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Monday
Apr022012

Announcing iPad Apps in One Hour for Lawyers

I'm thrilled to announce the publication of my latest book, iPad Apps in One Hour for Lawyers, published by the ABA's Law Practice Management Section.  The idea that drove me to write this book, is the sheer number of apps in the App Store for the iPad - at last count there were somewhere between 80,000 and 90,000.  I keep getting asked the same question - how do you know which apps are best?  So I decided to create a curated listing of what I consider the best iPad apps, in the categories most important to lawyers. The result was this book - short reviews of 220+ iPad apps in the following categories:

  • Getting organized and being productive
  • Documents:  creating and organizing them
  • Apps for the law office
  • News, reading and reference apps
  • Utilities
  • Travel apps

I also spend some time describing how to buy, download and install apps on your iPad.

The book is currently available in print from the link above.  We'll also have an iBook and e-Book version available soon.  Unfortunately, the book won't be available on Amazon for some time, either in print or on the Kindle - this is due to an outmoded ABA policy (don't get me started).

If you'd like to know more about the book, please let me know.  I hope you enjoy it!

Monday
Mar192012

The New iPad - First Thoughts

I got my new iPad on Friday, and have had a couple of days to play around with it.  I have also compared it to my iPad 2, and I have to say that my initial thoughts about it match up with my experience.

This is a great device, so I'll cut to the chase: if you are looking for your first tablet, or wondering whether you should upgrade from an iPad 1, the answer is an unqualified yes.  If you have an iPad 2, then it really depends on how you answer these questions:

  • Does the resolution on your iPad 2 bother you?
  • Do you want a faster cellular connection?
  • Do you want a better camera?

If you answer Yes to one or more of these questions, I'd suggest you upgrade.  If you answered No to one or more, you're probably okay keeping the iPad 2 for a while longer.

The first thing I noticed about the new iPad was its weight - it's only 1.8 ounces heavier than the iPad 2, but it is quite noticeable to me, especially when I put the SmartCover and back cover on it.  To be fair, my Switcheasy CoverBuddy doesn't quite fit - it's made for an iPad 2, which is a little thinner than the new iPad - I'll get rid of it when something that fits is available.  That said, it's still lighter than the original iPad, so I'm not complaining.

At first, I couldn't tell the difference between the iPad 2 display and the new iPad's retina display - I thought, "maybe they sent me an iPad 2 by accident."   After a while, though, the differences began to become clearer - literally - the display is significantly better on the new iPad, whether you're reading a book, watching a movie, or reading email.  Here's a comparison of the Gmail app icon - it's from a great review of the new iPad at The Verge:

For most of you, the real difference here will come in the clarity of the text you read with the iPad.  It's clear, crisp, and really enjoyable.

Next - the camera.  I've already said that I just don't get why anyone would want to hold up something this big to take a picture.  But if you happen to be someone who does, you'll want to take a look at the new iPad's camera.  I took two pictures of my new book iPad Apps in One Hour for Lawyers.

Taken with iPad 2 cameraTaken with the new iPadNot even close.

I did not purchase a 4G model - I don't need one because I have a 4G Mi-Fi hotspot - but reviews I have read say that the 4G speeds are "faster than wi-fi fast."  That assumes, of course, you are in an area where 4G networks are available.  

Now, it's not all roses and honey with my new iPad.  There are a couple of things I wish were different, and they all deal with the battery.  In order to keep the iPad's impressive 10-hour battery life, they had to increase the size of the battery, and they did - by about 70%.  For me, there have been two effects of this massive battery:

  • The device gets unusually warm after using it for a few hours.  Not "it's going to explode!" warm, but warm enough to know something is working pretty hard under the hood.
  • Bigger battery = longer charge time.  Be prepared to leave it plugged in overnight to get a good charge.

The Huffington Post offers a great roundup of 9 reviews on the iPad, if you'd like to read more about what tech experts are saying (spoiler alert:  they all love it, too).

I agree with the experts that the new iPad is the best tablet currently on the market - so I'll say again, if you're thinking about buying a tablet, you owe it to yourself to take a look at the new iPad.

So what's your take?  Do you already have your iPad?  Does my review (or the others above) push you over the edge to buy one?  Is there no way you'll ever one?  Leave your comments below and let's discuss!

Thursday
Mar082012

The New iPad - The Prognosticating is Over, Finally

If there's one thing I hate about technology, it's predicting new features of a product that's soon to debut. For the past 3 months, those of us who pay attention to this sort of thing have been treated to endured an endless tidal wave of predictions about the features the latest iPad would have when was eventually unveiled. I get it - some people like to make predictions.  It's what stokes interest in a product, and gives the journalists something to write about while they're waiting.  But I hate them - the predictions, that is. 

Yesterday, I was mercifully relieved of this suffering when Apple unveiled the new iPad.  Not the iPad 3. Not iPad HD.  The new iPad.  Or maybe we're supposed to just say iPad.  Whatever.  It's here.

The Apple site calls the new iPad "Resolutionary," which means a couple of different things.  First, it refers to the fact that the iPad now has a Retina display, like the iPhone.  This means 2048x1536 resolution, with 3.1 million pixels - that's a pretty awesome display.  

But Apple's choice of words means something else as well - this new iPad is not "revolutionary."  While the changes made are pretty significant, they do not represent a re-invention of the iPad.  In other words, the changes aren't so big that all iPad2-toting lawyers need to rush out and upgrade - but read ahead for more of my thoughts on this.

In addition to Retina display, the new iPad comes with a couple of other nifty features:

  • iSight Camera - the iPad 2 captured images at less than a megapixel.  The new iPad offers a 5-megapixel camera, which isn't as good as the iPhone's 8-megapixel offering but still pretty darned good.  (Although I can't for the life of me figure out why anyone would actually want to take pictures with something as big as an iPad.)
  • HD Video Recording and Viewing - you can now record high-definition video in all its 1080p glory. Further, all movies and television stores sold by Apple are now available in HD format.
  • 4G LTE support - the iPad finally supports 4G, which is great for those of you who have access to it in your area.  

There were a few things the pronosticators were hoping for that we didn't get - you can read more about them in this article at PC Magazine.  It's the missing things like these that make the new iPad more of an evolutionary device rather than something that's truly transformative.

I've been asked "should I upgrade to the new iPad when it comes out?"  a lot in the past few months. Now that we know the new iPad's features, here's my take on that question:

  • If you have an original iPad 1, I think you should take the leap and upgrade - when you include the improvements made in iOS 5 available only in newer iPad versions, it makes a lot of sense to move on up to the newer version.
  • If you have an iPad 2, the decision is tougher - it's going to depend on a couple of things: 1) Do you need/want 4G speeds on your device?  2) Do you plan to take movies/pictures with the iPad? or 3) is it just too cool not to upgrade?  If you answer Yes to any of these, then give some thought to upgrading.  If those things aren't important to you, you might want to wait until next year, when the "next" new iPad comes out.

For those of you who don't have an iPad yet - whether you get one now or not depends on how (or whether) you use technology in your practice.  If the iPad won't substantially improve the way you work, it's not worth the investment.  But if you want to explore different - and often better - ways of taking notes, drafting/revising documents, holding meetings, doing legal research, and trying a case in court, you might want to give the new iPad a look.  It's as good a time as any to take the plunge.

And yes, I ordered mine yesterday.

Monday
Feb132012

OnLive vs. CloudOn: Finally Working in Word on the iPad

For over a year now, I typically mention two apps when I discuss creating, editing and working on Microsoft Office files:  Documents to Go Premium and QuickOffice Pro HD.  They are good, solid tools for basic document creation and editing, but they just aren't as powerful as the real thing.  There have been rumors that Microsoft was bringing Office to the iPad in the form of $10 Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps (OneNote has been the first, and it's free), but some of us can't wait that long.

That's why I was really intrigued when I learned of the debut of two new apps, both of which provide MS Office access on your iPad.  OnLive Desktop and CloudOn came out in the past two months - both are free, and both offer access to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint in a virtual environment.  In other words, the Office applications aren't actually on your iPad; they exist on another computer, and you're accessing the application that computer's desktop.  I thought I would run down the basic features of each app, discuss how they handle Office files, and reveal my choice for the app I might start using in place of Docs to Go or QuickOffice.

OnLive Desktop

Brought to you by the folks who started the OnLive Gaming Network, the OnLive Desktop provides an actual virtual desktop in what appears to be Windows 7 environment.  On your desktop you'll see a folder for your Documents, and shortcuts to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint - all Office 2010 applications.

The OnLive DesktopTo get started, you can open one of the apps directly, or open your Documents folder and double tap on a document to work on it.  OnLive comes with a virtual keyboard that you can use - it's pretty cool, because it offers onscreen word hints as you're typing.

Working with the virtual keyboard in WordAnother interesting feature is the handwriting application - just tap the little pen button above the ESC key, on the virtual keyboard, and you can use a stylus or your finger to enter words into your document.

Using the handwriting feature in OnLive

Personally, I don't really like the virtual keyboard - it's just too hard to type on the iPad's screen.  I would prefer to use my wireless keyboard to work on documents, so that's what I would recommend.

One thing you might notice in the images above is that you can now use Track Changes on your iPad!  That's right - the Track Changes feature works in OnLive (and CloudOn below, as well) - this is, hands down, the number one requested feature of lawyers in document creation apps.  This alone may be the reason that you choose to use one of these tools.  

There are a few downsides to using OnLive.  First, you must be connected to the internet to use it - if you're on a plane without wireless you won't be able to work on your documents.  Further, if you're on a slow connection, you might experience some latency - that is, the app will work a little slower than you'd like.  For me, the other objection is that you must store your documents with OnLive in order to access them - you first have to upload them to your Onlive repository on your desktop or laptop before you can work with them on the iPad.  One advantage to this is that you can insert images in documents created in OnLive, because you can upload the pictures to your OnLive library; in CloudOn this feature is not available.

The OnLive app is free, as is the basic account, which comes with 2GB of storage.  However, with the free account they offer you no guarantees that you will be able to get in to use the service; if demand is high, priority will be given to those with Pro accounts (further, you'll be logged off the system if you don't use it for more than 20 minutes).  A Pro account costs $9.99/month, and in addition to priority access will give you 50GB of storage and the ability to add additional PC applications.  The Pro service is not available yet - the site says it is coming soon.

CloudOn

The CloudOn app doesn't provide access to a traditional desktop.  Instead, you connect directly to your Dropbox account - and when you log in, you'll be taken to the last folder you were using.  Just open a document and the app that created it (Word, Excel, or PowerPoint) will automatically open.

If you want to create a new document, just press the third button at the top to select the right application.

CloudOn opens to your Dropbox folders.

You don't have access to all features in the MS Office applications, like you might in OnLive (including inserting images), but you really get what you need.  Some of the features don't quite work right (for example, when you try to indent a numbered or lettered list, it doesn't change the sub-level number or letter), and it's pretty slow when you try to scroll around a document.  But otherwise, the app works just like the version of Word or Excel you might use on your desktop or laptop.

Editing a Word Document in CloudOn

Like OnLive, CloudOn can be slow because 1) you are using an online service that 2) is being used by other people at the same time.  But for me, the best feature of CloudOn - and the feature that will make this the app I use - is its integration with Dropbox.  When I open the app, I can open a document directly from my Dropbox folders.  As soon as I'm done with the document, it is automatically saved back to my Dropbox folder.  It can hardly get easier than that, and for me it is far preferable to using a separate online storage repository just to work on documents.

CloudOn is currently free, and there will always be a free version even if/when pricing plans are introduced. 

If it wasn't clear already, I recommend CloudOn of the two products, and am already using it regularly to work on Word and Excel files when using my iPad.

Because both CloudOn and OnLive Desktop are both free, I urge you to try both of them out, and see which one works best for you.  If you have any questions or issues, feel free to come back here and leave a comment so we can talk about it.

 

Tuesday
Nov082011

App of the Week: 5-0 Radio

Although I try to showcase apps that are useful to lawyers in their practice, I'm not sure this one completely qualifies - unless you criminal defense lawyers out there can find a use for it.

The app is 5-0 Radio HD Police Scanner, and that's exactly what it is - an iPad version of the police scanner, and at $4.99 it's a lot cheaper than a real one.  Even better, it provides access to police scanner broadcasts from all over the world.  When you first log in you will see a catalog, where you can choose to Browse Scanner Feeds, see the Top 100 Scanner Feeds, or even add your own feed.

 

The Top 100 Scanner Feeds page shows you the top scanner broadcasts in terms of listeners.

Just select a feed, and start listening!

Most of the good feeds are located here in the U.S., but you can also listen to police in the U.K, Canada, Australia, Italy, and other companies if you like - but as you might imagine, the conversations in other countries aren't nearly as interesting.

The app also provides links to radio stations around the world, but if you're interested in listening to music I would recommend the TuneIn Radio app over this one.  For the police scanner buffs out there, 5-0 Radio is a must-have.

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