In 2017, I tried to explain the basics of paperless working, its benefits, and the essential functions of the software known as PDF Expert (‘How to e-work’ Counsel April 2017). I hope since then that you have done yourself a favour by at least dipping a tentative toe into the waters of this new world and begun to sense its benefits.
It is now time to look in more detail at how to handle an e-bundle of the kind you are likely to encounter in practice. I aim to talk you through the process of housekeeping the files so they are ready to work on, just in the way most of you will have done with paper. Additionally, for those of you working with a Windows machine, I’ll be explaining how to accomplish the same task in PDF-XChange Editor, a powerful and relatively cheap alternative to Adobe Acrobat for PC users.
So, what are you likely to encounter? Well, you may be fortunate and always receive a full, orderly, paginated e-bundle that requires no housekeeping at all. Normal life for most of us, however, is far removed from that.
What you are more likely to encounter will be something like this. At the start of the case, or on first instruction, you will receive an e-bundle that is something close to orderly and up to date. You will probably receive one file containing all sections of the bundle. As I mentioned in ‘How to e-work’, it will usually be better for viewing and file-management purposes to split this large file into several smaller ones, each being one complete section of the bundle.
On first instruction
Here’s a walk through of how to do this in PDF Expert:
- Go to thumbnail view by clicking on the ‘Thumbnail view’ icon top left. You will now see multiple pages represented on your screen, still big enough to see where a bundle section begins and ends.
- Click on the first page of Section A. Scroll down to the final page of Section A and shift-click on it. This will then select all the pages of Section A.
- While these pages are selected, click on ‘Extract’ (top right). This will open a box prompting you to save the selected pages. It is important that you carry out the next step efficiently.
- Immediately under the ‘Save As:’ and ‘Tags’ boxes, you will see the box for the folder in which it is going to save the file you are about to create. Check that it is the correct folder. TIP: If you click on this box, it will open in three sections, the lowest of which is called ‘Recent places’. There is a good chance that if it didn’t find the correct folder first time, it will be located here, especially if you have been working on the folder recently ready for you to select.
- Having navigated to the folder in which you plan to save your sections, go back to the ‘Save As:’ box at the top. It will have dreamt up a name of its own to give to your new file. It is unlikely to be the best one for the job. If what you have extracted is Section A, just type A. You will then save the file in the folder for your case – or a sub-folder in which you are keeping the e-bundle (sensible) with the simple name A. Not (as is beloved of some administrators buried deep in the interstices Legal Departments of Town Halls) ‘Section A’ as if you needed to be told it is a section. Or worse, ‘SKM847362981827update.pdf’. If you want all your sections to be saved in simple alphabetical order, just give each of them a letter and no more. If your filing system is a bit less organised and you have files from more than one case in one folder so you can’t save more than one as A, you are beyond the pale and need to stand in the corner at the back of the class. Facing the wall. If you remain unrepentant you can save it as A_Stiggins or as the case may be.
- Repeat this process for each section of the bundle, and you will now have a lovely pristine, orderly set of files lettered from A to whatever, all lined up in your dedicated sub-folder, raring to go. Sit back and admire your work.
For those using Adobe Acrobat, the steps are similar in principle and go like this:
- Click on Tools, then under ‘Create & Edit’ click on ‘Organise Pages’. This opens Thumbnail view. Select the pages you require (as above) then click on ‘Extract’.
- Do not select the options ‘Delete Pages after Extracting’ or ‘Extract Pages as Extra Files’. Simply click on the blue highlighted button ‘Extract’.
- This will open a new tab: ‘Pages from A.pdf’
- Go to File – Save As. Find the folder you want to save to, and enter the file name ‘A’ or as you please, then save.
In PDF-XChange, the process is similar once again, though here you’ll be working with ‘panes’:
- To bring up thumbnail view, similar to that in PDF Expert, navigate to ‘View’ and then ‘Panes’ at the top right of the ribbon, then select ‘Thumbnails’ from the drop-down menu (or simply press Ctrl+T). This brings up the Thumbnail pane on the left-hand side of the screen.
- By default, the Thumbnail pane will be rather narrow, and most likely wide enough for only one thumbnail. To make life easier, click and drag the divider separating the pane from the rest of your document to make it larger, then use the ‘zoom in’ or ‘zoom out’ buttons at the top of the thumbnail pane to get to a desired number of pages on screen at once.
- Now, select the pages you require by shift-clicking them (as above) then navigate to ‘Organise’ on the ribbon and select ‘Extract’ (or, press Ctrl+Shift+E). This will open up a dialogue box with a number of options.
- The top panel asks you for the page range to be extracted. As you have already selected the pages you want in the Thumbnail pane, the ‘selected pages’ option should be selected by default (if not, check to make sure you have highlighted the required pages by shift clicking them). Let’s leave that checked.
- In the bottom panel, ensure that ‘Save All Extracted Pages to One File’ is selected. Then, give your new file a name and select the Destination Folder where you’d like it to be saved. Notice the option at the bottom to ‘open the destination folder’, which will be checked by default.
- Hit ‘OK’ and voilà: your new document will be waiting for you in the folder you selected (which should open up automatically, if you left the option to do so checked).
The next hearing
Now we move to the next stage. Let us imagine it is the next hearing. Your collection of files, one for each section, served you wonderfully well at the first hearing. You had each one of them opened in a separate tab across your screen. TIP: if the tabs are not in alphabetical order, you can drag the tab across the screen so that they are.
For the next hearing, your instructing solicitor will have sent you the file of new documents containing the chilling word ‘updates’ or similar. Open it up and survey the scene. It is no worse than the paper equivalent, and must be beaten into submission. In a good case, it will have been paginated and that helps a lot. Make sure you have the latest index. If you do not, telephone your instructing solicitor at 3am to ask for it. Pretend you hadn’t noticed the time.
Open the new index so you can see where all the new material goes. Ideally click on and drag the tab for the index to another part of the screen so it opens in a separate window – that way you can see it all the time you’re working on your updates and trust me, this is better because it saves you having to switch into and out of your index. That was another top TIP, in case you hadn’t noticed.
PDF Expert or Acrobat
If you are working in PDF Expert or Acrobat, proceed as follows. Bear in mind that all the letters and numbers that follow are imaginary and have no resemblance, real or imagined, to actual bundles or updates to bundles and are not intended to intrude upon the safe space of any such bundles.
- Enter Thumbnail view with all the skill of someone who has done it once before.
- Identify the pages that constitute the updates to Section A. Select those pages, click on ‘Extract’ and save (as above). TIP: if they are paginated, now save them as A8-15 or as appropriate. This will come in handy, I promise you.
- Repeat this process for each of the sections. You will end up with files such as B50-85, C87-184 and so on all sitting among your original A, B, C etc.
Now embark on the process of tidying up. This is simple and soon becomes second-nature:
- Open your original section A in PDF Expert and switch to Thumbnail view.
- Click on ‘Append file’ from the bar at the top and select your newly created A8-15. Then click ‘Add’ from the bottom right of the box that has opened (it will be highlighted in blue).
- This will add A8-15 at the end of your original Section A.
- Now, click on File – Save As. Make sure you’re in the correct folder, and save it as A.
- It will now shout at you saying that A.pdf already exists and do you want to replace it. You do, so click Replace. Repeat for each section of your bundle.
You now have a bundle that is updated to include the updating material and can delete A8-15 and other updating sections if you want to keep your folders tidy. I do this in one go at the end of the process of updating all the sections.
In PDF-XChange, things are even simpler:
- As above, you should have the sections of your bundle open as tabs in PDF-XChange and your index opened in a separate window (this can be accomplished by dragging the ‘Index’ tab down from its place on the ribbon and letting go). In your main window, open your ‘Updates’ file so that it appears as your right-most tab.
- Open the Thumbnails pane once again (if you ever closed it!) and drag its divider to the right so that it takes up around two thirds of the window. You’ll want to be able to see a full page on the right in enough detail that when you switch to your index you can see where your updates are destined.
- Now go to your ‘Updates’ document and select the first set of pages that you want to transfer into your bundle. Let’s suppose that the first five pages, numbered A72(a) to A72(e), are to be inserted into Section A between pages 72 and 73. Select those five pages by shift-clicking them in the Thumbnails pane.
- Now the fun bit: press ‘Ctrl+C’ to copy the selected pages then switch to your Section A tab and navigate to page 72 in the Thumbnails Pane. Select page 72 by clicking on it and hit ‘Ctrl+V’.
- Hey presto! The new pages will be pasted into your document immediately after the page you selected. Now just save your updated document as normal and move on to the next set of updates.
Set out blow-by-blow like this it may seem laborious and even daunting, but it is not. For an average case, it takes about 10-15 minutes. If that seems burdensome, call to mind those happy
hours spent with piles of paper spread all over the study floor, as your paper bundles defied all attempts to bring them under control. And that was even before the ring binder burst, the staple punctured your thumb and the metal strengthener pinged off the bottom of the file and embedded itself in your arm.
It is available to download for free and comes in a standard and ‘Plus’ edition (which allows the creation and editing of fillable forms). Premium features (such as the ability to edit text and insert pages) are usable without purchase, so you can try before you buy, but use of these will place a watermark in the corners of each page when you save.
To remove watermarks after purchase:
- Reinstall the program, making sure to enter your serial key.
- Open your document and navigate to ‘Organise’ then ‘Watermarks’ on the ribbon.
- Select ‘Remove all’ from the drop-down menu then hit ‘Yes’ and, just like that, your document will be watermark free.
Premium features can be unlocked with a one-off purchase, which comes in at around £33 for the basic edition and £42 for ‘Plus’ (a steal, compared to Acrobat DC’s £13 per month!). Licenses also give the option of up to three years of rolling updates for a one-off payment of around £10.