A Word on Styles – The Last 30 Minutes in Document Production

Deep in the midst of a CAPSAuthor Conversion and a HotDocs template rebuild, I had a chance to reengage with Word Styles.  I was explaining to my client that part of the rebuild involved the creation of a custom styles template for their entire suite of documents.  In one instance, when the client pointed to a visual discrepancy to some paragraph, I opened the template and assigned the paragraph to a different paragraph style.  In another instance, I opened the stylesheet, changed a style definition,and then pushed out the new definition to 20 templates.  What would have been an hour or so of work to edit the templates, or 15 minutes cleanup on every assembly, was eliminated in under a minute.

Now I focus on template styling because it represents the “last 30 minutes” in a typical document assembly.  The template coder has figured out the variables and figured out the rules.  But come “hell or high water”, the document always takes 30 minutes of cleanup to get rid of extra paragraphs, fix the numbering scheme, clean up the formatting and generate and correct the table of contents.  While I can tell HotDocs to auto-update the table of contents at the end of the assembly, I can tell it to restyle the document.  Unless the template is properly styled, no assembly will produce a “printer perfect output” or RTP (ready-to-print) output.

At Basha Systems, when we develop a system, our goal is RTP … such that you can use PDF Advantage to safely produce a PDF document from a word document assembly.  We do this by designing and applying custom style sheets to our templates. We are not alone in our recognition of the importance of proper numbering schemas and layouts that produce easily readable documents. Go take a look at Ken Adams’ blog www.adamsdrafting.com/system.  He has clear opinions on numbering, font and paragraph style to bring about readable contracts.

Another company that GETS STYLING is BECLegal. Take a look at LegalBar, one of their oldest and most established products and you will understand that they treat styles seriously. The suite includes an effective numbering assistant that works and supports multiple numbering sequences in a single document, with centralized propagation of styles.  It also includes a tool that we have put to use that allows you to RESTYLE a document by ripping out from the root all meta and style data in a document, and applying a structured style schema to the document.  If you do not have a styling tool, and you need one even if you don’t realize it, look at LegalBar, or consider Levitt & James tools or Payne Consulting’s tools.  Don’t leave yourself bare.  With proper styling, you can shave the last 30 minutes in automated (or even unautomated) document production.