Creating full-text databases with ISYS; in law offices, finding that elusive document - now!- is absolutely essential.
Everyone is familiar with the difficulties of locating individual files or parts of files whose storage location and name have faded from memory. And certainly in legal settings -- e.g., litigation support -- we may remember writing a document or reading a document, or we may wonder whether or not any documents were ever created addressing a particular issue.
All of these instances can easily be addressed using any of a variety of full-text database managers. One of the most comprehensive and flexible is ISYS for Windows. This application enables users to identify a pool of documents (composed of different types and sizes, and existing in different locations -- including on the Internet, on an intranet, or on an extranet) and create a full-text index of every word in those documents. While the syntax or method of searching may not be the same as in LEXIS or WESTLAW, it is just as powerful. And it gives you the ability to produce your own full-text databases of whatever documents you desire.
After installing ISYS, users have two options: Use ISYS Utilities to create a database, or use ISYS Query to search an existing ISYS database.
Creating an ISYS Database
ISYS users can produce an ISYS database manually or by using a "wizard."
A nice feature of many of the Windows applications being developed today, wizards walk users through common application tasks, saving them the time and trouble of reading documentation or talking with user support. For example, all of Microsoft's Office applications contain a variety of useful wizards, walking users through a menu-driven process for creating specific kinds of word processing documents, databases, spreadsheets, presentations, and a variety of other kinds of tasks.
The ISYS wizard is like most, prompting users with specific questions and steps that walk them through the process of creating an ISYS database. The wizard can also be a kind of training tool, duplicating the manual process for creating ISYS databases should you choose that approach in creating subsequent databases.
The three questions asked by the Database Setup Wizard are as follows:
1) What types of documents do you have? Here ISYS would prefer to know the kinds of documents you want to index. Users arc prompted with a long list, including almost every known word processing application on the market, as well as some types of spreadsheets, HTML documents, and databases.
If you aren't sure of all the different kinds of documents you'll be indexing, that's OK. ISYS will automatically read them and determine their origin. Identifying the types of documents ahead of time simply speeds up the indexing process.
2) Where are your documents stored? Here users need to identify the directory location of their documents. If you are unsure, ISYS gives you the ability to browse through your directory structure until you identify the appropriate location.
Your files do not have to reside in one specific directory. You can identify as many separate directories and subdirectories as you want. For example, in a litigation support setting you may have a major directory for the specific case (C: \BAXTER), with subdirectories containing different kinds of files relating to the case: C:\BAXTER ..PLEADINGS ..INTERROGATORIES ..ANSWERS TO INTERROGATORIES ..CONTACTS ..SPREADSHEETS ..WORKING DOCUMENTS
ISYS enables you to identify all of the locations for documents you want to include in your index. These documents can reside in different subdirectories of one main directory, or in entirely different directories and subdirectories.
3) How would you like to name this index? And finally, what do you want to name your full-text index? In the preceding example, you might use the name "BAXTER CASE DOCUMENTS," or something similar.
Once you have answered these three wizard questions, ISYS is ready to begin indexing your documents. Similarly, the manual process for building an ISYS database follows the same general steps, with a few minor sub-steps that give users increased flexibility in storing their database and in creating it.
Once ISYS completes the indexing process, it gives the user some statistics regarding the process. For our example, we took a variety of word processing documents and other file types that were created over the last 5 years. These working documents consisted of articles, notes, invoices, to-do lists, and several other kinds of documents, produced primarily in three or four versions of Word for Windows. Some of the documents were also produced using various versions of WordPerfect. And some were ASCII file documents.
In summary, ISYS indexed 1,417 documents (comprising approximately 25 MB of information), in 24 separate folders, or subdirectories. According to ISYS' summary statistics, the process took 6 minutes and 34 seconds and indexed 1,232,850 words.
This part of the process also produced an error log containing the names of three files ISYS was unable to index because, according to the log, they were the "Wrong Type." All three of these documents were produced with the latest version of Microsoft Word for Windows (97), and involved the use of tables. Several of the other documents produced with earlier versions of Word used tables, and they were indexed without any problem. According to ISYS technical support, version 5.0 (expected to be available soon) will support Office 97 document types.
Figure I depicts the ISYS Utilities menu. One of my few criticisms of this application is the absence of easy-to-view-and-use graphical icons or other features that could improve ISYS Utility's ease of use. While the pull-down menus and the ISYS Wizard give users all the functionality they might desire, this part of the application might benefit from a design overhaul.
Searching an ISYS Database
Obviously the most important aspect of a full-text database is being able to search for and retrieve information once it's been indexed. Here, ISYS provides its users with a variety of powerful options.
Figure 2 begins to show you some of the powerful search capabilities of ISYS. With ISYS you have the full assortment of Boolean search capabilities: AND, OR, NOT, and proximity operators, plus -- to the extent you've planned for it -- field searching. ISYS's standard search template walks users through the process of performing most of these kinds of searches.
To the right of the query entry box (see Figure 2), you can see a "word wheel:" an invaluable way to query your full-text database for a prospective search term. If you click on the word wheel, it will call up a word wheel dialog box that enables you to enter your term. Once you've done so, ISYS will tell you the number of times your term is in the database. Depending upon your term, ISYS will also show you a variety of other terms that sound like or are otherwise closely related to your term.
In addition to these standard Boolean search capabilities, ISYS provides users with the ability to perform "queries by concept" and plain English (natural language) searches. Query by concept is like an electronic table of contents. If you wanted to be able to search a specific section of your database, you could specify, what a particular section contains (during the database build process). Once you've identified your concepts, you can perform searches of specific sections of your information. Plain English searching enables users to enter a question or phrase. ISYS examines the phrase and retrieves whatever documents it determines are potentially relevant to your research.
Once ISYS has performed a search, it itemizes the retrieved documents in a search results screen (see Figure 3). This results screen is divided into three sections: a toolbar, a left window, and a right window. The pull-down menu and toolbar give users the ability to use and navigate through the ISYS query process. Here you can select a database, sort your results, launch the word processor (or other application) associated with a particular document that has been retrieved, determine what kind of search you want to perform (menu-assisted, command-based, based, query-by-concept, or plain English), and perform a variety of other functions.
The left side of the results window lists your results. It lists the location and title of your document, as well as the number of occurrences of your search term(s).
The right side of the results window itemizes your overall search. For example, for the search BAXTER within the same paragraph as INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, the right side of the window identifies four occurrences of BAXTER, 90 of INTELLECTUAL, 191 with PROPERTY, and 10 satisfying the particular logic of the search.
If you want to view a document, you can double-click on it and the document will appear in an IQ Browse window, giving you the ability to go directly to the occurrences of your search term or perform variety of other document viewing functions.
Updating Your ISYS Database
Full-text databases are not static. In a legal setting where more and more information is being discovered, created, and added to your pool of information over time, the ability to update your database is crucial. Fortunately, the ISYS Utilities menu contains a variety of options that simplify the updating process.
The Utilities pull-down menu contains an Update option, which will automatically scan your database and update its index, noting all documents that have been deleted, changed, or added. Additionally, the Utilities pull-down menu enables you to either reindex (if you want to reindex your entire database) or add to your index (if you've simply added documents to your database and you want them indexed).
Since the reindex option actually rebuilds your entire index, it may take a while, depending upon the size of your database. The update and add options usually happen quickly, again depending upon the number of changes that have been made to your database.
Creating Your Own Full-Text Database on,the Internet
One of the most interesting and dramatic new features of ISYS is the way it can be used to produce full-text search capabilities for your Internet site. Some readers may question the usefulness of this feature, but not for long. The most recent Price Waterhouse Legal Tech show (in Los Angeles this past June) included a wide variety of seminars and discussions of Internet, intranet, and extranet technologies. Intranets are becoming the latest development to sweep many law offices, constituting for each office its own personal internal enterprise-wide Web site that can be used to provide sophisticated access to everything from policies and procedures to work product documents, and more.
Extranets are one of the latest permutations of Internet technology. Using Web technology to establish a new way for different (and usually geographically dispersed) offices to communicate, these extranets can provide their users with everything from e-mail capabilities to access to full-text databases (e.g., a litigation-support database on a particular matter).
While few law offices will worry about making their Web site full-text-searchable, more may gravitate toward the notion of making all of their intranet or extranet Web pages@r selected Web pages -- searchable using an engine of the caliber and quality of ISYS. An extranet produced on a given large case, involving multiple law offices and tens of thousands of documents, cannot operate without an efficient way to search through its information.
Added to its other capabilities, ISYS'S ability to index and make full-text searchable databases out of Internet, intranet, or extranet sites makes this database manager a valuable tool for law offices.
Cary Griffith is an author, a consultant, and president of The Electronic Book Company. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or 73150.1357@ compuserve.com.
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|Date:||Sep 1, 1997|
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