Even though VBA wasn’t designed for document generation, many people use it for that exact purpose. This is because VBA is normally built into the Microsoft Office applications that people already have, and often they are unaware of software that is specifically designed for document generation, such as HotDocs. Because HotDocs was created for the express purpose of document generation, it has inherent features and functionality that make the process of creating quality documents much more efficient than VBA.
Document Generation and Oil Painting
To illustrate this point I’m going to discuss one of my favorite hobbies, oil painting. The general process of painting is straightforward: you get out the palette, paints, brushes, and canvas, then squeeze the colors you need onto the palette, and you’re ready to go! But imagine how difficult and time consuming the process would be if you didn’t own the basic supplies and had to make them all yourself. You would need to grind pigments and mix the paints from scratch, build a canvas frame (which requires wood, nails, a hammer, miter clamp, miter saw, etc.), stretch the canvas, make gesso to prime the canvas, and then, somehow, create a paintbrush. It would take days and maybe even weeks before you even begin to actually start painting.
If painting is just a hobby, it might be fine to do it this way (you would definitely learn a thing or two), but if painting is part of your business process, you would not want to waste the time, money, or resources on such things. Plus, the supplies you created on your own aren’t likely to be of the same quality as ones from an art supply store, made by professionals, who have spent years innovating and refining their products.
VBA vs. HotDocs
Now, getting back to the discussion of VBA and HotDocs, the truth is that VBA can be very difficult to use for those of us who aren’t programmers because it is a full-on programming environment and, therefore, the realm of professional software engineers. In addition, it doesn’t include the large blocks of functionality that are necessary to do enterprise-grade document assembly. Essentially, using VBA for document generation is like creating your own art supplies—it’s difficult and takes way more time than necessary.
HotDocs, on the other hand, is like buying your paints and other supplies from a store. It offers a framework and built in functionality that makes it easy to use (even if you’re not a programmer), but is also powerful enough to create highly complex documents, while remaining flexible and completely customizable. Once again, it’s like painting. Even if you use pre-made oil paints, you have the freedom to manipulate them on the canvas in any way that you choose. You can use the paints to create simple shapes or you could do an intricate and detailed portrait painting. You can use the pure colors straight from the tube or complicate them by mixing colors together. HotDocs software is similar in that you can make templates that are as simple or complex as you need them to be—whether it’s automating the insertion of simple variables, such as names and dates, or creating highly complex, computational variables, such as those necessary in loan contracts.
Basically, if you want to build a canvas and mix paint from scratch, use VBA. If you want to have readymade tools that allow you to start applying paint to a canvas right away, use HotDocs.