Using Verbatim

Verbatim is a tool that makes using Microsoft Word for debate much easier. There are a number of tools you can use both outside and in rounds, and while it's not as universally accepted as in the policy and LD communities, Verbatim is used by a large number of top debaters. I personally use it for all my prep, and I encourage you to do so as well. Interestingly enough, despite Verbatim's widespread usage, there isn't a very recent guide online on how to use it (at least not one that's made widely accessible), nor is there one geared towards PF. I hope this can help.

Installing verbatim

Verbatim can be downloaded and installed from here. Be sure to download the correct version for your operating system, Windows or Mac (Linux and others are not supported). Given that Verbatim is an add-on for Word, you need to have access to a licensed version of Microsoft Office. Download the installer, and run the setup.

Step 1 - Check all the tweaks (Verbatim will run better).

Step 2 - I advise adding the shortcut and running Verbatim in always on mode. These will add a button to all Word documents that changes it to a Verbatim document, in case you want to use its tools in a document that wasn't created in Verbatim.

Step 3 and 4 - Adding your accounts is optional and I haven't had a need for it, same with PaDS (unless your school has explicitly set it up).

Step 5 - This option makes it easier to disclose, but unfortunately there are only options for policy and LD.

Step 6 - You can finish it, running the tutorial will help explain some options but not every option is necessary, so I'll explain the important ones here.

I personally use Verbatim on Windows 10. Mac has many of these features disabled, and I have no Mac on hand to demonstrate on, so this tutorial will be geared towards Windows users.

Formatting tools

Verbatim's most-used feature is its formatting suite. Along with all other Verbatim features, this can be found under the "Debate" tab on any Verbatim document. It uses the function keys to add formatting to your cards.

F2 Paste

When copying and pasting evidence from websites, many of them will have strange fonts and sizes, highlighting and background. Pasting with F2 instead of ctrl/command-v will paste with no formatting, cleaning up your files. The one situation where you wouldn't use this is when copying and pasting from PDFs, as it'll paste each line as a new paragraph.

F3 Condense

In general, your cards should be all one paragraph, one condensed body of text. When copying and pasting from websites, they'll use many paragraphs. Highlight them all and press F3 to condense them into one. Some people prefer retaining pilcrows to mark where paragraphs used to be, which can be changed in Verbatim settings.

Headings F4, F5, F6

Verbatim's headings are how you organize your documents, especially when they get quite large. I'll also elaborate on how I use these headings within a blockfile, but these are all subject to personal preference, and you should try out different organization methods before settling on what works for you.

F4 Pocket - There's a box around your large text, which is usually used for the title of the Word document (e.g. Septober AFF case) or top-level headings within an individual document. In a blockfile, I use this to divide between the different argument areas on each side, e.g. A2 AFF ECONOMY, with all the aff arguments about the economy underneath it.

F5 Hat - This has a double underline around less large text, which is used for different sections within a pocket. In a blockfile, I use this to divide between separate contentions or arguments, e.g. A2 TRADE INFRASTRUCTURE, with all of the responses to that contention underneath it.

F6 Block - This has a single underline around somewhat smaller text, which is used for different sections within a hat. In most files, this is used for identifying individual arguments. In a blockfile, I use this to divide between separate responses to a contention, e.g. BRI won't build effective trade infrastructure, with all the cards to support that response underneath it.

Navigation Pane

If you navigate to the "View" tab, the "Show" section a bit to the left has some check boxes, and one is for the Navigation Pane. You can also check the "Nav" box on the View section in the Debate tab. This opens up a sidebar with all the headings on the left, which you can click on to jump to. This is helpful when scrolling through a large file, as it shows the structure of the headings you've added at a glance.

In the navigation pane, you can right click headings to get some options. (Notice the underlined letter in each option - right clicking and pressing that letter on your keyboard selects that option.) The first two can change the heading level - "promote" would change this tag to a block, "demote" on a pocket would change it to a hat. The next few options allow you to create new headings of the same level, and the "New Subheading" option lets you create a heading one level down. Delete simply deletes the selected heading.

The next two options refer to the heading and everything underneath it - this includes any text you've written below it and every lower-level heading and its text as well. Selecting simply highlights it, for copying or other formatting, and printing opens a menu which will print out the heading and below.

The last few options change what you can see in the navigation pane. You can expand all to open up every heading, or collapse all to hide all the headings except pockets. This can be done manually by clicking the arrow on the side of the heading in the navigation pane. (In the document itself, you can collapse a heading an the text below it by clicking on the arrow next to the heading as well.) If you want to see just a certain heading level, click "Show Heading Levels" and select the ones you want to see (Heading 1 being pocket, Heading 2 being hat, etc).

Card Formatting

Verbatim makes cutting cards a breeze. Underneath this block heading of "Coal now," there's a card that supports the argument, talking about the coal China's building in the status quo. Cutting cards uses several of Verbatim's most important functions.

Tag and Citation

The tag (F7 Tag) is a sub-heading that is nearly universally used for an individual card. The tag gives a short, concise description of what the card text is saying.

Your evidence must be cited, and a full citation is included in this card, with the author's full name, source, date of publication, article title, date of access, URL, and initials of the person who cut the card. You should generally include all this in your citation, but don't necessarily need to put it in the same order I do. (This uses a custom extension called Cite Creator, which you can read about here.) Notice that the most crucial information, the author, year, and source, are at the beginning, bolded with their font size increased. This is a format called Cite, which has the same text style as a tag but without making it a heading. This lets you identify the key information about a card at a glance.

Card Text

The body of the card is the full text of the evidence you're citing. Everything that's leading you to the summary made in the tag should be included, and everything in between (even if you don't use it). The parts of the card that are relevant are underlined, and the most important parts are in bold. Then, the parts of the card that you're going to be reading or citing are highlighted, to indicate you've actually said them in the round (if you're reading directly from the card) or that they're what you've referenced in the round (if you're paraphrasing it). Remember, when paraphrasing evidence, you must be able to point to the phase or sentence you paraphrased, and highlighting the card helps out with that. Then, the parts that are irrelevant can be shrunk away with either Alt-F3 or Ctrl-8, hiding them from view. To reset all formatting, highlight the text and press F12 to clear.

Other verbatim tools

Verbatim has a number of other features with varying degrees of utility. There are some that I'm going to glance over since they're not really useful for PF, or won't really be relevant to most debaters, but I'll include a brief overview of what they're talking about here. (A lot of them are just what I could figure out on my own, and may be inaccurate since I don't use them.) I'm skipping the ones that are self-evident.

Virtual Tub - At the bottom left of the tab, you'll see an empty cube. This is a way to access files quickly if you've got old backfiles about impact defense or theory answers or something; not very relevant for PF.

Windows/side by side - These buttons are right above Virtual Tub. This is generally to navigate if you have a lot of word documents open, or if you want to have a file and speech doc open side by side; not very relevant for PF.

Coauthor - This is useful if you are using the Paperless Debate coauthoring service, and if you are, you probably don't need this tutorial.

Combine documents - The button is right above Coauthor and to the right of "New." Maybe you have two or more documents you want to combine into one. This opens a window where you can do that easily.

The three on the right of the "Paperless" section are not relevant for PF - "Auto-open" sets a folder that automatically opens a doc put into it, "Warrant box" is a feature I haven't figured out after three years, and "Auto Coauthoring Updates" is another feature for the coauthoring service.

The next three under the "Share" section are generally for policy/LD norms, e.g. flashing or emailing out speech docs.

"Nav Pane Cycle" is something to fix a glitch I've never seen happen.

Don't use the auto-underline card feature. Cut your own cards.

Almost everything in the "More" section isn't necessary.


Verbatim includes a customizable timer that is quite useful. Press Ctrl-Shift-T to open it or click the "Timer" button at the top to open it. The red and blue buttons on the left track prep time, and the buttons with set times on the right are presets you can click to set the amount of time. The center button starts and stops the timer, and the big text can be edited to change the amount of time given.

In the "Alerts" tab, you can change the different times that the timer will alert you, helpful for warnings at different intervals. You can also change the type of alarm that'll go off when the timer expires.

By default, the timer has the preset times for policy, but you can edit the times in the "Time" tab, with primary and secondary profiles. If you prefer a count-up timer, you can switch it to a stopwatch here.

The "Window" tab lets you configure the timer's behavior. Always on top means the timer will float on top of other windows, regardless of which one you're focused on or are typing in. Auto shrink will shrink the timer when you start and click away from it to take up less space, and transparent will take it a step further by hiding everything but the time.

Speech Documents

Speech documents aren't as big in PF, but are still useful. Click "Choose Doc" to designate an open Word document as your speech doc. Then, clicking the little blue arrow at the top left, or pressing the ` or ~ key while having your cursor in a heading will copy and paste the heading, along with every heading and all the text underneath it, into the speech doc (wherever your cursor is there).

The most common use for this feature is when in rebuttal, you're compiling your blocks to use. You can quickly jump through your blockfile, send all the relevant responses to a single document, then read off of that or copy those responses down.

Another use I've found for this feature is when I'm compiling a bunch of cards from random blockfiles or old policy files I've gotten my hands on. I'll open a new Word doc, save it as "compiled cards from x y z" and choose that as the speech doc. As I scroll through other documents, if there's a nice card or chunk of evidence I'll just press ~ and send it to the document.

Wiki/Disclosure features

The wiki is where you can disclose cases that you've run, either a quick rundown of the debate, the tags/cites/texts for the cards you've cited, the entire Word document you've used, or all three.

The first option directly uploads the document to the wiki. You need to sign in to your tabroom account and specify your school and team, and you can directly upload round reports, cites, and open source documents. I haven't used this since it doesn't have an option for the PF wiki.

The second option converts a document to the formatting you'd need to paste into the cites box on the wiki. It's very helpful, letting you post headings, tags, and any other formatting into the wiki.

The third option does a similar function, but retains formatting for if you're showing someone the word document, not uploading it to the wiki. I've never used this.

Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

Sometimes you'll come across a source which says what you want, but for one reason or another can't be copied and pasted. A common example is Google Books, which lets you preview books but prevents you from copying and pasting. (Make sure you check Libgen to see if a PDF/EPUB copy exists!) Verbatim has a built-in tool to help you get around that.

Open the page you're trying to copy from, and make sure you can see all the text you're trying to copy. (You may need to do this twice if it goes over multiple pages or something.) Open Verbatim on top of that window, and click the OCR button. Verbatim will disappear, and you'll see the last window, presumably whatever you're trying to copy. Click once to set a starting point, and click again to make a box around the text you want. It'll lag for a second, but once Word starts responding again open it up, and it should have the text you wanted.

This isn't a bug-free feature, and sometimes it'll copy nothing, and sometimes it'll mess up a letter or two, e.g. copying a "rn" as "m." It doesn't work too well with numbers (especially in footnotes) or symbols. Glance through the text you've copied for any errors.

Other stuff in "More"

These are pretty much the only features from the "more" menu that I've used. (For quick reference, the menu is in the format section in the Debate tab.) Even so, these are still rarely used in PF.

Insert Header - This button puts a header on the top margin area of every page, helpful if you're going to print something out. When my partner and I print out our cases, we usually have a header saying which case it is, and a page number so we can keep the case in order. You can format the header with different fonts/font sizes as well.

Duplicate Cite - This (also accessible through Alt-F8) looks up from your cursor until it sees a citation, then copies and pastes it down to where you are. A citation must have the "cite" format somewhere in it to count.

Auto Format Cite - Looks through a citation and tries to automatically apply the "cite" format to the author's last name and the year of publication. Pretty accurate most of the time.

Auto Number Tags/De-Number Tags - This just counts up how many tags are under each heading, and numbers them. De-number tags does the opposite. Maybe you have a speech doc and you have responses you're reading against an argument. If they're each in a tag, you can copy them into the doc and just press "Auto Number Tags" to make them more organized.

Other help

That's pretty much all of Verbatim's features! There's just a few more things I'll cover. The first is "Verbatim Help," which opens a menu where you can check the online manual, run the troubleshooter, get help for Office, open settings for Verbatim, or re-run the tutorial. The second is the little button to the bottom-left of Verbatim Help, which opens up a handy menu listing all the keyboard shortcuts Verbatim has.

The last is Settings. I'll quickly go over some things you should know about under different tabs.

Under Admin, if the "Verbatimize" button ever disappears from your home tab, clicking "Verbatimize Normal Template" will get it back. (It'll also get rid of your custom toolbars at the top.) You can open the Templates Folder to create a shortcut to a new Verbatim document, create a shortcut to Debate.dotm.

Under Format, you can change the formatting of the different headings and formatting tools. You can also change whether condense will keep paragraph breaks, or display pilcrows where it condensed. Shrink can either shrink the entire paragraph your cursor is in, or shrink the selected area. If you want a box around all the text you use F10 to emphasize, check that box.

Under Keyboard, you can change keyboard shortcuts, and pressing "Other Shortcuts" will open up a window where you can set shortcuts for almost anything. This is also where you can go to fix the "send to speech" feature of the ~ key.

The other settings don't matter very much.

Additional Lecture

Aaron Hardy is quite qualified to talk about Verbatim, as he made and maintains it. I haven't personally watched this video, but there's no way it won't be at least a little helpful if you couldn't find information in this guide.