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   October 2001


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NOTHING.BUT.NET WITH ERIK J. HEELS

Simplifying Life On the Net

There’s such a thing as too much information. But you can keep the online under control.

If you’re like many lawyers, you’re spending a lot more time on the Internet. Perhaps you send and receive a great deal of e-mail. Perhaps you spend time analyzing your Web site statistics. Or perhaps you conduct significant research online. There are many ways to spend more time on the Internet. But what’s the point if it only makes your days more complicated? Consider these five ways to simply your life on—and with—the Net.

Organize Your Bookmarks

I have more than 2,300 entries in my bookmarks file, which equates to about 51 printed pages. Do I feel that my bookmarks are out of control? Not. I basically divide them into two major categories: frequently accessed and chronological.

My frequently accessed bookmarks include a variety of sites, such as reference, vendor and software download sites. My chronological files include bookmarks collected during a particular time period or for a particular event. When, for example, I moved across the country, I created a series of bookmark folders for filing all the sites related to that event.

Periodically, I review my bookmarks and reorganize them. And periodically, I also find myself looking for some site that I visited or wrote about years ago. In those cases, it’s quite helpful to have the full archives of bookmarks available. If you bookmark your actual bookmarks page, you can open it in your browser and then, by pressing Ctrl-F, search the page for specific sites.

Consolidate Your Domain Names

If you have multiple domain names, consider consolidating them into one account with one registrar. With a consolidated account, you can add and make changes to your domains with a simple Web-based interface. I personally prefer the original registrar, Network Solutions ( www.networksolutions.com), which now provides an Account Manager page. A major shortcoming at present is that you cannot transfer existing domains into your Account Manager, but Network Solutions informs me that this feature is coming soon.

There are many other registrars, some of which offer registration services for much less than Network Solutions charges. Many of these offer consolidated domain name management services as well. The good news is that overall, it’s getting easier to keep track of your domain names.

Organize User Names and Passwords

I keep all Web sites that require a user name and password in one folder in my bookmarks file. I edit each listing to include my user names (but not passwords) for these sites.

If you have trouble remembering all your user names and passwords, consider using Gator ( www.gator.com), a helper application that automatically remembers user names and passwords for sites that you choose. In addition, if you shop a lot online, you can use Gator to store your credit card information, bill-to addresses and ship-to addresses so you don’t have to retype them every time. This information is stored in encrypted form on your computer—not by Gator—so there appears to be no additional security risk. Gator is free, but you pay the price of having to periodically view ads that it sends you.

Find and Use Shareware

Look for shareware to help with automating routine tasks. I am constantly amazed at the variety of shareware and freeware programs that have simplified my computing experience. I usually find what I’m looking for at CNET Shareware.com ( shareware.cnet.com), ZDNet Downloads ( www.zdnet.com/downloads) or Tucows ( www.tucows.com).

Using these sites, I have found a great deal of useful time-saving software.

Consider these examples:

  • Search ’N Replace Pro ( www.zdnet.com/downloads/stories/info/0,10615,80096,00.html) helps me search and replace text in multiple files, which is handy when making changes to my Web site pages (such as updating the footer on all pages when my address changed).
  • ThumbNailer ( www.zdnet.com/down loads/stories/info/0,10615,30367,00.html) allows me to create thumbnail HTML index pages of images for all those pictures that I scan and upload onto my personal site for my family.
  • ReadPlease 2000 ( www.zdnet.com/downloads/stories/info/0,10615,47525,00.html) takes advantage of the text-to-speech functionality that’s built into my computer. This wins the award for the most useful application of what I (previously) thought was a useless technology. I am a solo practitioner and use ReadPlease to proof my documents. It’s surprising how many errors I can catch by having the computer read my documents back to me.

Protect Your Data Daily

To keep my data secure, I have configured Symantec’s Norton Utilities LiveUpdate to frequently check Symantec’s site for software updates and virus definition updates. I also use Connected’s online backup service ( www.connected.com) to daily back up all my data to Connected’s servers. The Connected TLM software is easy to install and set up. The service costs $14.95 per month, and I can order CD-ROMs of my data at any time. Since using this combination of antivirus and online backup software, my computer has not been infected with a virus and I have not lost any data.

Less Is More, Simpler Is Better

When you’re considering using any Internet product or service, ask yourself if it will, in fact, simplify your life. I derive as much satisfaction from archiving infrequently used bookmarks as I do from continuing to use a Web site that does one thing well. Especially if you are working with a deadline ( www.earth.com/calendar), it’s nice to be able to spend your time ( www.time.gov) online efficiently!

ERIK J. HEELS ( info@heels.com) is a patent attorney and co-author of the ABA book Law Law Law on the Internet: The Best Legal Web Sites and More.

LINKS

For more on domain name registrars, check out www.internic.net/regist.html. And learn more about top-level domains, domain disputes and consumer rights at www.icann.org.

SITE WATCH

Need a Break?

LawyerExpress is a legal research and news portal that wants to help you work smarter, not harder ( www.lawyerexpress.com). It is chock full of links to federal and state law resources, as well as to legal periodicals, business research tools, and practice support and CLE sites. What’s so neat about this portal? A front page with an abundance of links that can make life easier beyond the practice of law. It features travel information, reference works, stock quotes and market news, package delivery services and tech tools. The Breaktime section covers entertainment, health and fitness, shopping and, naturally, sports.