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

NOVEMBER 2010

Vol. 9, No. 4

Columns

 

SitesForSoreEyes
Do You Have an Appetite for Apps?

A recent article in Wired Magazine was headlined The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet.  Well, we’re not willing to pronounce the Web dead or even seriously ill just yet, but the point of the article was that many more people are using the Internet through alternative means, like smartphone apps. So we thought this month we would turn our eyes to a few apps.

Let’s just make one thing perfectly clear: Jim loves his iPhone 3GS and Courtney loves her Droid (the HTC Droid Incredible, to be specific). Neither would trade with the other. As you probably know, the iPhone is an Apple product, and Android is a mobile operating system developed by Google. The iPhone is a smartphone that uses its own operating system, iOS.  The Android operating system comes on a number of hardware platforms (geek speak for phones), including Motorola, LG, and HTC. The word Droid is a trademark of Lucasfilm Ltd., which licenses the mark to Verizon.

The best things about our smart phones are the apps—those little software applications that make our phones so useful and so fun. Without apps, you just have a phone with email and Internet access (which is still pretty cool, but…). In the spirit of sharing that has been the theme of this column since the beginning, we have assembled some of our favorite apps. We hope you will love them too.

Courtney is still a newbie, having adopted ( purchased sounds cold and unloving) her Droid Incredible just a few months ago. Here are a few of her preferred apps, which are available in the Droid Market on your Droid.

Lookout (Free)
There’s a lot of casual smartphoning happening out there, and not a lot of smart adults using protection, if you catch my drift. Yeah, I mean you, Ms. “I-just-downloaded-a-virus-from- Facebook!” Smartphone users are finding out the hard way that not all apps are safe—some are malicious. That’s why it’s important to have a security app like Lookout. Whenever a new app is downloaded, Lookout scans it first. But that’s not all you get with your free download of beta Lookout. If your phone is lost or stolen, you can go to the Lookout website and locate your device, sound an alarm, or wipe your personal information remotely. With Lookout you can also backup and store 1.5GB of data securely to the cloud. (It will not yet backup external storage cards, such as MicroSD.) Although there isn’t a cost to use Lookout now, this could change once it’s no longer beta.

TouchDown ($19.99)
Though the current version of Android supports Microsoft Exchange, many users find it isn’t robust enough. If you use Exchange at work for email, calendaring, and tasks, you may want to try TouchDown. There are several different versions available for download; determine which is the right one for your Android phone by reading the FAQ and Troubleshooting Guide. Once you’ve installed the right version, you have a trial period to make sure everything works properly. The purchase price is about $20. With TouchDown you will receive new email alerts, appointment reminders, and even task reminders from Outlook. I like that you can specify which folders in Outlook email you want to see in TouchDown. It does sync to your Outlook calendar, but I find the interface a bit clunky. The calendar is easier to see if you switch to the agenda view. Overall, it’s not perfect, but it seems to be the best choice available for Droid users.

The Weather Channel (Free)
It’s boring to talk about the weather—unless we’re talking about the Weather Channel app. Being able to see up-to-date weather radar is one of my favorite things. Download the Weather Channel app from your Droid Marketplace and see how large that monstrous thunderstorm is. Very handy if you want to decide whether or not to cancel your kid’s soccer game (or your golf game).  It automatically gives you the weather for your location, and you can add more locations. To see the radar images, click on “Map It!” in the right hand corner.

Babelfish Voice (Free)
This app translates your spoken English words into another language. Choose from Spanish, Italian, German, French, and several more. The app works both as a tutorial for learning a language and as an emergency translator. Imagine you’re lost in Paris and need directions. You pull out your Droid and speak as slowly and clearly as possible. Babelfish recognizes your words and types them out. You can then edit the sentence manually if it isn’t 100 percent correct (and it usually isn’t). Then click “translate,” and Babelfish will say your sentence in French. I’m not sure if anyone in Paris would stop and listen to it or understand the translation or answer your question, but it’s a nice idea.

Two short reviews of fave apps:

Amazon App for Android (Free)
I just have to mention something very “gee whiz” for a bargain shopper like me. I can open this app, take a photo of a product bar code or the product itself in a store, save it (it goes to the “Amazon Remembers” list), and purchase it later if I want.

IMDb (Free)
Movie buffs rejoice: there is now an IMDb app for Android. You know what this means: now when you are in a theater and can’t remember where you’ve seen an actor before, you can go to IMDb and settle the debate before it begins. Just be prepared to have popcorn hurled at you for your rudeness.

Jim delayed upgrading to an iPhone for quite a while and now wonders what took him so long. There will not be as many links in this section. iPhone users know that these apps will all be available in the iPhone App store, and so a link will be included only if the app is available for other types of smartphones.

Dragon Dictation (Free)
Nuance Communications is the leader in speech recognition technology. Their free Dragon Dictation iPhone app is really very slick. It is free to download and free to use. Tap a button to dictate into the phone and tap another button when you are finished. In a few seconds, your dictation is there on the screen. You can correct it by tapping on a word and being presented with a few alternative word choices or by using the keypad. You can then email the text or copy it into the clipboard to paste it into a text message or other function that accepts text. It is very slick and very easy, and did I mention free?

The one concern I have about this app is based on reports that it downloads all of your saved contacts in return for the free service. I knew I should spend more time reading those EULA’s (end user license agreements) more carefully! I am waiting for a response from Nuance as to whether it is really trading my contacts for free dictation service. And if any of my contacts have been getting email solicitations from Nuance the last few months, well, sorry about that!

Google Mobile (Free)
We’re all aware of the power of Google. But the Google iPhone app is one of my Most Valuable Players. It saves times and lets me show off. What else could you want from an app? At the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco, the hotel doorman convinced a group of us going to dinner that it would cheaper to take the stretch limo than several taxis. As the limo pulled out from the curb, we realized our group did not have the exact street address. I pulled out my iPhone, tapped Google search, tapped Voice Search, and said the name of the restaurant and “San Francisco.” The first result included the address and a map. I gave the driver the address. My companions were suitably impressed. Get the Google Mobile search app and impress someone soon.

Fastcase
This is an online legal research service provided by several bar associations as a member benefit.  There are also lawyers who subscribe directly from the company.  But anyone can download and install the Fastcase iPhone app to do free legal research from the iPhone. If one has a bar-sponsored plan, it cannot be accessed from the iPhone app. But just imagine being able to locate and read almost any court opinion or statute from your iPhone. Even if you use a different service for your primary research, you may want to install this for quick legal research on the fly.

Jotnot (Free or $4.95 Pro Version)
Jotnot turns your iPhone into a document scanner. Take a picture with your iPhone camera, and this app transforms the picture into a PDF file—great for making a quick copy of receipts before you lose them. Google Docs will even OCR the PDF for you to make it searchable and editable.

AroundMe
This app allows you to quickly find out information about places—around you. It identifies your position and allows you to locate the nearest banks, gas stations, hospitals, hotels, movie theatres, restaurant, supermarkets, and more. If you are walking, it tracks your progress as you move toward your destination. (If you are driving, then watch your driving, not your iPhone.) Best of all, it is free.

There are so many more apps. Space does not allow me to cover them all: The New York Times app . . . Evernote to get organized . . . Documents to Go for word processing . . .

We hope you find these apps as fun and useful as we do. Most apps are free or inexpensive. Just remember: without apps, it’s just a phone.

For more iPhone apps of interest to lawyers, check out the list in 60 Apps in 60 Minutes from  ABA TECHSHOW 2010 .

Jim Calloway is the director of the Oklahoma Bar Association Management Assistance Program. He served as chair of the ABA TECHSHOW 2005. Calloway publishes the weblog, Jim Calloway’s Law Practice Tips, at http://jimcalloway.typepad.com, and was coauthor of the book, Winning Alternatives to the Billable Hour. He serves on the GPSolo Division Technology Board. Courtney Kennaday is the director of the Practice Management Assistance Program of the South Carolina Bar, where she advises bar members on practice management and law office technology. She also publishes the weblog, SC Small Firm.com, at http://www.scsmallfirm.com.

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