Tip of the Week

Tech Tip: Convert to Text!

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By Ken Fox

You know what really grinds my gears? When I open a PDF file containing what appears to be digitally-formatted text and find that it is non-copyable and non-searchable. The ability to search, copy and paste text are essential functions of digital communications – so the idea that a text is born digitally and therefore ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) encoded, and that somebody wittingly or unwittingly should remove that functionality – it leads to much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth on my part.

Well just last week I was sent a large PDF document with more than 70 pages of text. So I opened it in Adobe Acrobat, and tried to execute a search for a key term, and found that it was (you guessed it) another one of those documents that had signs of ASCII-formatted text in its progeny, but through the manipulations of some kind of monster, been reduced to the mere semblance of text, no more searchable than a stack of paper.

So naturally I commenced with my usual process of wailing and gnashing, but after a few minutes of that I got a notion that maybe I should try something different. In near desperation, I got the idea that – just maybe – if I “select all” and paste it into a text editor then some hitherto-hidden ASCII-encoded text might appear. Worth a try, right?

So I hit control-A, and THIS happened:

Hello!

“Why yes,” I said out loud, “in fact I WOULD like to run text recognition to make the text on this page accessible – THANKS for asking!”

I clicked Yes.

Then I got asked for some settings, which I ignored and just clicked OK – opting for the default option in my excitement.

Adobe Acrobat then leapt through my document, systematically performing the miracle of breathing life into the dead letters at the rate of about a page a second – slightly faster for the “born digital” main portion, and a bit slower for some appendices that bore the stigmata of pre-digital technology.

The result was perfectly copyable, pastable, searchable text in the main body of the document. As for the typewritten appendices, Acrobat almost flawlessly converted them into digital text as well, while maintaining the visual features of the original typed text. Basically, the document looked identical to how it had looked prior to the procedure but was now digitally functional. The only letters and numbers that resisted the resurrection were data from a single table with a very small typeface – those few characters remained a heretical community of graphics in the midst of a near-universal mass conversion.

Optical text recognition technology has come a long way in a few short years.

Now if you work anywhere in the legal industry (or do any kind of office work), then there is a good chance you have been able to follow right along, and to some of you, this is already old news and why am I boring you. But if there are any among you who don’t know what I’m talking about with text that can be searched and copied – you need to learn a few tricks that will make your life a whole lot easier. Begin with learning these commands, which work on almost all text-editing software:

CTL-F … Find text in document

CTL-A … Select All

CTL-X … Cut selected text

CTL-C … Copy selected text

CTL-V … Paste the last text you cut or copied

CTL-Z … Undo last operation

CTL-Y … Redo undone operation

CTL-H … Find all identified text in document and replace with other text

You can use point-and-click menus for these operations as well, but I find the keyboard shortcuts easier. These features, and many others, are now standard practice in office work – so learning them will not get you ahead so much as get you caught up with the rest of us.

And if you ever come across a text, especially a longish one, for which the above commands do not work, try to do minimal weeping & wailing and tooth-gnashing. And when you are done that, wipe the tears off your keyboard and try the simple operation described above. Failing that, try something else. And if all else fails, ask your friend in IT to perform a miracle. Because there is no reason to tolerate text in a digital file that cannot function as digital text.

Using Abridgment Topics to Refine Citing References in WestlawNext – Tip of the Week

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By Ken Fox

WestlawNext Canada, which is presently available to all Saskatchewan lawyers through The Law Society’s Member’ Section, includes an excellent Citing References tool. Today’s tip will help you in situations where you are dealing with a long list of citing references for a major case. My example relates to evidence law, but the technique will work with any legal topic.

I’ve recently learned that the law of evidence mostly originates in criminal law, and is transplanted, as needed, to civil law. Thus, most of the citations in Cudmore’s Civil Evidence Handbook are criminal cases. So, if you are a civil litigator, you may wonder from time to time how a criminal law authority on evidence has been applied in civil matters.

Take, for example, R. v. Cloutier 1979 CarswellQue 15, a case that rules that there must be a probative relationship between a fact introduced as evidence and the facts at issue in the matter. Start by pulling up that case in WestlawNext. Now find the Citing References tab and select “Cases and Decisions.” There are 207 references, and at a glance, most of them are criminal cases.

Is there an easy way to filter out the criminal case, and view the civil ones?

Look at the left-hand panel of the results screen. First, make sure you are only viewing Cases and Decisions, not all document types. Most of the filters are exclusive to case law. Going down the screen, you should see “Search within results,” Date, Depth of Treatment, Jurisdiction, Court Level, Treatment Type, Abridgment Topics, and Citation Frequency. Any of these can be used to limit the results to parameters of your choosing.

Note that the search runs immediately as you select a parameter unless you press the “Select Multiple Filters” button – which allows you to choose more than one filter at a time. Most of the time it is best to choose a single filter and see what the results are before adding another.

For the present example, the filter we want is “Abridgment Topics.” Go ahead and press the “Select” button beneath that heading.A box appears listing possible Abridgment Topics in alphabetical order. When you select a topic, it appears in the right-hand panel of the box under the heading “Your Selections.” In this case, you might select only Civil Practice and Procedure, or to get a broader range of non-criminal cases, you could select a few other topics as well.

Then click the “Filter” button at the bottom of the box. With only Civil Practice and Procedure selected, we go from 207 hits to 15, a very manageable number – and likely to give us a good look at how that evidence rule has been applied in civil courts across Canada.

But don’t forget you have many other possible filters to work with – you can limit the results to recent cases, Saskatchewan cases, higher court cases, depth or type of treatment, any number of other Abridgment topics, or any combination of the above. So play around, but always being aware what each filter does to your results before adding more.

For research advice and assistance, contact the library.

Creating CanLII Alerts – Tip of the Week

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By Alan Kilpatrick

Did you know that you can receive instant notifications every time a new case is added to CanLII simply by subscribing to an RSS feed?  Would you like to monitor all new decisions from a particular level of court or administrative tribunal in Saskatchewan?  An RSS feed can do that for you.

RSS feeds deliver instant updates that inform you whenever a website is updated.  In CanLII’s case, they will alert you whenever a new decision is posted.

Our colleagues at the Law Society of Manitoba Library have put together an excellent guide that describes how to Create an Alert with CanLII.

We encourage you to check their guide out.

 

Source

Manitoba Law Library (2018). Create an alert with CanLII.  Retrieved from http://lawlibrary.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Create-an-Alert-with-CanLII.pdf.

 

Research Tip Roundup

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By Alan Kilpatrick

Did you know that the Law Society Library has created over 100 legal research tips for Legal Sourcery since the blog was launched four and a half years ago?  The tips cover a variety of resources, tools, subjects, and search strategies.

Over the past year, we have highlighted many of these helpful tips through a series of research tip “roundup” posts.  Each roundup post presents a variety of tips on a particular resource or research subject.

You can use the links below to access our research tips on the following subjects:

If you have any questions about legal research, ask a Law Society Librarian! We are pleased to provide high-quality legal research services to Saskatchewan members in person, on the telephone, or by email.

 

AskLibnEmail reference@lawsociety.sk.ca
Call 306-569-8020 in Regina
Toll-free 1-877-989-4999
Fax 306-569-0155

Research Tip Roundup: Research Strategies

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Alan Kilpatrick, Reference Librarian

Starting last summer, we have been highlighting Legal Sourcery’s most popular research tips.  On that note, here are Legal Sourcery’s most popular research strategy

 tips:

If you have any questions, ask a Law Society Librarian! We are pleased to provide high-quality legal research services to Saskatchewan members in person, on the telephone, or by email.

 

AskLibnEmail reference@lawsociety.sk.ca
Call 306-569-8020 in Regina
Toll-free 1-877-989-4999
Fax 306-569-0155