GPSolo | Road Warrior

The Road Warrior Looks at Mobile Apps

Jeffrey Allen

I often get questions about what applications I find most useful to me as a road warrior, so I thought I would take this opportunity to persuade you about a few that I have found helpful. To make things easier, I will focus on mobile applications (apps) rather than computer software. The distinction in play: Mobile apps go on tablets and phones; computer apps/software go on laptop and desktop computers. For most of us, the primary sources for mobile apps (depending on the nature of our phone or tablet) will be the Apple iTunes App Store (for iPhones and iPads, as they use Apple’s iOS) or the Google Play Store (for phones and tablets using the Android operating system). You can sometimes still find the odd app that comes another way, but, as a practical matter, you will primarily want to deal with the apps from these two sources. If you have a phone that does not use iOS or the Android operating system, you will need to go to whatever limited supply of apps the vendor makes available to you, but it will not compare to either the Google Play Store or the iTunes App Store. Apps from other sources than these stores generally should stay off your phones. One exception may be an app created by the manufacturer of your phone that you get from the manufacturer.

The smaller the memory in your phone or tablet, the more careful you need to be about selection of apps.

The smaller the memory in your phone or tablet, the more careful you need to be about selection of apps.

Categories of Apps

Before talking about specific apps, let’s talk about categories of applications and the allocation of memory to apps. The smaller the memory in your phone or tablet, the more careful you need to be about selection of apps and allocation of space to apps as opposed to documents or other media (pictures, music, videos, etc.). As a practical matter, I have generally opted for the largest memory available for my tablets and phones. This gives me the most flexibility, and I have always been able to find enough things that interest me to make use of most, if not all, of the usable memory. The old adage about nature abhorring a vacuum applies, however, and as a result of the extra memory that I have, I have allowed myself the luxury of some media that is not essential and some apps that I would have to acknowledge are marginally useful. Because I frequently test apps to write about them, I also often have apps on my devices so that I can check them out. Those that prove desirable earn a place there; most of the others get deleted.

Classifications of apps that you should consider (depending on your personal needs, preferences, and how you use your equipment) include, in no special order:

  1. Productivity: apps for note taking, document creation, etc.;
  2. Legal: legal research apps, time and billing, document signatures, trial preparation, etc.;
  3. Entertainment: movies, television, music, books, audiobooks;
  4. Navigation: maps, GPS, etc.;
  5. Financial: banking, recordkeeping;
  6. Internet: browsers, virtual private network (VPN) software;
  7. Security: encryption, password creation and storage, non-visible file creators, etc.;
  8. Utilities: scanning, printing, faxing, testing, etc.;
  9. Photography: apps to enhance the camera capabilities of the device and to clean up and correct the images after taking the pictures;
  10. Travel: airlines apps, travel guides, consolidators, etc.;
  11. Presentation: PowerPoint and other apps to facilitate presentations;
  12. PDF and markup: apps to allow you to read and mark up PDF files;
  13. Reference: dictionaries, thesauruses, atlases, etc.;
  14. Health: medical information and sourcing;
  15. Communications: group meetings, web conferences, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), etc.;
  16. Other categories you may want to consider, depending on your personal proclivities, include: News; Shopping; Sports; Education; and Games.

As an aside, I will tell you that I have apps in each of these categories on my phones and tablets and that I also have added several other categories that I have found useful for sorting my apps to enable me to easily locate them.

I have found that it works best for me to create a folder for each category and then move all the apps in that category into the folder. I can organize them in whatever order suits me inside the folder, but I usually put the ones I use most near the top of the list. I also keep the apps I use all the time outside of folders and on the first page of apps on my phones and tablets. I like to organize the folders on the page in alphabetical order to make it easier to locate them.

Apps to Consider

In discussing the apps that I have added to my devices and found useful, I will not include those that come automatically loaded on the device. Think of them as part of the operating system for all intents and purposes, as you cannot delete them in most cases, even if you wanted to do so.

As I do not have sufficient space available to do even a cursory review of the apps for this column, I will simply list them and, if their function is not obvious from the name, describe them briefly. I am not listing all the apps on my devices—just the ones I find particularly useful for mobile lawyers. A word of caution: While I have Apple iOS devices (iPhone X and iPad Pro) and Android devices (Samsung Galaxy S9+), I prefer iOS and took the list of apps that appear in this column from my iOS devices. Most (but not all) of these apps also exist in the Android world, but, unfortunately, some of the best do not. I have not counted, but I estimate that more than 75 percent of them also exist in the Android world.

  1. Productivity: Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Timeline, OmniOutliner, OneNote, MindNode (mind mapper), Inspiration Maps (mind mapper), Dragon Anywhere (voice recognition/dictation), Olympus Dictation, Philips Recorder (dictation), FileMaker Go (database), Paperless (list maker), Evernote, SignMyPad, DocuSign, SignPDF Pro;
  2. Legal: Westlaw, Fastcase, CA Laws (I practice in California, you will want your own state’s laws), US Code, FRCP: Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Federal Rules of Evidence (FRE), DepoView (iPad only), TrialPad (iPad only), TranscriptPad (iPad only), DocReview (iPad only), TrialDirector, ExhibitView;
  3. Entertainment: Kindle, Audible, SiriusXM, iHeartRadio, Pandora, Flixter (movie theaters and schedules), MoviePass, TV Guide;
  4. Navigation: Google Maps, Waze, Ulmon Pro (mapping), Sygic (mapping); OpenTable (restaurant locator and reservation maker);
  5. Financial: Bank of America Mobile Banking, Wells Fargo Mobile, Bank of the West, Citi Mobile, Chase Mobile (you will want the apps for whatever banks you use), Clio (time and billing), Expensify (expense tracking); HP 12c Financial Calculator, Unit Converter (includes foreign currency exchange conversions);
  6. Internet: Firefox (browser), VPN Unlimited (virtual private network), McAfee Safe Connect (virtual private network), Dropbox;
  7. Security: McAfee Mobile Security (encryption, backup, and secure vaulting of information), 1Password, PhotoVault;
  8. Utilities: ScanSnap Connect, Iris Scan to Word, Scan+, Printer Pro, eFax, Tile (locate missing items tagged with Tile communicators), Net Analyzer, SpeedSmart (checks connection speed); I also have various apps for earphones and speakers as well as apps provided by digital camera manufacturers (such as Sony) to work with their cameras;
  9. Photography: Photoshop Fix, PS Express (Photoshop light), Filterstorm (photographic filters), Photo Eraser, Camera+ 2, Redacted;
  10. Travel: United, Southwest Airlines (include whatever airlines you use here), Flight Update Pro, GateGuru (concierge to most airports), Amtrak, Rail Europe, Avis (or whatever car rental you use), TripIt (trip planner) Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline, Booking.com, Hotels.com, Hotwire, Travelocity (add other consolidators you use), TripAdvisor (guide), Fodor’s City Guides (travel guide), tripwolf (travel guide), Triposo (travel guide), SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest), Marriott, Hilton Honors, Hyatt Hotels (add whatever hotels you normally use), Voice Translator Pro (multiple language translator), Lyft, Uber;
  11. Presentation: PowerPoint, Keynote (iOS only), Haiku Deck, Prezi Viewer, SlideShark, AutoPrompter; see also entries above for “Legal”;
  12. PDF and markup: PDFpen, PDF Reader Pro, PDFfiller;
  13. Reference: Oxford Dictionary of English, Oxford Grammar and Punctuation, Concise Oxford American Thesaurus, Chambers Thesaurus, Webster Roget’s A-Z Thesaurus, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, Modern Atlas, Google Earth;
  14. Health: Fitbit, Lose It!, Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins Guides, Epocrates Medical References, WebMD, Merck Pro, Drug Interactions, Merck Vet Manual;
  15. Communications: Skype, Skype WiFi, GoToMeeting, WhatsApp Messenger; there are several other secondary phone apps and conference apps you may wish to add as well;
  16. Other categories you may want to use, depending on your personal proclivities, include News, Shopping, Sports, Education, and Games. Some of the apps I have in these categories include:
  • News: Flipboard, theSkimm, BBC News, CNN, The New York Times, USA TODAY, The Week Magazine US, Texture;
  • Shopping: Amazon, Overstock.com, Gilt, Zappos, Barnes & Noble, Sierra Trading Post, Peet’s Coffee, Starbucks, Alibaba.com, Barcode Scanners, Price Scanner UPC Barcode Scan, QR Code Reader and Scanner;
  • Sports: theScore, ESPN, Bleacher Report, NBA, NFL, MLB At Bat;
  • Education: The Great Courses, The Great Courses Plus;
  • Games: Words with Friends (Scrabble), Boggle With Friends, Word Search Puzzles, Wood Puzzle, ProPinball, Pinball HD, Madden NFL Overdrive Football, MLB 9 Innings, Rail Maze 2, Pro Pool 2018, Blackjack, VIP Poker, Solitaire, iBridgePlus, Chess, Checkers, Backgammon, Trivia, a bunch of old-fashioned arcade “shoot-em-ups,” a few adventure games, and some of the new AR (augmented reality) pieces. Nowhere in your app selection will your personal taste have more impact than in your choice of games, so I have not listed the collection of arcade games that I have. As I am now approaching 70, I have fond memories of some of the original arcade games and enjoy pulling them out and playing them once in a while. That may not prove your thing, but you may want to look at them—some of them are still great.

I do not suggest that these are the only useful apps on my devices or in the Google Play or iTunes App Store. I have simply identified some of the apps that I use and like for various reasons. Sometimes, I will choose an app that has one particular feature that I like and use it when I need that feature, favoring others in the genre when that feature has less significance to what I need. You can get many of these apps free and almost all at relatively nominal cost. Some of them will even give you a trial period to see if you like it before you have to pay. A number of them have upgrade options requiring a subscription, so I encourage you to try them out before you decide to add them to your devices on a more or less permanent basis. Just because I have found that they work well for me does not guarantee that you will like them—but I hope it indicates a high likelihood that you will find them helpful or interesting or both.

Jeffrey Allen is the principal in the Graves & Allen law firm in Oakland, California. He is Editor-in-Chief of GPSolo magazine and GPSolo eReport and a member of the Board of Editors of Experience magazine. A frequent speaker and writer on technology topics, he is most recently coauthor (with Ashley Hallene) of Technology Tips for Lawyers and Other Business Professionals. In addition to being licensed as an attorney in California, he has been admitted as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales. He teaches at California State University of the East Bay.

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