Clean up Word, Excel, Visio and AutoCAD files with TransTools

TransTools

At first glance, TransTools didn’t look like the most promising of programs. A suite "designed to help translators in various situations"? It would probably be for specialists only, and so expensive that big corporations would think twice -- right?

But wait. The package is really just about cleaning up poor formatting -- an OCR’ed document, say -- so could be useful for anyone. It works with Word, Excel, Visio and AutoCAD documents. And while there is a commercial version, the base edition is free for personal use? Now that’s much more interesting.

TransTools installed easily, with no hassles. It seems to work just about anywhere -- Windows 2000 or later, with separate Office add-ins for 2003 and earlier, 2007 and later, 32 or 64-bit -- and correctly added itself to our Word and Excel 2013 ribbons.

The Word add-in features a Document Cleaner which tidies up documents produced by OCR or conversion software. This can restore more consistent formatting (fonts, font sizes, spaces, styles), remove unwanted frames, correct problems with tables, reset indentation, strip out broken or unreferenced bookmarks, remove text highlighting, shading and more.

While this sounds potentially complicated, it’s no more difficult to use than any other Word feature. For a first cleanup you simply click the Reformat tab, check boxes for whatever action you’d like to perform, and click Run. The results appear right away.

TransTools also includes a separate "Remove Excessive Spaces" option, scanning for multiple spaces and replacing them according to your requirements (with a single space, tab, new line or paragraph).

Smaller corrective options include a "Remove Highlight" tool, which can strip out highlights in a particular color. The Non-breaking Space Checker does what its name suggests, scanning your document to ensure any non-breaking spaces are used correctly. Of course all these actions can apply to the entire active document, or just your selected text.

The Excel add-in has one or two of these basic formatting tools, in particular to remove highlighting and excessive spacing. But generally it focuses on more spreadsheet-specific tools. The Cell Resize Wizard resizes cells as required to make text fully visible, for instance, while the Translation > Extract… tool extracts all unique text and displays it in a separate workbook.

While we didn’t try them, it seems that TransTools for Visio and AutoCAD work like a stripped down version of the Excel add-in, extracting text from the document, then allowing you to merge it back -- with any translations or modifications -- at some later point.

TransTools may not be a package you’ll use every day, but if you ever need to work with a poorly-formatted Word document then it could save you a lot of time and hassle. Go get your own copy immediately.

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