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No. 3, January 1998  

Customizing WordPerfect Eight  

The default settings for WordPerfect 8 (WP8) are aggressively aimed at the "average user" and emulate Microsoft's "ease of use" approach. When it comes to using WP8 in a legal environment, this unfortunately means that a number of default configurations do not reflect the way many, if not most, law firms work. When you install WP8 (or any new software, for that matter) time spent configuring it the way your firm actually works will be amply repaid by increased productivity and end-user satisfaction with the program. WordPerfect has an excellent network installation routine, so once you decide what default settings are right for your firm, you can install WP8 with those defaults enabled for all users. Remember, the three secrets to a successful implementation are: planning, planning and... planning.
    The following suggestions are intended as a starting point, not as a final configuration. While we focus here on the legal environment, many of these suggestions are useful for anyone heavily involved in substantial document production.

Page Numbering

For law firms, one of the areas in which WordPerfect is indisputably superior to Word is paragraph numbering. Corel has changed the defaults in WP8 so that tabs work like indents. This means that numbered paragraphs will not return to the left margin, but each level will be indented further and further. Firms can change this by turning off Quick Indent and editing the paragraph numbering styles.

On the positive side, in-line paragraph numbering, which was readily available in WP 5.1, but had disappeared in all subsequent versions, is again functional. You can now insert numbered items within a paragraph-- such as a) this, b) that, and c) the other-- without affecting the rest of your paragraph numbering scheme.

Turn On Shortcut Keys

Serious typists often find WordPerfect's keystroke shortcuts indispensable (there is a reason why they are called "shortcuts"). By default they are turned off in WP8. I had one user call me and say "where have all the shortcut keys gone?" You can turn them back on (Tools | Settings | Environment | Interface). Available keystroke combinations are listed in Help under "Keystrokes" and can be printed out from the Help screen.

Button Bars

WP8 ships with a new "Property Bar" which is feature-sensitive. When you are using a table, the table property bar appears underneath the standard button bar; when you use an outline, the outline property bar appears, etc. This is an extremely useful feature. You will want to look closely at the implementation to make sure that features you commonly use are on the appropriate button bar. I always add buttons for printing envelopes, various formatting, etc. on the main button bar, and it may be worth replicating them on some of the specific feature property bars. You might consider adding buttons for features such as merge, table of contents, or anything else you routinely use. By the same token, you can delete the "demo ware" buttons that make for sexy demos, but which nobody ever really ever uses.

Address Book

The Corel Address Book replaces the WP5.1 Notebook mini-program, which many people are still using. The Address Book is quite serviceable on a personal level, and allows users to sub-divide their rolodex into different versions, such as personal, business, vendors, etc. It also provides for custom fields and a number of other additional features. Older Notebook files can readily be imported into the new format.

Corel Central

Corel Central is a new feature in WordPerfect 8, replacing the ill-fated InfoCentral. It incorporates a version of the address book, a calendar and scheduling application, and a licensed version of Netscape Communicator including an e-mail client (formerly Collabra Share). If the other person is also using Corel Central, you can also schedule appointments over the Internet.

As always, there is a problem with potentially duplicate functionality if you are already using an e-mail, calendar and scheduling application such as GroupWise. In this case, you may choose not to install CorelCentral since group calendaring programs are effective only if everyone in the firm is using the same program.

If you choose to implement Corel Central, be aware that it is very much a work in progress. It is extremely slow and the version of the Address Book that appears in Corel Central is not nearly as functional as the standalone version, even though they both read the same database. In addition, it uses a proprietary version of Netscape. You cannot upgrade the Corel version with normal Netscape patches or upgrades.

Cursor In Text

By default, you can now insert text anywhere, either within a text area or in white space, simply by clicking on the desired location. At first glance, this sounds like a useful option. However, if you have any substantial number of macros, or even use the envelope printing feature, this option can wreak havoc with your macros or cause envelope printing not to work. The reason is that if users click in a white area without realizing it, a number of hard returns and tabs are inserted to bring the text to that area, thus causing some macros (and in certain instances envelope printing) to fail. You might want to consider turning this option off.

Templates

Templates as they have previously existed have largely been restructured as "projects". (You might suspect there is a conceptual problem when the default template is located in a directory called "custom.") The good news is that you should be able to copy over templates from WP 7 into WP 8 and have them work. You may want to delete all the useless projects ("Book Report") from the projects list. Make sure that all projects listed are actually installed (by default, some are listed but not installed). Again, planning is key. Some of the projects, such as Calendar or Expense Report, are extremely useful.

Other Settings

Spend some time going through what used to be "Preferences" and is now listed as "Settings" under "Tools." Things you might want to consider changing include:
• Change the label settings to list only laser labels (not dot matrix).
• Deselect the default setting of setting hyperlinks for any Internet address. Otherwise, any Internet address you type will change color and be underlined (this will print visibly gray).
• Change the default merge extension from *.dat to *.dta. The *.dat setting is reserved by Windows 95 for the registry setting, and end users could get themselves into a lot of trouble if they think that the registry is a WordPerfect merge file.
• For performance reasons you may want to deselect "prompt as you go," which takes a lot of system resources.
• The default display parameters were changed in WP 8. If you find the new display clunky and ugly (as I do), you can get back the old one with an undocumented startup parameter of /dm-90. Otherwise, the WP release notes suggest uninstalling the Microsoft Plus font rounding feature because WP won't work correctly with it.

Conclusion

For heavy document production, WordPerfect 8 runs rings around MS Word. However, as Corel targets the "average user," customizing WP to the way you work becomes increasingly important. The settings you used to know and love are still there, but it sometimes takes more work to find them. Check the "Where Did It Go?" listing under Help. The above suggestions are only a part of the considerations you should take into account when implementing a new installation of WordPerfect. Planning, planning and... planning.

More Palm Pilot Links

In the last issue of "Computer News," we reported on some links that let you synchronize data with the PalmPilot, among them GroupWise 5.2 and METZ Phones.

Since then, we have learned that there is a link available for GroupWise 4.1 (and the 16-bit version of GroupWise 5.x) from Toffa International, a British company. Toffa's "SyncWise" also works with GroupWise Remote, and synchronizes Calendar, ToDo lists, Tasks and Notes with the PalmPilot. The only problem we found is that recurring appointments (e.g., the first Tuesday of every month) are not synchronized. SyncWise is available from Toffa International at www.toffa.com

METZ Phones Pro (METZ 7.0) will have a PalmPilot link built into the program. METZ 7.0 will be compatible with SQL databases. A link for the current version (6.0) is available from Tele-Support Software.

Expanded Web Version

The electronic version of "Computer News for Law Firms" is available on the METZ Phones web site at www.metz.com/prodphones60.htm. The electronic version contains additional articles written by John Heckman for the Danbury Area Computer Society newsletter, Dacs.doc. Articles include "Criteria for Selecting a Rolodex" and "Fighting Office 97 Annoyances."

Small Business Class

John Heckman will be teaching a course at Norwalk Community Technical College this spring on "Optimizing Computer Use for Small Business." The course starts on March 19 and runs for 7 3-hour sessions. For more information, contact NCTC at 203 857-7080.
 
A Pain in the Apps.
Fighting Office 97 Annoyances

Woody Leonhard must be a thorn in Microsoft's side. Author of numerous best-selling books on Microsoft products, including The Hacker's Guide to Word for Windows and The Mother of all Windows 95 Books, he is nevertheless merciless when it comes to what he views as the "Annoyances" of the most recent Microsoft products. Woody's new series (written with co-authors Lee Hudspeth and T.J. Lee) can be grouped under the rubric "Microsoft Annoyances." Titles include Office 97 Annoyances, Word 97 Annoyances, Excel 97 Annoyances... you get the idea.

The Preface to Office 97 Annoyances sets the tone:

  • "Microsoft keeps asking us all, "Where do you want to go today?" Are they kidding? You know where you want to go today, we know where you want to go today; the only group that seems to be unclear on this issue is Microsoft. You want to get your work done and go home!..flip your PC's power switch to that lovely OFF position and call it a day.

The series provides concrete suggestions and work-arounds that will let you "get your work done" faster and more efficiently by fixing some of the shortcomings of the Office 97 products.

When Microsoft released Office 97, there was little, if any, provision for backward compatibility. This led to a brouhaha that eventually caused Microsoft to publicly "apologize for the inconvenience" it had caused end users. Windows Magazine went so far as to remove Outlook from its WinList of recommended products.

The Annoyances series tells you where to download the most recent patches and where to look for patches issued after the books were published. In particular, Microsoft has issued a converter that allows users to save Word 97 files in previous formats (wrdcnv97.exe at http://www.microsoft.com/word). The authors strongly recommend that you check www.microsoft.com/officefreestuff regularly for new patches and download them for products you use. Other sites are listed in the box concerning Microsoft sources.

Vital Changes

Each book has an early chapter on "Vital Changes" which describes what default settings work best and which ones to turn off. These include:
• Disable Fast Find in Win 95, "we've had nothing but trouble with it."
• Turn off FastSave in Word 97. It leads to bloated files and can cause text to disappear.
• Get some third-party anti-virus software (Norton, McAfee, Dr. Solomon, IBM, etc.). The anti-virus warning that Microsoft provides does nothing to prevent or fix viruses.
• How to avoid some of the vagaries of the AutoCorrect and Autoformat features.
• Turn on the Paragraph and Tab markers. This is strongly recommended; in Word, all formatting markers are hidden in the paragraph markers.
• Customize your startup folder and menu and work through various default settings so that you can choose the ones you like (which may not be the same ones as Bill Gates likes).
• Change the very useful Office Shortcut Bar to reflect options you use most often, including adding (gasp!) non-Microsoft products to the Office Shortcut Bar!

Useful Suggestions

The books walk the user through modifying what they call the "demoware" toolbars that ship with Office 97 products (good for flashy demos, not much good for working) so that the options you use most frequently are displayed. They also include sections on realistically assessing the danger from viruses (and how to combat them) and detailed suggestions concerning specific features. For example, the Office 97 book describes exactly how to run a Word mail merge against Outlook information (it's easy to make a mistake). It lists the programs and items contained on the CD Rom that are not installed with a standard installation, as well as all ValuPak items.

The only way to disable pop-up tips for toolbar icons, we are told, is to do so from Excel. If you disable them in any other application, they are re-enabled any time you open Excel. If you've ever tried to do this without knowing this particular glitch, it can drive you crazy.

All their suggestions are interspersed with running commentary featuring expressions like "Bunk," "relatively brain-dead," "utterly useless, but very sexy, marketing garbage," and so on. No doubt your favorite comments (once you get used to the style, which takes some doing) will correspond to the parts of Microsoft products you find most... annoying. My personal favorite is the comment that VBA/Word "harbors more bugs than a Louisiana bayou."

Visual Basic for Application (VBA) Routines

So why bother? As usual, the authors are quite up front about this: "That's an awfully good question," they say. "The answer is, simply, that VBA/Word is so powerful--so capable of overcoming Word's most annoying problems" that everyone stands to benefit from using it. Basically, they have a Dr. Strangelove approach to Office 97: How To Stop Worrying and Learn to Love Microsoft.

Some of the VBA routines that are included in the books are powerful and extremely useful, and more are available on Woody's wopr.com site for free. These include: a "ShowAll" routine that lists all of Word's built-in command names; a way to disable Word's "float over" default; a macro to flip between Excel's formulas and results display; a "shape grabber" macro that allows you to select more than one shape in PowerPoint, and so on.

For all Word's power, if learning a programming language (which is what VBA is) is a prerequisite to making it truly productive, I'm not at all convinced that this is an acceptable tradeoff for most users. But if you are using Office 97 or any of its pieces on a regular basis, these books can make your life a lot easier.

The Office 97 Annoyances series is published by O'Reilly and are available in (some) bookstores, from amazon.com or from oreilly.com.

Web Sources for Office 97 Info
 

www.halcyon.com/cerelli Information on Win 95 bugs and customization
www.slipstick.com Information on Outlook and MS mail applications
www.nd.edu/@crunge/word.html Links to Word and WordPerfect sources
www.wopr.com Woody Leonhard's site. Contains answers to a lot of questions, shareware and other goodies. 
send e-mail to : wow@wopr.com (nothing on subject line) This subscribes to Woody's Office Watch, a free weekly e-mail bulletin of bugs, fixes and suggestions for Miscrosoft products.
www.wordinfo.com List of Office 97 easter eggs and how to activate them.
www.primecomputing.com Gives answers for questions concerning Excel, Word, Office 97 etc.
ftp.microsoft/softlib/ List of all Microsoft files that can be downloaded. Softlib.exe is an Access database, index.txt is text file
www.microsoft.com/officefreestuff Lists free programs and routines that can be downloaded. Some valuable, others not. Caveat Emptor.

The above article originally appeared in the January 1998 newsletter of the Danbury Area Computer Society, DACS.doc. It is available on the Internet at www.dacs.org.  


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No.21 April 2002
Future of Case Management Programs
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Disaster Recovery Small and Medium Firms
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