Sixth Sense Device – Out of the Box Computing

Imagine a world where the “digital world” merged with the “physical world”.  Combine a mini-lcd projector, a ccd camera, a cell phone, and a micro-processor in a device the size of an iTouch.  And then add software that support “multi-touch gestures”.  What you get is the vision of Pranav Mistry (a MIT professor) for what he calls a “sixth sense” device.  Check out the video presentation on (or click on the link below in the article).

The vision of Pranav is mind blowing.  Imagine projecting a number pad on your hand and dialing your phone with your fingers.  Imagine converting a blank piece of paper into a gaming device.  What he has done is expand the vision and role of computers beyond the “devices” into something that is ubiquitous and integrated into the real world.

The implications of his breakthroughs, and whether they are “ready for market” can be debated. But you need to see these videos to regain the “gee wiz” about computers. He gives new meaning to “gestures”.  Just as the invention of the mouse and the GUI (graphical user interface) revolutionized computing in the last 3 decades, so to will the gesture technology put into concrete form by Pranav revolutionize computing in the next fee decades.  Check it out.

Check it out yourself

About the Sixth Sense Device and presentation at TED.COM

Inbox backwards – XOBONI – The Ultimate Exchange Addon

If you use OUTLOOK or EXCHANGE, you must get XOBNI.  That is inbox backwards.  And it works that way.  It turns your inbox upside down.  From a morass of emails and other crap, XOBNI brings order.  And it does this without you providing any organizing principle.  No need for folders and rules etc.  Rather, there is a simple search box.  It indexes your inbox.  It creates profiles of all your senders and recipients.  It pulls their data automatically from LinkedIn, Twitter, Hoovers, Facebook and other social networking services.  It shows the relationships between that person and ALL your other contacts.  It takes your emails and threads them together in conversations (remember GMAIL).  And it exposes and makes searchable ALL attached documents.

So what is the cost … well FREE.  The free version should be adequate for most people.  For $35 you get a little more.  If you are looking for a needle in a haystack, XOBNI is your metal detector.  It sorts the chaff and out comes the needle.  Want to know who knows whom.  Use this handy little sidebar.

Try it.  You’ll like it.

HotDocs Instruction – QUIT

The HotDocs QUIT instruction specifies that any code in a computation after the QUIT instruction is to be ignored as code. There are two major uses for this instruction.

Firstly, because QUIT stops HotDocs processing a computation as code, it means that you can put it at the top of a computation to stop that computation from being processed.  Very handy if you are halfway through a computation or cannot otherwise make it work.

Secondly, you can use QUIT as a way to add developer comments – simply finish your computation code, enter the QUIT instruction at the bottom, then enter any comments you want after the QUIT command.

The reality is that the QUIT instruction doesn’t really do anything that comments don’t already do. And thanks to HotDocs’ “Comment/Uncomment” block function, its pretty easy to work with large sections of commenting code.


Sometimes, there are things you want done to your assembled document that HotDocs simply cannot do.  Perhaps you want to check margins for a specific section, re-style an inserted template on the fly or automatically run a custom in-house print macro upon completion.  For these sorts of tasks, the PLAY instruction is what you wish to use.  PLAY will tell your word processor to run a specified macro after your document has been created (ie: after the interview, but before it displays as a document).  If there is more than one PLAY instruction in a template, HotDocs will process them in the order encountered.

The syntax for a PLAY instruction is pretty simple:

«PLAY "MyMacro"»

To insert the PLAY instruction, go to the HotDocs button on your HotDocs toolbar, click “Other Field”, then specify PLAY from the drop down box.  You will be asked for the macro name you wish to run.  Click OK.

Notes About PLAY

If you use WordPerfect, your macro can be stored anywhere. If it is outside the default macro location, then your play instruction must have the full file path.

If you use Word, the macro must be stored in the template itself, or some other template that is loaded and available at the time you assemble your document.  If you are using Word RTF templates, you may optionally associate a specific template via the Component Manager.

HotDocs Instructions – LIMIT

When it comes to REPEATS in HotDocs, LIMIT is one very handy instruction to know how to use.  As its name suggests, it will LIMIT the number of iterations a repeat can hold, by placing the instruction in the dialog script of the dialog you wish to limit.  Please note that this is entirely different to the number of rows shown on a repeating spreadsheet dialog.  LIMIT will restrict a dialog to have only (for example) 3 iterations, where as the rows shown command will allow a repeat to hold countless iterations, but only show a specified number.

The most basic use of LIMIT is to provide a fixed number, such as:


This doesn’t really help you much, unless you are certain your dialog is only ever going to repeat 3 times only.  Here, we can introduce the concept of a user-specified LIMIT.  Lets say we have a dialog named Child DLG that collects some general information about all the kids, as well as a variable named CHLD CNT – asking the user how many children there are.  On Child DLG is a repeating sub-dialog Children RPT – it will repeat once for each child.  In the dialog script of Children RPT, we could have


This is better – we ask them how many kids, then LIMIT the repeating dialog to that number.  This will stop “empty” repeats in our templates where users have clicked forward and answered a field accidentally.  Great.  Lets make it a bit easier to use.  Instead of CHLD CNT as a number variable, lets use CHLD Num MC as a multiple choice variable, with options from 1 to 20.


Now, our user can click the number of kids from a list and our LIMIT instruction converts the multiple choice value to a number value.  Simple, straight forward and user friendly.

The above technique can also be used to dynamically show more rows on repeating spreadsheet dialog dynamically

HotDocs Instruction – LANGUAGE

The Language instruction allows you to design, code and assemble templates in HotDocs in a language other than English.  To be able to use this feature, you must first contact a Lexis Nexis sales representative to obtain a DLL for the language you wish to program with.  HotDocs has DLLs for the following languages:

ENG (English), DEU (German), DES (Swiss German), DEA (Austrian German), FRA (French), NLD (Dutch), ESN (Spanish), ITA (Italian)

Using any of the codes above, the instruction you place in your template is as simple as:


Also with the Language instruction, it is possible to format the thousands and decimal separators.  The following instruction would use the Italian language, set the thousands separator to a period “.” and the decimal separator to a comma “,”.


INSERT template

Not to be confused with the ASSEMBLE command (which queues a template for assembly after your current template has finished), the INSERT command does exactly that – inserts the content of one template into a different template (known as the “parent” template).

This instruction is extremely handy and very under utilised as it is useful for a wide variety of things, not just inserting letterhead!

The INSERT command should largely be used in templates.  There are ways to use the INSERT command inside a computation, but there are limitations and rules that apply.  Allegedly, an INSERT command cannot be placed inside headers or footers in your template however, we have found that it works just fine with footers, which can save some time in some situations.  At any rate, here’s how it works in several different ways –

Template in same location as the template you are inserting into (known as the “parent” template)
«INSERT “Template.rtf”»

Subfolder of location of parent template
«INSERT “SomeSubfolderTemplate01.rtf”»

Full file path for anywhere on your system
«INSERT “T:HDTemplatesLitigationTemplate01.rtf”»

Using a Reference path
«INSERT “^HotDocsLitigationTemplate01.rtf”»

Default Templates folder
«INSERT “Template01.rtf”»

The INSERT statement is quite often used inside IF statements to conditionally insert oeprative parts of documents.  Interstate notices, optional schedules, attached forms etc are all usually INSERTed inside IF statements.

Common Uses for INSERTed Templates

  • All stationery, such as letterheads, faxes and memos, with accompanying headers, footers and page numbering
  • Signing / execution clauses (say, a single “corporate execution” block and a single “power of attorney execution” block)
  • Court headers and footers
  • Boilerplate text such as acceptance clauses, court seals, hearing dates, witness blocks and the like
  • RE lines on letters
  • Schedules

Additionally, INSERTed templates are quite often used simply to segregate content in long templates, so that each template can be tested by itself in isolation to the rest of the template.

Some Off Label Uses

With a bit of effort, it is possible to set up INSERT templates to take parameters.  All you have to do is write your INSERT template with a temporary variable that you SET before you insert.  Here’s a quick example:

INSERT Template Code:

Some random text up here that is boiler plate and always appears regardless of how the INSERT template is used.

«IF OPT UseNotice TF = TRUE»
This notice must be complied with within 14 days unless otherwise specified.

More random text here about something or nothing at all really.

«IF tmpTE = "Borrower"»
This notice is directed to the Borrower's solicitors and must be complied with within 7 days of the date hereof.
«ELSE IF tmpTE = "Lender"»
This notice is directed to the Lender's solicitors and must be complied with whenever convenient to the Lender.

«IF OPT UseFooter TF = TRUE»
This footer is absolutely pointless except insofar as it demonstrates the concepts of parameters in INSERT templates as applied by the HotDocs document assembly engine.

So all we have really done here is code the INSERT template with some preset variables to hold preset values.  Then, when its time to insert the template, we set the parameter variables prior to inserting the template.

PARENT Template Code:

«SET tmpTE TO "Borrower"»«SET OPT UseNotice TF TO FALSE»«SET OPT UseFooter TF TO TRUE»
«INSERT "OurInsertedTemplate.rtf"»


The humble IF statement is the core of all logic in any programming language, HotDocs included.  IF statements don’t actually do anything but rather, they provide a structure within which other commands are executed.  To bring any intelligence to your document-producing systems, you must understand the IF, ELSE IF and ELSE statements, as they are used everywhere.

I’ll work with a computation for these examples, as it is simpler than the template version, as no chevrons are required.  Lets get some examples happening.  Lets say we have a variable named “Var TE” and Var TE has a value of “Bob”.

Example #1a – the basic IF statement

IF Var TE"Bob"
"His name is Bob"
//this would produce "His name is Bob".

Example #1b – the basic IF statement

IF Var TE"Joe"
"His name is Joe"
//this would produce an error

The above code produces an error because Var TE does not equal Joe (it’s still Bob) and there is no script in place to handle what happens if the variable isn’t equal to “Bob”.

So lets look at how to handle that with an ELSE statement.

Example #2 - IF and ELSE
IF Var TE"Dave"
"His name is Dave"
"His name is not Dave"
//this would produce "His name is not Dave".  In this example - we have some code to run if his name is "Dave", ELSE (readable as "if its anything else in the world..."), produce "His name is not Dave".

This still isn’t ideal.  What if we want to do something specific for Bob OR Dave, but something entirely different if it isn’t either of them?  Lets look at the ELSE IF statement.

Example #3 – IF, ELSE IF and ELSE

IF Var TE"Dave"
"His name is Dave"
"His name is Bob"
"His name is not Bob, nor is it Dave"
//This would produce "His name is Bob". If we set Var TE to the value of "Mark", the result would have been "His name is not Bob, nor is it Dave"

The easiest way to read this stuff when you’re learning is as follows:

IF (Some specific condition is true)
//do something here, for this condition only
ELSE IF (Some other specific condition is true)
//do something different, for this condition only
ELSE (if its anything else in the whole wide world)
//do something different here if nothing previously is true
END IF (close the statement)

In english, it would read exactly as it is typed above – IF something is true, do something, else if something different is true, do something different for this condition only, else if its anything else in the whole wide world, do something here.  It gets tricky, but it is really just a series of “what if this is true” questions and results.

Some things to remember….

1) Every IF statement must have a matching END IF – they are a fixed pair with no exceptions!
2) ELSE and ELSE IF statements can only occur inside an IF/END IF pair.  They do not have matching END IFs themselves
3) Nested IF and END IF pairs must nest “inside” each other.  I’ll use bracketed numbers in place of conditions to demonstrate:

IF (1)
//do something

IF (2)
//do something here
//do something different

IF (3)
//do something different again
//do something weird
ELSE (3)
//do something really weird
END IF (3)


As you can see, IF statements work from the inside out.  It is nearly always best practice to write your IF and END IF at the same time, then move your cursor back and complete the rest of the commands between the IF/END IF pair.  If you open an IF statement and immediately close it, you will not lose where you are up to with code and save yourself substantial time debugging problematic HotDocs code.

Please note: HotDocs will evaluate your IF statements from top to bottom.  In the above example, if IF statement #2 was true AND IF statement #3 was true, HotDocs would only produce #2 – because it will find a true If statement, produce the result and then jump straight to the END IF.  Bear this in mind when designing your code.


These four commands are essential in presenting user friendly and user-proof dialogs in HotDocs.  When designing systems, it is generally best practice to show only those variables that require (or may require) an answer and HIDE or GRAY those that are irrelevant.  HotDocs provides a rudimentary manner to handle this automatically, but if you are designing complex systems, you may need to use these four commands. All of these instructions are used in dialog scripts only.

GRAY Var //grays Var, prohibiting data entry, but displaying the value (if any)
UNGRAY Var //UNgrays it, allowing data entry
HIDE Var //completely hide the variable
SHOW Var //opposite of HIDE

Here are some examples that should be fairly self explanatory…

//hide the company type, only showing it if relevant.
HIDE PARTY Entity Company Type MC
IF PARTY Entity Type MC"Company"
SHOW PARTY Entity Company Type MC
REQUIRE PARTY Entity Company Type MC

//calculate a total amount, but gray it so it isn't editable
//allow them to manually change it if they REALLY want to
IF SALES Grand Total Change TF = TRUE

Instead of using a variable name, you can also substitute the “ALL” parameter….

GRAY ALL //grays everything on the dialog
UNGRAY ALL //ungrays everything

When building a system to really lockdown data entry, you may wish to write a dialog script something like this to force entry of everything in the correct order…


IF ANSWERED ( PARTY Entity Type MC//must have a type before we allow name entry
IF PARTY Entity Type MC"Company"
SHOW PARTY Entity Company Type MC
REQUIRE PARTY Entity Company Type MC
SHOW PARTY Entity Company Number TE
IF ANSWERED ( PARTY Name TE//must have a name before they can proceed further
//more SHOW/REQUIRE pairs here

All of these commands are dynamic as of HotDocs 6, which is a major step forward.  Whilst they may look like eye candy, these instructions serve to produce better and more accurate documents every time, simply by forcing/prohibiting better data entry.  When combined with REQUIRE, you really can obey the rule that “if a variable is visible, it must be answered and if it is invisible, it is irrelevant”.  When your systems can follow this rule, your users do not have to have any knowledge of what they are working with or understand the sometimes complex concepts behind the scenes – all they need to know is that if it CAN be answered, it SHOULD be answered and if it cannot be seen, don’t worry about it.


Another HotDocs instruction model that does exactly what it sounds like, FORMAT allows you to specify the formattin of a “list style” RESULT.  Rather than explain, I’ll simply provide 2 examples which demonstrates everything you’ll ever need to know about FORMAT.

Lets have a repeating dialog named “Party RPT” that has a single variable on it – PARTY Name TE.  Lets produce some differing results with FORMAT, presuming that we have 3 names in our list:

Example #1

FORMAT "a, b and c"
//the RESULT is Seth Rowland, Rose Rowland and Ian Burrows

Example #2

FORMAT "a-b-c"
//the RESULT is Seth Rowland-Rose Rowland-Ian Burrows

All it is doing is specifying the format in which a list style result is accumulated and represented.