Thursday, September 25, 2014

Some Thoughts on Electronic Document Navigation

Many times I hear that electronic documents are too hard to work with.  In this article we explore some ideas to help address this perceived and real problem.

Last year we discussed the fact that computer monitors are getting physically wider with more resolution.  Currently, it is not uncommon to now be able to buy a “True HD” 1080p, 20 to 22 inch monitor for under $150 and 23 inch monitors for under $170.

Therefore, I started to think that I should be setting up my default PDF viewer screen to take advantage of its ability to automatically show page thumbnails when opening a document.  This lets me see a good portion, if not the entire document, in thumbnails and correspondingly be able to easily jump to a section without scrolling or advancing a page at a time using those keys.

Next, I wanted to try to replicate the case file navigation aids I see in courts, the yellow sticky note. In PDF these are called “bookmarks”.  As you can see in the photo of what many of you know is one of my favorite books, (“Out of Control” by Kevin Kelly celebrating the 20th anniversary of its publication) it is easy to jump from point to point in the document.

So what is the point of this article?  To note that the future of court file clerks will not be to place documents in the physical files but rather, to organize the electronic document to make sure that the thumbnails are working and, to add the standard bookmarks.  This will speed the judge’s work in finding and using the document’s information.

Last, Adobe has several good web tutorials on these subjects.  They are:


  1. Jim, in some courts digital touch tone screens have been successfully used by self represented litigants to create their online forms. Instead of clicking a mouse, they can touch the interview to make their selections. NY Courts gave the touch tone screens to the self help centers that had the most use of the DIY forms powered by LHI. As the average age of our population increases, touch tone screens could be a tool to really increase the ability of litigants to create their own forms when using user friendly doc assembly online tools. Digital screens could also probably be very useful for clerks to process the forms.

  2. With the increase of monitor sizes and quality I have seen easier acceptance when the viiwer is embedded in an application. So that the bookmarks and thumbnails are automated, they can add easily add notes and switch to other cases or documents easily.

  3. That's why it pays to stay up to date on technology and related things like human services software.

  4. Rich - I published your comment despite the fact that it is essentially an ad for your product or a product you use. Human services software is one of many kinds of specialized case management systems. I believe as do large systems development companies like IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle that these concepts are merging into a more general CMS category. However that does not mean that specialized systems cannot be successful as the large companies often do not have the domain expertise to facilitate their use.