In the mid 1970s, when a group at the Brigham Young University Law School set out to create a software application that would automate the production of rule-based legal documentation, the group coined the phraseDocument Assembly, a term descriptive of the process of using the software application (commonly referred to as a template) to generate a custom document.
Some years later, the termDocument Automationcame into popular use, and while many consider the term to be synonymous withDocument Assembly, it differs in that it actually describes the template development process—building scripting logic (orbusiness rules) into the text of a document, in fact, transforming the document into a template. Put another way,Document Automationdescribes the process of engineering templates, whileDocument Assemblydescribes the process of using the templates to generate custom documents.
Document Generationis one of the most recent terms applied to the discipline and can be broadly used to refer to both parts of the process—transforming documents into templates and then using the templates togenerate custom documents.
With that said, the reality is that most people involved in the discipline may use any of the terms interchangeably.