General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division

A service of the ABA General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division

Technology eReport

American Bar Association - Defending Liberty, Pursuing Justice

September 2008

Vol. 7, No. 3

Columns

  • MacNotes »
    Should you get the iPhone G3?
  • TechNotes »
    Minority Report brought us a vision of wonderful—and scary—technology. Has the vision become reality?
  • SurvivingEmail »
    List serve characters: the types who type. (Can you recognize yourself?)
  • Sites for Sore Eyes »
    Find out how to build your own search engine.
  • ProductNotes
    CorelDraw Graphics Suite X4, Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10, and Quickbooks Pro 2007 for the Mac.
  • DivisionNotes »
    2008 Fall Meeting and National Solo & Small Firm Conference.

 

ProductNotes

CorelDraw Graphics Suite X4

 
Box shot(s) reprinted with permission from Corel Corporation.

CorelDraw is a vector-based drawing program that has been around since the early days of the PC. Vector-based is differentiated from bit-mapped. The difference is that between making a picture from lines with a pencil versus making it from dots. The latter is covered by photo editing software, also included in the suite. To call it venerable is to date myself, as I’ve used it since version 1 and the “X4” is “cutespeak” for version 14. It was the first really good drawing program for the PC. The Mac had Adobe Illustrator. CorelDraw has a user interface far more familiar to a PC user than Illustrator.

Why ever would a lawyer want a drawing program unless the lawyer is also a part-time graphic artist? I am the first to admit I have no art in me at all, yet Corel Draw is part of what I consider my essential suite of programs—so essential that even though I have moved to the Mac, I still run CorelDraw (Macs now run Windows applications, too). I am a patent attorney, and do my own drawings. I also give a lot of talks around the country and try to dress up my PowerPoint presentations a bit beyond the basic. I also use CorelDraw for web page content and in my writing various magazine articles. The utility CorelDraw offers me and its ease of use (for the most part) render it essential to me.

Simply put, CorelDraw provides the space for the user to create drawings. It makes making a lot of drawings easy, and allows them to be “slicked up” in ways that are hard to imagine. Lets look at the user interface:


Screen shot(s) are of CorelDraw Graphics Suite X4(c) Copyright 2003 Corel Corporation and Corel Corporation Limited, reprinted by permission.

In the center is a drawing made with CorelDraw. Right off you’ll note you can do fonts and lettering. Note too the shading on the balloon. While it looks like it might be impossible, with a little bit of learning, it’s not hard to produce something like that, and you don’t have to be able to draw a single line yourself.

If, however, you are a Luddite and do not adapt well to change, CorelDraw lets you change your interface to look more like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop or Microsoft Office. Why you would want to do so is beyond me . . .

Along the left are tools, the use of which does require a little bit of training on the user’s part. Cut, cut apart an object, erase, copy, paint, etc.: all are right handy and even have options you can set. (See the little bottom right arrow on some tools? That’s a sign there are options.) Note too the various shapes—circles, elipses, polygons, whatever.

The most useful tool is the help menu. I don’t use CorelDraw often enough to recall how to do the fancy bits; so I go to the help screen. It doesn’t just tell me—it provides a tutor. Better yet, look on the right side of the screen. I decided to draw a seven-sided regular polygon (because I thought it might be difficult), so I selected a tool on the left that showed a six-sided polygon and go the help screen on the right. All I had to do was draw my six-sided polygon with the selected tool then change the number of sides in the box at the top (the one with a 7 in it)—nothing to it. I created the shaded box in 30 seconds of fiddling around. (I extruded a square to get the perspective view, then painted it with a fountain fill. I hardly knew how before I started.)

You can also do incredible effects with text, such as weapping it around an object:

Perhaps its most important feature is the ability to import almost any form of graphic file and export it to almost any known format.

I have tried other drawing programs (including Adobe’s Illustrator), but I always find the learning curve too high for what simple task I wanted to accomplish. CorelDraw has the power to spare should I find I need it, requiring only that I go to the help screens to discover it. And poking around inside CorelDraw to learn some of its advanced features is easy to do. There are lots of levels of undo!

The suite comes with Corel’s photo editor, which is admittedly not as powerful as the industry standard Adobe Photoshop. But unless you are doing serious photoediting, Corel’s PhotoPaint will let you touch up a photo for inclusion in a document with the same ease of approah as CorelDraw. It includes interactive histograms for previewing image corrections, red-eye removal, and so forth.

For those already familiar with CorelDraw, the new features in X4 (compared to X3) include a snappy and cleaner user interface. There’s a new layers feature that lets you put different obects on different independent layers, including a “master” layer that repeats on each page. Thus is a great feature for putting together desktop publishing proects with a common look and feel.

Corel has recognized the importance of collaoration and provides a free service to support web-based collaboration among users. Corel also offers what it calls “What the Font” to assist in locating just the perfect font (even though it comes with a zillion fonts . . . Some people are just never satisfied.) Find what you are looking for and you can download the font (for a fee) after previewing it.

Corel has also improved its bitmap tracing feature to allow you to convert a bitmapped image into a readily editable vector based image. It has great new editing controls to adjust your results.

Corel has also improved its bitmap tracing feature to allow you to convert a bitmapped image into a readily editable vector based image. It has great new editing controls to adjust your results.

X4 lists for $429 with an upgrade price of $199. Street prices as low as $319. Academic versions available.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10: A First Look


Courtesy Nuance Communications, Inc.

Dragon 10 Standard Edition: $99 SRP upgrade not available
Dragon 10 preferred Edition: $199 SRP upgrade $149
Dragon Preferred wireless bundle: Bluetooth $349;
     digital recorder bundle $249
Dragon 10 Professional Edition: $899 SRP;
     upgrade from professional $299;
     upgrade from preferred eight and higher $699
     professional wireless Bluetooth bundle $1,049
Dragon 10 Legal Edition: $1,199 SRP

Published by Nuance Corp. www.nuance.com

Dragon NaturallySpeaking (Dragon), the venerable and most successful all of the voice dictation systems published to date, announced in August of this year the release of version 10. Despite anything to the contrary you may have heard, Dragon NaturallySpeaking is ready for productive use and has been since at least version 9.

Using Dragon, you can simply dictate into our computer word processor, and the words (as if by MAGIC!) appear, just as you said them. Shades of Star Trek at last! You can format text (bold, italics, etc.), move blocks of text around, and with usage even improve accuracy. To improve accuracy, Dragon looks at the documents you have on your computer, such as word processing documents and emails, to determine your writing style. With the more expensive versions, you can even perform macros and do web and computer searches. Imagine: you can say “Find me an antique sextant on eBay,” and off it goes!

To be sure, using voice dictation takes a little getting used to. And you do have to spend time using the correction feature, as it trains the system to make fewer mistakes the next time. And you have to learn a set of commands and how to do certain operations, as with any software system. However, the latest version of Dragon Naturally Speaking has made this process easier than ever. And whenever you are truly lost, all you have to do is say “what can I say” and a list of commands appears on screen. Moreover, a pretty comprehensive set of tutorials is available on screen.

I use Dragon regularly for dictating patents in my intellectual property law practice using the standard dictionary. Although it has taken some training to get it to understand the arcane vocabulary of patents and technology, now that I have completed this, it works nearly flawlessly. Moreover, the installation of Dragon 10 was able to make use of the training that I had done in prior versions by importing the user files.

Nuance claims that the new version can give up to 99 percent accuracy right out of the box. I tried running a new install of Dragon on a Gateway M685-E, a two core 2 Ghz machine with 2 GB of memory running Vista Home Premium. I had my brother dictate into it with absolutely no training of the system. (He had significant experience using Dragon 8 in his medical practice, so was familiar with voice dictation, however.) The system operated reasonably well with simple words, but seemed to choke when he became more prolix. However, after a five-minute training session, the system seemed to work nearly flawlessly. In a page of text, it made only one error. I then trained the machine to my voice, and I’m using it now to dictate this article.

My impression, for which I have no metric, is that there is a perceptible speed improvement, and a perceptible improvement in accuracy. The improvement appears to be marginal, not breathtaking. Nuance claims more than a 50 percent reduction of latency time for fast speakers. Being a fast speaker, this is where I saw the best improvement.

Dragon seems to work best if you don’t watch the page while you are dictating, even though you may be terrified that is making a shambles of your beautiful words. Oddly enough, the faster you seem to dictate, and speaking phrases rather than individual words, the better Dragon works. It does this by recognizing words in context. For example I can dictate something like “the two boys gave the book to each other too,” which Dragon managed to interpret with 100 percent accuracy. That was because I spoke it as a single sentence.

While Dragon remains Microsoft-centric, it has added support for Corel WordPerfect, and browsers other than Microsoft Internet Explorer. They have especially focused on adding support for Firefox from Mozilla.

Particularly useful for users who don’t have a real power machine, on install Dragon sets a balance between speed and accuracy based upon its analysis of the machine on which it is being installed. The user can change this balance using a slider to give finer control. Also, the user can delete Natural Language Commands in applications that particular user doesn’t use. For example, large sets of flexible command wordings are individually removable for Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, and Corel WordPerfect. Deleting one or more of these can increase speed.

To separate out dictation from commands made to be made at a website, one says “click” as a command. It is added to commands for refresh, reload, stop, home, and next to make web browsing more controllable by voice command.

There are a number of new features that are nice, and those willing to look like Buck Rogers wearing their headset all day might find them attractive enough to warrant upgrading. One thing hasn’t changed however: if you’re going to be serious about voice dictation, don’t bother with the standard edition. It is the cheapest, to be sure, but it lacks many of the automation features that come with preferred edition that are desirable, such as macro creation.

One of the new features that I found particularly useful was the new Dragon voice shortcuts to make web and desktop searching faster. You can simply speak in to the computer and ask that it search the web, seeing a default search engine or an engine of your choice such as Yahoo or Google. You can even have it search a particular site, such as eBay, for an item. It will also do a search of your computer so you can find that file that you have been looking for literally without having to lift a finger.

In the Professional Edition, Dragon includes natural commands for both Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Excel. You can also tell it to create an email to somebody, and if their address is on your computer, it knows enough to insert it in the address field. Although this feature worked with Outlook and Microsoft mail, I did not test it with other mail handlers.

The Professional Edition costs more than the preferred edition. It lets you create custom voice commands to automate complex actions or repetitive document creation tasks.

Dragon has made it easier to edit text by its new click voice formatting commands. You an say things such as bold from to , and it will find the text and make the required changes. I had real problems getting the voice formatting commands to work while in the Microsoft Works word processor. (You might well ask what I was doing such a brain-dead word processor. Ask my brother why he doesn‘t have a better word processor on his laptop.) I later found out that this feature is supported only in Word and WordPerfect.

Dragon has added a feature that gives easier and better control over the formatting, spacing, and capitalization of items written in various contexts. These options can be set in a new Dragon formatting box as defaults.


Formatting properties

I had only three days in which to look at the new features and get this article to my editor, and to test the operations on a variety of platforms. Having recently switched to the Macintosh platform, I was interested to see how Dragon might perform there as well.

For purposes of this article, I installed Dragon first on a high-end four core Windows Vista Service Pack One machine running 2.5 Ghz per core and having 6 GB of memory. Needless to say, Dragon performed nearly flawlessly.

Nuance does not support running Dragon NaturallySpeaking on a Mac. However, I could not help but try. Not surprisingly, running it on an iMac on a virtual Windows machine proved to be far less successful. There were long delays before text appeared on the page, and frequently dictated text never appeared at all. However, knowing that Dragon NaturallySpeaking is a resource intensive application and is not supported on the Mac, this is hardly a criticism. Unfortunately, I was unable to test it running on a dual boot system. Intel-Based Macintosh computers can boot either into Windows or into the Apple operating system. Booting into Windows, I would expect that Dragon would work as well as on any other similarly configured Windows-based computer. Once I can get my Apple to set up a boot camp partition (boot camp is Apple’s dual boot program), I will confirm this in a later report.

My overall impression is that Dragon naturally speaking has improved, added usable features, and is ready for prime time work. I look forward to seeing what they’ve done to the legal version and reporting back about its features.

Dan Coolidge is a principle at Coolidge & Graves in Unity, New Hampshire. He can be reached at .

Quickbooks Pro 2007 for the Mac

In QuickBooks Pro 2007 for the Mac, Intuit ( www.intuit.com) upgrades the Mac version of its venerable accounting software. QuickBooks Pro 2007 comes to us as a Universal program, so it does not need to run through Rosetta for conversion to allow it to run on computers sporting the Intel processors. It also includes a number of features that represent an upgrade to the prior edition. Although it brings the Mac version closer to the Windows version, the Mac version of QuickBooks Pro 2007 remains less robust and has fewer features than QuickBooks Pro for Windows. QuickBooks Pro 2007 for the Mac lists for $199.

QuickBooks Pro 2007 for the Mac provides you with basic accounting competence. It will allow you to keep a simple set of books with relative ease. It can help you create better-looking output as it now supports multiple images in a single document. You can also use a variety of standard image formats and color options. You can move form fields anywhere on the document, and configure fields to appear on the form for data recordation without printing to the document you will send out to a client. The program includes a number of new predesigned (but still customizable) forms and a new form design tool, which allows you to customize estimates, invoices, and statements.

QuickBooks Pro 2007 for the Mac lets you select one customer and view that customer’s outstanding invoice information in the account field. It lets you apply payments either by choosing individual jobs or by entering a payment amount that the program will then allocate among your open invoices.

Despite its improvements, QuickBooks Pro 2007 for the Mac missed two significant features. It still does not properly handle credit card processing and does not support concurrent multiuser use of the database. QuickBooks Pro 2007 for the Mac costs $199. It represents Intuit’s top of the line for the Mac. Intuit has not yet offered a QuickBooks Premier version on the Mac platform as it has on the Windows platform.

If you do not have an accounting program and need one, take a good look at QuickBooks Pro 2007 for the Mac. It provides you with the basic accounting functions you will need to run any business, including a law practice. Although not specifically set up for trust accounting, you can create a separate account within QuickBooks Pro to handle your trust records. If you already have QuickBooks Pro 2006 for the Mac and still use a Power PC processor computer, you will be happier and better advised to spend the money toward upgrading to a newer computer. If you already have a Mac computer running on the Intel Core 2 Duo processor and the 2006 version, walk, do not run, to get the upgrade to the 2007 version. Ultimately, you will want to upgrade either to this version or the next to get the benefits of a program running native on the Intel processor and avoiding the Rosetta conversion process.

Jeffrey Allen is the principal in the law firm of Graves & Allen with a general practice that, since 1973, has emphasized negotiation, structuring, and documentation of real estate acquisitions, loans and other business transactions, receiverships, related litigation, and bankruptcy. Graves & Allen is a small firm in Oakland, California. Mr. Allen also works extensively as an arbitrator and a mediator. He serves as the editor of the Technology eReport and the Technology & Practice Guide issues of GPSOLO magazine. He regularly presents at substantive law and technology-oriented programs for lawyers and writes for several legal trade magazines. In addition to being licensed as an attorney in California, Jeffrey has been admitted as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales. He holds faculty positions at California State University of the East Bay and the University of Phoenix. You can contact Jeffrey via e-mail at .

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