Five Keys to Selecting an E-Discovery Viewer

This article discusses the importance of viewing in an e-discovery solution and focuses on the five keys for selecting the viewer that meets your e-discovery requirements. Viewing is one of the pillars of an effective e-discovery solution and can be either a pre-integrated viewer, as part of the enterprise content management (ECM) platform, or a separate use case-based process-oriented solution, deployed by the litigation attorney's IT staff, specifically used for pouring through electronically stored information (ESI). There are significant challenges in dealing with ESI in the context of litigation, and an effective viewing solution should address the following five key aspects.

1. File format support.
A typical legal case may involve several different types of documents to be reviewed during the examination process. Dealing with these multiple file formats can be a challenge. The number of documents can be sizable, and generally range from static image formats (TIFF and JPEG), which were the standards in the past, to native formats, which have been gaining popularity since the last decade.

A benefit of native format review includes the availability of metadata, or "raw data," which can be attached to an electronic document and reviewed for hidden evidence or used to validate authenticity. Some of these common data types are email, instant messaging chats, documents, accounting databases, CAD/CAM files and website content. Traditionally, e-discovery vendors were contracted to perform batch conversion of native files into TIFF images for use in review database applications. Increasingly, these review systems include embedded native file viewers. One cost-effective strategy for corporations with an ECM system is to select a multi-tasking viewer—one that can be used as a daily document access tool for staff, is integrated with a document repository and can function as a native format viewer for e-discovery efforts.

2. Full text search.
ESI information types span the operations of an entire organization or corporation, resulting in a larger number of documents that need to be reviewed and processed during the e-discovery process. A viewing product that is integrated into the content management system speeds this process by linking a full text search back to the repository, enabling a legal team to quickly discount files with no keyword hits. In addition, when the keyword hits are passed interactively to the viewer, the team can quickly identify the context of the match, further increasing the efficiency and hit ratio of the file inclusion and exclusion process.

3. Annotation.
Another important factor in e-discovery is the ability to support various annotation schemes. Color coding and shapes highlight notes or actions, and may vary by attorney or team. Annotations add review, commenting and markup capabilities right within the viewer so you can streamline the document review and approval process, reduce decision making time and increase user collaboration. The viewing solution should enable these annotations to be created and displayed, not only in TIFF, JPEG or PDF formats, but in native formats as well. Ideally, the original version of the document is preserved, while annotated versions can be updated and shared throughout the e-discovery process.

4. Redaction
The term "petrification" refers to the conversion of native files into an image format that does not require use of the native applications. This method of document conversion has been necessary to facilitate the redaction of sensitive information, since the majority of redaction tools are more easily applied to uniform image formats.

There are two challenges endemic to this approach. First, efforts to redact petrified PDF files have been problematic in the removal of the redaction layer (essentially, sensitive information such as social security numbers is covered only, and not truly removed). Second, this presents a shift from trending native formats for viewing and annotation, resulting in a potentially redundant technology purchase. A viewer with native redaction capabilities and the ability to "burn in" the redactions, effectively removing the underlying mask and replacing it with the markup, is an ideal product to overcome both of these obstacles.

5. Digital rights management.
Finally, digital rights management enables document rights to be aligned to users. Integrating this procedure within the viewing engine simplifies the process of allowing and disallowing print, save, annotation and redaction for users, depending on their needs. By adding a digital rights management control on the document you can render the document as view-only and control printing, navigation, pan control and saving within a work group, across departments, or with partners and suppliers, outside the firewall.


Accusoft provides imaging software development kits (SDKs) and browser-based document viewers that accelerate knowledge management application development. Add barcode, compression, editing, forms processing, OCR/ICR, PDF, scanning or viewing to your applications. Technology is delivered for multiple 32-bit/64-bit platforms and development environments.

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