February 09, 2008

Word 2007 -- A Tale of Two Experts @ LegalTech NY

It was the best of times: While making my way through the vendor hall jungle at LegalTech NY, I had the pleasure of catching up with Donna Payne (Payne Group) and Sherry Kappel (Microsystems). I always find time to seek out these document technology savants, and this week's discussions were as helpful as ever.

My personal opinion is that Office 2007 is the clear winner from Microsoft this past year (definitively overshadowing Vista), and the massive improvements are well worth the office suite upgrade and third-party integration efforts. Sherry insightfully observed that with Word 2007's linked styles right out of the box, firms are likely going to need to pay even more attention, not less, on training and reinforcing solid style usage with their user base. As Sherry mentioned in a recent ILTA publication, if you're not automating your document practice, then how are you going to maintain your margins when your corporate clients demand a substantial rate cut? Also, she noted that the new XML format, while adding some needed document file stability, also adds a bit more complexity due to the XML intricacies.

Donna Payne and I had some techno.fun comparing and contrasting Word's built-in Document Inspector capabilities to a dedicated metadata scrubber such as Payne's Metadata Assistant. On one hand, it would seem that Word's built-in Document Inspector gets the job done. Both Donna and I have used it and found it to be effective, especially in a pinch where you're working on a simple document and just need a quick scrub before sending it off to someone. When you want to remove just about everything, it pretty much does the trick. But in comparing notes, we quickly agreed it has several fundamental weaknesses:

1) No Workflow: In other words, when using Word's Document Inspector, you have to remember to manually scrub and save the Word document before you start the e-mail process. Third-party scrubbers add the necessary workflow which allows you to scrub the file as part of the e-mail attachment process.

2) No Selective Scrubbing Within Each Category: For each of Word 2007's five scrubbing categories, it only offers you an "all or nothing" approach for the items in that particular category. There is no middle ground. So if you want to scrub only some of the document property fields, but keep a few like "Author" and "Title", you'll need to first remove all of that category's metadata, and then manually retype in the few you want to retain. And that's a bad thing, because you can lose useful or necessary metadata in the process if you're not careful.

So while we've seen very substantial improvements in Word 2007, firms and companies will still need to assess their overall practice workflow and specific scrubbing needs, and it will likely take third-party add-ins to more fully address them.

Topic(s):   Law Practice Management  |  Legal Technology  |  Privacy & Security
Posted by Jeff Beard