Document creation (also known as document automation, document generation, or document assembly) software allows you to convert text-based documents (typically, word-processing files) and PDF forms into powerful productivity tools called templates. A template produces custom, transaction-ready instruments from an interview (a set of question-and-answer forms) in a fraction of the time it once took. Document creation templates not only reduce the time it takes to create a new document, but they also improve the quality of the document by eliminating human errors that come with hands-on editing.
How does a document creation template work?
In use, a document creation template may reside in a library of other related templates. When a user selects the template from the menu, he/she is presented with answer file options:
“Would you like to use an existing answer file (database record)?”
“Would like you to create a new answer file?”
If the user chooses to use an existing answer file, some—or all—of the fields in the interview would be pre-populated with the answers from the chosen file. The user would then be able to provide any requisite additional answers, which would then be saved to the answer file. If the user chooses to use a new answer file, he/she would need to provide all of the answers for the interview. Following the completion of the interview, the document creation system would use the answers to generate a custom version of the document.
How are document creation templates developed?
Different software vendors approach the template development issue in different ways. The global leader in document creation software, HotDocs Corporation, provides a stack of integrated technologies that enable the conversion of text-based documents and graphical forms into powerful, flexible document creation templates and the deployment of these templates in the desktop, client/server, and cloud environments.
At the base of the HotDocs stack is the Logic Core, a deep, rich, logic-processing engine that does all the work of generating an interview for each template and creating a document based on the answers.
HotDocs Developer is the template-development toolset within the HotDocs stack. HotDocs works within MS Word or WordPerfect for text-based documents and has a native PDF development environment. HotDocs Developer is a RAD (Rapid Application Development) technology that enables non-software engineers to build complex business logic into the template. Developer, likewise, allows a practitioner to use the same components (simple and computed variables and merge fields) to construct an interactive interview.
An interview for a complex template could consist of dozens of question-and-answer forms, each of which could include groupings of questions. Questions within forms, or entire forms, can be made conditional (only appear if certain conditions exist). Individual questions for dates or numeric values can be validated for range limits, and resources (help utilities) can be created for individual questions.
For families of related documents (for example, closing documents in a real estate transaction), HotDocs Developer enables a practitioner to share components across templates. This powerful feature allows multiple documents to be created out of a single answer file.
How are document creation templates deployed?
Once HotDocs templates have been created, they can be deployed on the desktop; in an on-premises, client/server environment; or in the HotDocs cloud. HotDocs provides user-layer technologies for each environment, or in many instances, users can access HotDocs templates via OEM applications. Many mid-to-large organizations deploy HotDocs Server and build custom HotDocs user experiences within their own workflows.