Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Seasons Greetings

Seasons Greetings from hal Systems

Monday, September 10, 2012

Auto Complete - halFILE 4.0


We have been hard at work adding the finishing touches to a new feature in 4.0 called Auto Complete.  This feature has been requested by many of you over the years and we hope you enjoy using it.  This feature allows you to perform key ahead retrieval of information that already exists in a database field.  This is especially useful in fields that contain names as it allows you to see how that particular name was indexed previously and improves keying accuracy.  The example below illustrates how I can start keying  a name and I see anything that matches currently in the database:


As you can see this is helpful both at index and search time as it allows you to pick from a list of previously indexed items.  It can also be beneficial in locating and identifying existing typos in the database.  This all happens in real-time so if you find a typo, search for it, and update all existing entries then the next time you use the auto complete feature the typo will not appear in the list.  If you already have halFILE 4.0 you can access this feature by pressing F4 when the cursor is blinking inside any multi-entry field.  If you are not already using halFILE 4.0 be sure to send James an email at jtabor@halfile.com and he will get you on the list!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Introducing data & images into the Prior Policy Application


I blogged back in March about the benefits of Prior Policy files and hal Systems offers an easy streamline method of getting these files indexed. An interface is available from hal for the popular Closing Systems such as RamQuest, SoftPro, and AIM for Windows. This interface provides auto indexing of fields in the Prior Policy database eliminating errors and speeding up the process.  This interface is accomplished by “attaching” the halfile database to the Closing System database to extract the selected fields. The fields can include:
                  Buyer Name & Address
                  Seller Name & Address
                  Branch
                  Lender Name & Address
                  Loan Type
                  Property Address
                  Underwriter
                  Sales Price
                  Loan Amount
                  Subdivision / Block / Lot.
Images may also be introduced into the Prior Policy System from the Closing Package using halfile “Print to” utility which further streamlines the process. The halfile Printer is accessed like a standard MicroSoft Windows printer and has an icon in the Printers folder that is selected when printing from other programs such as Closing. Documents not requiring a signature do not have to be scanned but can merely be printed into halfile eliminating some of the scanning. If you would like more information or would like to get started on Prior Policies in halfile then contact your hal Systems sales representative.

Monday, July 16, 2012

halFILE 4.0 Release - July 17th, 2012



We are very pleased to announce that we will officially be releasing halFILE 4.0 tomorrow morning.  At the end of day we will have 50 desktops functioning with the new version.  Many thanks to our Beta testers both internal and external that have provided feedback on the new release.  We hope you enjoy the new features and hope to continue to add new functionality based on your input as we continue to grow with this new version.  Don't forget to prepare your desktops for 4.0 by going to http://update.halfile.com and installing the prerequisites.  This will greatly assist us in migrating you to the new release.  Be sure to e-mail James Tabor if you want to get on the list to obtain 4.0.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

New Report for CountyCashier version 3.4


Another good reason to keep current with month-end processing: a new report 'Official Records Statistics for date range' is now available for CountyCashier version 3.4. This report can be found behind the 'Accounts Receivable', 'Print History Reports' menu. This report gathers a number of statistics on all instrument types that have been set up as type 'official records'. It could be used to show page and document counts for either a calendar year or a fiscal year. The four sets of numbers are: 'Number of Pages Filed Per Month (highest to lowest)', 'Number of Documents Filed Per Month (highest to lowest)', 'Top 10 Highest Number of Documents Filed Per Day' and 'Top 10 Highest Number of Pages Filed Per Day'. If any of these statistics sound like something you might be interested in, be sure you are using the latest CountyCashier version 3.4. Also, take note that this report only runs against detail transactions that have been moved into history by running the month-end process.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

halFILE 4.0 Prerequisites

Get an early start on your transition to halFILE 4.0.  Just click here: http://update.halfile.com and you will be able to install the prerequisites on your workstations in preparation for the upcoming release of halFILE 4.0.  This will be a required first step for anyone wishing to upgrade to halFILE 4.0  If you would like to get on the list of early adopters please email support@halfile.com and let us know.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Should I attend a halFILE Training Class?

Have you wondered if attending a halFILE Training Class, or even HUG, would be beneficial for you or someone in your office? You may be a longtime halFILE user and feel comfortable using the system just like you have been since it was installed. But what if there was one thing you learned in a training class, or during HUG, that could eliminate steps from a daily process, or eliminate a task altogether? Would that make a halFILE Training Class or the HUG Conference worth your valuable time?

We taught an experienced halFILE user (using halFILE for over 10 years) a new trick in our April Training Class - Local Autofill. Local Autofill facilitates indexing on any index field that is consistent, or increments by 1 or number of pages. You can use it when indexing multiple documents with the same clerk file number, volume or page incrementing, saving you from having to manually key those fields, and helping to avoid mistakes that can happen with repetitive entries.

We are constantly enhancing halFILE based on user suggestions and requests, and industry changes. If it has been a while since your system was installed, you should think about signing up for a training class or attending HUG, or both! You never know what you might learn.

Our next halFILE Training Class is scheduled for July 12-13 in our Dallas office. If you are interested in attending and need more information, or would like to sign up for the class, send me a note at kduncan@halfile.com or give me a call at 214.466.6532. We'd love the opportunity to give you a refresher class on halFILE, and hopefully teach you a few new tricks along the way!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Peventing Disasters - An Import Lesson

With the development of larger, faster, cheaper and more convenient drives, it seems that tape backup systems are becoming a thing of the past. At least, that is what we are seeing out in the field. Many of you are now using inexpensive removable USB drives to back up their halFILE images and data. Considering that halFILE is probably one of your core production systems, I feel compelled to discuss how these back up strategies are being deployed and the dangerous pitfalls I've noticed. At the end of this article, I will also discuss the lengths to which we go to backup our core production systems: Countyrecords.com, halFILE Saas, and the halFILE Backup Service.

DANGEROUS PITFALL #1: "I got everything backed up right here on this USB drive"

First of all, USB drives will fail. I have a pretty blue and really dead Seagate 320GB drive right here on my desk right now. I had two others die in the same week. That is not a major issue, of course, since it is not likely that your backup USB drive fails at the same time your server drive kicks the bucket. A bigger problem is that the USB backup drive is never taken off-site. One fire and its all gone.



DANGEROUS PITFALL #2: "I think everything is backed up but I've never checked"

Unfortunately, we've seen this first hand with some clients - both with tape backup systems and USB backup drives. The have a drive crash and get ready to retrieve their valuable data from backup and nothing is there! The good thing is that it is a lot easier to check to see if your files are on your USB drive because you can plug it in and look at it, just like any other drive. And you should do this regularly!

DANGEROUS PITFALL #3: "I only have one USB drive but it's big enough to hold everything"

Back when we set up tape backup systems, we gave the client a series of tapes and told them "Put this one in every Monday, this one every Tuesday... etc. and put this one in on the 1st Friday, this one on the 2nd Friday etc.". We ended up using about 12 tapes to accomplish this rotation method. I have yet to see USB drives deployed this way. At the very least it is prudent to rotate two USB backup drives.

Here's the deal. Maybe you don't have a disk crash but your disaster is that someone deleted a folder that contained 10,000 images. But nobody notices for a couple of days. In the meantime, your backup system rewrote the images to your USB drive. Maybe the 10,000 images are now lost, maybe not. If you rotate your USB drives, you can at least go back a week or two to find something before it was deleted or changed when it shouldn't have been.

hal Systems Disaster Prevention

Here at hal, we probably go overboard with backup procedures for Countyrecords.com, halFILE Saas (where we host your halFILE System) and the halFILE Backup Service. However, Countyrecords.com is a very important part of our revenue stream while halFILE SaaS and the halFILE Backup Service are client files which must be protected at all costs.

So here's how we do it:

1. In our Austin Data Center, we have USB drives that perform image and data backup for the many, many Terabytes of storage we have. These are rotated off-site each day. We also have a fire proof safe for drives that remain in the office and a high-tech air conditioning in a closed computer room to keep our servers healthy.

2. We perform database backups that run each evening, alternating to two different drive locations.

3. We synchronize our data center with our Dallas data center. This is a continuous process.

4. We are currently implementing a new array of drives to add into our backup mix. This will become our first recovery point with the USB drives becoming a secondary point.

Remember, the halFILE Backup Service is a cost-effective back up system available to you for backing up your halFILE system off-site and automatically, monitored by us. Has it ever saved one of our Back Up Service clients? Yes, it has. On more than on occasion.

Enough said. Backup!

Happy Birthday, hal!!

Great employees + great products + wonderful customers = 38 years. Yes today, April 12th, is hal System's 38th birthday. Thank you everyone!!

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Update on halFILE 4.0

Hopefully by now everyone knows the release of halFILE 4.0 is on the horizon. We are very excited about the release and appear to be on schedule for release in June 2012. We continue to work closely with our Beta Testers to resolve as many issues as possible before the final release.

The initial Beta release did not include support for Kofax (the optional free viewer) viewing or scanning. We have released and are currently testing the Kofax viewer so that those of you that wish to continue to use the Kofax viewer will be able to. We are currently in the process of converting the Kofax scan module so that will be available as well.

The huge number of rows that the new system can return when searching continues to be one of the favorite things reported by end users. From an administrative perspective it’s going to be great to have a single Crystal Reports version and installation so no more hunting down that Crystal cd for us.

So you might be wondering what you can do to prepare for the release of halFILE 4.0. We are currently in the process of updating our website and soon there will be a number of workstation pre-requisites available at http://update.halfile.com. These include .NET 4.0 and the Crystal workstation components. .NET 4.0 can take quite some time to install so we are hoping to make the pre-requisites available to you so you can prepare your workstations for the new version. We hope to include a program that will run on any workstation currently running halFILE 3.0 and will report what items you may still need to install. Hopefully the web-site will be simple and easy to use.

Reminder – your halFILE 4.0 upgrade will be available to you at no charge as long as you are a customer currently on maintenance. We are excited about this release and will keep you posted as the release date approaches!!!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Using halFILE in the Accounting Department

halFILE is used by hal Systems’ accounting department. If a client calls with a question about an invoice, we can search halFILE by the assigned client number, invoice number, or sales order number locating the information from our desks. From halFILE a copy of the paperwork can be e-mailed to the client. This saves time, paper, and postage.

Other documents scanned include journal vouchers, payable vouchers, cash disbursements, banking information, property and legal documents.

hal Systems is scheduled to be audited by the Texas Employment Commission in April of 2012. The auditor will pull documents up in halFILE for review. Without halFILE our staff would be pulling documents from file cabinets and then filing them after the auditor has finished reviewing them. If you have been through this “fun activity” you will understand how much more
efficient and independent the auditor will be. Less time will be required by our staff to supply the documents for the audit.

Consider the options of utilizing halFILE in your offices to scan documents in other departments. halFILE is extremely versatile. Call us and we will set up one database for you at no charge!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Benefitting from Prior Policy Files

We are always trying to reduce our operational expenses though a variety of methods but one application of halfile offers a unique method. Scanning of Prior Policy files obviously reduces storage space hence reducing cost but also provides starter files for previously closed properties. Indexing a GF file number into the plant with a legal description will yield a “hit” if the property is searched in the future. Depending on certain factors and what search rules are in place the amount of search time spent on the new file should be reduced. In talking with a halFILE customer recently they found that 75 percent of the time they found a previous file after a legal description search which greatly reduced their search cost. Granted this is an extreme case because they had their Prior Policies along with the files from the other Title Company in the County which they had purchased. Depending on the relationship with another title company in the County you might colloborate on a joint project to further enhance your efforts.

 Any previously searched property files are helpful in the search process and the ease with which the files may be found and viewed using halFILE is enormously valuable. Halfile eliminates the need to physically search for a file that might possibly have been misfiled. The Client also saved $ 18,000 by not having to move the gigantic filing cabinets used to store the files when they moved into a new office.

It will surely take a lot of dedication to implement a project such as this but in time you will certainly reap the benefits. A large number of halfile systems have been installed for this one application alone. One Client purchased the e.halfile Internet Module to search for Prior Policies all over a major metropolitan area. If you would like to begin scanning your old Prior Policies or have any questions then contact me at the Dallas Office.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

CountyCashier and CeRTNA

hal Systems Corporation is proud to announce that CountyCashier 3.4 has a new module that interfaces with the California e-Recording Transaction Network Authority (CeRTNA) to facilitate the electronic recording of official records between government to government entities (G2G). The new system is currently running at one California County Recorder and it will be showcased at an upcoming User's Group meeting in northern California during late April. Instead of handling any physical paper in the recording process, the County Recorder is able to preview, accept or reject the incoming documents into the existing receipting process of CountyCashier. Once accepted and receipted, the documents are electronically stamped and returned back to CeRTNA through an encrypted internet port. The now stamped documents are automatically forwarded to a halFILE basket for further indexing and archiving.  

If you have questions, comments or need any additional information on CountyCashier, please contact Kathy Taylor at 303.791.5688 or via email at ktaylor@halfile.com

Monday, March 05, 2012

ALTA Business Strategies Conference - 3/25-27

If you are attending ALTA this year, stop by booth #24 and say hi to Kathy and Dave. If you need more information on ALTA, check their website at http://www.alta.org/.

We hope to see you in Louisville, KY in March!

Leveraging Your Title Plant Investment


In a down economy such as ours, there are other ways to generate revenue for your company.  One easy way is to partner with us by putting your Title Plant records on our CountyRecords.com e-commerce site.  Over 1,000 users a month spend money at CountyRecords.com searching and viewing documents. 
 
It’s amazing, the diversity of people and companies wanting access to courthouse documents.  Banks, surveyors, attorneys, real estate professionals, oil and gas companies, Landmen and genealogists are all accessing CountyRecords.com.  Counties with oil and gas activity do extremely well due to the large number of Landmen researching leases.

Probably the most valuable benefit from putting your records on CountyRecords.com is a backup for your own in house system.  If your system is down for any reason, you can always access your plant on-line at CountyRecords.com 24/7.  This is provided at no charge to you. Plus, there will always be a current backup to your Title plant.

Because our e.halfile software is superior to other similar sites, our users love us and are continually asking us to put up more counties.  So give us a call today and let’s start making money together.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Harnessing the power of halFILE

We were delighted to see so many “HUG”ites in Austin last fall.  We had such a great time networking, learning and sharing ideas.  We heard ‘wow’ and ‘aha’ several times as attendees discovered something new.

Training is so important.  Learning (or rediscovering) just one new shortcut can save a lot of time.  The economy continues to improve, but travel budgets are often the first to be cut and last to be reinstated. 

With that in mind, we’re taking a serious look at offering web based classes (in addition to the classes held quarterly in the Dallas Training Center).  We're thinking about sessions that would run between 60-90 minutes each and focus on one specific area or module such as:
(1) Capture
(2) Index
(3) Search
(4) Tables and Security
(5) Report design 

We could also design a class that shows you how to use halFILE in other areas of your business.

Sound good?  As I call to check in with you, I’ll be asking for input, but feel free to contact me with any and all ideas.  ktaylor@halfile.com  303.791.5688

Monday, February 13, 2012

halFILE 3.0 Training Classes

We have scheduled halFILE 3.0 Training Classes on April 12-13, July 12-13, and October 11-12*, 2012. The classes will be held in our Dallas office located at 8111 Lyndon B. Johnson Freeway, Suite 860, Dallas, TX 75251. If you are interested in attending any of these classes, you can review the class Agenda and download the registration form on our website, www.halfile.com.

The two day class covers numerous topics including Application Training, Crystal Reports, System Administration, Auto Archive, SQL Backups, and more. The cost is $429 per person, which is a substantial discount off our daily on-site rate of $1,195 per day. The training class not only allows hands on training in a small, personal environment, you will also have the opportunity to ask specific questions on how your halFILE system operates. Whether you are new to halFILE, or have been using halFILE for a while, everyone will learn something new.

We have seating for 6-8, and the classes usually fill up quickly. If you are interested in any of the above class dates, please get your registration form in soon.

If you have questions, comments or need any additional information on the halFILE 3.0 Training Classes, please contact Karen Duncan at 214.466.6532 or via email at kduncan@halfile.com.

We look forward to seeing you in Dallas!
*October class is tentative and may be rescheduled based on HUG 2012 dates.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Out-of-the-Box tools to assist data entry

There are several out-of-the-box tools designed to assist the data entry operator who is posting halFILE documents. This article is a brief discussion of some of these features which come with your halFILE installation.

Associated Import will auto-index captured documents based on contents of the image file name. For example, if files are named by the Document Number (i.e. 44567.tif), this utility can be set up to post that number to a selected halFILE field. Associated Import can even parse the file into several fields. For example, if you have a file named 44567_WD_01-15-2011.pdf, the process can place "44567" into the Document Number field, "WD" into the Instrument Type field and "01-15-2011" into the Document Date field. Associated Import is found under the Tools-Associated Import menu of the halFILE Manager.

Auto Fill is a process which fills in halFILE database fields based on the data posted to the previously indexed documents. Auto Fill comes in 2 flavors. The first occurs real-time as the operator is indexing new documents. The second method is a stand-alone utility that can process a batch of documents in a selected basket. Both methods perform basically the same function - automatically fill selected index fields. Options for Auto Fill include:
  • Fill the field with a fixed value, pre-defined by the user.
  • Fill the field with the current date or time.
  • Fill the field with the operator id.
  • Fill the field with an incremented value. For example, if the prior record had a document number of 44567 then the new record will be posted with 44568.
  • Fill the field with an incremented value based on the number of image pages. For example, if the prior document had a Page Number of 250 and was a 3-page document, then the Page Number for the new document will be posted with 253.
The real-time Auto Fill is set up behind the Masks/Auto Fill button of the Database menu of the halFILE Administrator. It can also be altered at index time using the Tools-Options menu. The batch Auto Fill is set up with the Auto Fill utility itself.

Automated Indexing is a full-text indexing process where the system pre-processes documents and posts the full text of the document into a SQL Server database structure, providing fast key word retrieval. Once documents are posted, the search module includes a powerful retrieval method that we call "Proximity Search." So if you've processed a batch of invoices, all the text from each of those document is now stored in the full-text database. If you search for "computer monitor", the proximity search algorithm will find any document where the word "computer" and the word "monitor" are found near each other. Automated Indexing set up is found under the Tools-Automated Indexing menu of the halFILE Manager. Typically, this is set up as one step of a workflow process where documents are captured then processed.

Indexing Hot Keys is the final method that I will describe today. During the posting process, there are some special hot keys that can be pressed which replicate data from the prior document. For example, ALT-A will replicate all data fields from the document that was just indexed. ALT-D will replicate only the current field. behind the Tools-Options menu of the Index module, the user can even assign particular fields to a hot key. For example, if your database includes Grantor and Grantee fields, you can assign ALT-G to Grantor and ALT-R to Grantee. Then, using these hot keys, you can flip the fields from the prior document, placing the Grantee into the Grantor box and the Grantor into the Grantee box. There is also an option for quickly pulling information from any document, not only the prior document.

If you are a halFILE user and your posters could benefit from any of the above methods, contact halFILE Technical Support and they will be happy to help you out.

If you are not yet on halFILE, come on board and we will help you reach your goals for Document Management.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Email Collector comes through in a Big Way!

Richard Hahn, our Sr. Vice-President of Product Planning, recently implemented our E-mail Collector system to handle volumes of e-mail for a community college in Washington state. So, here are the results - in our clients own words:

"I sent out and indexed about 3500 emails Monday and Tuesday using the EmailCollector. That was all of our open program registration appointments for Spring Quarter – the first time we’ve used it for that. What a great accomplishment…3,500 pieces of letterhead, envelopes, and postage saved, along with many hours of indexing…and the assurance that the indexing has no input errors…it’s a HUGE step in accomplishing our LEAN processing goals!!! Thank you Richard!!!"

The halFILE Email Collector offers e-mail archiving and automated indexing and is available now from hal Systems.