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Modify Selection: The Professional Editor

Spell Catcher, as you probably realize by now, does much more than correct your spelling. As you type, or after you’ve finished typing, it can correct double spaces, double capitals, double punctuation, and so on. You’ll find details on these proofreading features in Interactive Checking.

But sometimes you need a more powerful assistant to help you whip some text into shape. Spell Catcher’s Macros and Modify Selection commands may be just what you need. They can massage enormous chunks of text in seconds, converting mangled e-mail text to neat paragraphs, converting pages’ worth of ALL CAPS TYPING into normally capitalized writing, making straight quotes curly, and so on.

How To Use The Modify Selection Command

Here’s how you would use the Modify Selection command to process a highlighted batch of text:

  1. Highlight the text you want to change. This might mean using the Select All command in the Edit menu, or just dragging through a sentence or a few paragraphs. (Needless to say, you can’t edit text that’s not editable, such as text you’re reading in your Web browser or an e-mail that you’ve received.)

  2. From the Input menu, choose Modify Selection.

    The Modify Selection window appears. It lists various text-processing modules and any macros you have created, each of which mass-edits the highlighted text. You can click the name of a module to read a short description of it at the bottom of the window. (You can also read the next section for descriptions of the included modules.)

    Modify Selection window

  3. Double-click the name of the module you want.
    Alternatively, you can click the Proceed button or press the Return key.

  4. If the module requires more information (for example, the Multiple Spaces to Tab module needs to know how many spaces should exist before invoking), you will be prompted with a configuration window for that module; otherwise, the module will perform its function, converting the selected text or, in the case of an analysis module like Statistics, displaying a window with the accumulated information.

The “Modify Selection” Modules: What They Do

Spell Catcher comes with 14 built-in modification modules-commands that change your highlighted text in specific ways. Here’s what they do.

Tip: Some of the commands described in this section require further information from you before they can perform their functions. For example, when you use the Multiple Spaces to Tab command, which converts strings of spaces into a Tab character, the configuration box shown below appears. You’re supposed to indicate how many consecutive spaces qualify for the Tab-substitution process. If you’re using one of these commands repeatedly, however, the appearance of this message each time could become a nuisance. That’s why each of these configuration boxes offers a checkbox called “Skip this message unless the Option key is pressed.” If you turn on this checkbox, Spell Catcher will no longer present the configuration window each time you use the corresponding command. If you most recently specified that you want 4 spaces converted to a Tab, then 4 spaces it shall ever more be. There may come a day, however, when you want to summon the configuration window again. In that case, Option-click the Proceed button shown above. The window will appear once more.

Form Paragraphs

If you’ve ever received e-mail from somebody that looks as though it was formatted by a drunken chimpanzee, you’ll appreciate this command. As shown below, it fixes up paragraphs typed on computers that automatically put a return at the end of each line.

Technically, the Form Paragraphs command works its magic by changing every lone Return character to a space, and every pair of Return characters to a single return character.

Form Paragraphs - Before

Form Paragraphs - After


Use this command to change all text in the highlighted passage to lowercase.

Multiple Spaces To Space

This module condenses multiple spaces into a single space. It’s most useful when you receive a file from somebody who likes to press the Space bar twice after each period instead of once.

When you click Proceed, Spell Catcher shows the configuration window. It wants to know how many spaces is too many. For example, you can type 3 here to indicate that you want double spaces left alone, but three or more condensed into a single space.

Multiple Spaces to Tab dialog

Multiple Spaces To Tab

Suppose you receive an e-mail message in which somebody has tried to line up columns of information by pressing the space bar. Using this command, you can quickly convert those multiple space runs, in your word processor, into a single press of the Tab key.

When you click Proceed, Spell Catcher asks how many consecutive spaces should be considered a Tab. For example, if you enter 3 here, then double spaces in the document will be left alone.


When you’re corresponding on the Internet, either by e-mail or in newsgroup discussion boards, it’s customary to quote back the relevant portion of the message you’re responding to. In general, Internet citizens indicate quoted material with brackets.

The Quote command automatically inserts these brackets into material you’re about to paste. It also lets you specify how wide each line of text should be, in case you subscribe to the convention that quoted-back material should appear in a narrower than usual column.

Quote dialog

Smarten Quotes

Spell Catcher can convert any straight quotes, also known as typewriter quotes, "like this," into typographically correct curly quotes, “like this.” In other words, this command is ideal when you intend to reuse material that somebody e-mailed to you-curly quotes almost never appear in e-mail-by pasting it into a genuine word processor, where curly quotes look terrific.

Standardize Line Endings

Changes the line endings in the selected text to the chosen style. Note that some applications will perform their own line ending standardization whenever text is pasted or otherwise entered into a document. This will often supersede the changes made by this module.


This Modify Selection command doesn’t, in fact, modify anything. Instead, it shows you a report like this one, which indicates how many characters, syllables, words, sentences, and paragraphs are in the selected material.

Most of the statistics are self-explanatory, but a few require some description:

Readability Statistics

Straighten Quotes

This command performs the opposite function of the Smarten Quotes module. This one transforms “curly quotes” into "straight ones," which is especially useful if you intend to paste what you’re writing into an e-mail message, newsgroup posting, or Web page. (Curly quotes generally appear as garbage characters once they’re sent to the Internet.)

Strip Characters

In some ways, this command is the opposite of the Quote command described earlier. Instead of adding brackets or other symbols to the beginning and ending of each line of text, this one eliminates such symbols. You’ll probably use it most often to remove > symbols from quoted material you see on the Internet or via e-mail.

If you leave the “Any number of occurrences” checkbox selected, Spell Catcher will remove not just a single > mark from the beginning of each line (or whatever you’ve specified), but multiple >>> marks as well, if they occur.

Strip White Space

Use this command to delete spaces or tabs from the beginnings or ends of lines of text. Once again, this command is most useful when processing text from the Internet-particularly text you copy from a Web page, where indentation is often simulated by adding many spaces before each line of text.

Title Case, Title Case Strict

Text is in title case when the first letter of each word is capitalized, as it is in newspaper headlines or book titles. The Title Case command capitalizes the first letter of every word in the high-lighted text; the Title Case Strict command makes all other letters lowercase in the process (thus turning NASA and DeMarzio into Nasa and Demarzio).


Use this command on those rare occasions when you want to convert the entire piece of highlighted text into ALL-CAPITAL TYPING.

Word Count

This command produces a window like the one shown here, that tallies the total number of words and characters in the highlighted swath of text.

Word Count

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