automatic random text generation. improved?

For YEARS DECADES, I have been creating dummy documents for use in computer training. Usually, I ask someone to type a sentence – any sentence – and then I teach them to use keyboard shortcuts to select, copy and paste their sentence, resulting in a multi-paragraph, multi-page document to work with as I train.

It’s always interesting to see what people type:

the distracted or disinterested: “I can’t wait for lunch.”

and the suck-ups: “The computer trainer is really good!” (umm hmm)

and of course, the ever popular: “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.” frequently makes an appearance.

I’ve written about that third sentence before in a previous post entitled “automatically generate placeholder text in Microsoft Word“. You could automatically generate paragraphs composed of it using Word 2003 and earlier versions using a little known “=rand()” feature in Microsoft Word.

But now, with Word 2007 and 2010, it’s even better.

Check this out. Open either Microsoft Word 2007 or 2010 and, at the top of a new, blank document, type this:

=rand(8,5)

Then press the enter key.

What just happened?

Microsoft Word just reached into it’s help files and copied 8 random paragraphs containing 5 sentences each and pasted them into your blank page.

As a computer trainer, let me just say.

SWEET!

If you’re thinking the “=rand(8,5)” looks like an Excel formula, you would be correct. The first number inside the parenthesis represents how many paragraphs of text you want, the second number indicates how many sentences each paragraph should contain. If you skip the numbers and just type “=rand()” the default result is 3 paragraphs of 5 sentences each.

The formula doesn’t have to be typed at the beginning of a document, but it must be typed at the beginning of a line, with no characters before it.

Again, as someone who frequently needs fake documents to play work with, I LOVE this! I’ve tried to think of other uses and the only other one that comes to mind would be for print samples. If you can think of other ways to take advantage of a random text generator, comment and share!