We’ve been helping clients with their document generation needs since the WordPerfect 4.0 for DOS days. In other words, if you add in my prior Perfect Writer (remember it Kaypro users?) and Wordstar, we’ve pretty much seen it all over the decades (I used to say “over the years” – that doesn’t seem to cover it anymore). We’ve always focused on the most painless, most-assisted document generation experience whether using WordPerfect or Word. Of course, these days, the vast majority of our clients use Word.
With that said, the transition from Word 2003 to 2007 was virtually miraculous in its impact. We went from the most Byzantine and obtuse piece of software (of ANY type) ever written (Word 2003, with its seemingly random approach to function assignment across its pull-down menus) to a program that even a die-hard WordPerfect devotee could . . . like (no, I still wasn’t going to say “love” – everyone has their limits).
Word 2007 heralded a new generation in Microsoft interface design; an era where the company actually seemed to give a crap about the user experience (as opposed to “Bill likes it so you’ll like it too . . . or else”). The transition from confusing pull-down menus to the eminently rational set of overlaid “ribbons,” making the most-used functions always visible on each was/is a breath of fresh air. With Word 2010, the final remaining idiotic holdover – the lack of a “File” ribbon was corrected. And suddenly, I personally found myself using Word about 95% of the time and actually . . . hold your horses folks . . . yep . . . here it comes . . . liking it. A lot. Every day.
BUT, with that said, there are certain tools we’ve been recommending be part of our own and our clients’ Word arsenals for years. Tools that plug still-existing gaps in Word’s functionality (and one Outlook tool too, to round out the Office 2007/2010 remedial toolbox). These have been a bright shining set of stars that when combined with Word and Outlook, provide a powerhouse set of communication and document generation tools. Virtually all our clients use all these tools, every single day with Word and Outlook and couldn’t imagine working without them.
Field-tested every day for many years by lawyers and staff in all our client offices, here’s the lineup of Word and Outlook “completers,” in no particular order:
- Numbering Assistant from Payne Consulting. In spite of all the functional advances in Word 2007/2010, it’s still unfortunately the case that automatic paragraph numbering / bullets / outlining function doesn’t work the way any normal human would expect it to. Sometimes you get repeated numbers on consecutive paragraphs (“What? You didn’t want Sec. 3 following Sec. 3???”), or tab in and instead of a normal section indent your paragraph jumps way out into the left margin defying even digital crowbar attempts to dislodge it back into its normal position. This is where Payne’s wonderful Numbering Assistant is a legal drafter’s dream tool. It replaces Word’s auto-numbering system with a set of numbering / bulleting styles that work the way WordPerfect’s do – in other words, the way you want them to. They cooperate. They don’t misnumber. $79 for single seat licenses up to 19 users and discounted site license pricing (upon request) for 20 or more users.
- Metadata Assistant from Payne Consulting. While Document Inspector built into Word 2007/2010 helps with the removal of hidden metadata, it isn’t comprehensive. Metadata Assistant from Payne Consulting IS comprehensive and very automated. It integrates with Outlook so that all outbound attachments can be scrubbed, as well as the ability to select and scrub in-place documents and entire drivers/folders. What is important for our clients is the ability to adjust the level of metadata removal. In other words, if you want to use Track Changes, you can’t remove all metadata – all the Track Changes notations – redline and strikeout – would be removed. Metadata Assistant lets you retain Track Changes notations while removing all other potentially dangerous and ethically damaging metadata. The retail version is $89 for up to 19 users – the company quotes lower per user pricing for quantities of 20 or more on their site license / Enterprise plans. Metadata Assistant is on virtually all of our clients’ systems and has been for more than a decade.
- Crosseyes from Levit & James. Miss Reveal Codes from your WordPerfect past? Frustrated when Wordies say things like “we have reveal codes – just “show formatting.” Um . . . note to Wordies: “show formatting” isn’t even remotely the same as good old Reveal Codes. For more than a decade, Levit & James has made Crosseyes available for Word. It’s a legitimate Reveal Codes add-in for Word that we find invaluable. No matter your level of Word proficiency, there are times when you just can’t unravel a formatting mess without some help. Crosseyes splits the screen, just as WordPerfect did, “revealing” the codes affecting formatting. This is obviously some kind of patented voodoo, because anyone who knows Word’s architectural underpinnings knows there ARE NO CODES. But there they are, looking just like they look in WordPerfect’s Reveal Codes. The only catch is that you can’t edit in the “Reveal Codes” mode as you could in WordPerfect. But if you click on any of the “codes,” you’ll be taken right to the formatting dialogue in Word where you can fix whatever ails ‘ya. And the best part? Crosseyes is now free.
- MicroLaw QuickTask Bar for Word. Word comes with a pretty useless QuickTask Bar. You’ll see it in the title bar at the upper left. It has three standard functions: Save, Undo, Redo. Whoopee! Really exciting, right? We’ve been providing our clients with a customized QuickTask Bar since Word 2007 was released – we locate it under the ribbon where it doesn’t impinge on the document title in the title bar, and where we have the full screen width to use as a palette. What we’ve done is created a much more useful QuickTask Bar – it includes, arranged in a logical order, the most commonly used Word functions (based on feedback from our clients). This translates to one-click access to key Word functions without having to navigate multiple ribbons – a definite time-saver. Take a look at the MicroLaw QuickTask Bar for Word 2007 or 2010 here. If you’re interested in acquiring the taskbar, ask Ross here.
- MicroLaw Legal SmartMacros for Word. Since 1987, MicroLaw has crafted a set of document layout/setup macros for our clients. Originally deployed in WordPerfect for DOS, these macros have evolved over the years. Under Abe Liebsch’s programming purview, these macros are now available for Word 2003, 2007 and 2010. They present a collection of document setup and layout macros that provide a slick, menu-driven approach to create correspondence (with electronic letterhead, or accommodating printing on pre-printed letterhead and including second-page header setup), pleading captions and pleading closings for the jurisdictions in which our clients practice, a fax cover sheet (again, incorporating letterhead), and memo forms. The point of this is to provide a standardized, consistent approach to document setup – so it looks the same no matter who generates the documents – much more professional than leaving it up to everyone to freelance their own approaches. These SmartMacros are customized to each client’s jurisdiction-required pleading layout needs, firm letterhead approach and fax cover sheet preferences. For info ab0ut the MicroLaw LegalSmartMacros, page through the information here. For customized pricing,click here and ask Ross.
- Copy2Contact for Outlook. Talk about voodoo! Or it may be just stark naked magic. You’ll think that one of these two explanations fits when you see Copy2Contact (f/k/a Anagram). This has been one of my “60 Tips” CLE tips for many years. Here’s what Copy2Contact does and why it’s essential for ALL Outlook users. All of us have been rather naughty over the years when it comes to keeping Outlook’s contacts up to date. We all know we should take a moment to enter a contact into Contacts whenever we encounter one we’d want to remember in the future. But then a mental script runs that says “yeah, but I don’t have time to break down that address block into all those separate fields: first name, last name, company, address, city, state, zip, phone, fax, email, so I’ll just remember where I found it and search for it later.” If you’re like me, approaching age 51, “forever” is about 7 minutes, and then it’s as if I had never heard it before :-). This is where Copy2Contact comes in – it’s a lazy person’s lifesaver. You highlight a name and address block in any program – on a website, in Word, an email signature, in a PDF – wherever. Then press a key combination you define (I use CTRL-SHIFT-F12 – just habit I guess) and voila! The entire address block is popped magically into an Outlook contact screen, broken down automatically into all the correct fields. All you do is click “Save and Close” and you have a new Contact, properly entered. See? Voodoo? Probably. Necessary? Absolutely. $39.95 from Copy2Contact.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to actually learn to use Word effectively in your law practice. We’ve been providing legal-focused Word, Outlook, Excel and PowerPoint training, customized to each client, for years. It’s affordable and clients consistently give us rave reviews, wondering normally why they hadn’t done it sooner. Ask Ross here for information about how we can do this for you, remotely or live.
It’s also a good idea to provide your users with one or more copies of techno.pal, Ben Schorr‘s excellent books on Word and Outlook in the law office – well-written, easy to understand – essential references for legal Word and Outlook users. And then, be sure to subscribe to, and/or rely on these superb Word reference sources:
- Allen Wyatt’s WordTips site – plain-English daily reference to Word functions – a superbly gifted writer and one of my personal Word gurus.
- Shauna Kelly’s Making the Most of Word site – my other personal Word guru, Shauna is an equally impressive author who demystifies Word on a daily basis. Subscribe!
- Office Watch (f/k/a Woody’s Office Watch) – covers all Microsoft Office components with a mix of free tips, inside info that Microsoft doesn’t tell you, and paid white papers/guides which are nominally priced and virtually always worth the price.
The bottom-line is that Word insanity is painful, expensive and worse, poorly-formatted documents make you look like total technopeasants in front of your clients, co-counsel and experts. It makes zero sense to struggle with Word. These tools represent a recipe for daily sanity with Word in any law practice.
- More Word 2007/2010 Tools to Enhance/Preserve/Reinstate Your Sanity
- MicroLaw Word 2007 QuickTask Bar – By Popular Demand
- Tuesday Tip: Worth it to Upgrade from Office 2007 to 2010?
- By Popular Request – MicroLaw QuickTask ToolBar for Word 2010 Available
- Manic Monday: Save Your Psyche, Save Your Finances Using “Styles” in Word