Instant Text in the Press

Shorthand Typing - Instant Text User Review

by Dave Schanz

MT Monthly - December 1997

Background:

I initially purchased Instant Text ver 1.x for WIN 3.1 because it seemed to be the only shorthand typing program that would work with WIN and my word processor of choice, WordPerfect 6.1 for Windows for Workgroups. I quickly found Ver 1.x cumbersome and somewhat difficult to use. So I whined to the Instant Text folks who graciously allowed me to become a beta tester for their Version 2 for WIN 95 and, among other wordprocessors, the WP 7.0 I had sitting on the shelf gathering dust along with my WIN 95 CD. I anxiously awaited the beta version and installed WIN95 and Corel Perfect Office on my PC while I waited a few days for the beta to arrive.

So, after doing the beta testing thing for Instant Text (IT) Version 2 and using the final release version for several weeks now, I feel I am ready to give a One man's opinion review of the program for anyone who is interested and/or contemplating the purchase of a shorthand typing program.

Since I am not familiar with any other shorthand programs, I am sorry to report that I am not able to provide a side-by-side comparison with any of the other programs that are available. But... perhaps that is an asset. Anyway, I have only used IT with WordPerfect 7.0. I also only transcribe for specialties and family practice outside of the hospital setting (God bless you hospital'ers. There's a special place in heaven reserved for you folks) so I cannot speak for the appropriateness of IT in performing that type of work. Enough of the disclaimers, now on with the show...

System requirements:

Pentium 75, as a minimum
Windows 95 (required)
8Mb RAM
WP 6.1 or 7.0, or any number of other wordprocessors
10 Mb or so of hard disk space
IT is supplied on a 3.5 floppy

My system (assuming your results may vary):

Cyrix 166+, Win 95, 32 Mb RAM, WP 7.0

Interface:

You link IT with your wordprocessor and IT becomes a window at the bottom of the screen (although the window can be placed elsewhere if you wish.)

You type directly into your word processor (exactly as you always have) right in the document you are working with, while maintaining all document characteristics, i.e. fonts, spacing, tab settings, etc. IT in no way interferes with the operation of the wordprocessor, F-keys, spellchecker, macro operations, etc. (Incidentally, typing directly into the word processor is a major advantage over the first version of IT, and for me, it made a huge difference. It made me a believer!)

The IT window is divided into two sections, the word selection list (word advisory) and the phrase selection list (phrase advisory).

YOU control the contents of the word and phrase advisories. This is achieved by creating your own list of words and phrases (glossaries) from the documents you have already created. You have complete control over the creation of the glossaries. Glossaries can be as large, or as small as you wish, with as broad or narrow a language content you wish. Size is dependent upon the size of the document you use to create the glossary.

You have full edit capabilities over your glossaries to add, delete or modify entries. You can also change the order in which a word or phrase will appear in your window of suggested words and phrases the advisories.

One glossary is active at any given time, however, you can switch between your glossaries with a mouse click, or a keystroke.

Customer Support:

Available by phone or e-mail.

Program Operation:

As you type the first letter of a word, several suggestions become available in the advisory window for words and phrases. Type more letters of a word, and the list of suggestions becomes more and more accurate. For instance, in my case:

I type the letter p and the following words appear in MY word advisory window: patient, patient's, Prilosec, previous

I type the letter a after the p and I get these suggested words to choose from: patient, patient's At the same time, I get the following phrase suggestions: pain after, periods are, pressure and.

If you look carefully at the example above you note that the word advisories change with each letter of the word you type. The more letters you type, the closer you get to the exact word you are typing.

In the phrase advisory, as you type letters, IT returns phrases that have words beginning with the letters you type. For instance, when I type tyfa, the phrase advisory returns the suggested phrases: Thank you for allowing and Thank you for allowing me to participate

Selection of the shorthand version of the word/phrase you are typing is accomplished by hitting one key to select the suggested word, or an alternate key to select the phrase. You tell IT what keys you want to use to select words and phrases. (In addition, you can scroll rapidly through the various suggestions by using the shift key to get at a word or phrase that appears farther down on the list.)

IT is also smart enough to provide you with what are referred to as continuations. This extremely helpful little item allows you to hit one more key and use suggested continuations to the phrases you insert into your document.

Continuing with the tyfa example above, when I type those four letters and use the ] key to insert the phrase: Thank you for allowing me to participate into my document, IT then offers additional possibilities to complete the phrase. Without even typing another letter, IT offers me the following possibilities: in the care of this patient and in the care and treatment of this patient

With another stroke of the ] key, I can add either of the above endings to the initial phrase to complete the sentence. In review, by typing tyfa]] I get the sentence, Thank you for allowing me to participate in the care and treatment of this patient.

My Opinions:

Well, I don't know about you, but I would just as soon type a p and hit the \ key (in my case) and insert the word patient into my document. I would also just as soon type tyfa]] to insert Thank you for allowing me to participate in the care and treatment of this patient

The keystroke savings are obvious. And for someone like me who is not the world's fastest typist, it works wonderfully. I have increased my productivity from 45-55 wpm to 65-75 wpm and again, I am not a speed demon.

In my opinion, the IT's glossaries are the key to the productivity gains. For instance, I have found it works better to keep glossaries segregated by specialty and even by individual physicians where warranted. For instance, I regularly do two neurosurgeon's office notes and correspondence as well as office notes for 2 family practice guys and an internist. The neurosurgeon's pool of typical phrases and med words is quite different than that of the family practice guys and the internist. To have one large glossary to cover all 5 physicians makes a glossary that is unwieldy and not real useful to me. However, by creating a glossary specific to the neurosurgeons, another for the family practice and another for the internist, I have very useful, compact glossaries.

One of the family practice guys is a foreigner as is the internist. They, (bless their souls) have trouble with English on occasion and tend to have more repetitive phrases than the "American" doctors, so I have created glossaries for each of them.

The neat thing is that you create your glossaries directly from the documents you have already created. It's like making a word list from the exact words and phrases you use over, and over, and over again. For starters, I took five, two page letters from the neurosurgeons and created a glossary. It worked great as it was, but I found that there were other phrases they frequently used that were not in the five letters, and therefore not in the glossary I had created. Solution? Simply edit the glossary and add the words or phrases, or, use the enrich glossary option to add the words and phrases from a new letter. Couldn't be easier.

The continuation feature in IT is very, very helpful. One of my neurosurgeons has a six line paragraph that is very repetitive with only minor changes in a few words. I am now able to type the entire paragraph using only 9 keystrokes and typing three whole words that were not in my glossary. The paragraph is not suitable for the WP Quick Correct feature or by using a macro because several words change from patient to patient. IT handles it very well by using the continuations.

Because IT is a 32-bit program, it's FAST. It presents words and phrases to select from as fast as you can type letters on the keyboard. For me, while that is certainly a big strength of IT, it can also be a bit of a problem. The IT window is literally in perpetual motion with words and phrases coming and going as fast as I can type. It can be very distracting. However, by tweaking the glossaries, that can be minimized to a large degree. I also found it very convenient to resize the IT window with the mouse, just like any other WIN95 window. I am able to switch the number of lines in the suggestion windows to whatever suits my needs at the time, very handy!

If you use WP7, you are likely familiar with the Quick Correct feature. Well, IT works similarly to Quick Correct with some very important exceptions. First, you don't need to create Quick Correct abbreviations. IT is much more thorough and complete in its glossaries. That's not to say that I don't still use the Quick Correct for some things. For instance, I chronically type some words incorrectly and the QC feature helps with those problems. When I type nad instead of and, the QC feature takes care of that for me. Both tools used together are unbeatable.

IT is also useful to replace those pesky address macros you may have. Since I do a lot of correspondence, I have 700+ name and address macros littering my macros directory. Now, I use IT to insert my doctors names and addresses and that's that. There is no waiting for the macro window to pop up and finally execute. Someday, I may even get all of them converted!

Instant Text works great in Win95. It is very stable and well behaved, even on my system that is, well, a bit quirky at times. Maybe someday I will review the Cyrix 166+ chip. Anyway, you won't have any problems and installation is a snap. I even went so far as to make IT a button on the WP button bar. I start WP, click on the IT button, whine to my wife about having to listen to that ingrate doctor again today and then go to work.

The learning curve is, well, something dependent on each user I suppose. The help files are full of information to make life easier. It took me about a week to get familiar with IT, and maybe another week or two to get really cookin'. I won't lie, it was bit frustrating and tended to get in the way at the start, but IT becomes a dear friend very quickly.

Customer support is superb. A phone call or e-mail will get your questions answered in a jiffy.

Oh yea, although it is a feature that I have no need to use, IT will also import your word lists from other shorthand typing programs. For details on that feature, you'll need to contact customer support or visit their web site at the address below.

Now, I've saved the best for last... Instant Text is an incredible bargain at a hundred bucks — well, 99 bucks.

You can get additional info on Instant Text at www.textware.com I urge you to visit their web site and learn more for yourself. Of course, if you have questions you would like to ask a user, you can e-mail me.

Dave Schanz

About the author: Dave Schanz is the President of Valley Transcription. Located in Saginaw, Michigan, Valley Transcription has been serving the medical community in the Tri-Cities area since 1995.

Copyright © 1997 Dave Schanz
Reproduced with permission from Dave Schanz