AustLII Guide to Legal Research on the Web

Butterworths Online

7.1. Background

Butterworths Online, launched in March 1997, provides a vast collection of primary and secondary legal publications by Butterworths. The collection amounts to over 4GB of data, making it the largest commercially published collection of legal information in Australia, and one of the largest in the world.

The sources of the Butterworths Online databases include (i) Butterworths print publications (eg Halsbury's Laws of Australia and Australian Current Law); (ii) databases from the Info-One on line system (formerly CLIRS), purchased by Butterworths / Reed Elsevier in 1995; and (iii) some legislation databases from the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s SCALE service.

7.1.1. Accessing Butterworths Online

Access to Butterworths Online main menus, and subscription information, is at <>. They can also be accessed from the general LexisNexis Butterworths Australia site at <> or from AustLII’s index under ‘Publishers - Servers’. Access is via clicking on the ‘Online’ button on the main Butterworths page:

Access from AustLII’s index

Individual databases on Butterworths Online can be accessed directly from internet indexes such as AustLII’s Australian Links. As shown in the example below of a link to Butterworths Online’s Victorian Reports from AustLII’s Victorian Supreme Court index page, only subscribers can access the databases, by use of username/password controls or if through an IP-based site-wide licensing arrangement eg University of Technology, Sydney.

AustLII’s index can therefore be used to make an initial assessment of the range of resources available on a particular subject, including commercial resources such as those on Butterworths Online.

7.1.2. Other resources

Butterworths Online User Guide is an annexure to this text, and is accessible online from the Butterworths Online web site.

Surendra Dayal LDL Online 1997 - Laying Down the Law - Computer Assisted Legal Research (Butterworths, 1997) Chapter 13 ‘Butterworths Online’. Chapters 5-9 of this book provide detailed coverage of the use of Folio Views CD-ROM publications (particularly by Butterworths and LBC Online), which is very useful because the Folio software used on Butterworths Online is a version of the same software.


Butterworths Online opening screen

7.2. Databases

The Butterworths Online databases are divided into ‘Libraries’, as set out in the following table extracted from the Butterworths Online contents page. The publications that you have subscribed to are listed under the ‘Publications’ tab. Note that the full range of publications available are listed under ‘Full range of publications’ link.

7.2.1. Libraries of general publications

General research publications

Halsbury's Laws of Australia
Halsbury's - Tables
Australian Current Law
Aust Current Law - Legislation
Aust Current Law - Reporter
Aust Current Law - Tables
Table of Quantum of Damages
Table of Sentencing Decisions
Australian and New Zealand Citator to UK Reports
Australian Legal Words & Phrases
Butterworths Australian Encyclopaedic Legal Dictionary
Dictionary - Tables
Pink Ribbon CaseBase
Statutes Annotations - Index
Federal Statutes Annotations
New South Wales Statutes
Queensland Legislation Case
Victorian Statutes Annotations

Unreported judgments

High Court of Australia - Unreported Judgments
Federal Court of Australia - Unreported Judgments
Australian Capital Territory - Unreported Judgments
Northern Territory - Unreported Judgments
New South Wales - Unreported Judgments
Queensland - Unreported Judgments
South Australia - Unreported Judgments
Tasmania - Unreported Judgments
Victoria - Unreported Judgments
Western Australia - Unreported Judgments


Administrative Law Decisions (coming soon)
Australian Corporation Law - Reports (ACSR & ACLR)
Australian Law Reports
ALR Comparative Tables
Australian Capital Territory Reports
Northern Territory Reports
Family Law Reports
Intellectual Property Reports (coming soon)
New South Wales Law Reports
Queensland Reports
Queensland Crown Lands Law Reports
Queensland Land Court Reports
Queensland Planning and Environment Law Reports
Victorian Reports


Commonwealth Constitution
Commonwealth Consolidated Acts
Commonwealth Consolidated Regulations
Commonwealth Numbered Acts
Commonwealth Numbered Regulations

(SCALE databases are supplied by the Commonwealth Attorney-General)


Australian Encyclopaedia of Forms and Precedents
Australian Encyclopaedia of Forms and Precedents - Abridged

7.2.2. Subject-specific Libraries

Administrative law

Australian Administrative Law

Civil procedure

Cross on Evidence
Cross - Indexes
Ritchie's Supreme Court Procedure NSW
Ritchie's - Index
Williams Civil Procedure Victoria


Australian Corporation Law - Index and Tables
Australian Corporation Law - Bulletin
Australian Corporation Law - Legislation
Australian Corporation Law - ASC Releases
Australian Corporation Law - Principles and Practice
Australian Corporation Law - Reports (ACSR & ACLR)
Ford's Principles of Corporations Law

Criminal law

Criminal Law - Federal
Criminal Practice and Procedure - New South Wales
Criminal Law - Victoria
Cross on Evidence
Cross - Indexes


Cross on Evidence
Cross - Indexes

Family law

Australian Family Law
Australian Family Law Index
Australian Family Law State Legislation
Family Law Reports

Intellectual property

Intellectual Property Reports

Local government

Local Government Planning and Environment NSW

7.3. Browsing

7.3.1. Organisation of the screen (frames)

The Butterworths Online User Guide explains:

The screens (or pages) in Butterworths Online are organised using frames. The object of the frames is to organise the information available to you. Generally the left frame contains buttons which enable you to navigate the online system. The right frame contains the actual information you want to see. Within publications, the right frame is divided into an upper and lower frame, with the upper frame telling you where you are in the publication, and the lower containing the text of the publication.

7.3.2. Expanding and collapsing tables of contents

Folio databases are often built with extensive nested tables of contents. Halsbury is a good example of this. Effective browsing requires expanding and collapsing of these tables, using the plus sign (+) to the left of the name of the publication and (at the top of the text frame) the row of buttons numbered 1 to 9, and the button marked '++'.


2003031564.jpg The plus sign expands the table of contents one level at a time. Here, it results in a display like this (only part is shown):


Click on the minus at the left of the main heading to collapse the display back to how it was. The sub headings with + symbols mean that those headings can be expanded to further levels of the table of contents. Those with a grey square mean there is text directly below this level, not further tables of contents.

2003031566.jpg etc The numbered buttons expand the table of contents to the number of levels indicated by the number on the button. The unshaded button is the one currently active (‘1’ here). To open or close a table of contents to a particular level, click on the numbered button for the level.

2003031567.jpg The '++' button expands the table of contents fully.

2003031568.jpg A minus (-) sign to the left of a table of contents entry means the level immediately below that one is open. Click on the minus sign to close the level. Open further levels by clicking on any new plus signs appearing below the level with the minus sign.

2003031569.jpg A grey box to the left of an entry means there are no levels below this one. This is usually the paragraph level in a commentary, the section level in legislation or the case level in law reports.

To close the table of contents fully, click on the minus sign beside the name of the publication, or click on the '1' button.

7.3.3. Navigation buttons for browsing

Button Name



to go back to the Butterworths Online home page.


to go to the beginning of the database you are currently browsing.


to go to the table of contents of the database you are currently browsing.


to go to the search template customised for the database you are browsing (see ‘Search interface’ below). Use this to start a new search.

Next Page

Previous Page

to go to the text frame immediately preceding or following the page you are currently at. The text frame will not change if there are no preceding or following pages.


to go to the Butterworths Online User Guide.

Navigation buttons for browsing

The ‘Next Page’ and ‘Previous Page’ buttons do not have the same effect as the Netscape ‘Back’ and ‘Forward’ icons. They only work within the database you are browsing at present, but cannot take you outside that database. They take you ‘back’ not in the sense of ‘the last page I was at’, but rather in the sense that p98 is one page back from p99, even if you have never been to page 98 before.

Although the ‘Next Hit’ and ‘Previous Hit’ navigation buttons (see ‘Navigation buttons during searching’ below) appear when you are browsing text, they do nothing unless you have previously done a search.

7.3.4. Hypertext links within and between documents

Butterworths Online is developing extensive hypertext links within and between documents on the Butterworths Online site (but not, as yet, to other sites). Some of the links available at present are:

• From words and phrases used in Halsbury to their definitions in the Australian Encyclopeadic Legal Dictionary;

7.4. Search terms and connectors

7.4.1. Search connectors and operators

This table is adapted from the Butterworths Online User Guide:





misleading and silence

'misleading' and 'silence' in a record


misleading or silence

'misleading' or 'silence' in a record


unjust not enrichment

'unjust' but not 'enrichment' in a record'


"negligent misrepresentation"

phrase 'negligent misrepresentation' in a record. Quotes must be used.

? wildcard (single character)


records containing promisee, promisor, promises, promised

* wildcard (multiple character)


records containing fraud, frauds, fraudulent, fraudster, fraudsters, fraudulently

/n ordered proximity

"misleading silence"/20

records containing 'misleading' followed within 20 words by 'silence'

@n unordered proximity

"misleading silence"@20

records containing 'misleading' and 'silence' within 20 words of each other in either order

Connectors and operators for Butterworths Online

7.5. Search interfaces

There are two search interfaces for multiple databases searching: (a) Libraries tab; and (b) Publications tab. In addition, there is a search interface in the navigation menu for specific databases (where it takes you to a customised search form for that particular database, or for a group of smaller databases constituting a Library). This is known as ‘Focus Search’.

7.5.1. Searches over multiple databases

To search over multiple libraries click on the ‘Libraries’ tab.


Butterworths Online - Libraries search interface

To search individual publications and customised database selection, click on the ‘Publications’ tab.


The search interface for selection o f multiple publications

The available databases (depending on your subscription) appear in alphabetical order.

Choosing databases

The main value of the generic search form is where you wish to ‘mix and match’ databases from different Libraries (eg choose everything to do with Queensland).

Note: You need to select at least one publication or library before conducting a search.

To choose one database ... click on the appropriate checkbox for that database using the ‘Publications’ tab. (A better customised search form may be available from within the database.)

To choose a number of databases ... click on the appropriate checkboxes. (If they are in the same Library, a better customised search form may be available from within the database.)

To choose all databases... you must select them all by clicking on all checkboxes.

Entering searches

In this generic search interface you enter the search terms and connectors into the simple search window below, and press ‘Search’ to start the search.


Other search windows for particular databases or Libraries give more options and a more helpful interface.

7.5.2. Customised search forms for particular Libraries

Where a database is part of a Library with other databases of an essentially similar form (eg Unreported Judgments, as shown below), there is sometimes a form which applies to what appears to be multiple databases.


Search form for unreported judgements

In other cases of similar databases (eg reported judgments, legislation), each databases has its own customised search form.

7.5.3. Customised search forms for single databases

In most cases a database has its own customised search form. One example is shown below.


Example of a customised search form - Halsbury’s Laws of Australia

Limiting searches to ‘chapters’ of a database

In the Halsbury database, this form allows you to choose which Halsbury titles you wish to search. The method of selection is the same as the method for choosing multiple databases described above.

In other databases,

Limiting searches to fields (‘elements’) in a database

As in the above example, most customised forms will allow searches over only some part of the documents in the database (such as ‘Title’, ‘Casename’, ‘Catchwords’ etc). Each database has its own set of ‘elements’ by which searches can be so limited.

7.6. Display of search results

7.6.1. Display options

Search forms include a set of options similar to these:


If ‘Records w/Hits Only’ is chosen then only those records (paragraphs in cases, sections in Acts) which satisfy the search request will be displayed. Otherwise, all records around those that satisfy the search request are also displayed.

7.6.2. Display of results

A search for ‘"data matching" "assistance agency"’ over two databases produces the following Search Results.


Search Results page for two databases

In order to see the records where the search terms have been found, click on the grey boxes which set out the occurrences of each word. There is little point in clicking on the name of the database or the ‘Contents’ or ‘Document’ buttons, as none of these take you to the ‘hits’.


Results map with break down of results

7.6.3. Navigation buttons for searches

The ‘Next Hit’ and ‘Previous Hit’ buttons must be used to go back and forth between records containing hits. These buttons only work after a search.

Button name


Next Hit

to go to the next record with occurrences of the search terms. This only works within one database. To go to the next hit in another database, first go back to the Search Results.

Previous hit

to go back to the previous record with occurrences of the search terms. This only works within one database. To go to a previous hit in another database, first go back to the Search Results.

It is not possible to use these buttons to jump between occurrences of search terms within the one record. It is necessary to scan the record for words marked with red arrows.

7.6.4. Displaying the whole document

If the ‘Records w/Hits Only’ option has been selected, the ‘plus’ icon (2003031578.jpg) that precedes a record in the display can be used to cause the surrounding records without hits to be displayed. In the example below, it will cause the surrounding paragraphs eg footnotes to be displayed even though they contain no hits.