HelpMasterFileSearching, browsing and exploringBrowsing and exploring vs. searching

Browsing and exploring vs. searching

Often in litigation, investigations and research you can feel there is an important underlying relationship but you can't put your finger on it. Since you don't know what you are looking for you can't do a regular database search. In such situations you'll know what you're looking for when you see it and so you need to be able to browse and explore information and relationships.

Browsing lets you quickly review information you might not have thought to examine or would have missed in search. Exploring, on the other hand, is for when you need to follow relationships and your thoughts, while keeping intermediate results available from which to explore alternate paths.

However, the synergy and effortless freedom to fluidly move between browsing, exploring and searching, needs to be experienced to fully appreciate. This section explains MasterFile's "Explore" tool and then takes you through a small exploration/browsing session to let you experience this.


One of MasterFile's key strengths is that although database searching is possible, information is always visible and readily available for review or perusal by simply browsing.

Some of MasterFile's browsing tools include, for example:

  • Views automatically sort and categorize documents, extracts and facts in critical ways so you can instantly find documents by type, author or recipient, or find facts by relevance or impact assessment, without any work at all.
  • Extracts keep key evidence visible and accessible so you can see what's important in dozens of documents at glance or locate key passages instantly within source documents to review in context. Extracts exist live in
    • all views, next to their source document,
    • in an "embedded view" within their source document's profile (a live extract list), and
    • in specific extract-only views sorted by document type, relevant issues, topics, players, etc.
  • The Summary Browser lets you quickly scan players, documents, extracts, facts, chronology events, research, etc. -- anything in your case from anywhere in MasterFile. Column title arrows switch the views.
  • 'Everything: by Issue/Topic' which is a set of live views that presents documents, extracts and facts linked to an issue, topic or player so you see all related case material. Issue/topic linking has many advantages over searching:
    • Searching for critical material is not always reliable as searches often return dozens or hundreds of hits, all of which must be reviewed again for relevance.
    • Depending on search terms, or searching with even slightly different terms could leave many items missing from the results.
    • It preserves knowledge. If you've uncovered half a dozen or more important pieces of evidence on a topic, and have several dozen topics or issues under investigation, without linking to related issues, critical evidence although present in the database, gets forgotten and for all practical purposes, "lost".

When you need to explore or dig through relationships, MasterFile offers many tools to help you explore various relationships.

The Calendar: Whenever you are examining a chronology event, you can view the event in context to other events in various calendar formats. Simply click on [L+ Chronologies > Calendar Format] or from an open fact profile click on the "Go to Calendar" button at the top of the profile form. An example of treatment events on August 12 in chronological order is below.

The Explore Button:  Explained below.

View switching: Switching views while keeping your selection is very useful when exploring, as it shows you your selection in context of others in the same category. For example, if you select an expert report in the 'by Document type' view, switching to the 'by Doc type, From' view will show you all other case material from the same author.

The 'Explore' button

The 'Explore' button on a profile's button bar performs many functions.

You can

  • Review relevant issues, topics and players linked to the profile to see the other profiles linked to the same issues, topics or players. These profiles can then be opened to follow new links.
  • Determine if any name in information you are reviewing is a player by selecting it. If they are, you can 'Explore' their role and key profiles linked to them. From their profile, 'Explore' uses aliases and email addresses to find wherever else they are mentioned. If the person is not a player, 'Explore' will search all content using their name.
  • Select any word or phrase and immediately do a full text search on the whole database for all occurrences of it.
  • Locate all profiles which have doc-link references to the current profile.

When you click on the "Explore" button, at the top of the profile and player forms, a dialog box like this is displayed.

with some or all of the following options depending on your selection:

  • "Wherever this profile is referenced with a doc-link" for a profile or "Wherever this player is mentioned" for a player form.
  • "Everything with this phrase ..." followed by the phrase. Note that if selected text is a player, the text is treated as though the player was linked to the profile.
  • A list of issues, topics and players the profile or player has been linked to. Note that Incomplete topics can not be "Explored"; instead use a "by Topic/Issue" view to see all profiles linked to an "incomplete topic" that was completed with a specific value.

Simply double click on an option, or select it and click "OK".

  • Issue/topics or player forms linked to the profile have an "embedded" view that lists documents, extracts and facts linked to it. As in any view, double clicking on any row in the embedded view will also open that profile. In some versions of Notes the embedded view may become blank after exploring a chain of links. If this happens, click in the view and press <F9> to refresh the display.
  • If you selected a player, you can click "Explore" again to do a full text search to find all documents, extracts or facts that mention the player, by their name, aliases or email addresses.
  • If you choose "Wherever this profile is referenced with a doc-link", a full text search is made for doc-links to the current profile.
  • The search results from the "Explore" button will be placed in the categorized folder [L+ Folders > Explore results]. The results remain until you run Explore again. To preserve that set of results, simply create a new folder using [R+ Folder Functions > Create Folder], select all the profiles and drag them in to the new folder.

The search descriptor

When you 'Explore', MasterFile creates a descriptor that identifies the profile or player. The descriptor is placed on the clipboard if you need to examine it or paste into the search bar to search the results folder itself so the text results are highlighted.

  • Since 'Explore' finds all links to the document profile including extracts, you can isolate just the documents from the results, by typing "Document -- " (excluding the quotes) into the search bar to do so.
  • Aliases in the "Also known as" and email addresses field are included in the descriptor.
  • You can also use th the descriptor to limit search by profile field names. For example, if the descriptor was "e-mail -- 10.Feb.2003 --", a search term of [DP_Doc_Attachments_rt] CONTAINS "e-mail -- 10.Feb.2003 --" would find all documents it was attached to.

See Boolean and advanced searching.