a marketing fail, as you claim, Claire, but a normal routine with all software manufactures. For you, Arlene, updates are free. What I’m saying is not contradicting. Here’s the skinny:
    Software companies offer quite often free updates within a version cycle, but ask for an upgrade fee when a higher version is released. The same happens here with Intelligent Editing and PerfectIt. The former version 2 had many update releases. You can actually see this in the history list at http://www.intelligentediting.com/support/updates/revision-history/.

    These are well over 30 updates within 2013 and 2014. All those updates were free of charge. Now got the newer version 3 released, is a higher version, and requires an upgrade fee of course.

    Frankly, I don’t understand the complaint. As an analogy, let’s say you bought MS Word 2010 and Microsoft released a higher version of Word. You wouldn’t expect to get the newer version for free just because you bought Word already before, wouldn’t you? Whether you buy imaging software, scanner software, or whatever you need, it’s always the same procedure.

    BTW, PerfectIt v3 got already two upgrades (3.0.12 and 3.0.14) which are all free for those who bought version 3 new or upgraded to it. What the current version is, and what the changes in each update were, can be seen as well in the history of updates. That’s the link I mentioned already a few paragraphs earlier. 🙂

    I hope that makes it more clear what’s going on and why. 🙂 In case you wonder, no… I’m don’t get paid by Intelligent Editing. I’m just a software user who is around the block for a while and is familiar with standard procedures.

    Hans Maerker

    • Just two things: First, clearly I made a mistake in my terminology: I meant new version, not upgrade. And second, I suppose I just wish I’d known a new version was coming out just months after I purchased the old one. Was version 3 advertised late last year? If Microsoft is coming out with a new version (to use your analogy), users know about it well ahead of time.

      • Hi Arlene,

        I’m really sorry you feel so strongly about the upgrade. And I do understand your suggestion about advertising new releases in advance. However, please bear in mind that we’re not Microsoft! If we advertised a new release late last year, we would have had practically no sales between December and May (you say yourself that you wouldn’t have purchased). Could your business afford to go without revenue for all that time? If one day we are a bigger company then I’d love to be able to offer that. But at this point, we can’t.

        To be honest, I don’t expect to convince anyone of anything by writing a reply on a blog. But here’s a little background so you can hopefully see why we do things the way we do. We released PerfectIt 2 in August 2012. Since then (almost three years), we provided more than fifty free updates (without charging anyone for support). I don’t know when the next major version will be, but I’d like to think our record in maintaining the product is pretty good. Anyone who purchases now is getting the most support, the most updates and the most benefit from the software. I think it’s a great offer.

        But here’s the thing: we’re not forcing anyone to upgrade. Everyone who purchased PerfectIt 2 still has the product they paid for. There’s no expiry on it. And, although support for PerfectIt 2 will end in time, you can carry on using it for as long as you want after that. There is a free trial of the new version, so you can see for yourself before buying if the upgrade is worthwhile . The decision is entirely yours. I think you’ll like it a lot, and I think you’ll find it is worth it. But if you try the free trial and find that it’s not worth it, then you don’t need to buy it.

        • Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply, Daniel. I very much appreciate it. Even as I was posting my last response to Hans, and afterward, on reflection, I realized that of course you’re not Microsoft, and having a small company myself, I can see why you didn’t announce PI3 months in advance — you would obviously have lost sales. With my own company, I wouldn’t have handled things any differently. I made my comment only because Hans made the initial comparison to Microsoft, which I now think is wrong.

          I sincerely believe you have a wonderful product. And your customer service has always been outstanding! But as I’m sure you’ve read elsewhere, although I like PerfectIt quite well and have used it on every manuscript since purchasing it, I just don’t get the value from it that many other editors appear to get, so for that reason I won’t be purchasing PI3. Maybe by the time PI4 comes out, I’ll be ready to afford a new version. 🙂

  • Thanks for reviewing this, Adrienne! You saved everyone a lot of work and made it easier to tell in advance whether it’s right for the kind of work we do.

  • FWIW, I feel that Daniel is not only being candid, he (and Intelligent Editing) is (are) incredibly generous. His customer service is second to none. It would be nice to see the criticism stop, and the compliments begin. PerfectIt 3 is a damn fine piece of software for editors.

  • Thanks for the review Adrienne, I’m really grateful to you and the EAC team for taking the time to look at it. But I am a bit surprised that you write: «you’ll need to spend time setting your preferences to make the most of this product — perhaps a lot of time.»

    If you define «make the most of this product» as «use absolutely all of its features», then I can’t argue with that. The same is true for any product. But the way you describe it, it (falsely) gives the impression that new users will need to spend a lot of time setting up PerfectIt. That isn’t the case at all. Probably 80% of PerfectIt’s checking works without any customization. New users can simply click PerfectIt’s big Start button and they don’t need to look at any of the customization until they’re comfortable with all the standard features.

    I am going to prepare a set of video tutorials to help with some of the complexity issues you describe. And I don’t think that’s an unfair critique. However, I do wish your review had made clearer that all these advanced features are optional. For new users, PerfectIt is as easy as it ever was.

  • Melissa Churchill

    says:

    I downloaded the free trial of PerfectIt 3 today and gave it a spin on a 300-page academic text I’d already gone over once. I was impressed by the number of tests and test options and especially appreciated the program tracking how many instances of words and terms appeared in each style. One of my clients doesn’t care which styles are used as long as they’re internally consistent, so this feature makes it much easier to choose a style intelligently and enforce it throughout. In future, I’ll run the program before I start an edit (to do a basic cleanup and save a lot of monkey-work in the first pass) and again right before I submit. Nothing’s getting past these eyes now! My only disappointment is that this version isn’t offered in a Mac or cloud version. Coming soon, maybe?

    Thanks for a great product, Daniel! And thanks for the helpful review, Adrienne!

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