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Computer Setup

This section contains tips on optimizing your computer screen setup for maximum efficiency while debating paperless.

The Desktop

Clear the desktop of non-essential items. Since the desktop is frequently used to save Speech documents and copy them to the USB drive, it’s helpful to have it cleared of extraneous files. Useful things to keep on the desktop include: A folder with the most recent tub, a shortcut to Verbatim, a folder for the current tournament, and a shortcut to your external USB drive.

Splitting the screen

It helps to conceptualize your desktop like a desk with a workflow moving left to right. Try to use approximately the left half of your screen for open files, and the right half for your Speech document. Even if you can’t fit two windows open side by side on your desktop, try to leave a little bit that doesn’t overlap. This enables you to rapidly switch between documents and your Speech doc without digging through a host of open windows.

You can do this automatically in Verbatim using the Arrange Windows button on the ribbon or the keyboard shortcut Ctrl/Cmd + Shift + Tab. You can configure how the screen is divided in the Verbatim settings.

Taskbar Setup

You should also consider moving the Windows taskbar to the left side of the screen, rather than the bottom. Usually this is accomplished by right clicking on it and unchecking “Lock the Taskbar,” then dragging it to the left side of the screen. This is so you can more easily see a large number of Word documents open without the taskbar grouping them. The taskbar can then also be resized horizontally to take up more or less screen space.


On the PC, consider adding your digital tub folder as a toolbar to the taskbar. To do this, right click on the toolbar, select "Toolbars – New Toolbar" and then navigate to the folder which contains your digital tub. This will create a toolbar with immediate access to all of your files. It can be dragged to show icons, or collapsed so that clicking one arrow will bring up a directory listing of all the folders in your tub. You can even create multiple toolbars for different folders, such as one for backfiles, one for current files, and one for the affirmative. A helpful tip – holding down "shift" while clicking to open a file will keep the taskbar open, rather than closing it and forcing you to re-click through the levels of a tub. This is very helpful when opening more than one document at a time.

Operating System Tweaks

  1. Turn off updates. It's recommended that you temporarily turn off any program which will try to update itself automatically, including Windows Update, just for the duration of the round (or the tournament). This is to avoid the computer trying to reboot itself automatically, or popping up annoying reminders about updates in the middle of a speech.

  2. Turn off hibernation/standby/screen savers. You should set your computer to never go into sleep mode, hibernate, or turn the screen off, including when the lid is shut. This is usually accomplished by right-clicking on the desktop and selecting "Properties". The power settings are included on the Screen Saver tab, under the "Power" button.

  3. Turn off any programs which could interfere with using the macros by utilizing "hot-keys." Some programs running in the background of your computer may already have assigned certain keystrokes that are used by the paperless macro. A prominent example is certain NVidia graphics cards which assign hotkeys which rotate the screen. This can be turned off by right-clicking the desktop, selecting "Graphics Properties – Hot Keys" – and selecting "Disable Hot Keys." Other programs may also exhibit similar behavior – if macros aren’t behaving correctly, check your computer for other hidden programs which might have hot-keys. On the Mac, you should consider disabling Fn-key shortcuts used by Mac OS, which you can do in System Preferences - Keyboard, or using the Verbatim Setup Check tool.

  4. Consider a separate user account for paperless. Since most people will not want their screen set up the same way for every day use as for paperless, consider adding a separate account used exclusively for debate. This will allow you to set up the desktop to your specifications without interfering with everyday work.

Document Navigation

  1. Use Draft or Web view. This removes the header, footer, and extraneous white space from your document view. Note that Web view has bugs in Mac Word which cause unpredictable screen jitters while the Navigation Pane is open, so Draft view is currently recommended for Mac users.

  2. Use the Navigation Pane - It functions like an index, allowing you to see the entire file at once. And, it makes moving around within a file substantially faster. It also enables you to see where you're moving blocks to while using the Move Up and Move Down functions. I’d recommend leaving the Nav Pane turned on in all documents, at all times.

  3. Use the mouse wheel to zoom - On many computers, holding down the Ctrl key while scrolling the mouse wheel will cause Word to zoom in and out quickly. This can help you see more of the document or an individual card easily, especially if you’re working on a smaller screen.

  4. You can cycle through all open Word docs using the "Windows" button on the ribbon (Ctrl-Tab).

  5. Reading Mode - use “Full Screen Reading” view when actually giving your speech. There's a button for it on the ribbon. This view will allow you to see one or two entire pages at a time, and quickly move through your document by using the arrow keys to move a page at a time, instead of scrolling or using Page Down. If only one page is visible, try shrinking the size of the document map horizontally until two pages appear.

Pre-tournament Setup Checklist

This is a pre-tournament checklist to make sure you’re ready to debate paperless.

  1. Drills, drills, drills – Most paperless difficulties are the exclusive product of a lack of practice. While memorizing the hotkeys and understanding the basic elements only takes 5 minutes, becoming proficient enough to deal with contingencies or be extremely quick takes hours. While this is a significant time investment, it’s useful to remember the amount of time saved vs. hand-labeling manila folders and printing expando indexes.

  2. Check that each computer works – debaters seem to have a knack for ensuring that any computer they need for a tournament will be non-functional right before Round 1.

  3. Clean off the desktop and USB drives. Since the desktop is used as a work space where Speech files are saved and copied, digital tubs are kept, etc... It's a good idea to clear everything else off, at least for the duration of a tournament. If there’s an inordinate amount of clutter, it can just be temporarily stored in a new folder. It's also a good idea to create a folder for each tournament, so you can store (and label) Speech documents and update files as they are produced. If you plan to use a USB drive, start with a clean USB drive before each round. This ensures there's not confusion over which file to open.

  4. Make sure each laptop has the most recent version of your files. While archived backfiles can be put on each computer at the beginning of the season and left relatively untouched, the master copy of the digital tub is constantly in flux. It’s a good idea to have a complete copy on a USB drive before leaving for the tournament, just in case one (all) of the debaters forget to update their local copies.

  5. Make sure each computer is set up for paperless – toolbars created, hibernation/screen saver turned off, updates turned off, screen rotation turned off, etc.