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PageFour Help - Smart-Edit

The Smart-Edit feature of PageFour, introduced in version 1.50, is the first attempt at incorporating editing functionality into the product. It does not correct or improve your writing, but it does act as a starting point when you begin to edit your work. Smart-Edit enables you to quickly identify over used words and phrases, and provides an instant mechanism for jumping to the portions of your text that may need to be modified.

The decision as to what to do, or if indeed anything needs to be done, is always down to the writer. Smart-Edit should be treated as a tool, and used in the same way you might use a spell checker or grammar checker. These tools are automated and have no artistic merit, so should never be taken as definitive signs that something is 'wrong' with your writing.

In this Section

How does it work?

A more advanced version of SmartEdit exists as a separate application.
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Smart-Edit works by scanning the current page and picking out words and phrases that appear again and again. Most settings are definable by the user, such as the amount of times a particular phrase must appear before it is highlighted, and the number of words that should appear in the phrase before it is marked for examination.

For example, you may decide that you only wish to examine repeats of phrases where the phrase occurs more than three times on the page, and where the phrase has four or more words.

When the scan is complete, a list of phrases and words appears to the left of the word processor, and double clicking on a particular phrase will immediately jump to the first occurrence of that phrase on the page. The F3 shortcut key will then allow you to jump to each successive occurrence of the phrase, and examine each in turn.

For the purposes of this explanation, an essay entitled What You Can't Say, written by Paul Graham, has been used. This essay can be found in Paul's book Hackers and Painters, or on his web-site, and consists of 5,466 words.

Getting Started

Open the Smart-Edit menu on the menu bar, or the drop down menu next to the Scan button on the toolbar, for a list of Smart-Edit options.

Smart-Edit menu

The options available are:

Scan Current Page. This scans the current page for duplicate words and phrases.

Settings. Opens the Smart-Edit Settings dialog. This allows you to specify the number of occurrences that identifies a repeat, the number of words in the phrase, and to edit lists of words and phrases that should not be included in repeat lists.

Phrase List. Opens the list of repeated phrases.

Word List. Opens the list of repeated words.

Save as Report File. Saves the results of the current scan to a text file. This is useful if you wish to use the results of the scan to edit your work in another word processor such as MS Word.

To scan the current page, open the Smart-Edit menu and select Scan Current Page, or click on the Scan button on the toolbar. The scan will only take a second or two. Should you be scanning a particularly large page, over a hundred thousand words for example, the scan may take a little longer. If you wish, you can stop the scan before it completes, and examine the results for the portion of the page that was successfully scanned.

Phrase List

Once the scan has completed, a list of phrases will appear to the left of the word processor, alongside the number of times the phrase was found in the current page. The list will be sorted such that the phrases that occur the greatest number of times will appear at the top.

In the example, the most common phrase was "of the", which appears 24 times. The first time you use the Smart-Edit feature, short, innocent phrases will appear near the top of the list. They may be similar to the example shown, or phrases that identify place names or characters in your work such as "Frodo said", or "The Grey Wizard."

These harmless phrases can easily be excluded from the results of future scans by adding them to the Ignored Phrases list. Simply select the phrase you have decided is harmless, open the right click menu, and choose Add to Ignored Phrases. Running the scan again will then produce a new list of phrases.

The right click menu has a few other options that should also be noted.

Phrase Menu

Find in Page. Jumps to the first occurrence of the phrase in the scanned page.

Add to Ignored Phrases. Adds the currently selected phrases to the list of phrases to ignore when scanning.

Word List. Opens the list of repeated words.

Sort. Allows you to sort the list of repeated phrases by the number of occurrences (the default), the number of words in the phrase, or alphabetically.

Settings. Opens the Smart-Edit settings dialog. This allows you to edit the lists of ignored phrases and words, and set options for future scans.

Jump to Notebook. Opens the Notebook list at the current page.

Phrases

Once you begin examining the list of repeated phrases, some you will discount immediately, while others you may wish to examine further, and maybe even make changes to your work as a result. Double clicking or pressing the Enter key on a particular phrase will jump to the first instance of the phrase on the page, while using the standard Find Next shortcut key (F3) will then allow you to jump to each of the remaining instances of the phrase, making any necessary changes as you go.

The results of the scan, and the impact it can have on your work, are often best felt as you scroll down the list, to phrases that occur only a small number of times.

Many words in phrases

Sorting the list by the number of words in the phrase can also be a quick way of identifying long phrases that may only occur two or three times, but that you may not have been aware were repeated.

In the example to the right, a number of phrases of six and seven words were found occurring a small number of times. Now, in many cases, this will prove to be deliberate, as use of repeats can at times add to the readability of the work. Only you can decide if they need revision.

Word List

From the Smart-Edit menu, select Word List to open the list of repeated words. This works in exactly the same way as the Phrase List, with the words that occur the greatest number of times at the top. The first time you run a scan, common words like "the" and "and" will appear near the top of the list. These can be excluded from future scans by adding them to the Ignored Words List in the same way that harmless phrases were added to the Ignored Phrases List.

Setting the options

Various options can be set before running a scan, which will help to cut down on the number of repeats reported and the types of words and phrases that are recognized as repeats. The Settings dialog should be opened from the Smart-Edit menu, or the right click menus once the phrase or word list has been opened.

Ignored Words List

Similarly, you may wish to read through the Ignored Phrases list, and make appropriate additions or removals.

The Scan Settings are the most important part of the Smart-Edit options, as they allow you to change how the scan is run, and how repeat words and phrases are identified. The default setting for phrases, is to scan for phrases between 2 and 10 words, and to report when the phrase occurs more than twice. The Ignored Phrases list will be used unless you specify otherwise. The default setting for words is to report on all repeats that occur more than twice, and to use the Ignored Words list.

Raising the number of times a phrase or word must occur before it is considered a repeat will cut down considerably on the number of repeats reported, and may be useful if you are scanning a very long page, or a full length novel. Having said that, it should be noted that repeated phrases that occur a very small number of times are often difficult to identify when editing, especially if they are not found close together.

Scan Settings

The Ignored Phrases and Ignored Words lists should be built up over time, as you scan more and more pages, and become familiar with the way Smart-Edit works. Unchecking the Use ignored phrases list or the Use ignored words list allows you to run a complete scan without using the Ignore lists and without having to empty the lists. This may be useful as a final check to see how often common words and phrases appear in your work.


A final word of caution: The Smart-Edit feature should be used as a starting point only, and treated as you would any other automated tool. There are many perfectly valid and acceptable reasons for repeating phrases and words.