Archive for the ‘resources’ Category

Using The Track Changes and Comments Feature In Microsoft Word

I’ve used Microsoft Word for years, but when I started editing emailed manuscripts, I discovered a hidden gem I hadn’t used before– the Track Changes and Comments feature.

It allows you to revise your own work or someone else’s without changing the original document. You can also include comments or questions. The recipient of the file can then review the changes and comments, and then accept or reject the changes.

You can access it through “Tools” on the menu bar, or by opening a Word document and right-clicking on “TRK” that appears at the bottom of the page- this will add the “Reviewing ” toolbar to the top of your document screen.

Here’s a link to a document that explains the basics of how to use it, and also provides a link to Microsoft’s more in-depth documentation at the Microsoft Office Online.

It’s not a difficult tool to use, but I recommend trying it on a practice or backed-up document first-until you feel comfortable using it.

If you are a Word user and have not used this function, I suggest you consider its value in your writing and editing endeavors.


Subscribe to VersionTracker- A CNet Site for Mac, Windows, and Palm OS Users

I had a request for “more Mac stuff ” after my post recommending a free Mac OSX application called Caffeine from VersionTracker. My main focus for this blog is writing, and although technology can be a part of that, I will not be posting regularly about such things. I will post information if I find something I think is particularly useful or just plain cool.

However, in light of wanting to please my readers, I will post the link to VersionTracker again: and make the suggestion to register at the site (it’s free) where you have the ability to sign up for either daily or weekly email alerts which are specific for Mac, Windows, or Palm OS applications.

This partial screen shot shows what you will receive:


The nice thing about email alerts is that they provide a nice tabled listing of the newest apps, their size, and their license info. Each software title is a link back to it’s download page at VersionTracker. You’ll also find user feedback, and usually a link to the developer’s site as well. Most of the apps are freeware or shareware, but there are also betas, commercial licenses, and updates to current software.

At the site, you can choose to view Mac OS, Windows, or Palm OS apps, and then sort by specific operating system to narrow your view. Here’s the header that shows above the daily updated list of apps where you can search by category, view editor picks, or see what’s hot:


A trip to VersionTracker is definitely worth a few minutes of your time if you like free or inexpensive toys for your system.

Online Writer’s Groups- Are They For You?

As someone who has joined various local writers’ groups only to be disappointed time and time again, online groups may be an attractive alternative. That is not to say that all local groups are worthless- I’m sure there are some fine ones out there. The problem is that they can be difficult to find, and the best ones limit the number of people (and sometimes genre) for practical purposes, so they may not be available when you’re ready to join.

Online groups have the advantage of convenience; log in whenever and wherever you want, and spend as much or as little time as you want. They also hold an appeal to writers who want to receive a critique of their work but don’t want to actually face their critics. There is the added advantage of not having to critique pieces in which you have no interest (although generally, the more you critique, the more feedback you will receive in return). And for some, it’s easier to give an honest written critique than to face someone and try to tell them what isn’t working.

It’s never a good idea to tell a writer how great their piece is just to spare their feelings… or your own. Strive to give thoughtful, helpful feedback and be prepared to receive the same. Writers groups are not intended for people who only want to hear how wonderful they are, and if you find a group where that is the general practice, run! That kind of interaction might feed your ego, but it’s not going to help you grow as either a writer or critic.

There are many groups who welcome writers of all levels and interests. One I found just by doing a simple Google search is called Critique Circle ( You can join for free, or upgrade to their premium service for $24/year . The web site is loaded with FAQ’s on how their site works and how to critique- there are even critique templates available to use. It’s worth a look if you think a group might be right for you.


A Free, Easy to Access Resource For Writers and Readers

A couple of year’s ago, I took a fiction writing class taught by Thomas B. Sawyer. He recommended that anyone who wanted to improve their writing, regardless of what they were writing, should spend a few minutes each day reading the New York Times. (No, he doesn’t work there, and he lives in California).

He was right.

I registered at the web site (it’s free) and suddenly had access to all kind of stories, story ideas, and more importantly, good writing. I have learned to take my time there and really luxuriate in the words and the flow of the prose. Still considered by many to be the best newspaper in the world, their pieces are undoubtedly well written.

The web site is appealing and easy to navigate. You can even sign up for free email alerts on various topics. And their Sunday Book Review is a great way to check out new books and author interviews. You can even search within the SBR back to 1981.

Podcasts, videos, and even online book discussions are available as well. I encourage all writers (and readers) to make the trek to, pick a location, and enjoy- even  if only for a few minutes. It will be there, ready for you whenever you can make it back.