[Note: if this is the first time you're reading this post, skip down to the 11/2010 update to get the most recent info.]
Recently, while doing some research on producing video depositions, I came across RealLegal’s .ptx files. Those in the legal profession will recognize this format is the method not a few court reporters use to deliver deposition transcripts. This can present a challenge for Mac users because the .ptx file is a proprietary encrypted file, only readable with RealLegal’s software which is not well supported for the Mac.
It’s true that RealLegal offers free readers for both the PC and Mac, but if you look at the fine print you’ll realize that the Mac version is written to run in ‘classic’ mode. Classic mode is not supported under OS 10.5 ‘Leopard’ or on any Intel Mac. In other words, RealLegal isn’t really interested in continuing to support the Mac market. If you have a PowerPC Mac running OSX.4 or prior, this solution may work for you for now. If not, read on…
Since I was interested in producing synchronized video depositions, I needed to find a way to easily access these files. Here are some of my initial findings:
For producing synchronized video depositions, Clarity Legal Software makes DepoSmart [or TrialSmart, which will also synchronize depositions, and is my choice in terms of functionality] which it claims can read RealLegal e-Transcript XML files. I haven’t tested it out yet, but it sounds promising. Clarity also produces free cross platform viewer software. All Clarity’s is available for either platform (and really supported by the look of it).
[Update: Here's a video from Clarity Legal Software's site that details how you can import RealLegal .ptx files. It still involves the need to export from their free reader software for Windows. Solutions for that issue are to run Windows in BootCamp, use a emulator like Parallels or VMWare Fusion to run Windows alongside OS X, or if you have a limited use for Windows and don't want to pay Microsoft for a copy of it, I recommend Codeweaver's Crossover software detailed below.]
[Another Update: It is important to choose the correct XML file type when importing into DepoSmart. If importing RealLegal files, you need to choose "RealLegal E-Transcript XML" or the import will fail. See image below.]
What if you just want to be able to read .ptx files on you mac? I use Codeweaver’s Crossover software to run a PC only program that I need to use. Crossover is a commercial application of the opensource Wine project, which is dedicated to running Windows application on Intel chips without the need for Windows. If you have an Intel Mac this is your ticket. Crossover is available as a free 30-day trial version.
I found that the PC version of RealLegal’s free reader ran perfectly well in Crossover. If you want to give Crossover a try, here’s some details on how I set it up that should save you some time: After installing Crossover for Mac and running it, click on the ‘manage bottles’ link and create a new Windows 2000 ‘bottle’. When Crossover is done setting up the bottle, click on the applications button and then the install software button. Choose the ‘install unsupported software’ option – don’t panic, this just means it’s not on the limited list of tested software – not surprising since there isn’t a big market for it outside of the legal profession. Navigate to the envsetup.exe file you downloaded from the RealLegal site and choose it. Follow the installation directions. When it’s done you should get a finder window with the viewer’s program icon. Open the viewer application and use it like you would any other app.
What if you want to convert your transcript into a universal format that anyone can read, like a potential expert witness? Select the entire transcript (I found I needed to click and drag the whole document to do this – see what I mean about junky proprietary software?). Remember that it thinks it is running under windows, so the copy command is Control-C instead of the Mac’s Command-C (Pasting on the Mac side is still Command-V). Next I opened Pages [Apple's word processor] and pasted the text in. From there choose File>Print and choose the ‘Save as PDF’ option and you’ll have a cross-platform shareable PDF. [Note: other word processors, such as Word for Mac or even TextEdit may work for this, but I haven't tested them.]
If you own Adobe Acrobat Professional, you can take this a step further. [Note: I found I couldn't paste a transcript of 20 or more pages directly into a blank Acrobat PDF. My test file was 50 pages long. So I used Pages to create the initial PDF file, then opened it in Acrobat to index it.] Acrobat will allow you to index the file so you can search it for any word and quickly locate each usage. Open your PDf in Acrobat and choose Advanced>Document Processing>Manage Embedded Index. Click the ‘Embed Index’ button and Acrobat will index the entire document. The nice thing about this is that the index can be searched by anyone with the latest free Adobe Acrobat reader software. Adobe by the way has a very good track record at maintaining cross platform compatibility.
[UPDATE: A more direct path to creating a .pdf with Acrobat is to use Crossover to run the viewer as described above, then from within the viewer select File>Save As>Ascii (which is just a plain text file or .txt) then use Acrobat to 'Create PDF from a File' using the resulting text (.txt) file. Once you have Crossover set up, this whole process will take just a couple of minutes. All the formatting, including page and line numbers is retained.]
I hope this helps you if you’ve found yourself in the same boat. I’d love to hear some feedback on these workarounds or other ideas if you have them. Let me know of your experience with this issue.
11/2010 Update: I received this via email from John Callis, CEO of Clarity Legal Software detailing the history of this problem and the better solution he’s implemented. Props to John for being proactive on this issue:
Back in 2007 you posted about a process at Clarity for dealing with PTX files. If you’d like, I attached an updated guest post perhaps you might add to your site as a new blog post. It describes how the new online converter works and gives a history of the ptx – mac issue:
When I first opened the doors at Clarity Legal in 2007 and began selling software for Mac and Windows users, migration from Windows to Mac was key for most of my customers. In 2004 the Mac population was around 2%, today it stands at 12% and growing and most law school student bodies are entirely Mac based now. Within the first few weeks of 2007, I received questions asking if the Mac OS X versions of TrialSmart and DepoSmart could import PTX files. PTX files are RealLegal’s transcript format that has been around since the early 1990′s. It’s one of many popular formats for viewing transcripts; others include Summation, LiveNote, TextMap, and still the most popular – ASCII format. PTX files served a useful purpose for many users because ASCII files don’t keep page formatting when printing and don’t contain a searchable word index.
Prior to 2009, RealLegal had a version for Mac OS 9 which was useless to most Mac users unless you had a version of OS 9 and were able to run the viewer in the Mac Classic Environment. In 2010, RealLegal now a part of Thomson West, dropped the Mac OS 9 viewer and Mac support entirely. Despite many promises from Thomson West, a Mac OS X viewer has yet to materialize and I doubt there ever will be one. Most users can open PTX files using Cross-Over, Wine, or some other Windows emulator. However, the process requires several steps and doesn’t always work. Generally, 95% of Mac users I come across don’t want to use Windows software in their Mac practice and try and go Mac only.
One of the side effects of receiving a PTX file is that could also drive up the cost of your deposition. In this recession, court reporters nationwide have been hurt. The software to create RealLegal files is not cheap – yearly costs range from $1500 – $2250 for the software plus monthly “maintenance.” I regularly visit court reporting blogs and many users have dropped RealLegal entirely due to the cost and convert their files online at RealLegal’s site for $30. Many are printing to PDF for their clients now. If cost is an issue, ask for a format other than PTX and you’ll save some money.
In an effort to help my clients, I designed a workaround in 2007 whereby you could import the exported XML file which was cross-platform into the Mac versions of DepoSmart, TrialSmart, and the Clarity Viewer. This was temporary as Mac users still wanted a simpler way.
So, this summer I wrote a script that would parse up to 10 PTX files at a time Clarity Legal (www.claritylegalsoftware.com).
The process is free, runs 24×7 and returns a file to the user within seconds. Each week, I receive hundreds of PTX files that are converted to txt format which users can then use as they choose. The PTX files are deleted on a rotation every 24 hours.
To convert your PTX file to Text format follow these steps:
1. Go to www.claritylegalsoftware.com
2. Click on the top header button labeled “Convert RealLegal PTX Files” or visit www.claritylegalsoftware.com/ptxconversion.php
3. Enter your email address (due to spam blockers hotmail, gmail, and AOL addresses are not allowed)
4. Add up to 10 ptx files
5. Click “Convert”
6. Check your email
The process takes about 20 seconds. I hope everyone finds this service useful. Please contact me if you have any questions.
DepoSmart is Clarity Legal’s flagship product for attorneys and law firms which allows clients to effectively manage their transcripts and case exhibits. With DepoSmart, you can analyze, annotate, and print legal transcripts. Importing case materials like exhibits, image files, attachments, and synchronized video is easy. Users can also connect to and import real-time transcripts from a court reporter during a deposition.
TrialSmart, Clarity Legal’s trial presentation software, is one of Apple’s top specialized legal applications. Nothing compares to the look and feel of this program. TrialSmart is compatible with numerous video and image formats, including *.mpg and *.pdf. And because it’s easy enough for attorneys without much technical expertise to use, the software is helping counsel win trials. We’ve added hundreds of new features, including PDF text searching, group reports, saved layering, and resizable video windows (real-time). ”