Why XP's a Good Buy for Legal
Word 2002 is no longer so cloyingly helpful.
By Bonnie Speer McGrath and Jeffrey Roach.
FOR YEARS, legal users have waged a private war with Microsoft over control of their documents. Those of us in the consulting and education business have spent more time turning off, explaining, defending and disabling features than we would like to admit. So here comes a brand new version of Word that will no doubt attempt to exert its will and "thinking" upon us. Is it time to dig in and prepare for the latest battle? Maybe not.
Adios, Legal Suite
Corel Corp. has abandoned the legal-specific edition of its Office suite, saying the legal community wasn't supporting it as predicted, instead buying the more powerful standard and professional editions.
But, like Microsoft, Corel says its Office 2002 suite incorporates suggestions from the legal community, says spokesman Dave Ludwick.
-- Monica Bay
The feedback so far from C.I.O.s and training managers who have seen Word 2002 (part of the new Office XP suite) is that it is a tool worth considering, especially if your law firm or corporate legal department currently is considering a move to Word 2000.
It's the first version of Word that includes significant input from the legal community, gathered by Microsoft's Legal Advisory Council. While marketing hype has focused on the new collaborative tools and "sexy" features (such as voice recognition), the most compelling reasons to consider Word 2002 are the minor changes that will have a major impact on production of complex legal documents.
Paste Options Button
Few things are as sacred to those of us in the business of creating long and complex documents as copy and paste. Reduce, reuse, recycle is our battle cry. How often do we dig up a handful of documents and borrow "gently used" text? The thing we don't like to talk about is how this borrowed text can come back to haunt us. This is especially true if the copied text included numbering. The rule of thumb-- practice safe pasting. Don't just Control-V and hope for the best.
To protect the long-term health of your document you should paste special as unformatted text, using the Paste Special command. It sounds easy enough, but safe pasting is very often forgotten in the heat of the moment.
In Word 2002, each time you paste text, a Paste Options button appears at the location of the new text. The options on this button allow you to change how the text that is inserted into the current document is formatted. You may elect to keep the source formatting, adopt the target formatting, or simply just paste the text unformatted. You can even cycle through all of the options to see how each impacts the look and feel of the document. Although the options themselves aren't new, the new Paste Options button feature should cause the usability to increase significantly. The visual reminder that you've just pasted text into a document and that you can control how that text behaves should be a welcome addition to your editing arsenal. Is it possible that we might actually leave that option turned on? Gasp!
How often have we heard users complain that Word is "doing things behind my back"? Although AutoCorrect is sometimes a good thing, when for example it changes "hte" to "the," it is always a little disconcerting to look up at your document and see that it has undergone some mysterious change.
In Word 2002, each time text is AutoCorrected, it is tagged by Microsoft Word. When you move your cursor over AutoCorrected text, a single blue line appears under the AutoCorrection. Point to that blue line and the AutoCorrect Options button appears like magic. The button presents options that allow you to reverse the AutoCorrect, turn off the AutoCorrection rule that was used, or stop autocorrecting the particular occurrence. Although the AutoCorrect tags remain in effect as long as you have the document open, they disappear once you close it. Hmm, two for two? This is getting interesting.
Through the years, Microsoft has introduced many different adaptive features that respond to what you are typing and attempt to intelligently impact your workflow -- some with more success than others. In Word 2002, they finally hit the home run with Smart Tags. Simply put, smart tags recognize different types of data and let you perform actions in Word that would, historically, require another program.
Some common smart tags include names, addresses, zip codes, stock symbols, dates and telephone numbers. Whenever word encounters one of these data types, it underlines it with purple dots. By moving your mouse over the purple dots, you can perform actions specific to that tag. Click on someone's name and you'll be presented with the option of inserting his or her address into the document. Or adding their name to your Contacts in Outlook. Or sending the person an e-mail message. You get the idea.
Perhaps the most exciting news is that the architecture of smart tags is extensible. Other companies can integrate their products directly into Word. Imagine if you could click on a citation, and look it up online, without having to leave Microsoft Word.
Last but not least: A new way, using tools called task panes, to quickly examine the structure of your document. The Reveal Formatting task pane is sure to turn a lot of heads. After all, there is something to be said about being able to drill down on every tiny detail of typed text -- especially for those moving from WordPerfect. Although the Reveal Formatting task pane certainly has some possibilities, it doesn't even come close to how the Styles and Formatting task pane will impact the way we work in our documents.
It's the first version of Word to include significant input from the legal community.
-Bonnie Speer McGrath
Imagine if Word tracked every occurrence of every format in your document and gave you a simple way to locate like formatting and impact it? It does. The Styles and Formatting task pane brings every occurrence of formatting in your document into focus. It doesn't matter if the formatting is applied directly or via a style or some kind of spooky combination of the two. By tagging each formatting combination uniquely, Word gives you a detailed blueprint of how the document has come together.
From the Styles and Formatting task pane, you can select the occurrence of a particular format and swap it for another one. For example, if it appears that every occurrence of 24 pt. Bold is used for a title? Wouldn't it be better to utilize a Title style for those titles? In no time at all, using the Styles and Formatting task pane, you could select all the occurrences of 24 pt. Bold and reformat them with the Title style.
The Bottom Line
While Microsoft often is accused of taking too much control, and adding features of limited value, the usability and flexibility built into Microsoft Word 2002 really does "think" rather than make erroneous assumptions. For people working in complex document environments, it hits the mark.
Bonnie Speer McGrath is president and Jeffrey Roach is the chief knowledge officer of Perfect Access Speer, a software education and consulting firm. McGrath is a member of Microsoft's Legal Advisory Counsel.