Technology - Property

Technology - Property provides informationon current technology and microcomputer software of interest in the real property area.  The editors of Probate & Property welcome information and suggestions from readers. 

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Using WordPerfect Suite 8 Legal Edition in a Real Property Practice

Corel began shipping the latest legal version of its popular word processing software in May 1998. Several useful new features are integrated into the standard Suite 8 from prior versions, including updated versions of WordPerfect, Quattro Pro, Paradox, Presentations, NetScape Communicator 4.04 and Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice recognition software. The Legal Edition adds several other features, including Amicus Attorney 2.8, HotDocs 4.1, CiteLink 1.0 by West Group, NexLaw 8 and Lexicon from Black's Law Dictionary.

The word processor itself is what users have come to expect from WordPerfect : powerful and highly configurable. Improved toolbars, and the ability to directly jump onto the Internet simply by clicking on a link in a document, assist the user in moving around in documents and incorporating data and information across the included programs. As before, preferences from previous editions of WordPerfect can be used. For example, one may use the keyboard layout from as early as Word Perfect for DOS, a feature that those who prefer keystroke commands over the mouse will appreciate.

Installing and Upgrading

The program installs from a CD-ROM, using Windows' autoinstall feature. The user can install some parts, many parts or the entire WordPerfect Suite package. In a minimal installation, the CD-ROM must remain in the CD-ROM drive to run the program.

Pay attention to the installation options. Except for the complete technophobe, custom installation is worth considering. This allows the user to choose the applications he or she wants and to omit unwanted ones, saving space for other purposes. The installation program allows the user to choose not only whether to install a complete application, but also whether to install certain components or parts of components belonging to the application.

One odd aspect of the Suite 8 installation is that it creates two folders, one listed when the user hits "Start" in Windows, the other accessible under the "Start" programs listing. The programs listing does not have the same entries as the main listing under "Start." When looking for a specific aspect of the Suite that seems to be missing, make sure to check both places before reinstalling the program.

One memory management issue is the group of icons that the installation program adds to the "system tray" in the lower right hand corner of Windows 95/98. The system tray contains icons of applications that are either running or are accessible directly from the system tray, avoiding the need to click on "Start" and then root around for the application. Depending on system configuration, including the Corel applications in the system tray could slow down one's system. System tray icons use system resources even if the application in question is not in active use.

After installation, spend some time with the Legal Features Guide that comes with the Suite. It explains the intent and purpose behind the legal features in this version.

Using the Suite's Legal Tools

Integration of the legal tools included with the Suite into everyday practice is aided by a "legal tools" toolbar that can be selected and will then appear at the top of each document. To make the legal toolbar appear, put the cursor in the gray toolbars that appear under the "File/Edit" bar and click the right mouse button. A list of potential toolbars appears. Select the "Legal" option and the legal toolbar will appear, providing instant access to many of the features in the Legal Edition.

Amicus Attorney

Amicus Attorney is a practice management tool integrated with the WordPerfect Address Book feature and can be used in a network, thus offering the possibility of a single data base for the entire office. It is accessed from the Corel WordPerfect Suite 8 folder in the Windows "Start" menu, not directly in WordPerfect. Clicking on the Amicus Attorney desktop opens the application, which starts by telling the user about his or her schedule that day and updating him or her on administrative matters, such as new matters opened and billing status. Options following the first screen allow the lawyer to record time spent on various matters, open new matters, keep a calendar and perform other tasks relevant to the administrative side of law practice.

Amicus Attorney is acceptably user friendly in its operation, although it does not seem to dock to the Windows95 taskbar, leaving it hanging out in the bottom of Windows as though it were in Windows 3.1. The tool appears on the taskbar. If the user minimizes it and then clicks once on the taskbar icon for the tool, it does not automatically reappear. The user has to find it in the window and click on it. Preferences and other options provided by the application are easy enough to set up.

Amicus Attorney is not specifically tailored to the real estate practice and probably does not need to be. Tracking time and setting meeting dates and times should be consistent across practices.

Using Hot Docs

Hot Docs is a document assembly program that allows one to work from templates to generate various types of documents, including contracts, letters, agreements and pleadings. By allowing the creation of new documents or the customization of existing documents, Hot Docs permits a user to create new legal documents while in WordPerfect.

Hot Docs is fairly user friendly for those accustomed to WordPerfect but may not be so easy for those new to the program. It offers the option of creating a new template or assembling a document from an existing template. When creating a new template, the user can include "build prompts" to pull data from the database function included with the Suite. The user can also choose to have Hot Docs ask questions as it assembles a document, automating the insertion of the data into the
form created.

Although there are other document assembly programs, the Suite's integration of Hot Docs allows documents to be ready for printing almost immediately after they are completed. There is no need to import or convert the document from another format, or even to close the assembler and open WordPerfect.

Document assembly offers many advantages to the real estate practice, whether the practice is litigation centered or concentrates on transactions. Hot Docs is powerful enough, but easy enough to learn, to allow the development of highly specific forms and templates that can actually be used in practice.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking

A recent Technology column addressed dictation software, and the conclusions of that article will not be repeated here. A word of advice, however, regarding this aspect of the Legal Edition Suite. Dragon NaturallySpeaking is a resources hog. The program also requires a significant amount of time to train it to type words correctly. Although it offers many advantages to the modern practitioner, a full commitment to integrating it into one's work is required before it is worth the effort and resources of installation and configuration.

Other Elements

The Legal Edition Suite contains other items of interest. For example, CiteLink automatically marks citations and creates a table of authorities. It also links to WestDoc (West Group's document retrieval service), so that full copies of each case can be downloaded just by clicking on the citation. NexLaw is an addition to WordPerfect that allows for the creation of pleadings, the use of multiple clipboards for cutting and pasting text into a document and the management of addresses and phone numbers. Finally, the Legal Edition includes Lexicon from Black's Law Dictionary, allowing WordPerfect to recognize legal terminology and accept it as correctly spelled without the need to enter each new word into the program's dictionary.

System Requirements and Pricing

To install and run WordPerfect Suite 8 Legal Edition, without Dragon NaturallySpeaking, requires Windows 95 or NT, a 486 processor running at no less than 66 MHz, 8 Meg of RAM (16 recommended) and a minimum of 50 Meg of hard drive space to run from the CD-ROM. A typical installation takes 120 Meg, and even more with all of the legal items in-stalled. Running the Suite with Dragon NaturallySpeaking, requires a Pentium 133 MHz processor, 48 Meg of RAM (or 64 Meg for NT), 110 to 180 Meg of hard drive space and a 16-bit sound card. Laptops may need a hardware update; consult Corel or Corel's Web site before buying.

As of late October 1998, Corel listed the Legal Edition Upgrade from a previous version or from many other word processing programs at $219; the full version is listed at $299. That is a pretty good deal, considering that the street price of the Suite 8 upgrade, with Dragon Naturally-Speaking but without the legal bells and whistles, is around $95.


Corel has put together a powerful word processing suite for use by any practitioner, real estate specialist or not. The Suite 8 Legal Edition permits handling administrative, managerial and practice tasks within the same application environment, cutting down on the learning curve and the need for costly individual application upgrades in the future. It has the potential to automate many tasks, but some of its components may be duplicative of other applications. Whether to move to the Suite in its entirety or use only those aspects one  does not have is a critical decision to make before installing the software.

A future technology column will look at ways to work within Word Perfect, including setting preferences. Readers who have hints, tips or questions about this software or other technology relevant to a real estate practice may e-mail the editor at the address below.

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