Spend less time getting ready to write, and more time WRITING!

If you’re anything like me, every minute of writing time is valuable, and time spent getting everything ready to go feels  wasted.  I thought I’d share some of the little things I do to get to writing faster.

Want to automate your writing process?  Have a lot of files you open and use regularly?  Just want to free up some of your valuable writing time?  Use a batch file to get all your ducks in a row with one double-click.

Put simply, a batch file is a list of commands in a text file that’s been made executable. They are most often used to automate daily tasks, in this particular case, opening a set of files.

(Note: these directions are for Windows. I don’t know nearly enough about Macs to tell you how to do much beyond turn the thing on :D)

Start by opening a plain text editor. Notepad is the most common if you use Windows, but there are several other feature-packed free text editors for Windows. I use Notepad++. DO NOT use a word processor like Microsoft Word or OpenOffice Writer; they add formatting which is incompatible in a batch file.

In your text editor, start by typing the line (without quotes)

“@echo off”

“Echo” is a command that displays text in the command prompt window, and will just clutter things up.  This line turns echo off.

Before we go any further, you need to decide what files you want to open. For me, I have my MS, my notes, my outline, and my character profiles. Although the path names will be different (we’ll get to that in a moment) here’s what the commands look like:

start C:\Users\Michael\Documents\fake_project\fake_document.doc

If you use something other than Word, your file extension will be different. Look at the file’s properties to determine the right extension

Since I have four files to open, I’ll add three more commands:

start C:\Users\Michael\Documents\fake_project\fake_document2.doc
start C:\Users\Michael\Documents\fake_project\fake_document3.doc
start C:\Users\Michael\Documents\fake_project\fake_document4.doc

There are several ways to determine your file’s proper path name, which is really nothing more than a list of directions the batch file will use to find the file you want open. If you don’t tell it where to look, it can’t help you! The easiest way to find the right path is:

Navigate to the folder where your file is stored. Don’t use a shortcut; it’s not the same. 

Right-click on the file, and then left-click on Properties. A box like this one will pop up:

properties window

properties window

The area I’ve highlighted is what you’re looking for. Highlight it with your mouse, right-click and select “Copy” or just hold down CTRL and press C.

Go back to your text editor. On the line after @echo off, type in “start” (without quotes), space bar, and then right-click and select “Paste” or hold CTRL and press V. This gives the command the path name, but we still have to tell it which file it’s looking for.

A word about file names: Batch files originated with the old DOS systems, and still behave that way. DOS doesn’t like spaces in file names. If your file name has spaces in it, which Windows has no problem with, you can make batch files find them by renaming the file, replacing the spaces with an underscore ( _ ) such as “file_name” instead of “file name”.

At the end of the line with your path, add another slash “\” usually located right above the ENTER key. Now type in your file name, remembering to type it exactly. DOS doesn’t know what a typo is, and it won’t search. Don’t forget the extension (.doc or .docx if you use Word, .odt if you use OpenOffice.)

Do this for all the files you want to open, putting each command on a separate line. Your final file will look something like this:

@echo off
start fake file path\file_name
start fake file path\file_name
start fake file path\file_name

The same method will work to open multiple programs at once.  For instance, I use notepad and my browser when doing research, so I have another batch file named RESEARCH.bat that opens them for me:

@echo off
start notepad.exe
start chrome.exe “www.google.com”

This opens my browser window, and a new notepad file all at the same time.

Now it’s time to save it. I save mine to my desktop, where I can access it as soon as I sit down. Click FILE, select SAVE AS, select where you’d like to save it (desktop for me, where ever you’d like is fine) and give it a name you’ll recognize. Mine is named CURRENT_PROJECT.bat. Just below the bar for the file name is the file type. Click the drop-down arrow and select ALL FILES. Be sure you include the extension .bat at the end of the file name.

save as dialogue box

save as.  Note the .bat extension and the “save as type” All files selection.

And that’s it! Now you have an executable file that will open all the files you need in one shot. By having all the files you need open on their own, you save time, which translates to more time writing and less time getting ready to write.

Is this the best way to speed things up?  Probably not.  Are there other ways?  Absolutely.  This is what works for me, and I thought I’d share.  I hope it helps.

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