GeodSoft logo   GeodSoft

Electronic Document Sharing

In controlled access areas of the web site, section members share electronic documents. Report and searching by file type, content, title, abstract, provider, date and size. Links to online member database to keep provider information current.

The largest, completely new development project that I had on ATLA NET was the development of Document Libraries, an electronic document sharing solution for ATLA's Sections. The purpose was to provide an easy to use web application that would let members of a Section share electronic legal documents with their colleagues. It included upload, reporting, search and download capabilities for electronic documents.

Like all dynamic ATLA NET web pages the document library pages were tied into the standard table driven security front end. To use the document library ATLA members had to belong to both the specific section and be a voting member. Much later the restrictions were relaxed. If the member was qualified by virtue of their memberships, they also had to agree to an online contract (described in the next page). The original implementation had very different agreements for uploading and downloading. ATLA's General Counsel prepared the final wording from drafts I wrote. The electronic libraries were a major impetus for the more general online contract system.

Users who met the security requirements and agreed to the online contract would first see a standard report form showing documents already in the library. The default report format showed the document title (which could be fairly long), the document legal type such as brief, deposition, memorandum, letter, pleading, etc. the date the document was uploaded and a link to a details page. The default sort order was reverse upload order so a user could check their section libraries from time to time and see all the new documents at a glance. The anticipation was that this would be a moderate to low volume application, at least initially.

By simply adding or removing check marks from HTLM form check boxes the user could include any or all of eight columns in the report format. They were title, abstract, legal document type, file format, filename, upload date, the name of the member who uploaded the document and the file size in bytes. The user could use a radio button to select the sort order from title, legal document type, file format, file name, upload date or uploader's name. There were also filters to limit results. Drop down selections would limit legal document type, file type and / or upload date ranges of displayed results.

Uploader and file name could be selected by a wild carded string match. The instructions described a more or less standard string match using an asterisk as a wild card character. Actually if the user entered one or more asterisks without other preceding special characters, the asterisk was turned into a period and asterisk and the result evaluated as a regular expression. If the user actually entered a period and asterisk or other regular expressions these were evaluated directly.

The "more" link that was automatically included in all report formats lead to a single page that included all 8 fields that were available. This page was dynamically generated from a database containing user entered and calculated fields. When a document was uploaded, the same data that was saved into the database and used for sorting, selecting and formatting the reports as well as creating the dynamic "more" page, was also written to a static HTML page that almost exactly duplicated the dynamic "more" page appearance.

Because Microsoft's Index Server was already in use, we wanted to take maximum advantage of it. While it will index WordPerfect and other binary documents that contain ASCII strings, the displayed results are less than pretty. The static version of the "more" page was solely for Index Server. The system contained no links to these static pages which would only ever be presented to a user from Index Server results pages. If the document uploader entered good titles and abstracts that would make documents relatively easy to find via Index Server. In practice a number of users actually took to pasting the entire document contents into the abstract field which had the effect of making it full text searchable. The uploaded documents could be in any file format and this format was preserved. The extra static "more" page provided reasonable searching capabilities regardless of what the file format of the uploaded document.

When a user uploaded a document, they were prompted for five pieces of information including the upload file name. All were requried. The path was striped out but the file name retained and used as the actual saved filename. The matching static document used the same name plus ".htm". For the legal document type and file type, the user selected from a drop down. If they chose "other", the other descriptive field was required. The plan was to use these over time to add new types to the drop down selection as patterns were detected. Title and abstract were required but except for requiring some content the system could do nothing force meaningful content. Uploaders were generally quite conscientious about these fields.

The original uploader could correct or update any of the information that they supplied when they originally uploaded a document at any time in the future. If the uploader ever viewed the dynamic "more" page an update button would appear that no other user saw. This button lead to an editing page that had all the user entered data and included a preview page. While uploaders could correct any data they supplied, they could not delete an uploaded document and no one could upload any new document over an existing one. If they could, then documents could be effectively deleted by uploading an empty document over an existing one. If there was a valid reason for removing a document from a document library this function had to be performed by an ATLA staff document library administrator. The dynamic "more" page also included a delete button if the user was a document library administrator. The static page had both update and delete buttons but the invoked programs checked that the current user was the correct user before allowing these function to be performed.

The system determined the upload date, file size and the uploader's name from the AUTHENTICATED_USER value. On the "more" detail page or when user selected it for inclusion in the report format, the uploader's name was displayed but no other information. Their name was a link to a one record query into the member directory so that current contact information would always be available. The link was based on an encrypted version of their member number.

As part of the document library project, the standard search form was enhanced to include search the current section area, search all sections or search the entire site. A key strength of Microsoft's Index Server was that in a search like this if the user selected all sections but was only eligible (had the necessary OS file rights) to see results from say three, those would be the only ones Index Server would return. Each document library was associated with its own NT group and section members who qualified were automatically added to this group during registration or by the nightly update processes. No programing or configuration had to be performed to cause Index Server limit the displayed result list. If the user did not have the rights to retrieve the document Index Server would not reveal that it existed.

transparent spacer

Top of Page - Site Map

Copyright © 2000 - 2014 by George Shaffer. This material may be distributed only subject to the terms and conditions set forth in (or These terms are subject to change. Distribution is subject to the current terms, or at the choice of the distributor, those in an earlier, digitally signed electronic copy of (or cgi-bin/ from the time of the distribution. Distribution of substantively modified versions of GeodSoft content is prohibited without the explicit written permission of George Shaffer. Distribution of the work or derivatives of the work, in whole or in part, for commercial purposes is prohibited unless prior written permission is obtained from George Shaffer. Distribution in accordance with these terms, for unrestricted and uncompensated public access, non profit, or internal company use is allowed.

Home >
About >
Large Project >

What's New
Email address

Copyright © 2000-2014, George Shaffer. Terms and Conditions of Use.