ClauseBase offers very powerful styling options, to accomodate the complex reality of balancing standardisation with the everyday needs of different departments and clients. The styling options are not difficult to understand — often simpler MS Word — but may take some getting used to.
Separating style & content
In MS Word, styling and content are strongly intertwined, because every document, every paragraph, every table (and even every character) will store its own styling. Accordingly, in MS Word, every content element will always have styling attached to it.
The advantage of the approach taken by MS Word is that this is easier to understand for beginning users. After all, this approach matches what users intuivitely perceive: content is never “naked”, and will always have some styling when printed or shown on the screen.
The disadvantage of this approach is that styling gets very difficult to manage, because every document, table, paragraph and character may use slightly different styling. This obviously hampers standardisation and uniformisation, because diverging layouts being produced by even small offices (and often even by the same person!). The use of templates and “defined styles” in MS Word helps somewhat to manage the complexity, but does not alter the fundamental issue that styling and content are strongly intertwined.
Conversely, ClauseBase strongly encourages you to separate styling and content, by storing styling and content on different places, independent of each other. Coming from MS Word, this separation may feel somewhat unnatural in the beginning, but the advantages will quickly become clear.
In ClauseBase, you can think about legal content as the main dish and styling as a side dish. Before the restaurant is opened, the main dishes are prepared, independent of the question which side dish will later on be chosen by a customer. Any main dish can be freely combined with any side dish, and the same side dish can be used with any main dish, without having to alter the main or side dish when doing so.
There are currently eight different categories of styles: base paragraph styling, heading styling, bullet styling, page styling, enumeration styling, definition styling, locale styling and reference styling. All of these categories are explained in subsequent pages.
For each of these eight categories, styles can be stored at three different levels: the customer level, the group(s) level and the user level. At each of those three levels, multiple styles can be stores, and one of them can be chosen as the default style at that level.
The actual styling that will get applied to a concrete document, will then be a combination of the default styles at every level.
This may sound complex, but actually mimics the way most users think about styling. After all, in most companies, there is a “house style” that will dictate which logo to use, which fonts to use for headings and body text, and which colors to use.
Individual departments often augment this corporate house style, for example by specifying that numbering should follow a certain format, and that pages should have a certain left margin. Finally, individual users may have their own preferences.
In practice, ClauseBase takes the following steps to combine — for example — the font style for body text.
- It starts with the ClauseBase default font style, currently Arial, 10 pt size, black, justified.
- It checks whether a default font style is stored in the customer’s account settings. Assume, for example, that the administrator has indeed chosen Times New Roman as the customer’s font style. The result of this step will then be Times New Roman, 10 pt, black, justified. Note that the font size, color and alignment were left untouched, because the customer’s account settings did not override these elements.
- Next, ClauseBase checks whether a default font style is stored in any of the groups to which the user belongs (e.g., the group/department Corporate Law). If the group Corporate Law would for example have chosen Courier 12 pt as the default for the group, then the result of this step will be Courier, 12 pt, black, justified. Note that Corporate Law deviates from what the customer’s Times New Roman house style. Also note that it is perfectly possible that some other department would not deviate from the customer’s house style — which would cause the users of that department to use the Times New Roman of the house style.
- ClauseBase then checks whether the user has the right to store deviating styling. Assume this is indeed the case, and that the user has chosen left-alignment, because most of his clients simply do not like justified texts. The result at this step will be Courier, 12pt, black, left-aligned.
Then result is that, without changing the legal content of a document, the resulting .DOCX or .PDF file can look very different, depending on the style settings that have been chosen by a customer, group and/or user.
When a user is a member of multiple groups, and each of those groups specifies a certain style setting, the alphabetically last style setting (according to its style’s name) will get precedence.
For example, if a user is a member of Group X (having a default style called “X” which sets the font to Arial) and Group Y (having a default style called “Y”, which sets the font to Georgia) then — assuming no other default styles apply — the font will be set to Georgia, because style “Y” comes alphabetically after style “X”.
After the administrator has made any changes or updates to the customer account style settings, users with open sessions will have to refresh their browsers before being able to access the updated styles.
The aformentioned combination of styles provides sufficient power to deal with the majority of situations.
However, there are situations where the strict separation of content & style should be loosened. For example, it may be the case that a specific document should always use headings in a red font or a specific type of numbering, irrespective of the default styling that happens to be chosen by a customer, group and/or user.
ClauseBase therefore optionally allows you to attach specific styling to a document or clause. This styling will be applied as the last step, to override the default styling for the customer, group and/or user.