What users say about Instant Text

Word Expanders — Instant Text versus Smartype

by Mike DeTuri

Posted March 9, 2002 on on the MT Daily Instant Text Board

Mike DeTuri responds "It ultimately depends on what you like and how you want to work" to a question raised on the MT Daily Instant Text Board:

Word expanders -- Instant Text versus SmarType -- or other?
Will soon be switching from WP51 to Word 2000. I would like input for the best word expander program to buy. Thanks.

Do you have an expander that you used with WP51? If so, you'll want a program that can import your old abbreviations so you don't have to do that manually. Instant Text does this for most of the more popular DOS expanders (FlashForward, Smartype, PRD). Smartype doesn't have this feature, although the Word version will import your Smartype DOS vocabulary file. Shorthand will import PRD files.

Smartype has cosmetic features that people seem to like, the Smartline for instance. Personally, I think it gets in the way, like the AutoText tip, but that's just my opinion.

Instant Text has a lot more features and is a lot more customizable. Because of this some people find it difficult to get used to. The dreaded learning curve. Once you get past that I think you'll find Instant Text saves you the most keystrokes.

Instant Text is the only program that scans your old documents and creates word lists and phrase abbreviations for you. (IT calls these word list and abbreviation files glossaries.) IT is the only program that has continuations.

Continuations are a huge help because you can type the abbreviation for the words of the first part of the sentence and then choose from a list of available choices for the rest of the sentence. Even if you type the words out manually, continuations will still pop up and you can expand them. Here's an example:

You type tpwt; to expand The patient was taken and IT shows you continuations with the phrases that most frequently follow the phrase The patient was taken. In this case, assume it's the following:

   ttrr   to the recovery room 
   ttor   to the operating room 
   ttcl   to the cath lab 

Rather than typing the entire next abbreviation to expand the one you want, all you have to do is choose it with the shift key or a number key and/or press your marker key. I use the ; for a marker.

You can have more than one continuation per sentence, say you expanded to the recovery room the next continuation would probably pop up as and extubated in stable condition. If you had chosen to the operating room you'd probably see and prepped and draped in a sterile manner.

IT's ability to compile glossaries is great because whenever I start on a new account or a new doctor I ask my boss for as many electronic samples of the work as she has and I use those to create a new glossary. I'm up to speed on the new work in no time, thanks to IT's phrase generation and continuation abilities. With my old expander it would take me forever to create new abbreviations for the new doctors and the new account.

Concerning word expansions: Instant Text also functions as an on-the-fly spellchecker. For example, I can never remember how to spell epididymis. With Instant Text I don't have to. It allows you to skip letters in your abbreviations for both words and phrases. So if I want epididymis and I can never remember what should be a y and what should be an i I can just leave those out and type epddms. IT pops up epididymis in my word advisory and I expand it. This is also really good for finding drugs that you aren't sure how to spell, just type it and leave out the letters you don't know, IT will find it for you.

This is a different approach than that taken by Smartype. Smartype has compiled a list of words from thousands of hospital records and sorted that master list by frequency. Smartype doesn't allow you to skip letters so you have to type the word as it appears until you type enough of it that it shows up on the Smartline, or you can see it down in the list of options. If you want to expand a word beginning with hydro in Smartype you will most likely need to type all of prefix (hydro) and some of the root before a choice appears on the Smartline. In Instant Text you can use the skip ahead approach and type hycep or hcep and expand hydrocephalus or hydrocephalic.

Since IT compiles word lists and phrase abbreviations from your old documents the IT word list is always appropriate to what you are typing. As opposed to Smartype's word list which seems to be optimized for hospital/acute care transcription.

I like to create a glossary for each doctor. I've found that each doctor has their own special phrases and words that they seem to use more often. When I do hospital work I have glossaries sorted by report type and specialty and sometimes doctor.

IT works with just about every Windows program on your computer. This includes your e-mail, your Internet browser, and of course all your word processors. In fact, I have the Pro version of IT and I have yet to run into a Windows program that I couldn't link to. Other expanders on the market like Shorthand also work with all Windows software. Smartype only works with Word 2000 or 2002. This limitation in Smartype may be okay for you if you know that you are never going to have to switch to another word processor, use an online TASP, or upgrade. Personally, I don't like being limited in that way. If I couldn't use IT I'd probably use Shorthand for compatibility reasons.

Formatting is another thing. Smartype requires that all expansions longer than 35 characters be formatted. This isn't a problem if you type all your documents in one font style and one font size, but if you have different accounts with different formatting requirements you'd need a separate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease entry for each one. Instant Text lets you keep or discard formatting for phrase entries of any size.

Smartype works with only one large abbreviation file. Instant Text can work equally well with one large file or many small ones. I like working with many smaller files because it reduces the number of things I need to memorize.

For example, in my Dr. Smith glossary I have an abbreviation for the normal heart portion of his physical exam, hrr expands to Heart is regular rate and rhythm. Dr. Lee uses a slightly different phrase, he says, HEART: Rate and rhythm are regular.

With Instant Text and one glossary for each doctor, I know automatically that a heart exam with the words regular, rate, and rhythm is abbreviated as hrr. In Smartype I'd have to use two different entries and memorize the difference, Dr. Smith's could be hrrs and Dr. Lee's could be hrrl. (I can't use 1 or 2 in my abbreviation because Smartype doesn't allow numbers in abbreviations.) Smartype lets you open one abbreviation file at a time, Instant Text lets you open 15 different glossaries at once.

I'm sure there are better examples and a more complete feature list on the IT website. There are other posts which discuss IT's features as opposed to Smartype's in the archives here. I only mentioned the things that I like best and that save me the most keystrokes. :)

(One more thing, if you don't like IT you can return it within 30-days for a full refund. There is no restocking fee.)

Mike DeTuri
Macros and Programs