I wrote a short blog entry about 8 months back or so that we had chosen to use KI Systems Law Office Automation Tools as our Word template/macro package. It's a pretty good bunch of software that has been customized by Kristi at KI to meet our needs. It's got a SQL back end for a functional client/matter based address book and to hold all of the user data and favorites as well. The templates are all stored on each user's local machine and each user still gets a customized normal.dot specific to them and not to the machine (although there was some debate as to whether there should be a normal.dot per each user or just one for every machine).
The software has some usability issues that make it a bit complicated to use for some things such as labels. Our secretaries much prefer the WordPerfect macro that they have for our "letterhead" labels as it allows you to select a block of text that has the addressee's name and address in it, click a keystroke combo and the label is automatically filled in. Whereas with KI, they have to click the KI menu button, select the label that they want, either tell it to just create one page of blank labels with the "letterhead" or for each label they want filled in, they have to select persons from the address book which adds further steps...You get the picture.
Took a lot of work, testing and more testing to get the customized templates looking and working how we wanted, but I can't imagine that it's any different from any other customizable package out there. I don't think that a turnkey package even exists out there and it certainly wouldn't meet the needs of the average lawfirm.
Kristi at KI, who's the founder/president/head programmer, is knowledgable about her product, is easy to work with and provides good support. For the most part, she's been able to give us everything we asked for (a lot of it at $135 an hour) and been able to resolve the issues that we have had.
The software is integrated with our WORLDOX DMS system, which is nice as it's able to do certain things such as automatically add the document number where it's supposed to be in a template...but that integration also has it's drawbacks as you will soon learn.
Anyhow, for users that work remotely and aren't always connected to the network, either physically while in the office or via VPN, things get a bit more complicated. If you leave the KI software and Word as is and open Word while you aren't connected to the network, the KI software "macro" template bombs out while trying to connect to the SQL server. This in turn causes Word to disable the KI template, which in turn causes WORLDOX to not function properly and actually makes it so that users cannot save documents that they are working on, if they don't realize that this has happened.
To prevent this from happening, a piece of software called KI Remote is installed on each remote system which basically points the KI template to either the SQL server database or makes a copy of the database and stores it on the local PC.
As we have found out, this whole process is too complicated for our userbase. It's not that lawyers can't handle complication, it's that time is money for them. Time is fleeting for most of us these days, but when you are trying to squeeze as much billable work as possible into an hour, complications really mess with things, especially when they don't work right or you forget all the steps, etc.
My question and the whole point of this long post is if it's possible for add-in templates in Word to programatically check for the existance of the SQL server and switch to a local copy or simply switch off in a way that allows Word to function normally.
Because the biggest issue that I have with this whole mechanism is that if it doesn't work or the user forgets, Word just does not function properly. The user isn't able to save, the autosave function doesn't work at all and it can cause an attorney to lose a lot of work...which is very bad.