Microsoft is an industry leader in
more ways than one. As the prime purveyor of “software that almost
works,” Microsoft has spawned an entire industry of utilities
dedicated to making its products work, or work the way users would
like. These utilities fall into several categories: fixing security
issues, filling gaps, fixing things that just didn’t really work,
and add-ins that make Word and other products more workable, in
particular in the legal industry. The last issue of the Newsletter
dealt with some of the security questions, this one reviews some of
the best utilities and patches that are available for what Word guru
Woody Leonhard refers to in his indispensable newsletter, as
“certified Office victims.”
Originally, utility programs were small
add-ins that improved a particular function or made doing a
particular task faster and easier. Utilities were more sophisticated
versions of macros that end users or word processing departments
might write for their own use. In fact, many of them were
commercialized after having been written and modified by consultants
based on the needs of their law firm clients. One of the classic
early utilities was the “Enveloper” which made printing envelopes
considerably easier starting with Word 97. This has been expanded
and improved and is a part of Woody Leonhard’s WOPR suite of
utilities. Another common utility is a Bates Label utility (offered
by Payne Consulting) that allows for the easy creation of Bates
Labels. For more detailed information about this and other sources
mentioned, see the list at the end of the article.
For law firms, one of the main
weaknesses of all versions of Word has been paragraph numbering.
Despite improvements, this is still a source of contention. Lawyers
want to do paragraph numbering the way they want to, not based on
what Bill Gates thinks is best for them. So virtually every major
utilities package includes a Paragraph Numbering utility (sometimes
combined with improved Table Of Contents functionality) that let you
do numbering the way you want to. While it is possible to do this
natively in Word, the savings between a $90 package and losing 5-6
billable hours trying–and failing–to do it yourself is substantial.
The utility from KKLSoftware may be the best of the pack, but most
other vendors have similar functionality available.
For years, the cry of WordPerfect
proponents when asked why it is a superior program has been “reveal
codes.” And in fact, WordPerfect uses the same coding model (streams
of text with embedded codes) that has become the norm in the
Internet and with the newer XML coding, and which is counterposed to
the paragraph-based coding Word uses. Levitt & James has a program
called “CrossEyes” that provides reveal code functionality for Word.
It is not identical to WordPerfect functionality but is close enough
so that a WordPerfect user can feel comfortable with it. $79 per
user for less than 25 users.
The Word merge function is neither very
powerful nor flexible. In addition, the inte- gration with Outlook,
which you might expect to be very good since both are Microsoft
products, has always been extremely iffy. The best functionality
here is Woody Leonhard's package.
Once you get past the issue of specific
utilities to fix/improve specific aspects of the program, you get to
the issue of more general packages. These will offer to provide
letterhead, memos, fax cover sheets, and various specific
mass-produced documents such as Certificates of Service, Affidavits,
Notary Public statements, Caption Blocks for a variety of courts,
and so on. The main contenders here are SoftWise, the Legalmacpac,
templates offered by KKLSoftware and a template suite offered by
Ross Kodner’s Microlaw.
A well-designed and implemented suite of
templates can be extremely effective in enhancing productivity. In
addition, the makers will update and improve them, make them
compatible with new versions of Word. However, to my way of
thinking, these suites tend to have two drawbacks. The first is that
since they are designed generically to be all things to all men,
they tend to be somewhat bloated and clumsy.
The second problem is more
philosophical, in that they tend to produce poorly-trained users.
Thus, when a new issue or the need for a new template arises, no one
in-house knows how to do it. These suites, in my opinion, tend to
result in over-dependence on the consultant that implemented it, not
to mention the typical 20% per year maintenance fee. I much prefer
what I call “technology transfer,” so that after installing a
specific type of template or functionality, at least some users know
how to maintain it and develop new items based on what already
When faced with Outlook’s massive
vulnerability to viruses, Microsoft reacted by imposing “security”
that makes it substantially more difficult for users and firms to
function normally. Thus, in Outlook 2002, attempting to synch with
3rd party programs such as a PDA results in a popup saying that
someone is accessing Outlook and how long do you wish to let them
proceed (with a maximum of 10 minutes). Since you know this is
happening (you started the synch after all), this is purely annoying
and serves no purpose. In addition, Outlook now has a list of
"banned" attachments, some of which your firm might wish to let
There are two fixes available for "popup hell." If you
are using Exchange Server, there is a patch that lets the system
administrator turn off the warning with certain restrictions. The
second is a small utility called "Click Yes" which lets you disable
the warning on a specific workstation.
As far as attachments are concerned, Ken Slovak has an
indispensable free utility which lets you select what kinds of files
you want to allow, instead of having to accept Microsoft’s idea of
what is good for you on an all-or-nothing basis.
Not everyone needs the same set of utilities or templates.
However, a judicious investment in specific utilities or template
suites can reap tremendous benefits in terms of productivity. And if
you tie them into document assembly routines using case management
software or programs such as HotDocs, the benefits are even greater.
Vendors of Microsoft Utilities
For a small number of users (1 to 10 or 20),
individual utilities generally range from $50 to $100 per user.
Macro suites tend to be aimed at somewhat larger firms and tend to
have a prohibitive initial buy-in for small firms. A major advantage
is getting updates and revisions (usually at 20% per year of the
KKLSoftware.com. These add-ins were developed
based on years of experience working with major law firms by Kraft
Kennedy & Lesser. They include utilities that allow routine
administrative functions even from "locked down" PCs; a Metadata
utility that also works with Excel and Outlook, which some others
don’t; a Word paragraph numbering utility, as well as a series of
Payneconsulting.com. One of the leading Word
consulting firms and the first one to release a program to clean
Metadata out of Word. Authors of the must-have Word 200x for Law
Firms. Metadata Assistant is available for $79/user. An
Enterprise edition is also available with pricing based on the
number of seats. Also offers a Bates Label Maker and a Word Expense
Form. The Numbering Assistant is $65/user for up to 24 users.
Softwise.net. This template suite has been
around for many years and has gradually expanded in functionality. A
new version, based on SQL databases (or Access for smaller firms)
called Innova, should be available by early March. For 1-100 users
count on a total of $200-225 per seat. Also has "Out-of-Sight," a
metadata cleanup utility.
WordTricks. Database-based utility similar in
nature to the new SoftWise product. Contact
is $180/seat for under 50 users.
Legalmacpac.com. Offers a standalone
Paragraph Numbering tool, a Bates Label maker and both generic and
customized series of templates, including Proof of Service,
Verification Forms, Notary Forms, and Deposition Summary routines.
Contact at www.legalmacpac.com. Marketed to medium to large firms;
buyin for under 50 users may be prohibitive.
Levitt & James. Maker of Crosseyes ($79 per
user), which produces "reveal codes" in Word. Also makes CrossWords,
probably the leading (though somewhat pricy for less than 20 users)
conversion package for documents from WordPerfect to Word (one-way
only). See Levitjames.com
Woody Leonhard. Offers Woody’s Office Power
Pack at $29.95 (or free if you buy his Using Office XP book) at
www.wopr.com. Contains the Enveloper (worth the price of admission
all by itself), a file manager on steroids, a Popup Contacts list
that makes inserting addresses from Outlook a snap.
Ken Slovak’s Outlook Attachment utility. for
Outlook 2000, SP 3 and above. See
Patches for Exchange. Download the patch from
www.microsoft.com/office/ ork/xp/appndx/appa11.htm. Note that this
only works with applications that have a digital signature you can
register with Exchange server. If you don’t have a digital
signature, then you have to allow access on an all-or-nothing basis.
ClickYes. does away with the Outlook popup.