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Feature Instant Text: Accelerating-Document Processing By S. Michael Kozubek

Many lawyers today perform activities considered delegable just a few years ago. One such activity is light typing. A few helpful typing aids are included with QuickCorrect in WordPerfect and with AutoText and AutoCorrect in Microsoft Word. Typing any of the abbreviations from a customized glossary representing commonly used words or phrases eliminates the need to type the complete word or phrase. The casual typist, however, can easily forget the abbreviations without referring to a list.

Wouldn't it be useful to have a software program that compiles customized vocabularies of words and phrases based on a user's past work and eliminates the need to memorize abbreviations? Instant Text from Textware Solutions is designed to meet this need.

How Does It Work?

I recently tested this Microsoft Windows-based program and began using it to type portions of this review. I used two computers, an Acer 486DX50 with 12MB RAM and a Fujitsu Lifebook 520 with a 120-MHz Pentium processor and 24MB RAM, each using the Windows 95 operating system.

I tested the program with two typists. I offered myself as the slow non-touch typist, along with my partner, who types 50 words per minute. Instant Text Version 2.0 is a Windows program with its own independent text editor, but it is also integrated to work within these programs:

  • Word Perfect 6.0 to 7.0
  • Microsoft Word 6.0 to 97
  • Lotus WordPro 96 and 97
  • Lotus Notes
  • Internet Explorer
  • Netscape Navigator
  • Eudora 2 and 3
  • MS Works 4.0
  • CompuServe WinCim
  • WordPad
  • NotePad

Instant Text is released in a 16-bit version for Windows 3.1 and above and a 32-bit version for Windows 95 and NT exclusively.

My general finding:

Instant Text works better than QuickCorrect, AutoText and AutoCorrect because a user is not required to remember selected words or phrases. Its real-time visual aids appear at the bottom of the screen. This reminded me of the functionality of some speech-recognition systems and spell checkers that attempt to correlate unrecognized words with similar words in the system's database. Instant Text also compiles a customized glossary of words and phrases based on a user's single or multiple file selections.

The software is intelligent enough to associate words and phrases with several abbreviations and to suggest sentence continuations based on the user's past work. There is a vast difference between the number of words in our working and potential vocabularies. We use far fewer words than we recognize. Instant Text can be particularly useful for highly specialized legal vocabularies to expand the user's working vocabulary and provide correct spelling of terms for which the user can recall only a few letters.

Text and Phrase Advisories

The user types one or more letters and suggested words and phrases appear at the bottom of the screen. The first letter of a word or phrase must be typed in Instant Text, and the abbreviation must have at least one other letter. You don't have to remember a particular form, and you don't need to be consistent and always use the same abbreviation. Even within a given subject, it is common in Instant Text to find that more than one word or phrase corresponds to a proposed abbreviation.

To resolve such situations, Instant Text lists the possible choices within a table called an Advisory. For example, using the contracts glossary, I typed the letters "wt" and the word "without" appeared in the glossary including "warranties," "warrants" and "writing." When I backspaced and entered the abbreviation "wo," "without" was still listed in my glossary. It did not matter what letter I typed with "w","wi," "wh" and "wu" all produced "without" as a glossary choice.

A phrase abbreviation includes the initial letters of some or all words of the phrase, starting with the initials of its first two words, such as, for example, the abbreviations "oot" or "oo" for "one of the," "obligation" or "out of wedlock." The user selects from among the options that Instant Text presents, as illustrated in Figure 1. The only other criterion is that the letters included in the abbreviation must be in the same order as in the full phrase. Instant Text phrases can consist of as many as 16,000 characters.

However, if any text approaches that size it would be more efficient to create a separate file for a template, a model form with variable insertion points, instead of utilizing Instant Text. As another test, I typed the abbreviation "chat." How does Instant Text decide whether to expand "chat" to the word "characteristic" or the phrase "Consultant hereby agrees that" or determine that the user merely wishes to type the word "chat"? Markers, also called expansion keys, are part of the solution. A marker is typed after an abbreviation to tell Instant Text which form of expansion to use. For example, a semicolon tells Instant Text that "chat" is a phrase abbreviation. The marker "[" tells Instant Text that a word abbreviation is intended. If you just want the word chat, you put a space after the word as usual. A user can select other single characters to customize markers.

A particular word or phrase can be selected by navigating up or down with the Ctrl and Shift keys. This can be a bit awkward at first. It requires learning a new set of keystroke habits. This proved to be an easier task for the less adept typist in my testing. The power typist was more resistant to changing "proven methods," frustrated by stopping to search among options offered by the program.

One software enhancement here would be designating a number for each word and phrase so that typing a number in combination with another key would select text. I preferred using a mouse. I could type within the text area above while keeping the mouse cursor near the bottom of the screen to move over a word or phrase selection and click the left mouse button. Instant Text included my selection as text and added a space, and I continued typing. This works in the same manner in a pen-based system.

Personalized Glossaries

Personalized glossaries offer other Instant Text versatility. Consider, for example, the abbreviation "fpt":

  • In the text of a contract, this could be an abbreviation for the phrase "from payments thereafter."
  • In a technical document dealing with numerical operations, it could mean the phrase "floating point type."
  • In a text describing products, it could mean the phrase "for products that."

If all possible subjects are considered, Instant Text could theoretically produce a list of hundreds of phrases that abbreviate to "fpt." This would be impressive but counterproductive.

The Instant Text solution is to do an automated file compilation to produce glossaries that correspond to different subjects. Instant Text compiles glossaries for specific subjects by analyzing all words and phrases that appear in corresponding texts. This process is called glossary compilation. Though intended for different purposes, it reminded me somewhat of the Folio Views creation of Infobase glossaries of words contained in multiple files.

Glossaries can be used to select all files in a single directory or even all files on a CD-ROM. The system works more efficiently if Instant Text glossaries are compiled from a narrow range of topics so that the user is not overwhelmed with too many word and phrase choices, some of which could be unrelated to the task at hand.

For example, you may ask Instant Text to scan the files in a directory that contains contracts to compile a corresponding contracts glossary. The user simply selects a multiple or single file compilation from the menu and selects a directory for multiple compilation. Instant text automates the process of marking files, extracting text and compiling text. (This process has received a U.S. patent, according to Textware Solutions president Jean D. Ichbiah.) As many as 15 glossaries can be active simultaneously.

Once constructed, any word or phrase in a glossary can be edited in the Instant Text Glossary Viewer, shown in Figure 2. The Glossary Viewer includes a complete list of all words and phrases and the number of times each appears in the text used to compile the glossary.

Sentence Continuations

When typing documents that contain often-used clauses, Instant Text will also suggest sentence continuations. When a user types the beginning of a frequently used phrase, Instant Text can frequently suggest further phrases that often follow. For example, in the agreement glossary I typed "ex" and selected "extra work performed" and immediately received these continuation possibilities among others: "beyond the scope," "during that month" and "pursuant to this Agreement," as in Figure 3. These phrases can be customized by compiling within the program a user's or firm's work product.

Technical Requirements

Another excellent feature of Instant Text is that it does not use much disk space. Only 4MB is required for the program and customized contract, business, legal and medical glossaries. The current single-user price of $99 is very competitive. The program will run on a computer with a 386 CPU and Windows 3.1 or higher. I found the interface of the Win 3.1 version of Instant Text less versatile than the Windows 95-NT version. 16MB RAM is sufficient to compile most glossaries to a maximum of 800K. Beyond that, 32MB RAM is recommended.

The system is network-ready but works best if the program and glossaries are loaded on each workstation. I also discovered that with fast typing of letters on a non-Pentium processor, Instant Text slows down. On the 486DX, the program churned through the beginning letters for a word and made word and phrase suggestions after the user had already typed an entire word.

The system ran much more smoothly on the Pentium with 24MB RAM. If you are buying multipurpose Pentiums, you should consider computers in the 133 to 200 MHz range loaded with currently inexpensive RAM as the sensible minimum configuration.

My Rating

Instant Text still needs several enhancements to carry my full four-star rating, but I recommend the program for a number of features, including real-time visual aids, quickly constructed user-customized glossaries and sentence continuations.

Document assembly systems and macros will generate commonly used forms and documents more quickly than Instant Text. Instant Text is best used to amend text or to type occasionally repetitive text that does not justify building a document assembly system.

It is also good software for transcriptionists, particularly those who type dictation from specialized vocabularies. In particular, users who have not yet taken a complete systems approach to their document production but are interested in quickly becoming more efficient typists without investing significant time and capital may wish to consider Instant Text. If speech-recognition software is ever integrated with the phrase and sentence continuation capability of a program like Instant Text, the result could be a real breakthrough for both software applications.

S. Michael Kozubek is an attorney, consultant to law firms and corporate legal departments, a software developer and adjunct professor at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. He can be reached at 312/919-0321.

Summer 97