Love Your GhostPad

GhostFill in its last version upgrade included a new feature called GhostPad. GhostPad is both a text editor with full GhostFill fillpoint support and full syntax coloring. It should become part of your arsenal of development tools to tackle problems.

GhostPad allows you to enjoy the same functions as Microsoft NotePad. It can be used as a Clipboard to copy snippets of text from a Template or Script and store it for reuse. But its real power lies in its support for syntax coloring and the ability to test scripts. Syntax coloring means that all the fillpoints display in blue, comment text in green, and text strings in brown. And, all paired codes are automatically displayed in bold, so that you can tell the KeepBlock and the corresponding EndBlock.

GhostPad allows you to test and manipulate text without endangering the template. For complex scripting, you can copy a paragraph from the template and lay it out based on logic decision points. In the GhostPad you can test the assembly. When the script works properly, simply remove the excess hard returns and tabs and paste the paragraph back into your template.

Invoking GhostPad From the Start-Menu, START -> ALL PROGRAMS -> GHOSTFILL -> GHOSTPAD

To create a desktop or quicklauch shortcut, point to C:/Program Files/GhostWare/GhostPad.exe

From GhostFill developer: Right-click to create a new text template. Then right-click on the template and Open the file for editing. We suggest you create a template folder called “~Test” or “~Development” for your text templates used for testing purposes

Useful Tip: Always remember to make a backup copy of your templates before making major text changes.

Convert Time Matters Date to a HotDocs Date

Dates in Time Matters display as Dates on the Matter form. But, they are actually stored as Numbers. When you bring them into HotDocs via the Database Connection or Active Integration, you get a number, and not a date. This solution is courtesy of Bart Earle.  Dates are stored as the number of Days from December 28, 1800. The solution is to create a computation that takes that number and converts it into a date that can be used and formatted by HotDocs.

Create a compuation variable such as Convert Date CO. The formula gets the number of days from December 28, 1800 and subtracts that from the number from the TM database.

TODAY + (TMBaseDateNU – (DAYS FROM (DATE OF(28,12,1800),TODAY))) DAYS

The result will be negative if TMBaseDateNU references a date in the past. It then adds that result to TODAY, in effect counting backward or forward from TODAY to figure out the date.

TMSave Toolbar in Word after an Upgrade to TMW6

When upgrading from Time Matters 5 to Time Matters 6, many users will take a wait and see attitude. They will install Time Matters 6, but NOT install Time Matters 5. This is generally not a problem with the database, since Time Matters creates a separate database during the upgrade. However, it is a problem with the TMSave Toolbar in Word which will often continue to point to the old database. The TMSave toolbar and the menu items are inserted into Word via a Startup Template. This template is loaded when Word is loads. There is a TMW5 templates and a TMW6 template. When you uninstall Time Matters 5, it removes the TMW5 template. If you keep both active, you will have a toolbar with links to both databases. Both toolbars will look identical. Depending on which you click first, you will have links to the TMW5 or the TMW6 database.

The solution is to uninstall Time Matters 5. Go into Control Panel and choose add-remove programs. Find Time Matters 5 and click on Remove. This should remove the TMW5 template. Then restart Word. There is no requirement to reinstall Time Matters. In some circumstances, the TMW6 startup template may not have been installed in the first place. In this case you have two options. One is to reinstall Time Matters, but this time choose only Word-Processor links. The other option, is to go into Workstation Setup and click on Word Processor Links or Additional Product links.

Basha Systems Client Portal Launched

At Basha Systems we have recently launched a new and improved client portal.  The system is built in SubDreamer and phpBB2.  We provide a private space for client announcement and downloads. On the client home page we give an overview of recent postings in a private threaded discussion forum.

Check out the portal at  Login as “clienttest” with the password “clienttest” and give it a test drive.  We set up the portal for all client projects that exceed $15,000.

The New Paradigm in Client Communications

The typical client communication has degenerated into a tsunami of e-mails.  When there are only two players on a project, email communications are managable.  If the users have implemented filters on their email, or use a case management product like Time Matters then you can build a thread of e-mails on a topic.  However, once multiple developers and a team of clients join the project, e-mail threads get quickly out of control.  People get copied on emails that should not be.  Emails grow in length as they get replied to and forwarded.

By contrast, a Discussion Forum has Topics.  An inital post can have a range of “replies”.  The team can “vote” on topics … respond to a poll.  The whole forum is searchable with an intelligent search engine.  Topics can be “closed” and moved to a closed issues forum.  When combined with a publishing engine like SubDreamer, the topics can lead to “announcements” which are made to a selected group based on login.  If there is a file that needs to be downloaded, it can be posted to the server and be accessible without fancy FTP (File Transfer Protocol) software via a download manager.

Document Assembly and Information Portals

Basha Systems continues it exploration of finding the most efficient technology to provide information on document assembly and its potential as a “disruptive technology” that created “profits” for the practice of law. Part of this exploration has been the porting of the this blog to Expression Engine. Other examples can be seen on the main web site with the introduction of Video Tours of our system. See Document Assembly Video Tours. Another element is the use of integrated web publishing and threaded discussion technology which will soon be available as a private Client Portal on Bashasys.Ne

Related Link: A sample link to our Client Support Portal

What is the promise of Web portals and why should anyone who cares about document assembly care?

Web portals no longer cost thousands of dollars.  There are open source web-portals, and there are low priced software systems which contain dozens of customizable skins.  While these “portals” are not designed for an “attorney” to set up WYSWIG … They do present a powerful, low cost alternative that is within the reach of most law firms.  And … the benefit is that since portals are driven by databases … and not HTML coded pages, it is incredibly each to add new articles, or manage threaded discussions without ANY knowledge of HTML, PHP, MySQL and the plethora of intimidating web acronyms.

The reason you should care is simple.  Many clients start out with a “google search” before they go to an attorney.  It is not that they use the Google search to choose the attorney, but they use it to inform themselves of the law in a particular area so that they can more effectively use the attorney’s “expensive” time.  That is because attorneys, for better are worse, are views as “expensive” … and the less time you spend with an attorney, the better.  “Some of my best friends are attorneys … and I still maintain my own bar rap.”

How to WebPortal Increase Visibility

Web portals, particular ones like ExpressionEngine and SubDreamer are entirely database driven.  The entire website consists of a series of cascading templates and style sheets which pull information from a database of posted articles.  This means, you have an instant, current, easily modifiable, completely searchable and indexed set of articles, organized by categories and subcategories, that can demonstrate the expertise of your firm.  Most webportals, include a guestbook that can be used to “track leads” on new potential business.  And, for clients, there is support for “member groups” so that you can publish articles specific to a client, based on the client’s login.

Most up to the Bigleague with a low budget

This is not to denigrate Sharepoint (from Microsoft) or some of the other bigger web portals.  There is a place for them.  But the starting price for those systems is easilly in the tens of thousands of dollars before you see a clear benefit.  By contrast, you can get a hosted web site ($50/month), a license to SubDreamer ($125) and engage a webdeveloper who can “skin” these sites for two days ($3,000) and you have a complete publishing platform and client support system.  You can replace the “pesky emails” that go awry with a secure, private threaded discussion forum that only you and your client can see.  And this will be a forum that you can see from an internet connected terminal, subject to proper login.

And the Reason I care

We are not in the web development system at Basha Systems, but we have invested hundreds of hours in learning these tools and applying document assembly object oriented programming principals to their development.  We use these tools to communicate effectively with our clients.  Our hope is that with these tools, our clients will be able to generate more business, and more revenue which can be reinvested into building profitable document assembly systems with HotDocs, GhostFill and Dealbuilder.



Tips for Working with the HotDocs Markup Tool

In working on the CIC exam for HotDocs, I took the opportunity to master the HotDocs Markup Tool and HotDocs Template Generator.  In this article, I examine some tips on how to use the tool to the best advantage.

HotDocs has recently released the HotDocs Markup Tool.  A few of you may have dismissed it as a toy … real coders don’t need markup tools.  But I took the challenge to see if I could find a use for the tool.  Following the NYMetro user’s group where Marshall demonstrated the tool, I started seeing additional features, not obvious on the surface that have been built into the tool.

Now, I am a big believer in planning.  I build spreadsheets for complete template systems.  I layout all the fields, organize by topic and series and name consistently.  The concept of a markup tool, therefore is appealing, but only if I can have my categories and groupings.

Conclusions about the Tool

There are limitations to the tool, but on balance, its ability to write directly to a HotDocs component file and to interpret directly IF expressions and variables with formatting, promise the potential of much faster template development.  Doing work faster and more efficiently means projects get done.  There is a value to finishing, as a significant number of HotDocs systems never get finished.

So … if you are going to use the tool, here are some tips

  • Code: This is the markup that will actually show up in the document.  Use abbreviations that group the variables by target dialog and then identify the type of variable.  Do not try to get the exact HotDocs variable name.  Use something descriptive.
  • Variable Name:  Take some time to think out the variable name.  Realize, this is a database, so you can change the variable name BEFORE you publish it into a component file.  Give it your best shot.  Use a prefix that groups the variable by the target dialog.  Use a suffix that identifies the data type.
  • Type:  This is merely a matter of telling which type of component to create.  There is now support for Multiple choice variables.  Also, note the support for computation variables.  This does not mean you can actually create the computation, but you can place a computed variable in the template and it will create a blank computation that you will later use.
  • Default:  This is the format example.  It is worthwhile setting this, particularly for dates and numbers.
  • Options:  This applies only to Multiple Choice variables.  There is support for setting both the options and the prompts
  • Resources:  This is a fancy name for Help Text.  For some reason, HotDocs persists in calling this “resources” when it is really just links for help text. At the moment, the only support is for the standard help text, not for links and URLs
  • Notes:  Very useful for notes and status.  Not sure where these end up in the component file.

Now what can be done with the data?

  • Drag and Drop:  You can drag and drop from the list into a template.  It uses square bracket notation for the variables
  • Add Logic:  The square bracket notation can also read IF expressions and Repeats and End Repeats, End Ifs etc and translates them into chevron notation.  It is not clear whether the if expressions can use the pseudo variables in the markup and replace them with the actual variables or whether you have to use the HotDocs Variable.
  • Copy All Rows to Clipboard:  This lets you copy the complete database to the windows clipboard.  You can then “paste” it into a spreadsheet.
  • Paste Rows from Clipbard:  Assuming your clipboard matches the columns on the spreadsheet, you can now copy from Excel into your markup database, effectively creating a data dictionary that you can supply to your authors for template markup.