10 Things I Wish I Knew About My CAT Software 10 Years Ago

The following appears in the February 2019 issue of the Journal of Court Reporting.

By Debbie Dibble, RDR, CRR, CRC

Ahhh, the curse of procrastination. I’m the queen!! One of my many personality flaws is the propensity to say, “It’s faster to do this the hard way now. I’ll figure out the tools later,” and then “later” NEVER COMES. So I do it the hard way for 30 years? This summer I did a two-hour turnaround trial, living in a dive hotel, editing on my little 13-inch laptop, doing it the hard way and realized “later” means NOW! There were so many elements that I had set up at the beginning of my career that weren’t really broken, but CAT software has come a LONG way since then and it was TIME! Not only that, we used to live in little ponds where everything stayed the same. Now that there are opportunities in the ocean, there are different ways to fish, and it was time for me to adapt.

I’m going to share with you 10 things that I wish I had known 10 years ago, that probably would have saved me 10 years of actual living. Many of them I learned many moons ago, but I share them with you because even starting them five years before I did, I had already wasted years saying, “I’ll do that when I have time!” HA! And if you’re like me and you haven’t made the time to implement even one of these things, DO IT NOW!

Case CATalyst

1. Support/Training. I can honestly say that ALL of these problems were created because I didn’t understand the power of my software. I was raised by amazing reporters who took me under their wings. I learned so many things from them, but I thought that was all there was. IF … IF I paid for support, IF I got an update, I just installed it and carried on. When I was finally exposed to the technological opportunities, my world changed. GET SUPPORT! LEARN YOUR SOFTWARE!

2. Auto indexing. This one makes me the most nauseous. I knew auto indexing existed, but it would take so looong to figure it out. I typed these things for so many years, keeping a list as I proofed and then typed each index line and added the page numbers. And when I was done, I had to check each one and verify that corrections hadn’t moved anything, and then recount and retype every single number if they had. During a month-long jury trial, have you ever accidentally misnumbered a page and realized it three days later? Imagine the NIGHTMARE of fixing those index pages!!! UGGGGH! I smile a happy little smile every single time I hit the “create index” button and it magically appears. And say CHA-CHING … out loud … every time I make a correction that alters pages and IT MAGICALLY ADJUSTS!!

3. Speaker list. I was raised to do my by lines as Q (BY MR. ZANE). Every time there was colloquy, if I didn’t think to type the stroke that wrote that … yup, I typed it by hand. Did you know that if you have your speaker list pane open, if you double click on that individual’s name, it types it in colloquy? MR. ZANE: And if there is a Q, when you double click it, the software writes it how you have your by lines set up??? Two years saved!

“You may be on a different CAT software than I am, but they probably have similar features or different features that will enhance your life.”

4. Mr. and Mrs. Orphan. I have my dictionary defined to “keep together” anything after Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr., etc. But I realized when I used Case Prep that it didn’t happen. Did you know there is an orphan option where it will keep all those titles together? For some reason, people must want those orphaned — really? — because that is defaulted to “off.” Find it … change it to “on!” So happy I found that. You can now take all of those “keep togethers” out of your dictionary! One year saved!

5. Words to never cap. So you’re typing along and a phrase is said you want to quickly define — how about “university of Utah hospital?” You want to quickly define that, either reaching up to your keyboard or using a macro, but you are in a hurry and just want to highlight the phrase and cap as fast as you can, but you don’t want “of” to cap. So you have to do one word, then the last two? NOPE! Did you know that your software has a dictionary that has “words to never cap?” You can do that quick highlight, F5 (or whatever your software key is), and “to” won’t cap! Sweet!!! One year saved!

6. Query. Something comes up in your realtime. You have no idea when in your lifetime you were so stupid as to define it that way, but you need it out of your dictionary and don’t know where to start. Is it in your Personal Dictionary? The Update Area? A K-Define in this year-long case you’ve been working on? Accidentally make a J-Define? Just type CTRL/SHIFT+Q, and a box will open telling you exactly where it is so you can delete it right then and there, while still writing realtime! DONE! Two years saved!

7. J/K/D define. Oh, all the minutes, hours, days wasted on this one. There’s a word. I CTRL+J to define it, I type the words, then realize I want it in my Personal Dictionary. I now have to back all the way out and start over. Guess what? Wherever you are in the define process, even if you’re right about to press save, you can type CTRL+D, CTRL+J, CTRL+K, and it changes where the define is going! YAY!!!!

8. F4 F4. Not even going to suffer the humiliation of guessing how much of my life has been wasted looking through my task bar and dropdown menus for the FS (format symbol) table. Hit F4 twice and thar she blows!!! ‘nuf said???

9. Restore steno. Have you ever had a word you had defined one way come up a way you hadn’t anticipated? It usually is a word boundary. How about Woodstock pile instead of wood stockpile. You want to break apart the first word so you can define the second and third, but you need the steno. CTRL+F2 restores the steno and you can define to your  li’l heart’s content.

10. K-defines. This one is really embarrassing. Yup, I didn’t understand K-defines. For many years I did all J-defines, and then I would copy the dictionary and global tables and give it a new name. Boys and girls, if you don’t set up every job as a case and use K-defines, you can just start subtracting years from your mortality table.

I hope you know how much I care about you to humiliate myself in this way. If even one person can save one minute, it will all be worth it. If you don’t know how to do any of these things, please hire a trainer. And, quite frankly, these are the simpler and easier things. There are innumerable things in your software that will save hours, months, years of your life. You may be on a different CAT software than I am, but they probably have similar features or different features that will enhance your life. Read your software update information. Go to a class. Ask someone. Find a certified trainer and get personalized attention!! You will make back every penny you spend by freeing up time to take additional jobs because you aren’t bogged down editing. It will change the quality of your life, your family time, your YOU time! “Later” is “NOW!” DO IT!

I can’t get back those 10 years, but I can make sure it doesn’t turn into 20! If you have wasted precious moments of your life and found magic time savers, share them with me at ddib06@gmail.com. Maybe we can save decades for one another — and make me feel better that I’m not alone! 🙂

Debbie Dibble is a freelance court reporter and broadcast captioner based in Salt Lake City, Utah. She is NCRA’s Secretary-Treasurer.

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