HotDocs is a document assembly software package currently owned and marketed by LexisNexis. Version 1.0 was first introduced in 1993 by Capsoft Development and its founder, Marshall Morrise. It has been built upon and enhanced continuously since then, and continues to be one of the most popular document assembly tools in common use. The story of the emergence of HotDocs and its pre-origins in the DOS-based CAPS Author (Computer Assisted Practice Systems) is told by Capsoft UK Originating as a power tool for developing expert systems, it has become a product with several hundred thousand licensees, many of them lawyers.
HotDocs is a development tool that helps developers, users, or content experts embed variables and simple scripting instructions into legal documents. The result is a pair of files, the template and a matched HotDocs component file. When a template is assembled, an end user is presented with a dynamic, hierarchical interview, allowing them to peruse and input the required information in a logical and organized manner. A customized document is produced as the final result, and information entered into an interview can also be saved in XML answer files to be reused when assembling other templates.
HotDocs templates can be in a variety of native formats, including RTF, Microsoft Word binary (DOT), Corel WordPerfect, or PDF. Assembled documents are also therefore native files in these formats, and native formatting is preserved during assembly. It also features a powerful COM API, making it possible to use as part of a larger workflow.
HotDocs scripting, also known as Document modelling can range from simple variable substitutions (similar to mail merge) to complex systems involving logic, repetitions, insertions, recursion, etc. Some of the terms in the scripting language are explained in this glossary But unlike an embedded system, HotDocs scripting can be added to templates in a variety of file formats, and can be modified in a familiar development environment (usually the word processor).
There is also a version of HotDocs designed to run on web servers. This product takes the same templates developed on and for the desktop version, and delivers interviews to users in their web browsers; customized documents are assembled on the server. It is commonly used in corporate environments where controlled document production and routing are critical.
Over the last several years, HotDocs has also developed an integration with Time Matters, LexisNexis' practice management software package, so that material can be shared between the two programs for greater efficiency.