Archive for August, 2010

Preparing for a WordPerfect-to-Word Conversion: A Few Considerations

Note: This article first appeared in January of this year on the e-legaltechnology web site. Thanks to Richard des Moulins for publishing the article there. Please be sure to check out the site, which you can find here. There are links to other articles and white papers, job listings, information about legal IT-related events, and lots more.

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In my capacity as a software trainer, I have worked with at least two dozen law firms that have converted from WordPerfect to Word. Most of the conversions went fairly smoothly and could be considered successful overall, but a small number ended up being exercises in futility. Several staff members refused to adapt; they simply continued to use WordPerfect to perform most, if not all, of their word processing tasks.

What accounts for the difference between the firms that embraced the change and those that didn’t? To my thinking, preparation is the critical element. The organizations that experienced the greatest success in moving from WordPerfect to Word all engaged in a lengthy process of planning that took into account both the firm’s word processing needs and the work habits—as well as the wishes—of the support staff. Well in advance of the training, they performed a detailed assessment to try to figure out the tasks people perform every day and which WordPerfect templates, boilerplate text, macros, and similar items employees considered indispensable. They assigned one or two skilled staff members to consult with the trainer and set up comparable forms in Word.

Equally important, they took great care to ensure that the employees—and in particular, the legal secretaries—“bought in” to the transition. Getting key personnel to accept the change is essential if the conversion is to succeed in the long term. And it isn’t always easy. Legal secretaries—who, after all, have developed a certain proficiency in WordPerfect over many years that allows them to work quickly and efficiently—often balk at the idea of having to learn an entirely new way of doing things. Suddenly the features they use every day are in a completely different location, don’t work quite the same way, or don’t exist at all; familiar keystrokes cause their formatting to go completely haywire. Lacking Reveal Codes, they’re not sure how to perform troubleshooting. Unsurprisingly, they feel frustrated and anxious.

In many cases, they question the reasoning behind the change. “After all,” they think, “what we have now works great, it does the job and does it well, we’re used to it, and even our hands have memorized the routines involved. It ain’t broke, so why fix it? Why bring in something new and different just because other people are using it?”

This resistance is neither surprising nor illogical. It needs to be taken seriously and met with sympathy—and support. Instead, many firms take a somewhat heavy-handed approach, even going so far as to uninstall WordPerfect completely soon after moving to Word in order to force the staff to change over. That drastic step, in my view, is a mistake, and is unlikely to produce positive results. In fact, arbitrarily removing WordPerfect and flatly telling people they have to use Word regardless of the circumstances tends to create resentment, which in turn makes people less willing to invest time and energy in learning the new program.

By contrast, if staff members are consulted beforehand, and given meaningful opportunities to contribute to the planning sessions, they will have a significantly better attitude about the transition. And, in fact, they can help to make it go more smoothly; many of them will have very useful ideas about ways to automate documents.

Here are a few ways to bring the staff on board:

  1. Solicit their input ahead of time by asking them for a list of three to five features or “tricks” they depend on most heavily in formatting their documents in WordPerfect.
  2. Follow through on that input by tailoring the training—to the greatest extent possible—to their specific requests and by asking the trainer to provide lot of cheat sheets (as well as personal attention and “hand-holding”).
  3. Make sure that the cheat sheets and the training sessions incorporate instruction on keyboard shortcuts and ways to customize keyboards, toolbars, etc.
  4. Ask the trainer to start with a lesson on basic troubleshooting in Word. That will go a long way toward making people feel more comfortable with the program.
  5. Have the trainer point out lots of tips and tricks, as well as common “gotchas” and workarounds, which can save people a lot of frustration when they’re under time pressure.
  6. In the same vein, make sure the trainer shows the staff a few “cool” features of Word, such as SEQ codes for automatic numbering of discovery headings, exhibits, and the like. Coupled with Quick Parts (AutoText), this rather under-used feature allows users to insert (and increment the numbering in) discovery headings with a couple of keystrokes. It always produces an “Ooh!” reaction.
  7. Leave WordPerfect on at least a couple of the workstations, both to provide a “comfort factor” for the staff and also to enable them (a) to perform simple tasks that are easier in WP (such as quickly printing a couple of labels), as well as (b) to get their work out the door in an emergency situation (e.g., if a Word document becomes corrupted and they can’t fix it quickly enough to finalize the document under deadline pressure).
  8. Provide enough training and floor support, preferably over a period of a few weeks, to allow people to adjust to the change and to feel that they can accomplish most everyday tasks on their own. In general, secretaries and other staff members who do the most formatting will need more training than lawyers and paralegals, who typically give their documents to someone else for cleanup. (There are exceptions to this rule, of course.)
  9. Make sure to reinforce any initial training session(s)—at least for the secretaries—by scheduling a follow-up session two or three weeks later, after people have had a chance to practice. Between the two sessions, have the staff keep a running list of any specific questions or problems they’ve encountered.
  10. Both before and during the training, emphasize the benefits of using Word, including the fact that people will be able to exchange documents with other firms without the hassle (and potential risk of document corruption) involved in converting files between WordPerfect and Word.
  11. It’s essential to designate one staffer (ideally, a well-respected “power user”) to help set up forms and automation that are comparable—more or less—to what the employees have been using in WordPerfect. One of the smoothest conversions I’ve seen followed that path: The firm assigned a popular, highly knowledgeable person to go through all of the existing forms and methodically either bring them into Word or create new forms in Word from scratch. The secretaries were pleased that they could use nearly identical forms in Word, especially because we also automated the process of retrieving the forms.

If possible, hire a trainer who is fluent in both Word and WordPerfect and, preferably, who has worked in the legal field. Someone who has used both programs to format pleadings and other documents commonly produced by law firms gains instant credibility with the staff (“She understands how we work!”). Moreover, a trainer with that type of experience is in an ideal position to point out the most significant differences between the two word processing programs. And because she has wrestled with legal documents herself, she can explain clearly the best ways to perform a particular task in Word that people are accustomed to doing in WordPerfect (such as “suppressing” the page number on the first page of a pleading).

A few secretaries still might resist the change because Word just doesn’t behave the same way as WordPerfect and certain tasks are more tedious or time-consuming. While some people will never be happy about the transition, a good trainer can ease the way by helping the staff implement workarounds, if any exist.

When planning for a conversion, it’s critical to involve the firm’s IT people, too. At a minimum, the firm’s IT people and/or the managing partners likely will have to address the following items (particularly if the firm is moving to Word 2007 or Word 2010):

• Whether to have the staff use the new .docx format or save their documents in “Compatibility Mode”;

• Where and how to store global templates (pleading paper, letterhead, etc.) and other forms;

• How to transfer “AutoText” / “Quick Parts” and macros (if any) between computers;

• Whether to purchase add-ons such as Cross-Eyes by Levit & James (to emulate the Reveal Codes environment of WordPerfect);

• Whether to purchase a third-party metadata removal program, since Word’s native “Document Inspector” has a few inherent limitations (and make sure the trainer covers best practices for converting documents from WordPerfect to Word, avoiding / repairing document corruption, and dealing with metadata);

• Whether conversion filters have been installed to make it easier for users to convert their WordPerfect documents to Word (though complex docs typically don’t convert flawlessly);

• How to guard against macro viruses and how to chose among the somewhat confusing array of macro settings in Word Options in newer versions of the program (Trust Center, Trust Center Settings, Macro Settings).

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Although the steps outlined in this article won’t guarantee a painless move from WordPerfect to Word, they certainly will make the transition smoother. Again, the key is planning, plus a supportive attitude that recognizes the staff as the valued job partners they are and makes their day-to-day work easier.

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August 26, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Using Variables (placeholders) in WordPerfect

Since version 10, WordPerfect has included a very useful feature called “Variables.” This rather under-used feature enables you to insert placeholders for specific pieces of information that appear at several places in a document (or, better yet, in a template). For example, you can create a family trust template for a married couple and insert variables in lieu of the names of the husband and wife. Then, when clients request an estate plan, you can create a document based on the template and simply edit each variable once to give it a value (i.e., the actual names of the husband and the wife). When you do so, the variables throughout the document will change to reflect the values you assign to them.

Creating a Variable

Here’s how it works. Click the Insert menu, Variable… When the Variables dialog appears, click the “Create” button. In the “Variable” field, type a name — essentially to identify what the variable stands for. The name can’t be longer than 12 characters, so keep it short and sweet. (You can use spaces in variable names if you like.) For the husband’s name, try Husband Name or even HName; for the wife’s name, try Wife Name or WName. There’s a “Description” field, too, and it’s a good idea to type a succinct description in case you forget what the abbreviated variable name means.

In the “Contents” field, enter the value of the variable. You could type the name of a specific male client (the husband), but when you are setting up a template, it’s preferable to use a generic phrase such as Husband’s Name. Remember, this is a placeholder; when you create a document based on the template, you’ll edit the variable once (replacing it with the information it represents), and the particular information (the husband’s name) will appear everywhere you’ve inserted the variable.

You can continue creating more variables at this point or close the Variables dialog and add other variables later on.

Inserting a Variable in Several Locations in the Document

Once you have created a variable, position the cursor at the first place in the template where the information — in this case, the husband’s name — will appear. Click Insert, Variable…, then, in the Variables dialog, click to highlight / select the variable for the husband’s name, and click “Insert.” The dialog will close and the variable will appear at the cursor position.

Next, go through the document and insert the variable everywhere the husband’s name should go. Note that you don’t have to keep clicking Insert, Variable…. Rather, you can copy a variable you’ve inserted in your document and paste it in one or more additional locations. Just be careful; variables consist of both an “On” code and an “Off” code, and you must select and copy both or the process won’t work. The best way to ensure success is by turning Reveal Codes on (press Alt F3 or click the View menu, Reveal Codes) before selecting the two variable codes, which are contiguous.

After you have inserted variables for the husband’s name, create a variable for the wife’s name (follow the steps outlined in the second and third paragraphs of this post) and insert the variable in the appropriate places in the document. You might decide to create additional variables for other information that lends itself to a placeholder — i.e., that appears repeatedly in the document — such as the name of the trust. After you have finished creating and inserting variables, save the template.[1]

Editing Variables (Replacing Variables With Specific Values)

When you open a document based on the template, click the Insert menu, Variable… When the Variables dialog opens, click the variable for the husband’s name and then click the “Edit” button. Doing so will launch the Variables Editor. (Alternatively, you can merely double-click any instance of the variable in the document, and the Variables Editor will open.) From within the Editor, position the cursor in the “Contents” field and type the actual name of the husband. Then click “OK.” You’ll notice that the husband’s name now shows up everywhere you inserted the HName variable in the document!

Tips About Editing a Variable

You can edit a variable at any time; it’s particularly easy to open the Variables Editor by double-clicking a variable. Note that there are several menus available from within the Editor (enabling you to change the font face and/or size, insert symbols, and otherwise tweak the formatting); note, as well, that variables can include graphics.[2]

Viewing Variables

Ordinarily, variables are indistinguishable from regular text. To help you identify the variables in your document, click the View menu, Variables. WordPerfect will display the variables within blue triangles, somewhat like bookends. To hide the triangles, click View, Variables again.

Using “Go To”

There’s another way to find the variables in your document. From within the Variables dialog, click to select a particular variable, then click the “Go To” button. Assuming you have inserted that variable into the document at least once, WordPerfect will move the cursor to the next instance of the variable. If WordPerfect can’t find any instances of the variable from the current cursor position to the end of the document, a prompt will ask whether you want the program to search from the beginning. Click “Yes” to do so.

Saving Variables to a Document Versus Saving Variables to the Default Template

When you create new variables, they normally reside in the current document. However, you can choose to save them to your default template instead. When the Variables dialog is open, click the “Options” button, click “Settings,” and under “Save new variables,” click the radio button labeled “Default template.” Then, click “OK” to save your settings and click “Close.”

If you save the variables to the default template, they will be available in all documents based on that template. It might make more sense, though, to create variables within templates for different types of documents such as wills, trusts, powers of attorney, complaints, discovery responses, leases, licensing agreements, retainer letters, and so forth.

Other Situations Where Variables Might Be Useful

As you start to become comfortable with variables, you’ll think of more situations where they can be useful. For example, you can use variables in pleadings (for names of plaintiffs and defendants, and perhaps even for the county where the court is located), in deeds (for the names of the grantors, as well as the property address and description), in corporate documents (for names of directors, shareholders, and other officers), and so forth. They’re a great way to insert specific information in multiple locations in your documents quickly without resorting to Find and Replace.

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[1] For purposes of keeping this post relatively brief, I’m assuming that readers know how to create and save templates. However, I’ll explain the process in a future post.

[2] WordPerfect maven Barry MacDonnell has estimated that variables can contain up to 4,000 characters.

August 15, 2010 at 7:30 pm

My new column on the Legal IT Professionals site

Starting this month, I am becoming a regular columnist on the Legal IT Professionals web site. My first article, available via this link, discusses a new feature in Word 2010: the automatic creation of temporary back-up copies of files that you close without saving.

The Legal IT Professionals group, which has a significant presence on LinkedIn, describes itself as follows:

Legal IT Professionals is the leading international source of independent legal IT news, information, and expert commentary. Our website is aimed at professionals working in the legal technology industry like law firm IT staff, legal software vendors, legal IT consultants, but also paralegals, knowledge management specialists, and lawyers interested in the technology that facilitates their work.

You can visit the web site by clicking this link. There is a “Columns” drop-down toward the top center of the main page. At the moment, only my bio is available from the drop-down — no columns yet.

I will be writing articles for the site every couple of months.

August 2, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Understanding line and paragraph spacing in Word

In Word, there are two types of spacing: line spacing and paragraph spacing. Both are attributes of paragraph formatting that can be configured via the Paragraph dialog,[1] but they work differently. Line spacing affects the distance between lines of text within a paragraph, and paragraph spacing affects the distance (i.e., the white space) between paragraphs.

Line Spacing

Line spacing options in Word include conventional single and double spacing, plus a few additional choices. Before exploring the other choices, it’s worth discussing single and double spacing, which are not — contrary to what you might think — entirely self-explanatory.

The Role of “Leading” in Single and Double Spacing

Many people probably assume that the “simple” line-spacing options — single and double spacing — merely reflect multiples of the point size of the font they are using. If that were so, single-spacing with any 12-point font would produce lines of text that are 12 points in height and double-spacing would produce lines of text that are 24 points in height. (As a reminder, there are 72 points to an inch; thus, 12 points is 1/6 of an inch and 24 points is 1/3 of an inch.)

However, that formulation leaves out one crucial factor. In order to improve readability, single and double spacing add a certain amount of vertical distance — in the form of white space — between lines of text, an aspect of typography known as “leading” (pronounced as if it were spelled “ledding”). The amount of leading varies depending on which font you are using (not all 12-point fonts are equal). Typically, single-spaced lines range from 110% to 135% of the font size. For example, let’s say you select Times New Roman, a font that is common in legal documents. If you set the font size at 12 points and apply single spacing, the true height of your lines of text will be roughly 115% to 120% of the point size, or 13.8 to 14.4 points.[2] The line height might be different with a different font, such as Arial, Courier New, or Helvetica, even if you set the font size at 12 points.

Similarly, double spacing usually runs 220% to 270% of the size of your chosen font. So, sticking with our example, using Times New Roman at 12 points and applying double spacing will result in lines that are spaced approximately 27.6 to 28.8 points apart.

This phenomenon — the vertical expansion caused by “leading” when you use single spacing or double spacing in Word — explains a number of confusing issues, including why it can be difficult to align text with the line numbers in pleading paper. (The Pleading Wizard, a utility used to generate pleading paper in versions of Word prior to Word 2007, sets an “Exact” point size for the numbered lines, such as 22.75 points, that is smaller than standard double spacing. Because double-spaced body text is “taller” than the line numbers, the text and the numbers quickly get out of sync.)

To get a feel for how much extra spacing leading adds, select a 12-point font and type a brief paragraph (make sure it’s at least two lines long). First, set the line spacing to single. Then change the line spacing to Exactly 12 points. Try the same experiment with the line spacing set to double and then to Exactly 24 points. You’ll notice a tremendous difference.

The moral of the story: If you don’t want Word to expand your text vertically, don’t use single or double spacing. Instead, use an “Exactly” setting, such as Exactly 12 points or Exactly 24 points. (In pleadings, you’ll need to choose a setting for the body text that matches the spacing of the numbered lines. For a longer discussion of this point, see my earlier post, “Aligning text with pleading line numbers”.)

The New Default Line Spacing

As if matters weren’t confusing enough, Microsoft changed the default line spacing to 1.15 lines in Word 2007 and Word 2010 and to 1.08 lines in Word 2013 and Word 2016.[3] The default setting in older versions is single spacing, which — notwithstanding the additional vertical space resulting from leading — is substantially more compact than the new setting.

It’s easy to change the default line spacing, however. Simply open the Paragraph dialog, set the spacing according to your preferences, then (1) in Word 2007, click the “Default” button, then click “Yes” and click “OK”; (2) in Word 2010, click the “Set As Default” button, click the “All documents based on the normal.dotm template” option, then click “OK” twice.

Additional Line Spacing Options

Besides single spacing and double spacing, Word offers four additional line spacing options: 1.5 lines, “Exactly,” “At Least,” and “Multiple.” The 1.5 line option is similar enough to single and double spacing that it doesn’t merit further discussion here.

As for the other options, “Exactly” enables you to choose a highly precise line spacing that remains fixed, whereas “At Least” gives you the option of specifying a minimum line spacing and letting Word adjust the height if necessary to accommodate graphics such as drop caps (or other characters) that wouldn’t otherwise fit. (This option presumably is used widely in desktop publishing but, for obvious reasons, isn’t suitable for pleadings or any similar type of document that is subject to strict formatting rules.)

The “Multiple” option is used for setting line spacing at an interval other than single, double, or 1.5. For example, if you wanted triple spacing, you would use the “Multiple” option and type “3” in the “At” box. (The new default line spacing of 1.15 involves the “Multiple” option.)

“Exactly” can be important when you are working on pleadings. As mentioned earlier, the process of generating pleading paper usually results in line numbering that does not use true double-spacing. For technical reasons, the line numbers on pleading paper often are spaced 22.75 points apart (or some similar figure). In order to get the text of the pleading to align properly with the line numbers, you have to make sure the line spacing of the text matches that of the line numbers (which you can determine by going into the document’s header, clicking somewhere within the line numbering, and then launching the Paragraph dialog and viewing the setting for the line spacing). If it doesn’t match, you’ll have to select the text and change the setting via the “Exactly” option.

Paragraph Spacing (“Before” and “After” Spacing)

By contrast with line spacing, paragraph spacing refers to the space between paragraphs. You can tell Word to insert extra space automatically before a paragraph, after a paragraph, or both. For example, if you want Word to insert one blank line between paragraphs, you can set the “Spacing After” to 12 points, the rough equivalent (as we now know) of a standard single-spaced line. Or you can set both the “Spacing Before” and the “Spacing After” to 6 points (about half a line).[4]

When using one or both of these options, test them first to see if they work in a given situation. Sometimes you can end up with too much (or not enough) space between paragraphs.

“Before” and “After” spacing often are incorporated into styles for body text and headings in order to achieve uniform spacing between paragraphs in a document.

Because “Before” and/or “After” spacing automatically add white space between paragraphs, you’ll have to get into the habit of not pressing the Enter key twice to move the cursor to the next paragraph.

“Don’t add space between paragraphs of the same style”

In all versions of Word from 2007 through 2016, there is an additional item in the Paragraph dialog labeled “Don’t add space between paragraphs of the same style.” If the option is enabled (i.e., the box to the left of the option is checked), Word will ignore your “Before” and/or “After” settings.[5]

Microsoft applies this setting to certain built-in styles but not to others. It is disabled by default for the Normal paragraph style, which means you can increase the “Before” and/or “After” paragraph spacing for text using the Normal style and your changes will go into effect as you expect. On the other hand, the setting is enabled by default for bulleted and numbered lists, which means that items (paragraphs) in the list will not be separated by white space unless you specifically insert such space manually.

If you have configured Before and/or After spacing to add space between paragraphs but Word appears to be ignoring your settings, open the Paragraph dialog and note whether “Don’t add space between paragraphs of the same style” is checked. If it is, close the dialog, select the list (or other text) to which you want to add Before and/or After spacing, reopen the Paragraph dialog, uncheck the option, reset the Before and/or After spacing if necessary, and click “OK.” Now your extra Before and/or After spacing should go into effect as you intended.

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[1] In all versions of Word, you can open the paragraph dialog by using the keyboard shortcut Alt O, P. In versions of Word prior to Word 2007, you also have the option of clicking the Format menu, Paragraph; in Word 2007 and Word 2010, you can click the dialog launcher at the lower right corner of the Paragraph group in the Home tab.

[2] There is some confusion / disagreement over the exact amount of leading typically produced with Times New Roman. Pinpointing this figure is less important to me than making sure that readers understand the general concept and also have a sense of the approximate degree to which the text will expand if you use single or double spacing, rather than an “Exact” figure.

[3] Microsoft also changed the “Normal” paragraph style by adding 10 points of “After” spacing in Word 2007 and Word 2010 and 8 points of “After” spacing in Word 2013 and Word 2016. See the following sections for an explanation of “Before” and “After” spacing.

[4] “Before” and “After” spacing can be configured independently, of course.

[5] Note that even with the box checked, you’ll be able to add space between paragraphs manually—i.e., by pressing the Enter key.

August 1, 2010 at 2:17 pm 3 comments


© Jan Berinstein 2009-present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of one or more articles posted on this blog -- i.e., without express written permission from the blog’s author -- is strictly prohibited. You may use brief excerpts and/or links, provided that you give full, accurate, and prominent credit to Jan Berinstein, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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