Friday, December 19, 2014

Universal Copy and Paste with Pushbullet

I've mentioned my fondness for Pushbullet in the past. You can easily send links to websites from one device to another, as well as receive notifications from your phone on your desktop. You can even send SMS messages from your desktop.

One of the features I've been using more and more lately is the ability to copy and paste text from one device to another. For example, suppose I'm working on something on my tablet and need to insert a block of text that is on my computer. With Pushbullet's universal copy and paste, I can highlight and copy the text on my desktop. Then, after waiting a second or two, on my tablet, I simply choose paste where I want the text I copied on my desktop to go.

To enable this, on all of your devices you want to be able to do this, simply open up Pushbullet's options and enable Universal Copy and Paste.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tasker for Attorneys: Have Your Android Wear Watch Find Your Misplaced Phone

When I have my Galaxy Gear Live connected to my phone, it automatically turns the volume and vibration off on the phone. Of course, if I then misplace my phone under a pile of papers in the office, I can't find my phone. With the volume down, I can't just call it. How can I find it quickly and easily?

Fortunately, Tasker can come to the rescue.

First, get Tasker. Yes, it is a paid app. But it is worth the price of admission for the control and automation it can bring. To increase the usability with your Android Wear Watch, get WearTasker as well.

In Tasker, the first order of business is to create a variable. On the Tasker home page, go to the VARS tab. Add a new variable and call it %FOUNDPHONE.

Next, create a new task and call it “Kill Ringer”. The only action that we’ll add to this task is to set a variable. So, add a new action, choose the “Variables” action category, and choose variable set. The name will be %PHONEFOUND. Set it to 2. Save this task.

Next, in Tasker, go to the TASKS tab and create another new task. Give it a name you find useful.

In your new task, add an action. Choose the Variables action category. Then choose Variable Set. The name of the variable to set is %FOUNDPHONE. Set it to 1.

The next action to add is to increase your phone's volume. Select the Audio action category, and choose ringer volume. Set the volume to 7 or higher so that it will ring loudly.

Now, add another action. Choose the “Media” action category. In there, choose “Play Ringtone”. The type should be “ringer” and stream should be “Alarm”. Under if, the first box should be %FOUNDPHONE, the sign should be equals, and the third box should be 1. This step is important. If you don’t set the ringtone to only play when the variable = 1, then it might ring in an unceasing loop. That would be annoying, to say the least.

The next action we’ll add is a pop up. This way, when you find your phone, you’ll be able to easily quiet the ringer. Add a new action, choose the “Alert” action category, and then choose “Popup Task Buttons”. Under the Text, put in something like “Found my phone”. For mode, choose text. For task, you’ll put in Kill Ringer. Lastly, set the Timeout (Seconds) slider to 60.

What this does is create a popup on your phone with a button that says “Kill Ringer”. When you push the button, it runs the first task we created, which sets the %PHONEFOUND variable to 2, which stops the ringer. Also, the popup will disappear after 60 seconds.

The last task we want to add is to again set the %PHONEFOUND variable. This time, set it to 2. This way, if the previous popup disappears due to the timeout, your phone will stop ringing.

Now, leave Tasker and go to WearTasker. Click the floating action button at the bottom and choose “Add task”. The task to add will be the one we just finished creating in Tasker. Save and exit.
WearTasker will update your watch with this task. When you open WearTasker on your watch, it will have a button with the name of your task. Pressing it will run the task, increasing your phone’s volume and causing it to ring.


Now, when you misplace your phone in your office with the volume low, you’ll be able to quickly and easily find it.

Monday, December 8, 2014

How to Add Bates Stamps using Acrobat Pro

Whether dealing with vast quantities or even a few dozen discovery documents, organization is critical. Bates Stamping documents makes staying organized much easier. However, if you have Acrobat Pro and are still using an actual Bates stamp or machine, you're making life much too difficult.

For those unfamiliar with Bates stamping, it is a system of putting a prefix and incremental number on the bottom right corner of every page. For example, if I received 100 documents from Plaintiff Smith, I might put SMITH 00001 on the first page, SMITH 00002 on the next, and so forth. Physically stamping this way used to be the practice, and I'm sure some still do that.

But, let me show you how I do it.

First, if you haven't already done so, scan all of your documents into a .pdf file. Save the file. I typically will give it a useful name and then add the word "clean" to the end. This tells me that this is my original, unnumbered set of documents. I then make a copy of the file and add the word "bates" to the end. This is the document I'll number. It is also the document I'll be using from here on.

Open that file in Acrobat Pro. From there, on the right side drawer, go to "Tools" -> "Pages" -> "Bates Numbering". Choose to add bates numbers.

This will pop up a new window. Choose to Add documents and select add open files:



Choose the open file you want, then select Ok. Hit Ok again and you will see a new window open up:


Put the cursor in the "Right Footer Text Box" and then click the "Insert Bates Number" button. In the new window, put in the prefix you want to use remembering to put a single space at the end. You can adjust the starting number and number of leading zeroes if you like. Select Ok and then Ok again.You now have a Bates numbered document, which will help with organization.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Use Tab Stops to Line Up Words in Microsoft Word

I've talked in the past about the importance of using the left indent instead of the space bar when adjusting where to start text on the page. This addresses how to align the left margin of blocks of text. But, what about aligning items in the middle of a sentence?

For example, let's look at the top of an affidavit in common use in Ohio:

The goal here is to align the closing parentheses vertically. I've received a number of documents from colleagues where they are almost aligned, but not quite:


The reason for the misalignment is simple. The drafter used the space bar to try to line everything up:


There are a number of problems with this method. First, it will rarely result in having everything lined up vertically unless you are using a monospaced font.  As Butterick says in Typography for Lawyers, "There are no good reasons to use monospaced fonts. So don't."

Second, fixing typos can be a pain. If you notice you made a mistake with the space bar method, you will likely have to go back and fix all of those spaces again, which can be a headache.

Lastly, it is time consuming. You end up spending a good deal of time trying to get the alignment close only to end up with imperfect results.

Instead of using the space bar, set tab stops. Here's how I would create the alignment. 

First, type in your text and insert a single tab between the last word and the closing parentheses. So, when you're done, you'll have something that looks like this:


Those arrows pointing to the right indicate the press of the tab key. So, how does this help us? Now, when you adjust the tab stop, it will align those parentheses. To do this, highlight all three lines. Then, click on the top ruler to insert a tab stop where you want the parentheses to line up:

This will add a tab stop on your ruler, which I have circled above. Now, your parentheses will all be perfectly aligned. 


If you need to edit the location of the parentheses at any point, simply highlight all three lines and click and drag the tab stop in the ruler to the new location. 

Using this method will save you time and headache and result in a better end product than using the space bar.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Get Docs To Go For Free (Limited Time)

Docs To Go is a good document editor for Android phones. I'd say it may even be one of the better ones out there. The lite version is good, but limited in some areas. The premium version is normally $9.99. Today, it is free on Amazon. Not sure how long this will last, but check it out.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Free Stamps for Adobe

If you use Adobe for reviewing documents, then the AcroLaw blog has a free set of stamps for you. Recently, they explained how to add some pre-made stamps to your acrobat set up that will make Adobe an even better option for reviewing documents you receive in PDF format. Check it out here.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

If You're Using Inbox from Gmail, Here's Help In Understanding the Bundles

I've been a complete convert to Inbox. I think that it lays things out better than Gmail both on a phone as well as on the desktop. I also like the Bundles. I like all of my promotional emails going into one dedicated spot and only having them come through once a day. I find it helps me keep everything organized better. I know that I could have set up filters before, but I never took the time. Out of the box, Inbox does a good job of it.

If you're interested in learning more about bundles, check out this post from Gmail.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Stop Worrying About Finding the MOST Efficient and Just Make a Decision

I've mentioned this wonderful chart by XKCD a number of times. And I refer to it often to determine whether creating a particular time-saving task has any hope of actually saving time.

A couple days ago, XKCD put out another great chart on efficiency:


http://xkcd.com/1445/

I have recently sat through a number of meetings where we've had to consider a few different routes we could take, we wanted to make the most efficient choice between two relatively similar routes, and we end up wasting more time talking about the problem than we would ever save by trying to choose the most efficient method.

The above chart is a reality. It is important to realize you're in such a conversation, bring it up, and try to end it as soon as possible. In the tech world, this type of conversation seems to happen all the time.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Write Email with Mobile Readers in Mind

Because I am on the road a lot, I read a lot of email on my phone. In fact, I will often scan an email on my watch before deciding whether it's even worth getting the phone out to read it.

Too often, people treat email like it is the electronic equivalent of a letter. They will put flowery language up front, ask about the kids, etc. I'm not saying that there is no place for that in email, but LifeHacker is absolutely right. If you want to ensure your email gets read, make your point or ensure the you grab the reader's attention in the first line.

Pay attention the next time you get email on your phone. Notice how little of the message you actually see. If you don't have some of the important stuff up front, it might not ever be opened by those of us who rely on our phones for email.

What about the subject line, you ask? I find subject lines to be helpful, but lengthy subject lines can get cut off sometimes. Focus on that opening line. Ask about the kids later.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Great Article on why You Should be Using VLC as your Media Player

In our office, we use VLC as our default media player. It's not the prettiest player out there, but as far as free player go, it works wonderfully. An article on LifeHacker today discusses some of the features I had no idea VLC could do. These things make what I thought of as a serviceable program great. Check out he article then do yourself a favor and get VLC.

Monday, November 3, 2014

IFTTT for Attorneys: Use your Watch to Let Your Assistant Know You're Coming Back

Because of where I work and what I do, I'm on the road. A lot. I have a main office in one county, and a satellite office in another. Additionally, our office covers seven counties and I often travel to an eighth for meetings and occasionally court appearances. All of this traveling can leave me sometimes running behind.

A smart watch and IFTTT can easily and efficiently help your secretary or assistant know when you are heading back to the office. In IFTTT, create a new recipe where the trigger or if statement is tapping a button on your android smart watch.

The then statement will be up to you. You can choose to send a text to your legal assistant if they prefer that method of receiving communications from you. Alternatively, you could choose to send her an email from your GMail account.

If you choose the email option, by default it will send a picture from Google maps showing your location as well as a link to Google maps. You can then add in a message at the top or on the subject line saying "Heading back to the office" or what not. Thus a simple tap of the button let's your office know where you are and they can have a decent idea of when to expect you back in.

Is it kind of nerdy? Probably. Do I care? Not one bit. I use this method to text my wife most nights to let her know I'm leaving the office.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Quickly Create Outlook Calendar Events from an Email

When I receive an email with information about a meeting, I usually add it to my calendar instantly. This way, I don't forget about it.

I've watched a number of people want to add information to their calendar from an email and they complain about it being too cumbersome or taking too long. When I watch them, they will open up their calendar, navigate to the date they want, double click on the date, put in the time information, go back to the email, highlight and copy all of the information, go back to the calendar entry, and paste it in the notes. I usually will tell them that I understand why they don't like doing it that way.

Then, I show them how I do it. I always have the little calendar displayed in my To Do pane. If the meeting will be on a date displayed on that calendar, just drag and drop the email on to the date you want. This will automatically open up a new appointment entry, already have the date filled in, and already have pasted the text of the email into the notes section. All you have to do is add the time.

In the alternative, I will just drag and drop the email onto the calendar tab. Again, this opens up a new appointment window and pastes the email content into the notes section. All you have to do at this point is set the date and time.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Recent Updates to Android Wear were Much Needed

Recently, the Android Wear operating system got an update that was somewhat overdue in coming.

One of the first things of note was the fact that there is no longer a card covering the main watch face. It was ok having a card covering half of the face at times; however, it really detracted from the idea of having a watch. Now, instead of having a card always peeking up, you just have to swipe up to bring the first card up.

Second, Google Play music is now available on the watch. With a pair of Bluetooth headphones, you can listen to music straight from your watch.

Third, when streaming music, there always was a card that showed you what was playing, and if you kept swiping, to the left you would find other controls. Now, a swipe to the left brings up four different buttons: one to skip forward, one to skip backwards, and two to adjust the volume.

All in all, this was an update that really increases the usability of Android Wear supported devices.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Inbox for Gmail: Definitely Worth a Look

I've been a fan of Gmail for a while. Recently, Google launched their new email client, Inbox, in an invite only system for now. This invitation system is nothing new for Google to do. Yeah, it is probably unnecessary and it probably is, at least in part, a marketing gimmick. Yes, I'm probably being a Google apologist for not feeling some outrage at this system, yet, I just don't. What I will say, though, is that the Inbox app is slick.

I've only had a couple days to play with it, and I've spent most of those days moving boxes as we moved into our new home. However, there are a lot of changes in Inbox that I like.

First, the design. I'm normally more of a function over form person. However, I think that the look of Inbox is just wonderful. It showcases the material design of Android 5.0 wonderfully. It is also just easy to navigate and use.

In the current Gmail app, the only preset bundles are Social, Updates, Forum, and Promotions. Inbox adds additional useful bundles like travel, purchases, etc. This helps keep your email sorted. Yes, power users probably already have rules and filters set up to do this automatically. However, I think the way Inbox does it is great.

Additionally, Inbox makes it easy to see all of your reminders. I'm constantly using Google Now to set reminders. Prior to Inbox, it was somewhat cumbersome to see your reminders. Inbox has an option for that right in the navigation drawer for easy access.

Additionally, the ability to snooze email or pin it to the top so that you don't lose it in the inbox is helpful.

All in all, my preliminary thoughts on Inbox are that it I'm going to stop using the Gmail app and site altogether in favor of Inbox.

So, if you haven't done so yet, request an invite or get an invitation from someone who already has Inbox.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Google Now Available on Most Android Devices

In the past, I'd mentioned that you could sideload Google Now launcher. At that time, it was for Nexus devices and not available through the Google Play Store. With it, you can swipe from the home screen and see all of your Google Now cards. Additionally, it allows you to say "Ok Google" from the home screen or when the device is plugged in and do a voice search.

Back in August, it became available for all devices running Android 4.1 or higher. So, if you didn't want to side load it, go install it from Google Play and give it a try.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Turn on Screen Touches when Casting Your Android Phone to a Group

One of the great things about Chromecast is the ability to show what is on your phone to a group. If you are giving a presentation on how to use the phone, it makes it possible for the group to see what you do in real time. Of course, by default, they won't be able to see exactly what and where you are touching the screen.

Fortunately, Android allows this to be shown in the developer options under settings. If you haven't enabled developer options, which is hidden by default, go to Settings and choose About Device. Tap on Build Number at least 7 times in quick succession. This will enable the developer options.

Within developer options, you can choose the "Show Touches" check box. Now, wherever you touch on the screen there will be a white dot. This will make giving group presentations about the benefits of using a smartphone much easier.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Use Rules and Assign Policies to Help Control Your List Email

List emails can be a tremendous waste of time if you let them. I'm on a number of different lists, and if I tried to read the emails as they came in every time, I'm not sure I'd be very productive. Rarely, if ever, has anything requiring my personal and immediate action come to me through a lists, and so, I see no reason for them to cloud up my main email inbox.

Instead, I have a folder for each list and use Outlook's rules to send all email from the list to the folder automatically. If there is an issue I'm particularly interested in following, I will modify the rule and add an exception so that the email doesn't go in that box. For example, I have a standing exception for any email where my name is specifically mentioned in the body of the email. This way, those emails show up in my main inbox, and since they're there instead of the usual place, I know there is probably some reason I need to pay more attention to it.

Another exception I have for my list email is if it is an invitation, which I do occasionally get. Those get through to the main inbox.

Once I have them all in their folder, I assign a policy to the entire folder. I have the folder only keep items for 30 days. After that, the emails are automatically deleted. Why? Otherwise, you end up with an unwieldy folder of stale emails. Additionally, if I haven't read the email within 30 days and am that far behind, the amount of unopened email in the folder will become too large for me to even want to try to read it.

This isn't about storage space or anything like that. It's about efficiency. If you have a lot of pointless email in your folders, it can slow down searches and make it harder to sort through search results. Plus, if you have 4000 unread emails, it can act as a mental barrier to not reading email.

I've found that this combination of rules and policies makes it much easier to sort my email in the main inbox and makes getting through to the important stuff easier.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

I Haven't Been This Excited About A Lollipop Since I Was Five

Ok, I admit it, I'm a total Google fanboy at times. Today is no exception. Earlier this year, Google previewed the newest version of its operating system, then called Android L. Out with Dalvik and in with ART. More battery options. Better security. Thousands of new APIs. And that doesn't even begin to address just how aesthetically pleasing it is to look at. Material Design is full of promise.

Lollipop will be rolling out soon, and I can't wait for it to come to my phone.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Free Alternatives to Adobe Products

If you don't follow Lifehacker, you're really missing out. One of their recent articles dealt with free and cheap alternatives to Adobe's creativity products. Where I work, I'm lucky enough to have access to Adobe Acrobat Pro, and I have a copy of Elements 10 for personal use. However, I haven't had access to Photoshop in years. I've never had the chance to play with InDesign and some of the others.

As attorneys, especially those with tight IT budgets, we can't always afford the cutting edge toys. It's important to give the open source stuff a try. In fact, you just might like it.

From that list, I've used GIMP as the Photoshop alternative for a long time now. There is no question that it takes a little getting used to, but for a free tool, it is fantastic. Moreover, there is plenty of help available on the internet.

The other tool on the list I use regularly is Inkscape. I love Inkscape. I used it in designing the graphics for my most recent Android game. I've used it for graphics on flyers and promotional materials. It is simply an awesome vector graphics engine. It also has lots of documentation and tutorials available on the web. I also found it to be more intuitive than GIMP was when I first started to use it.

I would definitely recommend reading the Lifehacker article and checking out some of these tools before shelling out the cash for Adobe.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Switching Google Accounts in Chrome Canary Just Got Even Easier

Two months ago I wrote about how Chrome Canary had made switching users easier by including a drop down menu in the upper right part of the screen. At the time, this was a huge improvement. Prior to this, changing users meant a longer process of signing out and signing back in. If you have a work and personal account and use one computer, this could be tedious.

In August, Chrome Canary introduced the drop-down box to assist in switching.


Clicking on this allowed you to choose "switch person" where you could choose which user to log in with. I always found there to be a large amount of lag in this opening, but it was still easier and quicker than the old method. This got added to the Beta version of Chrome in early September or late August I believe.

Today, however, when I fired up Chrome Canary, my little friend in the top right was gone. Instead, there was a picture of me in the top left.


When I clicked on it, it quickly brought up a drop-down with both my personal and work accounts. Clicking on my work account instantly opened a new session of Chrome with all of my work setup. This new method looks cleaner than the other, involves fewer steps, and works even quicker.

To put is simply, this newest change is wonderful, and again, I hope that Google makes it part of the stable version as it will greatly improve the usability of Chrome for those with work and personal accounts.

Friday, October 10, 2014

I Try To Stay Out of the Google Now/SirI/Cortana Debates, But ...

I love Google Now. I sing its praises every chance I get. I haven't been exposed to Siri or Cortana, so I don't have first hand knowledge of how well they work. This is why I try to stay out of the Apple bashing that sometimes goes on.

However, this article from Stone Temple Consulting looks at how helpful these three apps are at providing instantly answers and useful answers. The clear winner: Google Now. And it wasn't even close.

I can't say that I'm surprised, and I'd be lying if I didn't admit to being at least a little smug and superior feeling to my iPhone colleagues.

Monday, October 6, 2014

If You've Even Thought About Coding for Android, get AIDE

In the past, I'd taken a couple of stabs at teaching myself how to code in Android. The setup, however, turned me away on the first couple of tries. Installing the Java developer kit and then the Android Development Tools and all of the SDKs seemed like a lot of work. And if it was that much work to install, it was going to be even more to learn. Eventually, I did it, and I enjoy programming for my phone.

Recently, I found an app for my Tablet and phone that let's you develop right on the device itself. AIDE is a free/paid Android IDE. It requires little to no setup to start coding. Simply switch to expert mode and you can code using either Eclipse or Gradle as your platform. Best of all, when you're ready to try it out, you  simply run it from AIDE and it loads straight to your phone. No more emulators or connecting your phone to your computer.

You can store files locally or on DropBox or using Git. However, Git pushes do require the upgrade. You can also clone GitHub projects in the App and run them. This is something I find to be unbelievably useful.

With the free version, you're limited to only being able to save apps with a limited number of classes and files. This was the reason I actually went with the upgrade.

If you buy a subscription, you can actually watch tutorial lessons. I can't comment on the quality of the lessons as I have not watched them and probably won't.

So who is this for? I'd recommend it for those interested in giving Android Development a try but are intimidated by the desktop setup. You won't get as much help from AIDE in terms of auto-completion as you would Eclipse or Android Studio, but the fewer hassles are worth it. Additionally, if you're interested in easily cloning and installing GitHub projects, it seems like a no-brainer to me.

Friday, October 3, 2014

When Should I Create a Macro for a Given Word Task?

A colleague asked me recently when she should create a macro in MS Word for a particular task versus just plowing ahead and doing it the long way. My off the cuff response was, "create a macro if it is going to save you time in the long run", which is less than helpful. How could she know if it would save her time in advance? How much time would it have to save to be worth it.

So, here is the long answer. Check the following XKCD chart, which I keep bookmarked:


http://xkcd.com/1205/

What does this mean? Well, if the task in question is something you do once a day and a macro would save you 5 seconds and you expect that you'll be doing the task daily for the next five years, then you should create the macro if you can do it in less than 2 hours. In other words, even if it takes you an hour to create a macro that only saves 5 second of your time, if it is a task you do daily, then it would be a good time investment. If you only want to amortize the time out over a year, divide by 5, which means you could devote 24 minutes to it and come out ahead.

How long does it take to create a macro. It depends. If you're going to use a macro that just types out a long paragraph or two, then not long at all. The next time you go to type it, simply record it as a macro and you're done. Quickly assign it a shortcut key and you're saving your 5 seconds. And, this should only take an extra minute longer than doing the task by hand, which means you're going to be well within the 2 hour or 24 minute time limit.

If you're going to have to get into the details of VBA and coding a macro, it could be a lot longer, especially if you're not familiar with VBA. I've had a number of times where I go to make something simpler by coding a macro from scratch and I end up burning way more time than it saves because I had to do so much research on how to write the code.

The long and short of it is: if creating the macro is simply a matter of recording what you do, then you should almost always err on the side of recording it. In the long run, you'll probably save time. If it is going to require anything more than that, I'd talk to someone before trying to do it on your own.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Tasker for Attorneys: Turn off Your WiFi When It Isn't Needed

Like many attorneys, I am on the road a lot. It doesn't make sense to have my smart phone constantly searching for a WiFi signal when there is none nearby, or, at least, there are none nearby I want to connect to. FutureLawyer highlighted this problem in a post today.

Yet, I also don't want to have to remember to constantly turn it back on when I'm at home or the office. This is another time when Tasker can be a big help.

Previously, I had shown how you can silence your phone when you get to the court house. Today's post will start out the same way. 

To do this, open Tasker, go to the profile tab, click the + in the lower right, and choose Location.


When you do this, you will then scroll to the top and choose "+ New Location". This will then bring up a map. There, find the location of the area where you want your wifi to be on. Then, long click in the middle of the location. I typically set the radius to either 30m or 50m. Once you've done this, you should have a flag over your location with a yellow circle. This yellow circle shows an area that, if you set foot in it, your phone will trigger.


Once you have it set up how you like it, tap on "Location Edit" in the top left. It will ask you to name your location. I typically just give it the name of the WiFi network or place I'm at. It will then ask you what task to assign the profile. Choose new task and name the task, if you like.

For the entry task, choose the "Net" Action Category and then choose the "WiFi" net action. You will then set it to "On". Then, at the profile page, long click on the task associated with your WiFi profile and choose "Add Exit Task". Again, the task will be in the "Net" category and the "Wifi" action, only set it to off.

Now, when you enter the area designated in your profile, your WiFi will automatically turn itself on, and when you leave the area, it will automatically turn itself off.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Is Your Practice Designed to be User Friendly?

This morning, I read an article on Wired about the how the roll out of HealthCare.Gov brought to light the importance of design. As the article says, the design in question is not just whether the colors are appealing, but whether the overall design one that the user can get exactly what he or she wants without having to call a help line or read an lengthy manual.

This led me to think about my own legal services program and law practices in general. When a client comes in, does the design of our practice seem intuitive to them? Is it inspiring confidence? Do they leave feeling more confused than when they entered? Is the way we do business designed to make it easy for the client to get their question answered? Do our clients get lost in the amount of paperwork they have to sign in order to get a question answered about paperwork someone else had them sign?

It is tempting to say that, "well, the practice of law is different than a website. What we do is much more complicated. Design isn't important."

I couldn't disagree more. As lawyers, our job is to help our clients understand their legal rights and, if necessary, vindicate those rights when they have been violated. If our clients come to us and can't understand what we are talking about or if it takes a lot of unnecessary work on their part to get their questions answered, then we are not effectively doing our jobs.

Where are some areas we can improve our design? Informative websites that aren't cluttered with disclaimers to the point that the useful information is lost. Avoiding jargon in talking with our clients. Keeping the paperwork to the minimum (what client who comes in with a contract problem wants to read through a 15 page dense representation agreement to get a simple question answered?)

So, is your practice well designed for your clients, or is it well designed for you? It is not an either or question, but I suspect that all too often, the answer will be heavily slanted towards us and not the clients. And in doing so, we frustrate our clients.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Insert Screen Captures Directly into Your MS Office File

One of this blog's earlier posts was on the Snipping Tool found in Windows 7. Since then, one of the similar features in Office 2010 I've been using more is the ability to capture either the entire screen or a portion of it and have it automatically insert itself into your office document. This includes emails.

To do it, I've found it best if you have two monitors. Open your Office document on one monitor and the portion of the screen you want to capture on the other monitor. If this isn't possible because you only have one monitor, make sure that the window you want to capture is directly behind your Office document.

In your Office program, go to Insert on the ribbon, and choose screenshot. You will have the option of choosing one of the open windows, which will insert the entirety of the window. Alternatively, you can choose "screen clipping", which will allow you to highlight the area of the screen you want to insert.

Why would this ability be useful? A couple of things come to mind. Sometimes, you might be in a program that you want to be able to print what is on the screen, but there isn't a function for that built in to the program itself. You can use this method to get around that.

Second, when you are emailing your IT person about an error message you are receiving, you can make a copy of that message and insert it directly into your email quickly so that IT can see what you're seeing.

Friday, September 26, 2014

If You're Running OSX or Linux, Check for Shellshock but DON'T Panic

A while ago, I took the wife's old laptop that had been running Windows XP and installed Linux Mint. I thought it was a great move at the time, and I still do. One of the up sides to Linux is that you have less to worry about in the way of virus, etc. But, that doesn't mean it is invulnerable. Just like OSX is not invulnerable.

If you made a similar switch to me or you're running OSX, then you need to check to see if your system has what is being called the Shellshock vulnerability. Let me make one thing clear: there is no need to panic over this. The world isn't ending. And for most, the test is easy and the fix is simple.

PCWorld has all the information on how to check for the vulnerability.

Sure enough, my Linux box which I hadn't used in a couple of days was vulnerable. Fortunately, the patch had already been released. To install it, all I had to do in the terminal was:

sudo apt-get update

and then:

sudo apt-get upgrade

And with that, the vulnerability appears to have been resolved based upon the PCWorld test.

So, if you've got a machine that could be subject to this type of vulnerability, check it out and get it fixed. But, please, please, please, whatever you do, take the advice on the cover of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Phone Running Low on Memory? Try A Little Fall Cleaning

The first day of fall was just a couple of days ago. The leaves are changing, which means the wife is going to want to dress the boys up and take pictures of them outside. Of course, when she starts doing this, she is going to get the message on her phone that she is running low on memory.

So, before you start taking all of your fall pictures, take a little bit of time and do a little fall cleaning on your phone. Free up some memory and maybe it will run a bit better. At the least, you won't be getting error messages about low memory all the time.

First, clear out all those silly apps you downloaded over the summer to pass the time that you no longer use. If you haven't used an app in a month or two, odds are that you don't actually need it. And even if you later find out that you want it, you can always re-download it.

Second, clear out your cache. Go to settings, find the storage option, and clear the cache. This can be hundreds of megabytes in size if left to build indefinitely.

Third, clear out the photos. This is the wife's biggest issue. She takes pictures and videos of our kids constantly. And I love it, because she's always sending me pictures of the boys while I'm at work and she has the day off. Yet, the gigabytes of photos and videos is compromising her phone's performance. Delete the garbage photos and videos for a starter. Next, back them all up to external storage and get them off the phone. Keep a few of course, but you don't need 20 pictures of your kid going down the same slide, do you?

Lastly, if you're up for it, do a factory reset. It will clear out everything on your phone including all the orphan file structures left over from some removed apps. Make sure you back up first. But, I find this option to be somewhat refreshing, and it's something I find myself doing once every 12 to 15 months.

Regular cleaning and maintenance can make a difference.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I'm a Legal Aid Attorney and "Homeless" - The Week Before

OK, this is going to be out of place with the rest of the content on this blog, but it is about something deeply personal to me. 

I am a 32-year-old employed legal aid attorney. I regularly represent the poor in all manner of civil legal issues. I have a beautiful wife who is an employed physician's assistant (her age doesn't matter, but I assure you she looks just as good today as she did when I married her more than 7 years ago). We have a 3-year-old boy and an 8-month-old boy. We have two cats. I'll be honest, I don't like the cats, but my wife and boys love them. Also, we have all the material possessions that come along with a family. 

If you had told me at the beginning of the year that I would have to move back in to my parent's house, I'd have told you that you were crazy. Yet, tomorrow night is the last night we will be sleeping in our own home before moving in with my folks. Yes, after more than 6 years of representing the poor, including numerous homeless clients, I'm about to experience homelessness myself. Sort of at least.

So here's the story. We decided to sell and move to my hometown. Great. We carefully staged our house and started looking for a new one. We figure we had some time from when we put our house on the market before we would have an acceptable offer. It took all of around eight hours before we got essentially a full price offer. And we only had until near the end of September to be out. We were ecstatic. We figured it would take months to sale and we would never get what we were asking.

We quickly opted for a nearly finished home under construction. Long story short, due to unforeseen issues with the builders, it won't be done until late October. There would be a month gap of no house for us. And so, we are only a few days from being "homeless" and living with my folks for a month.

Now, let me be clear: I'm not going to deal with many of the harsh realities my clients regularly have to face. I'm not going to a homeless shelter. My family and I aren't going to be separated. I'm not going to the department of job and family services. I know exactly when my period of homelessness will end. We will still have two incomes. I'm not going to be on-the-street-homeless.

Yet, as the time for me to move back in with my parents come closer, I'm realizing more clearly than ever before just how hard it is to be even my kind of homeless. And my kind of homeless, where you move in with family members because you've lost your home, is something a lot of my clients experience. Fortunately, I know my stay is temporary.

First, I'm moving back in with my parents at my age. I joke about it, my coworkers joke about it, my friends joke about it, but the truth is, I'm actually incredibly embarrassed about it. At my age, I just can't believe this is happening. Yes, a lot of people would love to have the problem we have where we sold our house too quickly. Yet, my upbringing and society has ingrained in me that when you leave your parent's home, if you have to go back, it's because you have failed in some serious, socially bad way. 

As a legal aid attorney, I know that isn't true. I regularly console clients that sometimes "life happens" and we all go through tough times. And yet, that's still how I feel about myself. Like a failure.

Additionally, we are imposing on my parents. A lot. They're saints. They offered to house us as soon as we found out that our home was delayed. I love them dearly. But this can't be easy for them. They've been empty-nesters for a few years now, and they're about to not only get me back, but my wife and kids as well. In the same 3 bedroom house I grew up in. And they're moving a lot of stuff around to accommodate us. 

That is a big favor. I feel incredibly loved and fortunate that they're there. But, I also feel incredibly guilty to impose upon them like this. I can't imagine what it must be like for my clients that have to do this, not knowing when they will be moving back out. And for those who lack the close family that I am blessed with, it would be awful.

Then there is our cats. They can't come to my parents. They can't go to the in-laws. None of our friends could house them. If we weren't so fortunate to have decent jobs and in-laws that want to help us board them in an upscale kitty prison, we'd have to give them up, possibly to a shelter where they might be put down. This would absolutely destroy my wife if we had to do that. She is holding our family together through all of this, but if she lost her cats over this, she would lose it herself. For most of my clients, they wouldn't be so lucky because they wouldn't be able to afford to spend money in this manner.

Then, there is our stuff. I've been preaching for a while now at home that there's too much of it. I've gotten rid of a lot, but we still have a lot. Honestly, we don't need a lot of it. Fortunately, we can afford to store it in a POD for a few weeks until the new house is ready. I've talked to numerous clients who wouldn't have been able to afford this option. Instead, they basically lose all of their worldly possessions. The thought of that happening now would be too much to deal with. The thought of having to start all over would make this unbearable. How my clients keep putting one foot in front of the other is beyond me as I contemplate what we would do if we didn't have the resources to store our stuff.

If I am feeling so many deep and powerful emotions, and such feelings of guilt and embarrassment and failure, I can only imagine what my clients must feel. Already, I find myself much more understanding when my clients tell me there stories.

There is so much more I want to write about, but I will spread it out over the next couple of weeks with regular updates. I expect I will learn a lot out of this. It is already giving me a new appreciation for what my clients go through. And it makes me all the more thankful that I do have a loving family and a good job and that this is a short period of homelessness.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I Didn't Realize How Much I Use My Smart Watch Until ...

We are in the middle of packing up the house to move. To put it mildly, things are a bit crazy at home and my mind has been less than focused recently. Today, that led to me forgetting my watch at home.

I thought, no big deal, I'd forgotten to put on my old "dumb" watch lots of time and it never really impacted my day.

How wrong I was. It's only been a couple of hours, and I'm finding myself very annoyed having to pull out my phone to check messages and emails. In short, I've been surprised at just how much the Samsung Gear Live has made its way into my everyday life. It's not as bad as forgetting the phone at home, but it is a lot closer to that than just forgetting the old analog watch.

What does this mean? That I'm addicted to technology? Yeah, of course, I already knew that. That I like the watch and it is more useful than I've let on in the past? I think so. I think I'm at the point of saying that most people would enjoy the Android smart watches and find them useful, not just the early adopters.

Though, I still don't think it is $350.00 worth of useful.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Quickly Choose from Multiple Signatures in Outlook

Like most people who use Outlook, or any email client really, I have a stock signature that gets added to every email that I send. It basically has the entirety of my contact information on it – name, address, telephone number, fax, email.

But, what if I don’t want to clutter up a particular email message with all of that? Maybe it’s the third email from me in a lengthy string and everyone already has that information. Instead, I just want my name and company in the signature block. Or, suppose I regularly send emails on behalf of a particular client and I want the recipient to know that I’m sending an email on that client’s behalf.

To do this, I created what I call my short signature, which is just my name and who I work for. Now that I’ve created it, I’ve got to be able to use it when I want to.

I have two easy options. One, in the Ribbon, I can go to the “include” group and click on signature and choose my short signature.



The other option is to simply right click on my signature in the open email. This pulls up a menu that lists my signatures and I can quickly choose from there.

Friday, September 19, 2014

IFTTT for Attorneys: Get a Notification of Additions to Your Google Calendar

More and more people are using Google calendars, and with good reason. The ability to share calendars and allow others to edit your calendar is wonderful. For example, I might be using Google calendars and allow my assistant to schedule meetings and hearings for me. From my point of view, I encourage our assistants to do this; why should the Court wait for me to get back in the office to schedule a hearing?

I think it would be nice if I got a little note that something was added to my calendar. Not that I'll necessarily remember it, but it's nice to get a little heads up. But, I don't want my assistant to have to remember to email every time she does this. IFTTT can help.

To start with, you'll need to activate the Google Calendar channel. This can be accomplished by going into the IFTTT menu, selecting channels, and activating Google Calendar. Edit the settings of this channel to identify the calendar you want tracked.

Next, create a new recipe and for the triggering event or if statement of your IFTTT recipe, choose "Google Calendar" and  "Any new event added". From the action or then statement of your IFTTT recipe choose "Android Notifications" and "Send a notification".

Now, any time someone adds a new event to your Google calendar, you will receive a notification in your status bar about it.

Hearsay When I Hear It! - Android Game for Practicing the Rules of Evidence

It's been a while in the works (about 6 months I think), but I've finally finished a release version of my second crack at making an app for Android phones and tablets: Hearsay When I Hear It!. This time, it is a game designed to help law students and new lawyers test their knowledge and ablity to apply the rules of evidence.

The premise is simple. You represent one side in a trial. There are four witnesses to be called, and you will watch as opposing counsel conducts direct or cross examination. Your job will be to object whenever the opposing counsel violates the rules of evidence.

The goal: see how quickly you need to think in order to handle objections at trial speed.

This is geared more towards the new attorney/law school crowd. For seasoned practitioners, you might find the game somewhat frustrating because you might not bother objecting to some of the questions such as leading on direct. However, the purpose is to be able to identify the problems in real time in a game format, not to determine whether it makes tactical sense to object or not to do so.

There are two trials for now, four witnesses each, and a pool of 30 questions per witness. Additionally, there are five game speeds from untimed to a speed where you only have 1 second to make up your mind.

Any suggestions for improvements or interest in adding trials are always welcome.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Create a Word Template that Let's You Choose One of Multiple Letterheads

Reader Autumn recently asked a question on an older post regarding office-wide letterheads:

What if you have multiple offices and want to do a drop down picklist of what office they would like to choose? Is that an easy process? For example we have 13 offices and want to only change one of our letterheads if someone gets fired/hired.

Can it be done. Yes.

Is it an easy process? It took me about half an hour to develop and test a solution from scratch. It is going to be a little more in depth than other projects on this blog, and, to be honest, if you're not familiar with the VBA editor for Microsoft Word, it might seem a bit daunting. But let's try to walk through one potential solution.

To start with, create all of your letterheads in separate .dotm files. The file name should be the location of the office. So, for example, if I had offices in Columbus, Cleveland, and Chillicothe, I should have three separate letterhead files called Columbus.dotm, Cleveland.dotm, and Chillicothe.dotm.

Next, save them all in the same folder and location. This step is very important.

Then, we're going to create a new document called letterhead.dotm. It should be a blank document, nothing on it. Here is where it is going to start getting a bit tricky because you're going to have to do some work in the VBA code editor. To open it, hit Alt + f11.

When it opens, in left pane near the top will be a list of files. One of them should be called "letterhead.dotm". Right click on it, choose insert, and then choose UserForm.


To the UserForm (which should be called UserForm1), you will add three items. The first is a label, which you'll change to read "Which Letterhead?" The second is a ComboBox. The third is a button that you'll change to read "Ok". When you're done it should look like this (I've identified in the toolbox with arrows which tool let's you add each item).


Next, you need to right click in the middle of your form (though not on any of the things you added) and choose "View Code". Make sure that the left dropdown box in the new window says UserForm and change the right box to Initialize.


Underneath where it says Private Sub UserForm_Initialize() you are going to add the following code:

With ComboBox1
    .AddItem "Columbus"
    .AddItem "Cleveland"
    .AddItem "Chillicothe"
End With

It is important that each of the city names be spelled exactly as you named the files earlier on. If you're like Autumn and have 13 offices, you would just keep repeating the .AddItem "cityname" until you had them all listed. Note, if you changed the name of your combobox from earlier on from combobox1 to something else, you will need to change it in the code above.

Next, you need to tell the computer what to do when someone hits the OK button. So, in the top left dropdown you will change it to the name of your button (probably CommandButton1) and you will change the right drop down to Click.


In the new area under Private Sub CommandButton1_Click() you're going to add the following code:

Dim selection As String
Dim FileName As String

selection = ComboBox1.Value

UserForm1.Hide


FileName = "path of your files" & selection & ".dotm"

ActiveDocument.Close False

Documents.Open FileName

You will need to change the red letters above to be the path of your letterhead files. For example, if you saved them on the c: drive in a folder called letterheads, you would change the red lettering to

c:/letterheads/

It is important that you not forget that final slash.

So what does this do? It tells the computer to take the name of the city chosen and save it as a variable called selection. Then, it hides the popup userform. Next it create a variable called FileName that will be the path and name of the file you want opened. It closes the current document and opens your letterhead template.

The final step is to tell the template that when it starts up that it should show your combobox. To do this, right click on the file named "ThisDocument" under your Template Project called Letterhead and choose view code:


When the code window pops up, change the left drop down to Document and the right to New.


In the space under Private Sub Document_New(), add the following line:

UserForm1.Show

Now, save everything, and you are finished. When you double click on your letterhead.dotm template, it will now open the blank document and show your pop up window letting you select your office. When you choose your office and hit OK it closes the current document and opens the appropriate letterhead. Best of all, if you place all of these files on a shared server, anyone in the office or company can use them.

Hope this answers your questions, Autumn.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

If I Had an iPhone, Would I Buy The Apple Watch?

I'm a Google/Android fan. I don't have an iPhone, and I doubt I ever will unless it is to create apps for it. I never see myself using a Mac as my personal, go-to computer. That doesn't mean I don't follow what Apple is up to. I'll be honest, I think a lot of Apple's products are aesthetically pleasing, and I can understand why some people go that route.

I've got a Samsung Gear Live watch. I've looked at the Apple Watch, and I couldn't help asking myself: would I buy one of those? The specs that have been released look good, and the crown looks intriguing. I'd trade its charging method over the Samsung method in a heartbeat. The speaker could be a plus.

It looks like it would be great to have. Yet, the one thing I can't over is the price. CNET has it listed as $349.00. That's $150.00 more than I paid for the Samsung Gear, and almost twice as much as what you would pay for the LG G Watch right now. In fact, it is the same price as the Nexus 5 phone.

I'm sorry, I just can't justify it. I'm not sure I could shell out $350.00 for a watch, that, let's face it, in a year or two you're going to be itching to replace with a newer model.

Chrome Canary Lets You Check Out the Chrome OS in Windows 7

Recently, I noticed a new option in my Chrome Canary menu on my desktop running Windows 7: Relaunch in Chrome OS Mode. Clicking it does exactly what you would expect. It shuts down your current version of Chrome and relaunches but as if you are using the Chrome Operating System. This is still listed as experimental and is not yet in Chrome Beta let alone Chrome stable.

So, why would anyone be interested in this feature? Well, if you have a Chromebook, you could get your Chromebook experience and sync while at work or using Windows 7.

Additionally, if you're interested in getting a Chromebook but not sure about using Chrome OS, this gives you a chance to test drive it for a while before making up your mind. If you were looking to set up a decent solo office on the cheap, this could be a possibility.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

For Me, OneNote Recently Took the Lead in Organization

A little while ago, Microsoft updated its Android OneNote app to allow users to take Handwritten notes. I wanted to play around with it a bit before coming to any conclusions. Having done so, I think OneNote is now one of the leaders if not the leader when it comes to organization.

If you're not familiar with OneNote, it is similar to Evernote in that it allows you to create Notebooks with web clippings, notes, etc. If you have a Onedrive account with Microsoft (free/paid), you can store your notebooks in the web and access them across multiple platforms.

For example, I have various projects that I am working on. I have a OneNote notebook for each project. Inside the notebook I now keep my handwritten notes (either scanned in or, now with the update, taken on my tablet). I can then look at those notes on the computer and add in other notes, annotate PDFs, copy in articles, and much more.

For me, the ability to hand write notes on my tablet directly in to OneNote is an unbelievable gain. It is a shame more people aren't familiar with OneNote and what it offers. If you're in that boat, I highly encourage you to give it a try.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Pomodroido - The Perfect App for Pomodoro Fans

As attorneys, it seems that it is all too easy to get suckered in to thinking we are the world's greatest multi-taskers. We are undoubtedly busy, and we are often trying to juggle multiple projects. While working on one project, we get sidetracked by emails, and phone calls, and our smartphones. And all too often, this "multitasking" simply makes us less efficient.

A mindful approach to our work where we devote out entire attention to a task is much more efficient. Plus. the end product will be better. 

When I have tasks that need done, especially larger ones such as brief writing, I often will use the Pomodoro method. I don't profess to be an expert on the technique, but essentially, you devote all of your energy and thoughts on your task for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break. Repeat. Take a longer break every 4 rounds.

Yes, it is deceptively simple. Yet, if you take it seriously, those 25 minutes can result in a lot being accomplished. 

This is where Pomodroido comes in. Pomodroido, like the method it is named for, is a deceptively simple app. It measures out your Pomodoro sessions and acts as your timer for both the 25 and 5 minute period as well as your long break. It even has the Kitchen timer sound that you can have on if you find that noise helpful, which I do.

So, if you want the Pomodoro method without the red tomato kitchen timer, give Pomodroido a try.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Tasker for Attorneys - Automatically Silence Your Phone at Court

Previously, we showed how you could use Tasker to keep your phone unlocked when you know it is in safe hands. Today, let's see how Tasker can be used to keep you from getting in trouble at Court.

One of judges' biggest peeves seems to be cell phones going off during a hearing. An easy way to get on the judge's wrong side is to forget to silence your phone. So, I usually silence my phone when going in to the courthouse.

That is, at least when I remember to do so. I don't always remember. It caused me problems on an occasion.

Tasker can help with this problem. You can tell Tasker to silence your phone when you enter a courthouse so you no longer have to worry if you forget to do it yourself.

To do this, open Tasker, go to the profile tab, click the + in the lower right, and choose Location.


When you do this, you will then scroll to the top and choose "+ New Location". This will then bring up a map. There, find the location of the Courthouse you want to have your phone silenced at. Then, long click in the middle of the Courthouse. I typically set the radius to either 30m or 50m. Once you've done this, you should have a flag over your court with a yellow circle. This yellow circle shows an area that, if you set foot in it, your phone will trigger.


Once you have it set up how you like it, tap on "Location Edit" in the top left. It will ask you to name your location. I typically just give it the name of the Court. It will then ask you what task to assign the profile. Choose new task and name the task, if you like.

Next, click on the + at the bottom of the screen to add an action. On the next screen, choose the Audio button.


This will bring up a number of options. In the list of options that pop up, choose "Silent Mode".


On the next screen, set the Mode to On.


Tap on Action Edit in the top left of this screen and Task Edit in the top left on the next screen. And that's it. Now, when you enter the courthouse or the area around it, your phone will automatically go into silence mode. Just make sure you keep your GPS on as it might not work otherwise.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Free Course for Learning Python

I'm a big fan of Coursera and its free, online courses. I did the Android programming course a while back and learned a lot. Starting September 15, Coursera will be offering a free course on learning the Python computer language. It is designed for those without computer programming experience. So, even if you have no programming background, you shouldn't feel completely adrift. And if you don't like it, you're not out any money.

Easily Create Linked Citations in Your Emails and Research Memos

When you are trading emails with co-counsel and discussing the law, the citations to statutes and cases can start piling up. And when you deal with research memoranda, the number of these citations simply balloons. Of course, to check any of these, you have to copy the citation into Google or look it up. It would be nice if they could all be hyperlinks that took you exactly where you wanted to go.

Microsoft makes this relatively easy. And, it allows you to do it without having to include the entire URL in the body of the text, which means everything is still human readable.

So, let's use a simple example. Suppose I was to send a colleague an email with the line "The definition of who is a tenant can be found in Ohio Rev. Code s. 1923.02, which defines it as follows:". It would be nice if I could make the words "Ohio Rev. Code s. 1923.01" be a link that he can click and take him directly to http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/1923.02, which is where this statute can be found.

To do this, go ahead and type your whole sentence into your email or into your Word document. Next, highlight the text you want to turn into a link. Next, hit Ctrl + k, which will bring up the following window:


All you have to do is put the URL in the Address: box, which I've circled. You can either type it in directly, or, you can copy it from your web browser and just paste it in. Then, hit OK, and you now have a link right in your email or Word document. This makes it easier to use the email or document in the future when you want to check out the citation.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

CHROME'S USER DROP-DOWN IS NOW AVAILABLE IN CHROME BETA

Not that long ago I mentioned that Chrome Canary had added a drop down that would allow you to easily switch users in Chrome. Not every feature in the Canary version makes it to Beta and on to the full release version. However, I'm glad to see that this feature is now in the Beta version of Chrome.

This is such a useful feature, I can't imagine Google not incorporating it into the full release version. If you've been hesitant to try Chrome Canary, you should at least give Chrome Beta a try. It is more stable than Canary, and you still get new features quicker.

Just a reminder of why attorneys should like this: it makes it much easier to switch between your personal Google account and your work Google account. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

YOU SHOULD GET PUSHBULLET

If you've been following this blog at all, it will come as no surprise that I'm a bit of a tech nerd. In my office, I've got two computer monitors, my linux box, the tablet, phone, and smart watch. I've got screens everywhere it seems.

Getting all of these screens and devices to play together without flipping from one device to another is critical. Pushbullet is a wonderful app for the phone, tablet, and extension for Google Chrome that helps tremendously.

After installing the app in all three locations, I can quickly and easily move from one device to the other. Let's say I've taken a picture on my phone that I want to see on my computer. I can send it from my phone to the computer using Pushbullet wirelessly.

I can also enabling a universal clipboard. So, if I copy something on my phone, when I go to my tablet and hit paste, it will paste whatever I had just copied on my phone.

The thing I have been enjoying the most is the ability to receive phone notifications on my desktop. They pop up in the lower right corner, somewhat similar to a notification you receive from Outlook when you receive email.

Why is this so great? When someone sends me a text, I can simply reply to the text using my computer. No need to get out the phone or use the watch. I can quickly respond without changing devices.

I highly recommend this absolutely free app.

Friday, August 29, 2014

IFTTT FOR ATTORNEYS: CREATE A PHONE LOG

IFTTT is a mobile app that will automatically do something in one app if something else happens in another app. For example, when this post gets published, IFTTT will automatically create a tweet in twitter with the post title and a link for me. All without me ever actually opening Twitter.

IFTTT isn't limited to Twitter and Blogger. In fact, there are dozens of services that IFTTT can cause to work together. I tend to think of IFTTT as a scaled down, but free and easier to learn version of Tasker. I use them both, each for different tasks.

IFTTT is useful in general, but I think there are some recipes that can be of particular use to attorneys. As I come across them, I'll write about them here. 

Today's tip is how to use IFTTT to keep track of your cell phone calls by creating and keeping an automatic call log in Google Drive. This may be of more use to solo and small firm practitioners particularly, but anyone that uses a cell phone for client communications can benefit.

In IFTTT, you will need to make sure that you enable the Google Drive and Android Phone channels. Next, create a new recipe and click on the "if" statement.


Next, choose "Android Phone Call" from the list along the top. Within that, click on the plus sign next to "Any phone call placed".


Then, click on the plus for the "Then" statement.


Then, scroll and find Google Drive. Click on it, and then click on "Add row to speadsheet".


What this will do is create a new spreadsheet named "Phone call" in your Google Drive account in a folder called IFTTT. It will have four columns that state when the phone call was made, what number was called, who was called, and how long it lasted. You can tweak some of this in the edit recipe menu.


How is this useful for an attorney? If you make several phone calls on the road, you can quickly enter your time into your billing or case management software by referencing a single spreadsheet. The only thing you would have to do is remember what the substance of the call was. This is much easier than going through your phone's call log an into each entry to see when the call occurred and how long it lasted for billing purposes.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

NEED AN ULTRA LIGHT BROWSER? TRY MIDORI

Previously, I mentioned that I had a 10 year old laptop that shipped with Windows XP but had no hope of running Windows 7 or 8. So, instead of sending it out to pasture, I installed Linux.

It runs Linux without any problem, but its relatively small amount of RAM struggles with browsers like Chrome (it's actually Chromium) and Firefox. These browsers are great and offer a lot a really useful features. But, they are memory intensive for an older laptop like my Linux box.

So I began searching for a stripped down browser that would let me navigate the web but without all of the bells and whistles. Midori is a true unitasker as opposed to the Chromes and Firefoxes, which want you to stay in them to do everything.

Don't get me wrong. There isn't anything wrong with Chrome or Firefox wanting to do everything for me. I still use them on my newer machines. They just aren't as helpful on older machines.

So, if you find your internet experience to be too sluggish or you just want a browser that is a browser and nothing more, give Midori a try.

To get Midori for windows, go to their website and click download.

If you're running Debian Linux, from the terminal, just type: sudo apt-get install midori

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

SMARTWATCHES - ONLY BUY IF YOU WANT A SECOND SCREEN AND NOT A SECOND PHONE

Having spent several weeks with the Samsung Gear Live Smartwatch, I have been asked several times now about it. The first question is, predictably, along the lines of "is that one of those smart watches?" The second is usually, "do you like it?" After some back and forth about why I like it, the big one comes: "Should I get one?"

Early on I would deflect and tell people that I hadn't had it long enough to really come up with an answer. Lately, I've been answering directly. And to most people, the answer I give is an unqualified no.
This isn't because I don't think it is a great product. Instead, I think a smartwatch, at least right now, is not what most of the people asking me for my advice really want. A lot of people asking me about it want the watch to be another smaller version of their phone. But it is definitely not that.

Yes, I send and respond to text messages, keep tabs on my email, follow recipes, manage Google Keep, and a whole host of things from my watch. I've even tried using a web browser from my watch. Yet, whenever I need to do something more detailed like replying to a text message with more than one line, I break out the phone.

I think the Samsung Gear Live is a fantastic product and would highly recommend it to anyone that understands what it is - a second screen, not a second phone. If you're picturing having a miniature phone on your wrist, then I would shy away from smartwatches for now at least.

Monday, August 25, 2014

BRING NEW LIFE TO GALAXY TAB 10.1 -- ROOT IT AND GIVE IT A CUSTOM ROM

Over the last month, I brought out my older Galaxy Tab 10.1 (wifi only). It is a decent enough tablet, one of the earlier Android models. When I got it, it was running Honeycomb.

To be perfectly honest, however, it was always a bit sluggish and lagged quite a bit. I had hoped that the upgrade from Honeycomb to Ice Cream Sandwich would help, but it didn't, not really. Then, I watched Jelly Bean come out, but it never came to my tablet.

I kept using it, but it was never turning into what I had hoped: a tool to help organize notes, review information on the run, and keep track of my cases. Yes, it could do it, but it was sluggish and the writing apps weren't all that great.

Then, I watched OneNote come out with its handwriting addition to its Android app. I was excited for what it could do to my tablet. When I went to the Play Store, it was not available for my tablet, which was running Android version 4.0.4.

Almost ready to give up on my tablet, I came up with a new plan. I rooted my tablet and installed CyanogenMod 10.1. All of which was absolutely free and not terribly difficult to do.

Now, I'm running Android 4.2.2, and maybe it's just wishful thinking, but I think the whole tablet feels a little bit quicker. Plus, I can use OneNote again.

So, if you've got older technology (yes, I know, a 3 year old tablet isn't that old in the grand scheme of the cosmos, but it is in terms of early tables), before giving up on them, there might be ways of scraping a little more life out of them.

IS A TYPEWRITER REALLY OBSOLETE IN A LAW OFFICE?

I recently read this article over at the Lawyerist discussing a number of obsolete technologies that should be out of the modern law firm. Some of them I completely agree with: Windows XP, dictaphones, and the fax machine should all be done with entirely. I would even agree that the copier could go as long as you had a good scanner and printer. Yet, in my practice, there is still a need for the trusty typewriter.

Don't get me wrong, whenever possible, I will scan a document and use Adobe to fill it out. But, there are some of the agencies with which I regularly work that will require things filled out in triplicate using the carbon forms of many colors (usually white, pink, and yellow). There, Adobe just won't work while my swing key Royalite '64 typewriter works like a charm.

I would agree that 99% of the time I could live without my typewriter, but I still need it often enough that I probably won't be getting rid of it until those awful triplicate carbon forms are gone forever.

Friday, August 22, 2014

JUDGES GOING PAPERLESS -- SOME FOOD FOR THOUGHT

In my legal career, I've had to veteran attorneys I've considered mentors. The first was the senior partner at my first job. I learned more from him about the nuts and bolts of practicing law and legal thinking than I would have ever admitted to myself when I was there. Funny how time and distance can help you realize things that you were too blind to see at the time.

My second mentor is my current managing attorney. Less skilled at the nuts and bolts - though I think that is a bit of a show on his part - one of the messages he has drilled in has been the importance of knowing your judge. It is much easier to get a ruling you want if you know how your judges tick, and what arguments that each particular judge is receptive to. Perhaps even more important than the substance of the argument is what forms of delivery they prefer.

On August 21, Above the Law had an article about a judge's exclusive use of digital documents. Briefs, motions, everything was done electronically. He had gone paperless on the bench.

My first thought was "wonderful, we've got another convert, even if he is using an iPad". My second thought was of my mentor in my ear asking, "now that you know this about the judge, what would you do differently if he was your judge?"

This is a question I haven't had to deal with yet, but I think it is just a matter of time before this makes its way to my little slice of Ohio. So, I took the question seriously: what would I do differently?

The first thing that comes to mind that I would want to reconsider is the formatting of my briefs and my choice of font. A font that is good for reading in print is not always good for reading on a laptop or tablet. A little extra space between the lines and unjustified alignment are probably better online than in print. A serif font is critical to reading in print, but a sans serif font has usually been the better choice for online consumption reading.

So, one of the real take aways from this post: if your judge is doing his reading on his tablet or computer, do you change your font and typography to match? No answers today, just a question.