Text Cleaning Reader feedback

Written and published September 1, 1999

As soon as my last column went up the email poured in. Between the sharp eyes and knowledgeable suggestions there is so much in your letters that I thought I should share some of them this week. Besides, it's appropriate for me to quote email this week since most of the work for this can be done using text cleaners.

Let's start with some fun

Peter J. Stremic writes:

Nice little article. I've been using it for over a year now, but I simply can't figure out how to get textSOAP to clean up sloppy typing errors such as the attached.

The attachment was a screen shot of my typo.

Sandy Lowe writes:

Great review, I'm going to try it. But there was a funny line in your article...

It'll clean any kind of mess caused by the Internet and many caused by sloppy typistists.


Well, I did say it cleaned up sloppy messes, not sloppy spelling.

textSOAP Feedback

Rob Thiemann writes:

Hi Deb,

I just read your textSOAP review, and while I agree with nearly all of it (it's now a tool I can't live with out) I have a problem with this:

When you install textSOAP it places an alias on your desktop. I put this alias in my Apple menu, right at the top for easy access. Since this isn't an application you'll drag text or files onto it's not one to put in your Drag and Drop pop-up tabbed folder.

I beg to differ. textSOAP really shines for cleaning out those forced carriage returns in the books that are downloaded from Project Gutenberg. It's also great for cleaning up other text files that are received by PCs and other stuff. The Drag and drop ability is very helpful.

Drag and Drop! It's one of the coolest things the Mac introduced. But I never noticed that you could drop anything on textSOAP. (For me the magic is the contextual menu so I can work from within the document.) To be honest, it didn't work when I just tried it. (Maybe I need to rebuild my desktop again to get it working but it's 3am.) But do try. And if it works, keep an alias of it on your Desktop or in your Drag and Drop pop-up folder.

Outlook [Express] Suggestion

Jon Sapp writes:

Nice article, but you should note that Outlook [Express] users with QuicKeys don't need the product.

Under "Auto Text Clean Up" in the "Edit" menu there are two items, "Rewrap paragraphs" and Remove quoting". With a short QK sequence (enclosed), one can "clean" the text in no time.

I don't have QuicKeys at the moment and still also have those cleaning tools in Outlook Express (my email app of choice). I didn't mean to imply that there weren't any. There are several handy ones and it's nice to learn that with QuicKeys you can pull then all into one.

To clarify: In OE you select a body of text, then Control-Click and choose one of a few choices under Auto Text Clean Up. For example, with Rewrap Text you can fix up the line endings so they lose the extra ugly wraps. You can also remove the carrot-like quote marks, straighten quotes, and change text case. However, the rewrap feature fits text to the margins you set in OE. To add text to a word processor or not have the wrap limited to the OE margin I have to call on textSOAP.

BTW: Normally I prefer a universal tool to something that works in only one app but of course messy email only happens in your email app so that's moot.

TextSpresso Recommendations

James Bishara writes:

Thanks for your great column -- it is always helpful!

I wanted to alert you to what I consider to be the superior text cleaning utility out there (and I have tried textsoap). It is called TextSpresso. Below is the text of their latest press release for the latest version. It is incredibly versatile, and I find it much easier to use than textsoap, yet much more powerful. Plus, it is not crippled before registration the way textsoap is, so you can try it with full functionality before deciding to buy.

There were many emails suggesting TextSpresso. I will definitely be trying it for myself.

Ungarble It/ One Click Suggestion

Gary E. Carlson, M.D. writes:

Regarding "Cleaning up text," there is also "ungarble it", part of One Click. This is another very handy app for modifying text.

Dave Frost also writes to suggest Ungarble, but comments that there are some questions regarding OS 8.6.

Update Note: Bear in mind that this was written when 8.6 was the current OS, prior to OS 9.

If you're using One Click you're in luck and may not need anything else. (Unfortunately I have not seen this app in a long time as they stood me up for user group presentations twice.)

SuperReplace Suggestion

Ramses Bichara writes:

Hi Deborah! I love reading your columns, you think the way I do so often :-)

By chance I got to find an application, by a Frenchman named Guoniu Han. It is called SuperReplace - the things this software can do are unbelievable.

http://www.kagi.com/guoniu - for info and downloading.

English speaking people don't often need the power of this software, but if you use a European language like Swedish (my tongue) that has three letters more than English you really do.

I have made my own Drag and Drop filters to turn Wintel/Unix email to readable Mac text (no =E5 or the like), or to turn normal Swedish text to pure HTML. It can be used for many more things.

It's only weakness is the learning curve. It is not too steep, but it is there. It is really worth the effort. I love it.

This is handy to know about. I loved Sweden but must admit I never tried writing in Swedish. Good timing for this information too: the editors have had a banner up saying they want more international information.

Tex-Edit Plus Suggestion

Bill Dylewski writes:

Hi. Great article on text cleaning. Tex-Edit Plus works great also. Lots of features.

Brewster Rogerson writes:

Greetings. Tex-Edit Plus is very good at cleaning up text. Check it out under the "Special" menu.

Bay City Roller writes:

Text-Edit Plus has a pretty thorough text-cleaning capability. It's always been enough for my needs.

Peter Kelly writes:

I have found that the best utility for cleaning up email text or text extracted from HTML using NetPrint is Tex-Edit Plus from Trans-Tex Software. This has the advantage of being scriptable so that you can automatically format the cleaned-up result whatever way you want.

Text Cleaner Suggestion

Lon writes:

I'm sure that textSOAP is a fine application. Cheaper is often better, I say... like the freeware version of Text Cleaner, Text Cleaner Lite. http://www.studio405.com/textcleaner/tclite152.hqx (direct download link) http://www.studio405.com/textcleaner/ (homepage)

It has certain limitations, but I have never found that to be a problem at all. Text Cleaner Lite is all I need. It has never caused any grief to my Mac, either.

I look forward to trying it out. If a program conveniently does what you need it to do, that's all you need and anything more would be overkill. (But as a writer and the person who had to strip all the quotes off all these emails I can be fairly demanding.)

SpellTools Recommendations

Bob Patterson writes:

Liked your article--I'll have to try TextSoap!

Meanwhile I have found the freeware SpellTools, from Newer Technologies, to be most helpful. It sounds like textSoap is more powerful but hey I can afford SpellTools. Actually Newer planned an upgrade to this but a note from them said that their software people have been diverted to writing drivers full time, and that they decided to get out of the commercial software development. So they made the current version free. I use 3 aspects daily: The "Stamp" feature, where I have a dozen stamps for my name, address, some frequently used Email addresses, and such. In the tools portion I use "Strip '>' from text selection" and "Normalize returns of text selection" The other features are nice and do get used once in a while-- like the spell checker.

Kent Lufkin writes:

Surprised your article on text cleaning didn't mention the wonderful - and FREE - SpellTools. Check out the latest version v.1.3.3

Chris McCormick writes:

Dear Deborah - Just read your article at MacCentral. For the past year I have been using SpellTools 1.3.3 to clean up eMails, check spelling and a few other chores. It is a really solid program, permanently on the task bar of my Action GoMac, used almost daily and best of all it's FREEWARE.

The best way to describe it is to give you the URL: http://www.newertech.com/software/spelltools.html

Living in Zimbabwe it is often difficult to get decent software at a reasonable price (local currency terms) so a program like SpellTools is a real bonus. I would definitely give it a 5 mouse rating. I use in conjunction with OS 7.6.1 but it is 8.5 compliant.

Hope this is of some use, although others may have told you about the program by now.

I tried SpellTools a while ago. To be honest, I wasn't a fan of the floating toolbar/palette because there is already so much going on on my screen when I'm writing a book. Quite a few of you wrote in to suggest it though. I'm glad to know it's working well. And I always love freeware. I also love finding out MacCentral is read in Zimbabwe.

MagicBullets Suggestion

Robert Black writes:

IMHO, I've used nearly every piece of software ever written for the Mac, so at times I can seem a little jaded. One toy however never ceases to please me with its elegance and power - 'MagicBullets'. If you clean up text from emails regularly, you will love this extension.

It can be downloaded at: http://members.aol.com/billKarsh/MacProdPages/MagicBullets.html

Here's the blurb from it,[not included here] but really you have to try it to appreciate its 'power to simplicity' ratio...

The read me attached thanked Guy Kawasaki for pushing the author for making improvements. If something catches Guy's eye it's worth checking into.

BBEdit Suggestion

Vic Guess writes:

I had some stability problems with an earlier version of textSoap (which have perhaps since been corrected) but I use a number of alternatives that can get the job done but perhaps not as easily:

BBEdit Lite: It will convert between DOS, UNIX & Mac formats, has a very powerful search & replace plus a number of other text editing capabilities. Best of all, it's FREE!

Tex-Edit Plus: A scriptable, styled text editor that fills the gap between Apple's bare-bones SimpleText and a full-featured word processor. This app has a number of excellent text editing features that put it a cut above most of the SimpleText replacements. It's best feature is its built in script menu. I use that to build custom text cleanups.

SpellTools (Newer Technology): This has a floating toolbar which not only checks spelling (within any app) but will add or strip off leading ">" quote marks, convert to/from UPPER CASE/lowercase/Capitalized Text, strips leading spaces, normalizes returns, counts words, & more. It also has a "stamp" tool which is handy for adding e-mail signatures, address lines, etc.

Vic covered us well. He's not the only one to suggest BBEdit, by the way. If you're doing HTLM and using BBEdit any way it may be your tool of choice.

Final Comment

Whew! There were a lot of emails this week! Letters came in from all parts of the world. If any program here sparks your interest please try it out. It might just be the right one for you.

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