Hard copy has edge over software

An electronic version of the The Supreme Court Practice 1995 otherwise known as the White Book is likely to provoke the interest of any computer-literate litigation lawyer and on the face of it the facilities provided by the digital edition are impressive.

Its many features allow the user to search for any word or words in all or any parts of The White Book

view the results of any search in a prioritised list of importance

when viewing text, move directly to material referred to in cross references (using hypertext links)

see whether text has been updated by material in the Cumulative Supplement

print out relevant paragraphs and/or copy text to a Windows word processor.

In practice the digital edition (in both networked and CD-ROM format) falls short of expectations in one important respect. Running on a reasonably specified desktop (ie a 486 25MHz with 8MB of RAM) or portable PC, especially with other applications open, the performance is slow.

To begin with, the Digital Edition takes roughly two minutes to open on each occasion it is started which is probably not too significant if the application is only opened once a day and then left open.

However, leaving it running all day does not appear to be a viable strategy because other applications do not run efficiently at the same time.

Once open, while searches can be carried out and a prioritised list of the results produced reasonably quickly – typically in less than 10 seconds – calling up the text of the particular orders or paragraphs identified as relevant by a search is very slow, taking in the region of one minute.

Closing down other applications when using the Digital Edition to boost efficient operation does improve matters but again this is not a realistic mode of operation.

The number and sophistication of the available searches is impressive, and the method of searching and the way in which results are presented is very clear and user-friendly.

The 125-page user's guide is clear and well-presented. It is marred only by what appears to be a mismatch between page numbers given in the index and the relevant text, although we understand that this problem is being rectified for the next issue of the Cumulative Supplement.

Because it takes so long to access on a computer, the digital edition does not seriously challenge the use of existing hard copy text, especially when you know what you are looking for and know roughly where

to find it.

The product undoubtedly serves a valuable function in providing comprehensive access to all parts of the White Book and the Cumulative Supplements. But in its present form it does not provide a complete substitute for the traditional version.

The Supreme Court Practice 1995 digital edition is published by Sweet & Maxwell and costs £395 + VAT retail, or for subscribers to the printed version £165 + VAT.

White book


The White Book: impressive number of search options

The lawyer 3 october 199