HotDocs Author Overview

HotDocs Author is the desktop-based portion of HotDocs Advance you use to author HotDocs templates. For example, you can use Author to transform existing Word and plain text documents into HotDocs templates, or you can use Author to create templates "from scratch."


HotDocs Author consists of the following interface elements (covered more fully below):

Common Tasks

Among others, HotDocs Author enables you to perform the following common tasks:


You download Author by logging into the HotDocs Advance web application, and from the account menu, clicking the Download Author link. Once installed, you can use Author tutorials to familiarize yourself with how Author enables you to transform your existing Word, PDF, and plain text documents into HotDocs templates. When you create a template in HotDocs Author, you follow the workflow outlined in the HotDocs Author Workflow Overview. For example, you can use the Author add-in for Word to perform many template creation and editing functions from within Word itself, Component Studio to edit components (the basic building blocks of a template), and more. Once you have finished creating your templates, you also use Author to upload them to the other part of the HotDocs Advance Suite—the HotDocs Advance web application (where you can automate the process of delivering interviews to your clients or customers, collecting their answers, and assembling final documents containing that information).

HotDocs Author Elements

When being introduced to Author, it is useful to think of it as comprising four distinct parts or interface areas:

Workspace Explorer

Workspace Explorer is the first window you see when you first start Author and is the primary organizational element of the HotDocs Author Interface. The behavior and purpose of Workspace Explorer is similar to that of a file explorer on your computer. For example, you use Workspace Explorer to:

HotDocs Author Add-in for Word

When you create a DOCX template in HotDocs Author, the template loads in Microsoft Word. The HotDocs Author add-in for Word provides you the tools you need to author your template. The Author add-in has two parts:

  • HotDocs Field Editor – a pane that enables you to perform (among many others) the following common tasks:
    • Add HotDocs Fields to make the changeable portions of your Text variables so you can reuse a template as many times as you want
    • Create conditional regions
    • Create new components (the basic building blocks of a template)
    • See a list of errors in your template
  • Author tab – a tab on Word's ribbon that provides shortcuts to the other interface elements Test window, Component Studio, Workspace Explorer, etc.

Component Studio

Component Studio is the interface you use to access and edit your template's component file. Components are the basic building blocks of a template. A template relies on components to determine how to ask for the data you want to gather in the interview HotDocs generates from the template you build.

With Component Studio, you can:

You can open Component Studio either from Workspace Explorer or from the Author tab of the Word ribbon.

HotDocs Composer

When you create a plain text template or an answer intake from Workspace Explorer, HotDocs displays these within a specialized text editor called Composer.

When working with answer intakes, Composer provides you with:

  • A composite interface (Composer appears in truncated form above the Interview computation editor in Composer) for editing the Interview component where you author your interview script
  • A ribbon containing shortcuts to test your template, Component Studio, and other interface areas.

When working with plain text templates, Composer provides you with:

  • A word processing environment for entering and editing text
  • Access to the HotDocs Field Editor
  • A ribbon containing shortcuts to the Test window, Component Studio, and other interface areas

Test Window

The Test Window is the interface that enables you test the interview HotDocs generates from each template. You can access the Test window from the following locations:

  • HotDocs Author Tab
  • Each component editor in Component Studio
  • Home tab in HotDocs Composer

Workspace Services System Tray Item

When you first start HotDocs Author, the system tray in the Windows taskbar briefly flashes a Workspace Services notification to alert you that Author Workspace Services is starting. Workspace Services runs as a background service that keeps all of the interface elements in Author in sync, and runs Author Test interviews.

Compatibility with Previous Versions of HotDocs

HotDocs Author provides some backwards compatibility for users of HotDocs classic authoring tools, such as HotDocs Developer 11. This enables you to import:

  • DOCX templates authored in HotDocs Developer
  • Plain text templates authored in HotDocs Developer
  • Component files (.cmp) from HotDocs Developer (either an answer intake or a regular component file)