56: Document Automation

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Generating a date list from a specific starting date

Thanks for a great show! I got some new ideas for sure, which also brought up the following:

Forgive me for what feels like a VERY novice question, but can anyone point me to a way to generate a list of dates from a specific starting date that you are asked to input?

Each semester I need a template for setting up my course syllabi that sets up the 16 weeks in the semester, asks for either a MWF or TuTh schedule, and then the starting date and fills in all the subsequent dates after that. I currently have a very generic one in Ulysses but I have to fill in all the dates by hand each time. I have tried building such a thing in Text Expander but before I even get started I run into the issue that before I can do date math, I need the specific start date. I have used text expander for basic date time snippets, paper commenting snippets, even some basic forms, but for some reason I just can’t figure out how to get started with this one. Anyone have any suggestions or a library you could point me to?
Thanks so much in advance!

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For this, I’d actually use Numbers! That’s assuming the dates themselves are able to be calculated easily. You could also use Shortcuts, with a repeat 16 times to calculate the days in that week.

At the end of the episode, there was a discussion about ceiling fan control. I’ve been using a Bond Bridge and can’t say enough good things about it. The setup was a bit dodgy, but it has been rock solid in operation.

With it, I’m able to control an IR pedestal fan line of sight as well as RF ceiling fans in other rooms of the house. It is Homebridge compatible and offers a local API that I’ve used to send commands via my Stream Deck.

Broadlink products are another (cheaper) option but I don’t have direct experience to share. On a related note, if you are thinking about RF automation, be sure to check for compatible frequencies. Different products offer different ranges and I’ve not seen one brand that covers everything.

Hope this helps!

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I’d like to give some constructive feedback on the show and I offer it in the spirit that I really enjoy the show and it has been very helpful and I appreciate that you all offer it. In the beginning, David and Rosemary would post videos of the automations and links to where macros and other code could be downloaded, but that seems to have stopped at some point. This is unfortunate because it’s so hard for me (and perhaps others) to follow along with verbal descriptions of how some of these automations work. I get that our hosts are very busy and creating these supplemental materials is time-consuming, so I was wondering if this sort of thing is just not possible any more?

Thank you again for your hard work on the podcast and here in the forum.

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I’ve spent way too much time in the past three years trying to figure out a good way to automate document creation on the Mac. The biggest hurdle for me has been formatting – I have to use specific letterhead or specific forms for pleadings and orders, etc.

I’ve been somewhat successful using Filemaker (with Scribe plug-in) and MS Word to generate letters and estate documents (wills, powers of attorney). However, our firm just changed to a new practice management software, so I no longer track my clients in Filemaker.

I’ve also had some success using Nisus Writer Pro and its macros. I created my own macro that searches for any text between two sets of square brackets and then prompts me to replace it. That has worked well for letters and certain types of agreements. At the same time, it’s not tied to a database, so I end up having retype the same info over and over for different documents attached to the same client file.

I’ve also tried using a combo of Markdown and Pandoc to generate PDFs, but that was pretty fiddly, especially having to mess with LaTex templates. Also, Markdown isn’t great for numbered paragraphs and headings, though Pandoc has support for some of that stuff.

Anyway, thank you for doing an episode on document automation. I hope others will share some of their tips and tricks.

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I was wondering how an episode on Document Automation managed not to mention Nisus Writer Pro. Definitely my Word Processor of choice on the Mac when it comes to rich text automations.

Did you ever consider creating a mail merge data file, and then using the data from that in fields in your documents through a mail merge? Then use a bit of automation to temporarily filter out the records you don’t want (generate a mail merge source file to use from a master file) and generate the document for whichever client you need.

I’ve thought about using a mail merge data file, but I haven’t figured out a good way to either filter that file or create a matter-specific data file quickly/automatically. It’s a good idea though. I’m pretty sure that’s how the wills paralegals generate their wills and estate documents with WordPerfect(!).

Rosemary mentioned that Lutron Caseta switches aren’t available in the UK, however Lutron’s RA2 range is. It only offers inline dimmers and switches, but otherwise pairs with pico remotes (including in wall plates, replacing switches) and sensors and offers the same app control and assistant compatibility (HomeKit, Google, Alexa).

Lightwave RF’s Smart series are a good choice - I have both a 4-gang light switch and a number of wall power sockets in my home office. Also good that they offer 1, 2, 3 and 4 gang light switches, so can be used in most applications to swap out an existing fixture. Only downside is that most UK wall boxes aren’t very deep, so you may well end up using the 10mm spacer they provide with the switch.

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For those who are stuck with Microsoft Word as your primary document format (as I am) another option is to use Custom Properties in the document, and then insert these into the template as fields.

For the Mac, you can define your properties (variables) in the document properties at File->Properties->Custom.

You then put them in the correct place in your template as a DocProperty field (https://www.howtogeek.com/217440/how-to-insert-built-in-and-custom-advanced-properties-into-a-word-document/)

Its a bit fiddly to setup, however very powerful once done.