Template development: Pathagoras provides the most straightforward, simplest source document creation process possible.
Most document assembly programs require a tremendous amount of outlining and pre-planning before the first layer of document assembly can be undertaken. While there is nothing essentially wrong with outlining and pre-planning, the assumption is that you already know enough about how the program operates to be able to effectively accomplish the objectives laid out.
Pathagoras likes the concept of pre-planning, but allows the user to experiment with documents under construction without a major investment of time. Fixes are quick and typically obvious and don't involve deconstructing the work done to that point.
The final source document that the document author will confront is laden with fields and codes. Even if the initial builds of your form mimics the 'plain text' approach long ago adopted by Pathagoras, the final, published, documents do not resemble those of the initial builds. (Hover over a variable in HotDocs® or Exari® and you will see what we mean. Try to edit a variable once it has been converted to a field.)
Sometimes the extension of the resulting 'template' tells you that you are no longer in Word. (Example: XpressDox®, where the template name ends not with .dot but with .xdtpl.) Further indication of the programming nature of the product can be gleaned from the foreign-to-Word ancillary documents that must be created (HotDocs and XpressDox) in order to properly run the program, and the admission that the templates must be 'run' (a sure sign that the template is not capable of 'stand-alone' usage.)
None of these difficult and confusing things exist with Pathagoras.
Here are features you will appreciate:
•You start in Word, end in Word and every intermediate step is in Word.
•Your forms, your variables your optional text blocks are always easy to read. All is in plain Word text. All is 'facial' to the face of the document. (By plain, we don't mean unformatted text. Highly formatted text is very possible. We just mean that Pathagoras uses characters of text that come straight from your keyboard, not fields and codes. By facial, we mean you can see it. Nothing hidden. Nothing in other documents. It's all there and 'in your face.')
•During every phases of form and template development, your source text is easy to change and easy to work with. That is because they are always Word documents. (I know this sounds redundant, but we have a point to make here.)
•Since the program does not convert your work into coded fields (rather is remains in the original 'plain text' at all times), you can easily change it if you find it doesn't quite work the way you intended.
•Because it is always a 'plain' Word document, you can always take an 'Pathagorized' form home with you to edit it on any computer. You can even edit your work on a computer on which Pathagoras is not even installed. (You won't be able to test it, but you can easily do that later.)
•You never have to 'convert' a form document into a distribution version.
•Pathagoras automates whatever you have at any point in time. It doesn't require that you achieve a state of 'finality' before publishing a template. Publish and use what you have with the full confidence that you can return to the identical form (not a 'published' form that resides in some remote location that you may not recall, and once found, that you have to deconstruct).
So what does this really mean? It means that you can build a form or template as quickly or as slowly and deliberately as you wish. See the section we call Baby Steps. If all you have time for right now is to convert a few variables in your master document, that's fine. The document is still automated, and you will save at least some time. Later on, add more variables and maybe a few optional text blocks. Keep refining until you achieve the form you want. Pathagoras allows you to grow the form (and to grow your system) as quickly (or slowly) as you wish. At any stage you can use your form in your daily work. It is never an all or nothing proposition.
Interview Wizards: In most document assembly programs, you must construct an 'Interview' form to gather information that will be used to assemble the final document. The process of building the Interview is frequently quite complex. The individual controls on the form must be manually connected to 'results.' 'If / then' statements, branches or loops, must be established so that an answer points to a specific piece of text, or if not text then to a logic branch or loop. Once you have programmed the form, you then lock it down and save it out to a special location under a special name.
This is not how Pathagoras does it. Pathagoras' approach, to this as well as its other features, is still all 'plain text.' There is no programming required. Pathagoras generates an Interview form from the face of the document being processed. It is all dynamic (based on the content of the current document), not based on a projection of what a document must look like for a specific client.
With most document assembly programs, the data entry form must be pre-constructed and 'locked down' before it can be used. So, with other systems:
•The system administrator must know in advance every variable that will be used in the document.
•The system administrator must then manually prepare a form that will display and receive values for each of the variables.
•The system administrator must associate this form with each document for which it might be used.
•If a variable is omitted, or a variable is later added to the document (a frequent and expected occurrence), the sequence must be repeated.
•If a new document has variables not contained within the data entry form, or an existing document is augmented by adding text that contains new variables, it cannot readily be used until the administrator re-writes the form to account for the new variable.
•Adding more variables cannot readily be done by the end-user. It is a system administrator's task. It is not done while the end user is within Word. Rather, the master program (HotDocs®, Ghostfill®, Exari®, etc.) must be called, the source intake sheet must be brought up, edited and re-rendered.
•The sheer number of steps that must be performed (and amount of time that it takes) lead some just to say 'forget it.'
•The preparation of, and the limitations of, the data entry forms required by our competitors are the most frequently cited 'frustrators' regarding the 'other guys.'
Pathagoras has none of the limitations stated above.
•With Pathagoras, no pre-designed data entry form is required.
•Pathagoras can scan any document for bracketed variables and present what it finds onto a completion form. No design work is required by the operator.
•That is not to say that a pre-designed form isn't useful. Pathagoras allows the user to create a form which allows the operator to control the order in which variables are presented for completion, and to provide completion tips and examples. This form is called a 'mask,' and they are discussed below and at this link.
•Creating a Pathagoras mask requires no programming skills.
•Creating a Pathagoras mask is done entirely within Word. It uses the same Instant Database screen that is used in other aspects of the program.
•If a document contains a variable that is not in the mask, Pathagoras can readily handle it ad hoc. Just press Scan. Pathagoras opens up another line on the Instant Database screen for the variable and provides space for its replacement text, and nobody misses a beat.
•If the user so desires, a variable can be readily added to an existing mask and the revised mask can be instantly saved. No need to open a separate program. It's all at your fingertips.
Timing of data entry: Most, if not all, other major programs require that you enter a client or customer's information before the document is created. The customer must actually be selected before you are allowed to select the document you want to prepare. This is to allow an unbreakable link between the client and the form, and does have some arguable benefits. Pathagoras finds the 'unbreakable link' concept not compelling, and its consequence too restricting. Pathagoras allows you to build any document at any time, and allows you to input client information at any time.
Specialty vs. General: There are may specialty document assembly programs out there. Estate Planning and Real Estate matters are popular areas. Most of these programs perform on a pre-defined set of clauses (some offer the ability to modify the clauses, some do not) and a data and variable set that is either fixed or offers limited ability to add new variables.
Pathagoras could not be the more opposite. Nothing about Pathagoras limits what you can do, what you can save or what you can assemble. The clauses Pathagoras uses are your clauses. And you can easily modify any of your clause to fit the [bracketed text is an automated variable] style that Pathagoras implements.
Desktop vs. Web based: There is a growing trend toward 'cloud computing' and 'web-based services.' See, for example Dealbuilder and Intellidox. Pathagoras is decidedly desktop based. It can connect to any web server you wish, and all data, clauses, etc. can be drawn from either your local computer, any computer on your network (whether local or wide-area) or 'from the cloud.' (We have lots of customers using DropBox®, SpiderOak® and similar web based storage tools.) But everything is running from your desktop and you do not have to learn new setups to cause the program to function.
From start to finish, the operation looks and feels 'local'. (This 'local' aspect is especially important when it comes to responsiveness. Locally stored documents and locally run programs respond noticeably faster than their web-based counterparts.
Owning vs. Renting: With the advent of web-based services, the trend seems to be toward renting services (even software such as Pathagoras) as opposed to owning a product. With Pathagoras, you own the license (although we have a 'rental' version for those who prefer to go this route). Owning the license is hands-down the less expensive approach, even with potential annual support fees built in. (No software supplier would ever set the retail price of the program at less than about 15 months worth of rentals.) With an 'owned' Pathagoras license, you are done with your purchase. You never have to renew the annual support agreement. It's like Microsoft Word itself. If you purchased, and are still using Word2003, you have yourself quite a bargain in 2011. Same with Pathagoras.