VBA for Document Automation? Depends on Your Needs.
When people talk about Word macros for document automation (document generation), what they’re really talking about is VBA for document automation. VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) is a powerful technology for building scripting logic into Word macros, which, in their simplest form, record common keystroke sequences to save effort on common word processing tasks. (Note that VBA can be used to extend functionality of other MS Office products as well.)
The reason people use VBA for document automation (even though that’s not what it’s designed for) is because it’s a technology they tend to have laying around already. And depending on what they’re hoping to accomplish, VBA might be just the ticket—after all, why buy something new if you don’t need to? On the other hand, in some cases, choosing VBA for document automation is way more expensive than one might think, even if they already own it. Here’s a checklist of questions to help you decide if VBA is right for you:
- How many documents do you need to automate? If the answer is relatively few—say a couple dozen or less—and the number is not likely to significantly increase over time, then VBA might be the answer.
- How complex are the documents? If the documents are fairly simple in nature—a few conditional clauses, a few computed variables, etc.—VBA might work for you. Keep in mind that VBA is powerful stuff, and you could perform just about any level of automation on any particular document. The reason I wouldn’t recommend it for complex documents has less to do with its capability than the resources it requires. (See question 3.)
- Do you have engineering resources to spare? VBA is a full-on programming environment and clearly the domain of professional software engineers, which, at least according to my experience, tend to be fairly well paid. By the time you’ve got a couple of engineering months into a project, the real cost of VBA could be out of control. (See questions 1 and 2).
- Is the production of transaction-ready legal instruments—contracts, wills, trusts, court forms, government forms, insurance forms, etc.—core to your business, or at least, core to a unit within your business? If the answer to this question is yes, then the answer to the question of whether to use VBA for document automation has to be no.
The fact is VBA is a general programming environment and powerful in its own right, but VBA is not designed specifically for document automation. This lack of specificity means it’s not going to include a vast array of built-in features and functionality that you are absolutely going to want and need in a document automation platform.
In contrast to VBA, HotDocs is designed specifically for document generation tasks and is the result of nearly three decades of thought, design, and evolution. Consequently, HotDocs is a complete solution—powerful, flexible, and, best of all, affordable.
Why is HotDocs so affordable? Because regular people can accomplish in minutes what it would take experienced software engineers hours, days, weeks, or even months to accomplish in VBA. Sign up for our free “Intro to HotDocs” webinar and find out why millions of legal documents are generated every day with HotDocs.