Thursday, May 7, 2009

Platypus for easier Statute Navigation

Mike and I have mentioned the power of Greasemonkey here before.  It can really be an amazing tool in customizing your web browsing, but also making your life as a lawyer easier.  Today I was browsing through the Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure chapter of the code (fun, right?) at around the Length of Briefs section (66) of the nearly 100 sections therein - and in light of the fact that I knew I'd find myself on this very page again several times over the next few months or so - I knew there had to be an easier way to find what I'm looking for.

Of course when you're dealing with a specific, commonly used webpage a bookmark is always an option.  However Ctrl+D was not what I was after today.  Enter Platypus.  Frankly, I don't remember if I've mentioned Platypus before or not, but if I had I would have told you it is a robust add-on for firefox that creates on-the-fly greasemonkey extensions which customize the way any given page appears and tailors them to your specific needs.

I knew that for my issue I was going to be coming back to this page over and over again and that I would want to easily find specific sections for reference.  Using Platypus I was able to highlight sections that I knew I would want to reference later as well as highlight and bold the really important ones.  For example, References in Briefs to Parties, congratulations, you are important to me and you are hereby hilighted.  However, Mr. Printing and Binding Specifications for Briefs, you are very important to me (owing to my experience in having a brief kicked back because one paragraph, one paragraph, was improperly aligned) and you are therefore now highlighted and bold.

Here's a side-by-side before and after of the page:

As you can see, the links on the left run together and unless you know the specific section number off the top of your head, you're going to be reading titles.  On the right however, your eye quickly jumps to the sections that you have designated.

Platypus is simple to use.  Once you've installed the extension you simply right click on any page that you want to customize and select Platypus! from the context menu.

You will initially notice that areas of the page are turned red when you run your mouse over them.  These are areas that are editable on the page.  If there is one weakness to Platypus it's that you are at the mercy of the code and layout used by the designer as far as areas that are editable.  The SD Statute Chapters are a good example.  It would be much more desireable to highlight the entire title of the individual section along with its link, but because of the way the HTML of the page is rendered that's not an easy option in this instance.  To edit the style of an area mouse over an editable area and right click again.  Now you're looking at the Platypus context menu.

There are several options and they can all be valuable depending on what you want to do on a page.  In this instance we want to edit the style of the page so click Set Style.  A new menu will pop up with several options.  To highlight find the Background Color and select yellow (or your choice), if your done click Accept, to preview click Apply.  If you want to make the text of an area bold that's under the Font Weight option.

Once you've made and accepted your changes it is very important that you Save your changes.  Before navigating away from the page your editing click Save and Exit Platypus on the Platypus Context Menu.  A greasemonkey script will (should) then install and your changes are saved.


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