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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

OCR pdf

OCR pdf – a valuable feature scanned documents can’t live without

We are used to opening, sending and creating pdf files at home and at work. Pdf file format is simply the convenient tool which makes our documents look good, prevents them from editing (if needed and your addressee does not have special software to edit pdf files) and offers compromise between the document size and its visual characteristics (quality, or readability).

There are several ways of creating pdf files and the easiest one would be to simply publish the text I am creating right now in MS Word as pdf document. In this case I will automatically get fully indexed pdf file which will allow me to copy and paste any text contents of the document and use them further as text fragments, without harming the integrity of the original pdf document. However, there are other ways of creating pdf files – and the most widespread, actually is scanning to pdf or creating pdf document from an image.

I think that most of us understand that the document image saved in one of the file formats like .jpeg, .tiff or .png will not have the text content for us to work with. That is why, when creating the pdf file from such image files, OCR pdf function has to be performed, or, to be more precise, the text data of the document image captured and placed into the pdf file as a separate layer, enabling us the copy-paste functionality described earlier. More to say, indexed pdf files are effective for corporate storage and search of the documents, as you are not only able to find the document by its name or sort them by type and date, but you are actually are capable of finding the documents the text contents of which actually match your search query. Of course, when you have 20 documents to create as pdf files every day, it is not an issue for you, but if the number of created and further used pdf documents comes to thousands or hundreds of thousands – this is where you will strongly experience such small but valuable features and details.

However, I have encountered many occasions in the history of working with pdf files when simple users save the documents as pdf incorrectly. They simply push “Scan to PDF” button on a scanner or avoid making any settings in the scanning software – in most cases they do not turn on the OCR function at all! This is sad and not effective, as later you will require the conversion of the scanned document into pdf with the OCRed text layer, and, to say frankly, such multiple conversions are not good for the image quality and affect the recognition results. The reason why people make such mistakes is that they do not want to make any settings when using software, ever. I mean it! You hardly can make your employees choose scanning profile, set up the resolution. And, there are people who do that, and a person with the lack of such technical skills will stop working and loose time. This is why at Cognitive Technologies we have created the product that does not require any scanning settings! It has a simple and user-friendly interface and allows scanning to pdf and conversion of documents into pdf files in three clicks! To learn more, search for Compressimo on the Internet!

Description:

When someone says pdf document or scan to pdf we all understand now what he or she means. In this article we will talk about one of the most valuable features of pdf file – document indexing. We will describe the typical errors of simple end users and will tell you about the products making your employee’s life easier.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Information Technology Schools

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Friday, June 29, 2012

TranscriptPad: Of Bricks and Hammers



If you’re in need of a quick and easy method of reviewing depos, running searches, assigning issue codes, adding notes and marking designations with your iPad, Lit Software, makers of the popular TrialPad app, have another nice app for you. In addition to managing the transcripts, TranscriptPad allows you to import related depo exhibits, so you can take a look at them as well. “You can drive in a nail with a brick, but a hammer will do a much better job” according to Ian O’Flaherty, Managing Partner at Lit Software, LLC.

One thing Lit Software has figured out is how to make it easy for the first-time user. Sample case data and an excellent Help system (including an iBook and online tutorials) will get you up to speed in no time. First released in January 2012, TranscriptPad is now in version 1.5.5, and sells for $49.95 on iTunes. While it’s not at the bottom end of the pricing scale, the applications it is intended to replace sell for much more – and often with a required annual maintenance renewal fee.

REVIEW
There are several options for reading transcripts. While a full set of features is available along with the transcript in landscape mode, rotating the iPad to portrait mode shows only the page, thus filling the entire screen, making it easy to read. You may still bring up the tool options if desired.

Navigating through the transcript is possible by flipping through the pages, using the page up or page down arrows, or dragging the slider, which then also shows where you are in the transcript.


Additionally, you can “play” the transcript, scrolling along at the speed you select. This works great, as long as you don’t have too many distractions to deal with. You might also be able to use this feature to practice your speed-reading.

Another great feature is the ability to view the associated document exhibits, which are imported to the case folders just like transcripts. This means you don’t have to open another app for this, or have yet another collection of documents to do so. You cannot annotate the exhibits, however. This would be a nice feature to add.

SEARCH
TranscriptPad features an efficient simple search tool, which can be set to search the active transcript, or the entire case. If you’re searching for a number, it won’t bring up every page or line number either, which is a nice touch. Although complex or Boolean searches are not supported, you can do literal strings of two or more words, and it will capture only the entire string – not every time each word shows up separately. This too, is a good feature. It will also catch a word within a word, such as the singular form of “exhibit” found within the word “exhibits.”

You may want to use your search results to assign an issue code to all of your hits. This is easily done once you have the search results, by selecting the icon in the lower left corner and assigning a new issue code. You cannot assign an existing code to your search results.

When you are reviewing a set of search results, the up and down page navigation arrows on the right side of the transcript jump to the next hit, rather than the next page. You may also jump to any hit by clicking it in the results display.

ISSUE CODES and ANNOTATIONS
Choosing from six available colors, and assigning any number of issue codes, you are able to dissect your transcript into topics, which can then easily be reviewed, saved and shared. You can also choose to apply highlighting or underline your selection, although these are not associated with issue codes. It does allow you to share part of your work, without showing all of your work-product, however. Many of the features in this app might seem limited, but if you think them through, there seems to be a great deal of consideration given to the legal process and sharing just a part of what you’ve done – whether for your client, trial team, the Court, or even opposing counsel.


You can also add notes to a selection you have flagged, although you’re restricted to 140 characters, like Twitter. That should be enough for a brief note in most cases, however.

REPORTS and EXPORTS
As I mentioned above, once you’ve annotated and issue-coded, you have several options as to what to do with your work.  You can select all of your issue codes, or just the ones you want. You can also choose to save a highlighted PDF version of your transcript, and you can even save the ASCII text file (not annotated). You can also choose a report version that includes only the selected issue codes, and not the entire transcript.


Issue codes appear as plain text with a colored stripe on the left, while highlighting and underlining are actually applied to the text.

Now if your case has outgrown the iPad, and something like TrialDirector or Sanction will be used, you also have the ability to export any set of issue codes as a clip script. This allows you to easily import all of your designations into your trial presentation software, and then edit them for playback in court. While you don’t have the option to choose which ones you  export, the resulting report groups them for you and identifies which issue(s) they belong to. Just make sure your transcripts are named identically, or you may use the text of the resulting report in a copy/paste manner.

CONCLUSION
TranscriptPad could use a few improvements. While the search is quick and simple, not having the ability to form complex searches is a fairly significant limitation – at least when comparing with the computer-based applications. Other issues I identified during my review process include the import dialog process, which doesn’t offer any way of previewing your transcript or verifying that the date and other information are correct. I would highly recommend checking the file either before or immediately after importing to make sure everything was captured correctly (i.e., name, date, page numbering, volume, etc.). Page numbers were captured correctly when importing later volumes of a depo. Although the first page did show as page one in my test, all the rest were correctly identified (in my test Volume 3, beginning with page 367).

With TrialPad’s ability to export to TrialDirector, I would also love to see it import a clip file from TrialDirector, completing the link between the two programs. This feature could also be extended to exporting and importing between two iPads.

Another item I’d like to see would be the ability to limit your highlighting and underline to a partial line. This can be very helpful when preparing designations. You cannot simply copy and paste the transcript text, although you can designate the desired lines and then send it to email, and work with it from there.
Overall, TrialPad is an excellent app, and can make dealing with depos and designations a quick and easy task – especially those times when you’d rather whip out the iPad than work on your computer or laptop. Compared to apps which simply view files, this is indeed a hammer, rather than a brick. With apps like this, the iPad really is becoming a productive tool.

And finally, am I the only one who noticed that the firm identified in the sample transcripts is Richard and Cranium? Some of you may have to think about this one for a bit…

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sanction vs. TrialDirector – The Battle Heats Up

Sanction vs. TrialDirector – The Battle Heats Up


It was announced yesterday (June 4, 2012) that Sanction Solutions had been acquired by LexisNexis, the rapidly-growing legal web and software giant. This adds to their current software collection of over 80 applications, including Concordance, CaseMap®, TextMap® and TimeMap®.

I have owned Sanction software for many years, although I’ve only used it when there was some special reason to do so. One such instance was a very large and notable trial which they (Sanction) referred to me, May-Carmen v. Walmart. It’s just good business to use their product at that point. I’m fine with that, and happy to do so. In the May-Carmen trial, Sanction worked well for me, and we won a very high-profile defense verdict.

So, if Sanction works well-enough to help bring a high-profile defense verdict, even under the added pressure of a very limited amount of trial prep time (started work the weekend prior to trial), why do I still prefer TrialDirector? As indicated by a recent trial presentation software poll taken on LinkedIn’s Trial Technology Group, I’m not alone in my opinion.

While the two programs are more similar now, earlier versions had some stark differences in how they were designed. TrialDirector was in more of a database programmer’s comfort zone, while Sanction appealed more to the “average” computer user, in that the user interface was simpler and easier to learn. Simple is fine within reason, but when it came to dealing with large complex data sets, TrialDirector’s power came through. With that, paralegals and other “occasional” users would often prefer Sanction, while full-time trial presentation folks and others who were comfortable with data management would turn to TrialDirector.

Now, both are relatively easy to learn at least the basics. What neither can do for you, however, is what is perhaps the most important step in the whole process – getting the data organized and into a manageable format, before importing anything to the software of choice. I have seen many a disaster, usually a result of sloppy and inadequate data management. While this article is not a “how-to” for the occasional user, I will just say that friendly and descriptive file names might be nice when you’re looking at a limited number of files and folders in Windows Explorer, but when you need to locate and present an exhibit to the jury in about 3 seconds, it won’t work. Any longer than that and everyone in Court will be looking at you, wondering what went wrong. That’s why they call it the “hot-seat.”

I reviewed TrialDirector 6 when it was first released in early 2010, and then offered my thoughts in a review of Sanction 3, which was scheduled for release in early 2011. By this time, TrialDirector was clearly pushing forward into the Windows 7 environment, while it appeared that Sanction had lost interest. While my first view of Sanction 3 looked promising, they had not had an update since Sanction 2.9, and missed their announced release date by several months. In the same period, TrialDirector had gone through 2 major releases and numerous minor updates. If you’re depending on your software to help make a living, the lack of regular updates is not a good sign.

Next, Sanction gets acquired by Gallo Holdings, who then goes bankrupt less than 3 years later. Again, if I’m depending on Sanction in a big way here, my confidence is rocked. While I don’t expect they have increased their market share, especially with newcomers such as ExhibitView and TrialPad now in the game, somehow they have survived the storm. Enter the LexisNexis rainbow.

So, if LexisNexis reads this article (and I’m sure they will), I would expect them to spend some time in the trenches with all of the user groups, be they trial presentation professionals, paralegals, attorneys, litigation support staff, or anyone else who may be a current, potential or former client. Rather than believing their own marketing or assuming they have the best software on the planet, they might want to find out more about their perceived strengths and weaknesses – from outside their own door.  In the past, I’ve witnessed an attitude, if not a degree of arrogance from the company (Sanction) via numerous postings on public forums. Get over it, get busy and prove it with actions, rather than words.

Competition drives us all toward perfection, so I welcome this new start for Sanction, and expect it to be a good thing. Time will tell, but with LexisNexis at the helm, we may be seeing more of Sanction.




Thursday, May 10, 2012

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

So Many Apps, So Little Time


Things have been pretty busy at work lately, and this blog usually takes one of the first hits. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I write because I enjoy it, but it must take a back seat to trial work. 

That stated, even though I haven’t written a lot lately, I have been working with some exciting new apps which I plan on writing more about soon, including Courtlogger Pro (PC software for tracking timed trials), Rulebook(iPad app for Court Rules, with the ability to highlight and annotate), Legal Viewer (iPad app for reviewing eBriefs), LiveDeposition (iPad app for receiving real-time transcript feed) and iTimekeep(iPad app for tracking your billable hours). TranscriptPad has also just announced a major update coming shortly, including the ability to export transcript designations to TrialDirector for creating video clips. It is great to see the increasing compatibility between platforms.

Each of these appears to be a decent way of handling their intended purpose, and are worth your time to investigate. I’ll cover them more in-depth as soon as I can, but for now, off to trial…

Also, make sure to join the Trial Technology Group on LinkedIn, and feel free to connect with me as well!


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What Happens in Vegas: DRI Product Liability Conference

I had the pleasure this week of speaking at the DRI Product Liability Conference on the topic, “There’s an App For That,” along with Josh Fleming (Frost Brown Todd LLC). Josh is an attorney who has truly embraced technology and the iPad, replacing a lot of books and notepads with the ubiquitous little tablet. It was a treat sharing the session with him, as we offered two very different perspectives on iPad apps for lawyers and trial presentation in general.

A nice collection of legal apps

Most of the apps discussed have been reviewed on this blawg, and you may use the search feature to locate any specific app or topic. In this article, links are to articles containing relevant links to other reviews (e.g., the ExhibitView link will lead to reviews of other trial presentation apps). Trial Presentation apps covered (and shown) were TrialPad, Evidence, Exhibit A, ExhibitView, and TDmobile -- TrialDirector’s yet-to-be-released offering, which is expected to be available in a couple of months or so. In all fairness, I won’t write a review until the final release is ready to go, although I have been testing early versions. This app, according to inData, will be free. That could certainly shake up the trial presentation app market space.

One advantage TrialDirector has recently added is the ability to export a subset of exhibits all packaged for the iPad app. ExhibitView (for the PC) also has this capability, and according to Ian O’Flaherty (TrialPad), the exported data set will work with any of the trial presentation apps.

TrialDirector Export to iPad

In addition to these, Josh and I also covered several jury selection (voir dire) and monitoring apps, legal research and calendaring, and of course Dropbox, which seems to be the key to getting data into all of the apps. Josh also discussed several stylus options and keyboards for the iPad.

We wrapped our session by showing an actual “iBrief,” which contained embedded animation, video, and even a 3-D products model. This was probably the “ooh, ahh” moment of our presentation. It could be used for expert witnesses, mediations, depositions, and settlement conferences. The nice thing about the iPad is that you can easily capture the current screen at any time by simply hitting the two "on" buttons at the same time.

Please feel free to follow up with any questions either by posting them here, or by using the contact info links at the top of this page. I just had a couple of trials get pushed, so if you happen to need a little assistance in an upcoming matter…

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Medical Malpractice CLE in Palm Springs


I was in Palm Springs this weekend, where along with the beautiful 90 degree weather, I enjoyed speaking at the California Medical Legal Committee Annual Meeting to a group of some of the Golden State’s top Medical Malpractice Defense Attorneys. We discussed how using technology can improve your trial practice, and I shared some ideas on how to get insurance carriers and clients to cover the cost of this valuable service. It is critical to educate them on how the use of technology in trial presentation can significantly reduce the length of the trial, improve jury comprehension and retention, and easily increase the volume of evidence presented. 

It is far more efficient to show everyone an exhibit at the same time. Highlighting a word or sentence can then actually help you “argue” the document to an extent -- pointing out facts to the jury which can help them view your perspective of the case. It should also be explained that jurors learn just like the rest of us. When we have a visual image available, we understand new information better -- and retain it longer.

Another idea to help convince a client or reluctant carrier is to propose a cost-sharing plan with opposing counsel. Although a Trial Presentation Consultant cannot provide privileged work-product to both parties, you can share the in-court presentation of the exhibits in a neutral fashion. If opposing counsel is agreeable, they will also cover half the cost, making it a very reasonable option for all. Should they also wish to have someone helping organize and prepare exhibits, deposition designations or demonstratives (work-product), they will have to bring in another trial tech. Ethical walls must be respected at all times. I can say that in my experience, when an agreement to share costs is reached, carriers have been willing to cover their half of the expenses.

An informal survey (attendees raising their hands) indicated that nearly all of these trial veterans had used some form of technology for their own trial presentations such as an ELMO (document camera), most have seen fully-equipped courtrooms (with everything you need to simply plug in your laptop and present your evidence), about 25% or less had used actual trial presentation software, about 50% have an iPad, and only one (out of about 50 or 60) was running a Mac platform, with the remainder on a Windows/PC system. Insurance carriers and clients should be aware that if the courtroom is already set up for trial presentation technology, chances are the Court will expect parties to use it.

Note: I am available for a few CLE presentations each year, generally covering the topic of technology used in improving your trial practice. If your group is interested, feel free to shoot me an email (links are at the top of this page).

Sunday, March 11, 2012

"Live" Interactive E-Briefs for iPad

Morgan Smith (Cogent Legal Graphics) has come up an ultra-cool way of putting together e-briefs. If you’re not familiar with the concept of e-briefs, you’ll do well to do a little research on the topic. Many courts are now requiring submission of briefs via electronic files, such as PDF. I was actually working on a review of some e-brief providers for Law Technology News, when I saw this. 

Smith has a method of saving a brief in an iBooks files format, which can be viewed on an iPad. The really cool thing about this is that although a “normal” PDF-based e-brief allows you to include extra files and add hyperlinks to exhibits and cites, this allows you to actually “embed” the files into the presentation, including documents and photos, plus video and even 3-D models. 

I’ll be honest – it takes quite a bit to get me excited about something “new” in legal technology these days, but this one does it. Smith shares an article on his blog, e-Briefs on the iPad: An Exciting New Tool to Give Attorneys an Edge, and if you are reading this on your iPad, you may download the demo file here.


The downside is that in order to view it with all of the bells and whistles, you’ll need to use an iPad. Now, if the case is worth 7 or 8 figures, it could even be worth providing one for the Court, if necessary. This could also be extremely helpful in Mediations, Settlement Conferences and Markman Hearings. As an alternative, you can also view most of it in the PDF format, but you won’t be able to view video, or “grab” and examine a 3-D object. 


In any event, e-briefs should be on your to-do list. I look forward to sharing this with my clients. It's definitely something I can add to my arsenal.

Contact me if you're interested in more info on the "iBrief" and how it can help your case.



Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Rest in Peace, Finis Price


It is with great sadness that I report the passing of a highly-regarded and respected fellow Trial Consultant and Blogger, Finis Price. I would always enjoy reading his reviews of various software and iPad apps for the legal professional. At only 37 years old, he was already soaring among eagles.

Though our nation may be large, our community is small and tight. Here is the email which was sent to me by Don Gibson (The Trial Division, LLC), another fellow Trial Consultant:

FYI – Ted.

Subject: Finis Price


Those of you active at LinkedIn have probably heard of Finis or read some of his posts. He was an attorney from Louisville, Kentucky who, with his wife, a paralegal, had a trial support and presentation company called TechnoEsq.

A marketing email I received today from ExhibitView contains this sad news.

“We are saddened to learn of the passing of Finis Price, Esq. this past weekend. Finis was an incredible person, always willing to help and was a consultant for us on our iPad app. He came to Georgia for our CLE in January and everyone just loved him. He was the author of www.technoesq.comand he was a major authority on iPad apps and legal technology. Finis was from Louisville, Kentucky and we, Bob Finnell, Esq. and I, Bill Roach will miss him, his laugh and his advice a immensely for a long time into the future. –Bill”

From what I’ve gathered it was an accident of some kind last Thursday. He was only 37. Those of you who know Ted Brooks might want to pass this along should he wish to post the news at the Trial Technology group.


Keep on soaring, Finis - we will miss you and your unique perspectives. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

iKeyboard for iPad, Touch Typing, and How Mavis Beacon Changed My Life

You may recall my first reviews of the iKeyboard, which were both written prior to release of the final version. Even working with the prototypes, I was sold on the concept of having the ability to touch-type on my iPad, without requiring me to lug around a clunky external keyboard. I know, some will say that they're small, and can easily fit into a briefcase or purse. Well, to that I respond - so can a laptop. The main attraction of the iPad is that it is a compact and self-contained device, capable of doing much of what a computer can do. Start adding external accessories and you're losing out on the real benefit of the device.

So, when I first learned of this project on Kickstarter, I was very interested. Kickstarter is a program in which you may invest in the development of some undeveloped product or idea. Some are better than others, and this is the only one I've actually been personally involved in. When I learned that the developer was an attorney, I was even more interested. Cliff Thier, a Connecticut transactional and litigation attorney had a dream, and thanks to Kickstarter, had some funding.

The Kickstarter program allowed one to invest at a few different levels, one of them which would include a first-generation iKeyboard, and also the second, once released. Since I review a good number of apps and software, I was also sent an early prototype.

This version worked well, but was a little bit on the clunky side, due to its method of attachment to the iPad, using small side clips, making it difficult to use with most iPad cases. Even so, touch-typing on the iPad was now a reality. Having the tactile “feel” of typing, along with the “F” and “J” home key reference bumps means you can actually type without looking at the keyboard.

The current version utilizes a series of sticky “magnets,” which hold it securely to the iPad’s screen.

If you have to ask me why touch typing is so important, I probably won't have an answer that will satisfy you. If you're convinced that looking at your on-screen keyboard is good enough for you get things done on your iPad, I'd guess that you fall into the category of the majority of users, who see their iPad as a great way to do a lot of things, but probably aren't doing a lot of typing.

Backing up a few years - quite a few, actually, I really learned how to type by using a DOS program, called Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. Sadly, it appears that dear Ms. Bacon hasn't introduced a typing app for the iPad yet, but there are a few others available. In any event, back in 5 or 10 B.C. (before computers), I never had the need to learn how to do it correctly, since for the limited amount of typing I was doing at the time, I was able to get by with the hunt and peck method. I can still recall playing a game which had words falling downward on the screen that you had to type before they crashed to the ground. Seems like a sorry excuse for a game, but here I am many years later, cranking out a good number of legal technology articles each year, in addition to making a living using computers in trial presentation, which also requires a mastery of the skill. Mavis Beacon, I owe you one.

Back to the future, and my review of the iKeyboard. I will say that other than a very brief test, writing this article is the first time I've used the commercially available version, and although I'm a little slower than I might be on my laptop, I'm still a heck of a lot faster than typing on the iPad's display, which is really little more than a modern version of hunt and peck typing. 

According to Cliff Thier, the key tension and response are designed to emulate the Apple keyboard. While I can't personally say whether they've nailed it, I will say that it does take a little time to get the feel of it, but once you do, your typing speed increases a great deal.

In order to be comfortable while typing, I'd recommend getting something like the Candy Convertible case, which I'm using now and have reviewed, or the Apple Smart Cover. Either of these (and there are others) will allow you to add a slight angle to your iPad, making it much easier to read what you're typing - because you're not looking at those keys any more now, are you?

In conclusion, for $35, you can add touch-typing to your iPad, and you won't have to carry around chargers, batteries, or other external accessories in order to do so. Not a bad investment, available in black or white.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Popular Cloud File Storage Apps Compared



It is estimated that nearly 300 Billion emails are sent worldwide daily, according to a 2010 study by the Radicati Group, Inc. The massive amount of data and web traffic is mind-boggling, with some highlights shared in Internet 2010 in Numbers, an interesting compilation of facts and figures. While email was once one of most efficient methods of moving relatively small amounts of data from one point to another, nowadays, with plenty of convenient alternatives, you don’t have to choke both sender’s and recipient’s email servers with ten pound email attachments. Here a few services you can use, each offering a free level of storage and service, along with full-featured paid upgrades. I've also included a handy comparison chart at the end of this article.


I’ll list Dropbox first, since it’s the one I personally use most often. This is a referral link which gives you an extra 250MB on your free account. Dropbox is primarily a cloud-based storage service, but now also features a decent method of file-sharing at the folder level, and also happens to be perhaps the most popular method of moving files to and from iPad apps. There is a version for the desktop of your PC as well, which automatically remains synced to the cloud. So, you can actually use this as an offsite backup. The file-sharing occurs when you select others to share a work folder with, and then you can add or remove files for all to have access. Bear in mind, if you delete the files from your desktop version, they will also be deleted from the shared folder. You can also share individual files an unsecured “Public” folder via a link, such as I’ve done here with my bio. Just be aware that there are no password requirements for anyone to download from your Public folder, so anyone choosing to download and distribute my bio is free to do so. Go ahead, try it.


YouSendIt started off as more an email replacement for sending large attachments, but now they also offer free storage. You are able to send files to their server, which then generates an email sent to your recipients with a link to download the file, or files may be saved in the cloud on their server. With upgraded versions, you can select multiple files, or even entire folders. The zip feature is actually much faster than locally zipping your files in my experience, and you have options as to how long the file will remain on the server, and how many downloads are permitted. This is probably the easiest method of sharing files with others, since the recipient doesn’t have to have an account.


This service is similar to YouSendIt, although their initial focus was more storage-based, with the option to send a link for sharing. This service started as box.net, and has been around quite a while, as one of the first services of its kind available to the public. One advantage of Box is that it features 5GB of free storage, more than doubling the YouSendIt free account limit. There are lots of great features in both free and upgraded options. Sending a file link via Box does not require the recipient to have an account. I hadn’t used this service in a few years, and am impressed with all of the updates and functionality.


This was designed primarily as a cloud-based working document collaboration tool, where someone can post a document, and others can review and update it. The key here is that the documents do not require you to have any other office software. In other words, you could use you phone, iPad or Android tablet for full editing ability. They have also recently rolled out a new Presentations app. Upon checking, I just noticed there is a new feature currently being Beta-tested, which will allow you to save a local read-only copy of the document. It appears that although each of these cloud storage sites began with some unique features, they are all becoming more alike. Overall, Google’s options are becoming very attractive, with the ability to automatically upload photos from your phone, a calendar, Gmail, and a full suite of features.


Surprisingly late to the table, and also lacking in some of the best features noted in the above apps is Apple’s own iCloud. In any event, you’ll find the familiar suite of email, contacts, and your calendar, plus an option to “find my phone” (or iPad), and an iWork icon, which is a cloud-based document storage area for Keynote, Pages, and Numbers, while also serving as a backup for your iPad data with 5GB of free storage available. Upgrade options are available. Although this service is pretty much a no-brainer for iPhone and iPad users, the interface with the computer doesn’t seem to be quite there yet. After logging into my account, I would have expected to have access to the same set of contacts, calendar, and email that I have on my iPad. Instead, they were empty, and I could not locate a method of getting it all to sync up. Not sure if that feature is available yet, but it’s not practical to assume that anyone is going to manually update their contacts again. Remember doing that each time you got a new cell phone? That is so 1980’s.

Conclusion
I would suggest getting at least a free account for one or more of these.  You will likely find yourself naturally gravitating towards one or more to the point you’ll want to pay for an upgraded version. This may be a result of discovering which works best for you, or because a client is using it, requiring you to upgrade to more storage or functionality. Each brand offers several upgrade level options and some include personalized branding, although the comparison chart below shows only the least-expensive upgrade option for each. There are many other options available, which a quick search on “Cloud Storage” will demonstrate. All of them include a login and web-based interface.

Click on chart to enlarge


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

iPad Apps for Lawyers: iJury for Voir Dire

Reprinted with permission from the Jan. 19, 2012 issue of Law Technology News. ©2012 ALM Media Properties, LLC.


iJury


After a lengthy trial and engaging voir dire without computer assistance, Orlando, Fla.-based attorney Lawrence Williamson teamed up with computer technician Sean Ham (who assisted Williamson with trial logistics and document management) to come up with iJury, an affordable iPad app that would enable attorneys to "concentrate on the art of voir dire and move away from the excessive note taking and paper shuffling."


Digital convergence is an admirable charge for any app and fits well with the iPad vision. I've reviewed several apps designed for jury selection (voir dire) and monitoring and, although they all appear to be helpful, the fiercest competitor to iPad apps remains the venerable Post-it® Notes.


Some things just seem to work better the old-fashioned way. Perhaps one reason is that entering data on the iPad, although it can be comprehensive, takes most of us longer than scribbling on sticky notes. While it is likely just a simple matter of adjusting your work flow to input data on the iPad, I still see more people using the familiar little yellow squares than apps such as iJuror, JuryTracker, Jury Duty, or even full-feature software applications such as Jury Box.


One thing sticky notes can't do is perform data analysis, but that is true of most iPad apps for voir dire. Most apps do a decent job of storing and retrieving juror information, but don't do much in the way of looking at the big picture. iJury is different. Once you've entered personal information on each juror, you're able to view the bigger picture, literally, in a series of dynamic charts. These bar charts indicate trends in your jury pool, including overall indications of positive, negative or neutral scores for your case, as well as a desktop view of a jury's gender and racial balance and socioeconomic status.


Figure 1

Figure 1 shows a high-altitude view of iJury that can help flag potential issues with your currently seated panel of jurors. Additionally, a sample set of common voir dire questions is included, which may be scored positively or negatively for each juror according to their responses -- and you have the option to add your own questions.


Figure 2


Launching iJury the first time brings up a nice tutorial video, which you may also view online. I thought this was a nice touch, allowing you to get a quick feel of what the app is all about and how to handle each task. The video can also be accessed again later by tapping the "Info" icon in the Case browser.


Figure 3


In comparison to other apps for jury selection, iJury requires a similar amount of input for each potential juror, and focuses only on the currently seated panel vis-a-vis the entire jury pool. When using the iPad in this manner you would certainly want to enter all of your juror information ahead of time from their responses to your questionnaire.


Figure 4


Overall, iJury appears to be a nice alternative for iPad-wielding attorneys and trial consultants looking to clean up the counsel table and keep it free from sticky notes during voir dire. And at only $14.99, it won't break the bank.


:::: PRODUCT INFORMATION ::::

Manufacturer: Dynamis Law
Product: iJury for iPad
Price: $14.99


Monday, January 16, 2012

Review: ExhibitView for iPad


Reprinted with permission from the Jan. 11, 2012 issue of Law Technology News. ©2011 ALM Media Properties, LLC.

Author’s Note: I’ve added some additional screen shots and info to this blog version.

I’ve had many people ask,  “When will TrialDirector have an iPad app?” The last time I discussed it with InData, they had looked into the idea but felt that it may not be worth the investment to develop an iPad app. They were, however, exploring remote control possibilities, using an app such as LogMeIn Ignition to control the full-featured PC version of TrialDirector over a Wi-Fi network.

William Roach, developer of PC-based ExhibitView software, decided it was worth his time to develop an iPad app for ExhibitView. By adding ExhibitView iPad to their product line, the company has become the first trial presentation software company to offer a software application for both the PC and the iPad. Roach says, “Specifically we wanted to be in the iPad space because of all the excitement. We really thought about how we could enhance the value of our PC brand and not circumvent its sales. With the majority of law firms still having PC’s and everyone getting iPads, we felt it was a very deliberate strategic move.”

ExhibitView is  also developing a version of its trial presentation software for the Google Android and Apple Mac operating system. This  aggressive development strategy is encouraging to gadget-minded litigators. Although I don’t have an Android tablet, I would love to compare ExhibitView on Android  with the iPad version once it is released. For now, I will settle on a standalone review of the ExhibitView on the iPad.

After several years of battling for market-share with the likes of TrialDirector and Sanction, ExhibitView iPad joins the ranks of TrialPad, Evidence, and Exhibit A in the iPad apps for trial presentation space. For the purpose of this article, I will not review the PC version of ExhibitView, although I will say that users of the software will find themselves at home with ExhibitView iPad, which has  a similar look and feel to the PC application. In fact, the PC version of ExhibitView has just added a new feature, “Save as iPad,” which exports an entire case in ExhibitView on the PC to a file that can be imported without modification into the iPad app.


At the current introductory price of $29.99 (regularly $69.00, or free with purchase of ExhbitView PC version),  ExhibitView falls in the mid-range for trial presentation apps. In the “Wild West” iPad app development game, price does not necessarily indicate value. It seems that setting a price point for an app is (or at least was) something of an experiment, which Roach and ExhibitView benefitted from by coming to the table, or iPad,  late.

Opening ExhibitView iPad brings up a screen which features a Dropbox link icon. One of the first things you’ll need to do is set up a Dropbox account, because that is the only way to get exhibits and files onto the iPad and into the app. But don’t fret, Dropbox still has free accounts with a maximum of 2 gigabytes of disk space allocation. Once you establish an account and link it to the app, you’ll have full access to all of your exhibits stored in Dropbox.

From Dropbox, you may choose individual files or entire folders to download to the iPad. This can make it very quick and easy to import an entire case file into the app, which you’ve assembled on your PC (or via the Save as iPad feature in ExhibitView). Although file transfer via iTunes is not supported, connecting via cable to your laptop every time you need to update exhibits in a case is not a very practical method during a trial.


Another nice feature on the home screen is the Help button. The help file does a nice job at covering the basics, although you could probably just jump right in and start using the app by creating a new case, adding exhibits, and trying out all of the tools and features.

Although ExhbitView iPad works in either landscape or portrait mode, which allows for 360 degree iPad rotation, I would recommend using landscape mode because of the added real estate available to see and select files listed on the left-hand side of the iPad.

The app handles several file types, but I encourage you to work with PDF files. I tested PDF, Microsoft Word, and PowerPoint files;  JPEG and PNG images;  and MP4 video. Other than graphic layers getting a bit whacked in PowerPoint (I’ve seen formatting issues in other apps, and would generally recommend converting exhibits to PDF anyway), it all worked nicely, including the Word document. I did, however, notice an issue in displaying the proper (full screen) image with native PowerPoint and Word. Although .pptx and text files showed up in the file list, they are not supported, and did not display. In a trial presentation app, it would certainly be helpful to handle a text file, with options to work with transcripts.

A nice feature I like about ExhibitView’s “database” view is that there are tabs which will automatically filter and sort exhibits by file type for you: Documents, Images, A/V Media, and All (to show everything in your evidence collection).

Connecting the external monitor when the app is running automatically connects the iPad, displaying the ExhibitView logo, however you’ll still need to hit the “On-Off” button to begin sending images. Note that this button indicates the current state: not what will happen when you tap it. In other words, if you tap the red “Off” button, it turns the presentation on, and then the button turns green, and reads “On.” Maybe it’s just me, but this seemed a bit counter-intuitive for what appears to be an active button soliciting a state change. Once I tapped “On,”  the screen goes to a blank (no logo) dark gray color, ready to display an exhibit.


The presentation features are nice and the app handles the two most important features nicely – Callout Zoom and Highlight, with highlights appearing a natural, transparent yellow. Although you can only have one active callout, you can move the callout around and even leave it in place when you scroll to another page of your exhibit.

You can use a pinch-zoom gesture to zoom in on an exhibit and add a Callout on top of the pinch-zoom, and even highlight the Callout. You can rotate the image (probably should have done that ahead of time anyway) and use a straight-line or free-drawing pen, which you may set to a desired color and thickness. I noticed that the free-draw pen formed a series of short, straight lines (rather than actual curved lines) when attempting to draw a circle. There are Undo and Redo annotations buttons, an Eraser to remove part of an annotation, and a Print (Adobe AirPrint) button.

There is also a nice “Screen Lock” feature, which disables all of the file access options and allows you to  hand the iPad to a witness to use like a “John Madden” Telestratordevice (yup, just realized, there’s an app for that, football fans). When your witness is done marking up the document, you can use the snapshot button to capture the image in .png format. The flexibility of the iPad would permit you to do this “live” in front of the jury, by keeping it plugged into the system, or you could easily disconnect, save the work, and then reconnect to show the completed work. This could even be a valuable feature when used in conjunction with other trial presentation software. At least (in my opinion), it beats the heck out of those clunky touch-screen monitors.


In addition to all of the annotation and presentation features, you can display two exhibits side-by-side, and annotate or zoom in on each one.


Many of the differences between ExhibitView PC and ExhibitView iPad are actually a result of the limited functionality of the iPad itself. You simply cannot build and manage a complex database on an iPad – at least not in a practical manner. Also, you’ll enjoy a far greater degree of speed and accuracy when using a mouse and keyboard (compared to a finger, or even a stylus), as well as the ability to handle most common file types, as opposed to just a few. I’ll always agree that doing almost anything on an iPad looks cool, but that’s really not all that important in most trials.

I would be comfortable using the ExhibitView app in a smaller matter, but only after thoroughly testing and checking it with all of my exhibits. I would look forward to the opportunity to have a witness use the ExhibitView iPad app to mark up an exhibit. This could also be a nice tool to use in depositions. I feel that ExhibitView is a real contender in the trial presentation app space, and if you’re interested now would be the time to get it for just $30. I will close by stating that phenomenal success stories notwithstanding, I still prefer to use my laptops instead of an iPad for trial presentation.



Monday, January 9, 2012

Update: ExhibitView for iPad, BlackBerry's Doom, Android Tablets


I would tell you that I’ve just finished reviewing ExhibitView iPad, but then I’d have to tell you that you’re going to have to wait to read it until it gets published on Law Technology News. I’ll let you know once it’s up there (follow me on Twitter if you want the quickest and latest updates: http://twitter.com/litigationtech). Without spoiling, I can tell you that I was impressed, and look forward to seeing other developments from them.
Update: The review has been published and is now live on Law Technology News.

Speaking of Law Tech News, I’ve been quoted in a few articles there recently. One was an interesting piece by Brendan McKenna, LTN's news editor, entitled “2011's Tech Folly of the Year”. That “folly” was none other than the once-ubiquitous BlackBerry, so addictive it was even referred to as the “CrackBerry.” Read the entire article for some additional insight, but here’s my prediction of doom.

In May, our own Ted Brooks announced his defection from BlackBerry here in the pages of LTN, saying, "BlackBerry has been losing market-share in a big way recently, and I suspect I am a classic defector. Although I've been a BlackBerry user for nearly 15 years, I am weary of screen-envy, and since the next version of BlackBerry OS for the latest BlackBerry device won't support my current device, I'm done with it." He adds that he feels no desire to purchase the PlayBook, for the reasons cited above. In August, Brooks again suggested that RIM's days were numbered: "Even though Research In Motion has owned the legal market for many years, unless they once innovate instead of renovate, the BlackBerry's days are numbered." While not necessarily indicative of a trend, Brooks is known throughout the legal technology community for his Court Technology and Trial Presentation blog, so when he defects in such a public manner, it may be right to presume that RIM has one foot in the grave.

Just last week, Evan Koblentz, a reporter for Law Technology News shared his thoughts on the iPad versus Android tablets, in “iPad Mania Aside, Tablets Are Inefficient Work Devices for Lawyers.” After testing the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9, Koblentz finds that “For tech-minded lawyers, Android is worth considering because of the many customization options, various screen sizes, and hybrid laptops, such as the Asus Transformer series. But for most lawyers, it makes a lot more sense to follow the herd into Appleville, as Law Technology News columnist Ted Brooks noted recently.”

Also, I’ve just downloaded and started my review of a new app which claims to be an aid in jury selection, called iJury. Stay tuned, and I hope the New Year has been good to you thus far!

 
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