New and noteworthy
The new Materials Reference System (MRS) CD-ROM to be released later this summer will contain additional essential materials for NALC stewards. Like the 1995 MRS CD that the new disk updates, it contains graphic images of a huge collection of Step 4 (national level) grievance decisions as well as many national pre-arbitration decisions, national memorandums of understanding and management letters and directives. These documents are identified by "M" numbers, for example, M-00123. The new disk contains hundreds of new settlements issued since the last MRS CD. As before, the MRS CD contains the MRS Display Program, a simple Windows Program for entering the M-number for a particular document and then viewing and printing the document.
What's truly new is this: The new MRS has been published in a format hat enables quick searches, quick text into other applications. As man readers know, the MRS Summary an Index contains short "blurbs" summarizing each of the original M-number documents making up the MRS. Many NALC representatives have the MRS Summary and Index in paper form, and a graphic image of an earlier edition was included on the first MRS CD-ROM.
The newest release of the MRS has been published in an electronic format known as Adobe Acrobat or PDF(portable document format). The advantages of using Adobe Acrobat files which are known as PDF file because their filenames end with the extension ".pdf" are impressive. PDF files will always appear the same and print the same, whatever the computer or printer, as long as a Acrobat Reader program is also installed on the computer and it is used to view the PDF files. The free Acrobat Reader programs for Windows 3.1 and Windows 95/98 are included on the MRS CD-ROM. Acrobat Readers are also available free from the company that created Acrobat software, Adobe Systems Inc., and can be downloaded from Adobe's Web site on the Internet (www.adobe.com).
PDF files look the same and print the same on different computer systems because they contain fixed page layout information as well as their own fonts, or typefaces. Using Acrobat, a publisher can create a computer document containing the same text on the same pages and appearing in the same typefaces and layouts as the original, printed document. This is what NALC has done with the MRS Summary and Index (and other documents as well, see below). NALC has also added password security to the document to render it "read-only," which means that it cannot be changed by any user.
Therefore, like the graphic files that appear on NALC Arbitration Program CDs, the PDF document remains fixed and authentic, as well as identical to the original. It can be printed and used just as you would use the paper document itself.
But as text files, PDF files have two advantages over graphic files. A indicated above, they can be cut and pasted into other applications. More important, however, they can be searched. In the case of the MRS Summary and Index, this means a user can perform a quick electronic search of the document, find the document summary or "blurb" desired and copy the M-number. Then the user can switch to the MRS Display Program, enter the number and see the graphic image of the source document.
A PDF document on the MRS CD can be searched using two relatively simple and quick search functions contained in the Acrobat Reader. The first is a "Find" function that will search a single document for a specific word or phrase, for example, "limited duty." The second search tool, Index Search, is similar to the Find function but is more powerful because it can be used to access multiple documents at the same time. A user simply selects the document indexes to be included in the search, then enters the search word or phrase The Index Search is also remarkably fast, because it is akin to searching a library card catalog rather than searching through the books themselves.
PDF documents can also contain hyperlinks, which are specially highlighted text (or graphics). When you mouse-click on hyperlinked text, the computer takes you to a new location in the document. For instance, the PDF version of the MRS Summary and Index has a color hyperlink where the text states, "See also X-Routes, page 332. "Clicking on page 332" takes you directly to that page, without having to scroll through the document. The Acrobat Reader also has browser-like forward and back buttons, taking you back to pages you have viewed already. Another advantage of PDF documents is that text can be cut and pasted into other documents, which can facilitate writing letters, grievances and training materials.