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Issue Editor Jim Calloway polls ABA TECHSHOW veterans for everyday technology tips that can improve the way you work.
Everyone loves a handy technology tip, which explains why year after year one of the most popular sessions at ABA TECHSHOW is “60 Tips in 60 Minutes.” There isn’t a CLE program in the nation that packs more great practical tech tips into a one-hour presentation.
In the same spirit of packing in a host of powerful pointers, here we share some great tips from some ABA TECHSHOW veterans. Our contributors include recent past ABA TECHSHOW chairs along with members of the ABA TECHSHOW 2010 Planning Board. (See below for more information on each contributor.)
As with any good tips presentation, the following range from the basic to the more technical. Note, too, that some of the tips have multiple names on them. But given how savvy all these individuals are, the entire collection is one that warrants some close attention.
Use drag and drop in Outlook to calendar appointments. Got an e-mail in your inbox about setting an appointment? Simply drag that e-mail message to your calendar, dropping it in at the day of the meeting, and let Outlook make the appointment for you—all the information remains in the message, which is now a calendared item.
– Reid Trautz
Use multiple calendars in Outlook. With all that we have to do during the day, both personal and professional, our calendars tend to get very crowded and hard to read. But here’s good news: You can now have more than one calendar in Outlook, so you can keep separate calendars for work and personal activities, or any other kind of commitments you may have. There are two ways to do this.
Create a new Outlook calendar by selecting File–New, then Calendar. Simply name the calendar whatever you want (e.g., Family, Charity Work or the like) and click on OK.
You can view your online calendars (e.g., Google Calendar, TripIt Calendar or the like) in Outlook 2007 provided they use the .ics (Web calendar) format. Click on Tools, then Account Settings. Select the Internet Calendars tab, click on New, and type in the URL of the Internet calendar you want to use.
Click on Add, and you’re done. To view your new calendars, make sure they are checked in the Calendars task bar on the left. Outlook will display your calendars side by side, or you can overlay them on top of each other by clicking the arrow(s) on each calendar.
– Tom Mighell
Use Word to create PDFs. Word 2007 has the ability to create simple PDF files natively. Well, almost natively—you have to download and install a free add-in from Microsoft. Then all you need to do to convert a Word file is click on the Office Button, then Save As and choose PDF from the menu that appears.
– Sharon Nelson
Create matter-centric Outlook categories. Outlook’s categories feature lets you use the program in a matter-centric fashion—meaning you can unify different Outlook items (e.g., contact info, appointments, e-mails) around specific clients and matters. You can add a category to any item within Outlook, so every time you create an item, try “tagging” it with a category. For example, for everything that relates to Client X, categorize it with the client’s code and matter number—such as 1234-003 (i.e., Client X-Matter Y). Over time more and more of your content in Outlook will be tied to a specific client. Eventually an advanced search within Outlook will give you all items in a particular category, or related to a particular client and matter. Outlook’s journaling feature can even give this info to you chronologically. Not quite actual practice management software, but darn close and far less expensive.
– Dominic Jaar
Let SimplyFile read your mind. Most Outlook users lose tons of time each day dragging and dropping e-mails into the correct Outlook folder. Plus, whenever you accidentally file a message in the wrong folder, trying to find it is really annoying and loses more time. SimplyFile, an inbox organization tool from TechHit (www.techhit.com/simplyfile), solves these problems by helping you file messages in the correct folders. It will predict which folder a message belongs in and display the folder’s name so you can file it there with one click. It is uncanny. After it initially indexes and “learns” your filing system (and be patient, because this part may run for several hours), SimplyFile is correct nearly 90 percent of the time. If its prediction turns out to be wrong, its QuickPick feature will usually give you the correct folder.
– David Bilinsky and Jim Calloway
Fine-tune e-mail addressing with AutoSuggest. Outlook’s AutoSuggest feature helps fill in e-mail addresses quickly and (usually) correctly. When you start to type an e-mail address in the To or Cc lines, Outlook will suggest matching addresses based on e-mails you’ve sent before. Sometimes, though, the list of suggested addresses might include one or more that you don’t want to appear on the list anymore. But clearing addresses from the list isn’t very intuitive. To clear an unwanted address, do this: Start a new e-mail message, start to type the e-mail address you want to remove, and when it appears on the list of suggested addresses, use your Up or Down arrow keys ( not your mouse) to highlight the address, then press Delete. To clear the whole list and start over, you can find the [profile name].NK2 file on your system and delete it. Outlook will automatically create a new one next time you start it.
– Sharon Nelson
Use Excel to manage other data. If you are using Excel for data compilation, chances are you are initially accumulating that data in one or more other programs or databases in your office—for instance, in a time and billing program, an accounting database, and your case management software or a simple database program like Access. But many people don’t know that Excel is capable of pulling in data from such myriad data sources. This includes ODBC-compliant databases, SQL databases and XML data imports. Many software products have one of these options, enabling you to pull your data directly and even automatically into Excel. This is far better than running reports from one program and manually inputting the results into Excel. For detailed information about how to import data into Excel, check out http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/excel/HA010864661033.aspx.
– Britt Lorish Knuttgen
Learn what that Excel ribbon does. Head to http://excelribbon.tips.net for tons of great pointers on Excel 2007, including a helpful section on transitioning to the 2007 ribbon—a very helpful feature that seems to initially befuddle many people.
– Sharon Nelson
Upgrade from Microsoft Office 2003 to Office 2007. You may have noted that some of the preceding tips apply to Microsoft Office 2007 rather than Office 2003. Although many law firms have put off technology upgrades to save costs, making the move to Office 2007 is well worth the cost and trouble. Everyone will require a small bit of retraining, but the new ribbon concept, the customizable Quick Access toolbar in Word, and the redesign of Outlook with the To-Do bar to display your Calendar and Tasks will all enhance your productivity.
– Jim Calloway
Free Microsoft Office 2003 and 2007 training. Go to http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/training/default.aspx for links to self-paced courses that walk you through the basics of Office applications. Each training program starts with an overview of what you can expect to learn, gives you examples of what you can expect to see as you use the program, and has a star rating based on what others who have used it thought. This is a great resource for getting new staff members up to speed on the applications they have to know inside out in order to get their work done. There are also programs designed to help with the deployment of Office 2007 in your firm.
– Laura Calloway
Have your to-do list at the ready from anywhere. Toodledo (www.toodledo.com), a free Web-based task manager, gives you a single place where all your to-dos are permanently stored and easily accessible. Toodledo’s hotlist, e-mail and SNS reminders and sortable online to-do list will help you remember to complete tasks on time. Plus, for those of us who are procrastinators, Toodledo has a special tool that analyzes dates, priorities, time estimates and other characteristics to create a customized schedule of the best use of your time.
– Dave Bilinsky
Get one master password for everything. Passwords are the keys to everything today, from computer access to online banking and more. As a result, we all need more passwords than we can remember. So we get lazy and use weak passwords or, worse, use the same one for everything—very dangerous! LastPass (www.lastpass.com) comes to the rescue. With it, you only have to remember one password, forever. LastPass keeps all of your site passwords in an encrypted file online, which can only be opened by your master password. It can generate very complex, unbreakable passwords for you and will keep them in its vault, so you don’t have to remember them. And because the encrypted password database is online, you can access your passwords from any computer at any time. The basic service is free, but for $12 a year you can also access your passwords on your phone of choice.
– Tom Mighell
Send PDFs to your Kindle. You can e-mail PDF documents straight to your Kindle for about 15 cents per megabyte. Amazon assigns a unique e-mail address to each Kindle (e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org). Go to Menu, then Settings on the Kindle if you don’t recall what yours is. E-mail any PDF to that address and your Kindle will get it the next time it syncs content. Don’t want to pay? Connect your Kindle to the computer via USB and download the document directly.
– Sharon Nelson
Use Gist to bolster connections with your contacts. Sign on to Gist (www.gist.com) and allow it to access your Outlook, Facebook, Twitter, Gmail and other accounts. It will build links with the people and companies that are key contacts for you and give you a visual display of the people in your network that Gist ranks as most important to you. This cool tool symbolizes a new class of apps that will draw Web 2.0 networking sites together in a much more useful way—and it’s free.
– David Bilinsky
Increase the frequency setting for your automatic backups. Practically all software programs automatically back up your open documents periodically so that you won’t lose them in the event of a computer crash. Unfortunately, the default settings for these backups are often way too long—as much as 10 minutes between automatic saves. A whole lot of thought and drafting can go on during those precious minutes and it all can go down the drain if your computer hiccups. For programs already on your computer, and any new ones you install, change the auto-save setting to the lowest possible interval. You will never lose work again.
– Laura Calloway
Try ready-for-prime-time voice recognition software. Dragon Naturally Speaking 10 (www.nuance.com/naturallyspeaking) is (finally!) more than ready for prime time. Available in both 32- and 64- bit versions for Windows XP and Windows 7, you can use it to dictate and format documents without ever even touching your keyboard, or prepare documents for cleanup and transmittal by your legal assistant. If you have limited staff assistance, you can really make much better use of your time, and theirs, by adopting speech recognition technology.
– Laura Calloway and Jim Calloway
Grab contacts with ease. Two ABA TECHSHOW pros—Browning Marean and Dave Bilinsky—selected the same powerful application to highlight that was on my list as well. Formerly known as Anagram, it is now called Copy2Contact. It performs one basic function, but does it very well. It copies an individual’s contact information instantly from any text on your screen, such as an e-mail signature, organization roster, meeting invitation or Web search results, and puts the info into your Microsoft Outlook, Palm Desktop or BlackBerry with no typing required. You don’t have to believe us, the product has a 14-day trial that you can download.
– Jim Calloway
Move to a more paperless work flow. Not yet convinced of the value of going paperless? Here’s a specific example to consider. Let’s say a client requests a copy of a document contained within a closed file. If you are storing paper, your costs associated with retrieving that document will be the actual file storage space, plus the time to track it down and return it, which could easily exceed three hours. Here’s how you do it paperless instead:
Note: If you do not have a DMS, you can save the closed files to a folder or set of folders on your network and either look in the appropriate folder for the PDF file or use the search functions of Adobe Acrobat or a desktop search utility to locate the file.
– Paul Unger
Use VM Ware to run Windows programs on a Mac. While there are more and more Mac converts every day, unfortunately some law office-specific software products are only available for Windows. If you are a Mac user and you need to run a Windows program, uses VM Ware. This will allow you to run an app within Windows in a “virtual machine” on the Mac. It lets you drag and drop data back and forth between the Windows side and the Mac side of the machine.
– David Bilinsky
Make receiving multiple attachments easy with Acrobat. Don’t annoy people by sending them an e-mail with a huge number of attachments. Adobe Acrobat 9 lets you create a PDF Portfolio instead, allowing you to package documents of any file type (documents, spreadsheets, images, audio or video files) into a single PDF file, while preserving the original files for use by the recipient. You can even customize a Portfolio file with your logo and artwork for mediation brochures, transaction packages or marketing materials.
In Acrobat, click on Create, then Assemble PDF Portfolio. You’ll be taken to a design screen where you can choose the layout and color scheme of your portfolio and add a welcome or header note. Then add any file (or folder full of files) to the portfolio and arrange them with the details you want included. Click on Publish and you’ll have the option to save the file, e-mail it, or upload it to a secure space on Acrobat.com. Recipients can then view your files within the PDF, or open them in their original format (assuming they have that software on their computers, of course).
– Tom Mighell
Learn Acrobat 9 from scratch. At http://tv.adobe.com/show/acrobat-tips-and-tricks, you’ll find a great library of tutorials that literally step you through the functionality of Acrobat 9 with short videos. Learn how to add Bates stamps and watermarks, secure documents, add digital signatures and take advantage of all the amazing things that Acrobat can do.
– Sharon Nelson
And finally, never neglect this one:
Back up all important files. Far too many lawyers can tell horror stories about losing critical data. Hard drives have moving parts and all will eventually fail. There is no excuse for not having a regular full off-site backup of all your critical data. But for those that have an excuse (and bless you), at least take the time to occasionally copy your key data to a portable hard drive or a second computer in your office.
– Laura Calloway
Andrew Z. Adkins III is Director of the Legal Technology Institute of the University of Florida Levin College of Law and served twice as ABA TECHSHOW Chair, in 2000 and 2001.
David Bilinsky is a Practice Management Consultant/Advisor for the Law Society of British Columbia and served as ABA TECHSHOW Co-Chair in both 1998 and 1999.
Jim Calloway is Director of the Oklahoma State Bar Association’s Law Office Assistance Program and is Past Chair of ABA TECHSHOW 2005.
Laura Caloway is Director of the Alabama State Bar’s Practice Management Assistance Program and is Past Chair of ABA TECHSHOW 2009.
Dominic Jaar is the President of Ledjit Consulting and is an ABA TECHSHOW 2010 Planning Board member.
Britt Lorish Knuttgen is the President of Automated Horizons, Inc., and is an ABA TECHSHOW 2010 Planning Board member.
Browning E. Marean is Senior Counsel in DLA Piper’s San Diego office and is an ABA TECHSHOW 2010 Planning Board member.
Tom Mighell is a legal technology consultant and Past Chair of ABA TECHSHOW 2008.
Sharon Nelson is the President of Sensei Enterprises, Inc., and Past Chair of ABA TECHSHOW 2006.
Reid F. Trautz is Director of the Practice & Professionalism Center for the American Immigration Lawyers Association and is an ABA TECHSHOW 2010 Planning Board member.
Paul Unger is a lawyer and legal technology consultant with HMU Consulting, Inc., and is Vice Chair of the ABA TECHSHOW 2010 Planning Board.