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JILT 1997 (3) - Andrew Culley

Review of Technical Indexes European Law

Andrew Culley
University of Central Lancashire
a.culley@uclan.ac.uk

Contents
1. Contents of the CD-ROMs
2. Searching the Databases
3. The Help System
4. Exporting and Printing
5. Personalisation and Customisation
6. System Requirements
7. The Cost
8. Overall Appraisal
  8.1 Technical Note

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This is an IT Review published on 16 July 1997.

Citation: Culley A, 'Review of Technical Indexes European Law', IT Review, 1997 (3) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/sw/97_3euro/>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/1997_3/culley/>


1. Contents of the CD-ROMs

This service is described by the distributors as 'a comprehensive source of European Union Legislation'. It includes the CELEX database, i.e. the text of EU Treaties, EU secondary legislation, legal acts resulting from the External Acts of the European Communities, various supplementary Community legislation [1] , preparatory documents [2] , Commission legislative proposals (in full text from from 1995), merger decisions, references to national measures implementing directives, Parliamentary Questions and opinions of the Advocates-General; the text of the publication, the Proceedings of the Court of Justice; background reports from the Commission on specific policy areas; the text of the publication, The Week in Europe; the DTI Spearhead Database (briefings from the UK Department of Trade and Industry explaining the effect of EU measures upon business); and Spicers database (a database of abstracts of and references to articles relating to the EU). Both CD-ROMs also contain an introduction, a thesaurus and a glossary.

The service is provided on two CD-ROMs and update CD-ROMS are provided every second month. Optimally, the system requires the use of two CD-ROM drives or transfer of all the data to a hard disk if much disk switching is to be avoided. The necessity to swop disks is not a significant disadvantage if the service is compared with other services on the market. To obtain the same range of information from other CD-ROM publications, use of at least two CD-ROMs would be necessary. In fact, it could be argued that this service provides an advantage over those other publications in that links between the data on the two CD-ROMs can be used when searching and browsing.

Folio Views software is used for searching the various databases provided on the CD-ROMS and displaying the results of each search. All the usual search facilities provided within the Folio Views environment are available. The whole database is divided into records each of which are equivalent to a paragraph in a document; this can cause some inconvenience when printing out a document or part of a document.

Installation is straightforward and can take place on to a single workstation or a network.

2. Searching the Databases

Two types of search are provided: Table of Contents Search and Word Query. A search can be carried out on the databases on both the CD-ROMs although, on a single CD-ROM machine, it may be necessary to swop CD-ROMs to actually view a document. Table of Contents Search consists of browsing the list of documents available until relevant documents are found. Users browse down a hierarchy of sections, sub-sections, etc. until they reach the bottom of the hierarchical structure, the documents themselves. When expanded to document level, frequent use of the horizontal scroll bar is necessary if the title of documents is to be viewed; word wrap is not implemented in Table of Contents view.

'Word' Query consists of entry of a word, a phrase, or words and phrases connected by operators and retrieval of documents satisfying the query thereby created. A dialog box is presented to the user for entry of word queries. Within this dialog box it possible to construct single word queries, phrase queries, operator queries, multiple operator queries and pattern queries. A piece of legislation can be searched for by typing in its number as a phrase. For operator queries, the boolean operators, AND, OR, NOT and XOR, are provided. Multiple operator queries can include any logical combination of the operators so long as the query is less than 1000 characters long. Pattern queries take three forms: wildcard queries, proximity queries and stem queries. Single and multiple character wildcard queries can be carried out. Proximity queries can be either ordered or unordered. With ordered proximity queries, the first word must come before the second word in each of the records retrieved by the query. Stem queries allow the user to type in the initial characters of a word (the stem) so as to search for all of the words that begin with those characters. The various types of query may be combined in a composite query.

As each element of a query is typed in, the query is processed. Unfortunately, this means that a complicated query may take an unduly long time to process or even type in on all but the fastest PC and CD-ROM drive.

A 'word' query can be restricted to a particular field or particular fields in a document, or to a particular section as defined by the table of contents. Moreover, a number of query templates are provided including one designed specifically for the database: these guide the construction of the various types of search.

3. The Help System

Context-sensitive help is provided and accessed by pressing the F1 key as usual. The help file that is then loaded is a Folio Views Infobase rather than a conventional Windows help file and Folio Views is used to display it. Thus, all the facilities of folio Views are available to view and navigate the text in the help file including hypertext links and the usual Folio Viewsquery mechanism. However, the help file relates to the use of Folio Views and includes no help which relates directly to European Law. There is some help which relates specifically to European Law in the Introduction section of the databases on the two CD-ROMs.

4. Exporting and Printing the Contents of the CD-ROMs

The usual windows clipboard facility for copying text and then pasting it into other applications is provided. Part or the whole of a document list displayed in Table of Contents view can be printed. Individual documents or parts of documents can also be printed although only by selecting the text or by typing in the record number range of the text. Records can be tagged so as to select them for printing. Tagged records may be grouped and the group named. The name of the group can then be used to restrict a search to those tagged records. Text can also be exported by printing to a file after installing (if necessary) and changing the printer to be used to Generic/Text Only.

5. 'Personalisation' and Customisation of the System

Users can create named bookmarks to enable them to return quickly to positions in documents. Notes can be added at any position in any document. The notes added may be used to index documents and the query facility of the system can be used to search in the notes added. Areas of text may be highlighted for future reference. All these 'personalisations' are stored in a shadow file and not in the database of documents itself. Multiple shadow files may be created and a choice made at the start of each session as to which shadow file is to be used for that session.

Various aspects of the user interface can be customised. Users can chose whether or not to display the ruler, the ribbon, the toolbelt, the status line and the scroll bars. The content of the toolbelt can be customised. Various other elements of the interface can be changed.

6. System Requirements (according to publishers)

486DX2-50 CPU
SVGA Monitor, 256 colours, 800 x 600 pixels
8 MB RAM
Approximately 7.5 MB of disk space if data is to accessed from the CD-ROMs.
Windows 3.x, Windows NT 3.51 or 4, or Windows 95.
CD-ROM Drive (preferably two and preferably as fast as possible)

7. The Cost

£1400 p.a. for a single user.
£2450 p.a. for 2-3 users.
£3150 p.a. for 4-5 users.

8. Overall Appraisal

By virtue of its use of Folio Views, the system has a comprehensive set of search facilities. Extremely complex search queries can be carried out. However, frequently, when a complex query is being carried out, a large number of records will be searched and, as a result, searching and retrieving records can be a slow process on a slow PC with a slow CD-ROM drive. A fast PC with at least a 166Mhz Pentium CPU and an 8x CD-ROM drive is recommended for efficient use of this system. Moreover, many other operations, such as expanding and collapsing headings in the Table of Contents view, become less time-consuming on a fast PC.

For anyone familiar with Folio Views, a common display and search program, use of the system should be easy. However, for those with no familiarity with Folio Views, the way that the system works may not be so obvious without recourse to the manual or help system. This is particularly the case of the Query dialog which provides little in the way of obvious clues as to the different sorts of search that may be carried out and the complexity of searches that is possible.

Display of documents retrieved is satisfactory although its form may not be to everyone's taste. Exporting and printing of text is fairly easy although not as easy as in some other CD-ROM products. The availability of bookmarks, notes, highlighting and shadow files means that the system can be used as an effective research tool although there are facilities in other CD-ROM products which could if added would extend its capabilities as a research tool.

The price of the service is comparable with the price of similar products from other publishers. Of course in this context, it is necessary to remember that it may be necessary to purchase two or more CD-ROM services, perhaps from more than one publisher, to gain similar coverage to this one service. For a purchaser, its two-monthly updates and its combination of materials may mean that Technical Indexes European Law is a more useful and less costly service than combining other services from some other publishers. However, purchase decisions should be made on the basis of what is really needed (both in terms of materials included and the extent to which it is intended to network the service) and the current price of the various services (the various publishers do tend to bring out special offers from time to time). It may be that a site licence for an equivalent set of materials or a less extensive set of materials, if that is what is required, can be purchased from other publishers for a lower cost.

8.1 Technical Note

The service was tested on two PCs: a PC with a 75Mhz Pentium CPU, 16Mb RAM and a 4X speed CD-ROM drive; and a PC with a 166 Mhz Pentium CPU, 24Mb RAM and 8X speed CD-ROM drive. In both cases the software was run under Windows 95.

Endnotes

[1] This includes agreements between the members states, decisions of the representatives of the governments of member states meeting within the Council, agreements as to joint action and common positions under the CJHA and CSFP pillars of the EU Treaty, any other acts published in the L or C series of the Official Journal.

[2] This includes ESC opinions, miscellaneous Council preparatory acts and assents under the ECSC Treaty, EP opinions, Committee of the Regions opinions, EP preparatory acts for the Budget, Court of Auditors opinions, miscellaneous commission preparatory acts.

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