March/April 2019

The Digital Toolkit

Supercharge Your Office 365 Experience with Add-Ins

Tom Mighell

When I think about topics for this column, my mind often goes to what I think is the foundation of a lawyer’s digital toolkit: your office productivity suite. Creating documents and presentations and managing email takes up a lot of the average lawyer’s day and, according to surveys, most of you are using some version of Microsoft Office. I have spoken many times about the benefits of upgrading to Office 365: having constantly updated software rather than having to install from scratch every year, the ability to access all of your documents from any device at any time, a predictable monthly subscription fee and larger mailbox storage are just a few. In this issue of The Digital Toolkit, I want to discuss another benefit you may not know about: the hundreds of add-ins available to improve your productivity.

Add-ins are programs you may already be using as stand-alone applications, which plug into your Office 365 tools to provide additional functionality and convenience. There are add-ins available for the major Office 365 components—Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

How Do I Find and Install Office 365 Add-Ins?

Finding and installing add-ins is simple. Just open one of your Office 365 apps—Word, for example—click Insert, then Get Add-ins. A box will appear giving you a number of options; you can scroll through the complete list of apps, browse by category or use keywords to search for a particular add-in. You can click on any of the add-ins to read more about it, including any reviews that have been posted. Many of the add-ins are free, but an equal number are related to paid applications you may or may not be using. In that case the add-in description will tell you that its use “may require additional purchase.” When you are ready to try out an add-in, just click the Add button, and it will be installed on your computer. Note that if you work in a firm where Office 365 is centrally managed by IT, you may need to ask them to install the add-in for you.

Add-Ins Lawyers Might Find Useful

There are far too many add-ins to mention in a column like this; you will need to see them for yourself. But to give you an idea of the types of functionality that are available, I offer a few examples of the apps available for each part of your Office 365 suite.

Outlook.

The add-in support for Outlook revolves primarily around task management, customer/client relationship management, file sharing and other activities associated with email and communications. Some of the more popular add-ins include:

  • Task Managers. Some of the more popular task management and project management programs, including Trello, Asana and Wunderlist, allow you to create tasks from emails, all without leaving Outlook.
  • Signing Tools. Add-ins like Adobe Sign and DocuSign make it simple to send documents out for signature.
  • Client Relationship Management. Because Outlook is also a contact manager, Salesforce and a number of other customer relationship management tools allow you to track contacts with your clients and others.
  • Law-Related Add-ins. The great LawToolBox365 automates rules-based deadlines and enters them on your calendar, while both Clio and Rocket Matter offer add-ins that make it easy to import emails into the practice management tools, as well as sync calendars and contacts.
  • File Sharing. Use the ShareFile add-in as well as others for secure file sharing or use add-ins that allow you to link or attach files from Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive or SharePoint.

Word.

The best add-ins for Microsoft Word are those that help you draft better documents, whether it’s starting out with the right format, providing proofreading assistance or researching from different web resources, noted below:

  • Templates. Create your own templates quickly and easily or choose from a library of predesigned templates, with add-ins like officeatwork Designer and Lawyaw Template Builder.
  • Law-Related. Lexis for Microsoft Office aims to help simplify the drafting of legal documents, while Rocket Matter Office 365 allows you to save documents directly into the practice management tool. There are also several add-ins that assist with document automation.
  • Proofreading. Ditch spell check and use more powerful proofreading and consistency checking add-ins like PerfectIt, Contract Companion, 300Editors, compareDocs and others.
  • Translation. Microsoft Translator will help translate directly within a document.
  • Reference Tools. There are lots of reference add-ins to help you as you draft documents, including dictionaries, Wikipedia and the AP Stylebook, among many others.

PowerPoint.

The add-ins that will be most powerful for lawyers are those that help you to build a better presentation. That includes using add-ins for:

  • Stock Photography and Clip Art. Many add-ins, including Pexels, Kwilt, Shutterstock and Adobe Stock, allow you to download royalty-free, inexpensive or professional images, illustrations and clip art to your presentations.
  • Charts and Diagrams. Add-ins like D3.js Plotly and Lucidchart will insert professional charts and diagrams into your presentation. Others allow you to take a chart in Excel and create a power dashboard of that chart in PowerPoint.
  • Polls. Conducting polls during presentations increases your interactivity, and add-ins such as Pigeonhole Live, Poll Everywhere and Meetoo can make real-time audience response a snap.
  • Layout Ideas. Apps like Pickit can give you inspiration on how to design the right slides for your audience. ConceptDrop Slide Designer will actually put you in touch with a professional graphic designer at the click of a button.

Excel.

Add-ins that make Excel more powerful are those that can help with charting, forecasting and analysis:

  • Financial Management. Many of these add-ins relate to proprietary financial tools that import financial information, provide analysis and update finances in real time.
  • Project Management. If you use Excel for legal project management instead of Project or another tool, there are a number of add-ins that help format your spreadsheet so you can visualize the project management process.
  • Data Visualization. There are apps that help create powerful ways of displaying data and other types of information.
  • Data Analytics. Use add-ins like SmartCharts and E2D3 to create dynamic and interactive business intelligence graphics within Excel.

And I’m just scratching the surface with these examples. If you are really interested in exploring the available add-ins, open up one of your Office apps, click Insert, then Get Add-ins and take a look yourself.

How Do I Uninstall an Add-In?

If you try out an add-in, don’t like it and want to uninstall it, open the app that’s using the add-in and select File, then Options, then Add-Ins. Next go to the Manage option at the bottom and click the Go button. You’ll be able to remove any add-ins you’ve installed. (Again, if you have an IT department that administers Office 365, ask them to help with this.) If you paid for your add-in and want to cancel a subscription, go back to the Insert tab of the Office app, click My Add-ins and then click Manage My Add-Ins in the upper right corner. Click the app you want to cancel and under Action click Manage Subscription. Under the Payment and Billing section, choose Cancel Subscription.

So what do you think? Do you already use one or more add-ins for Office 365? If so, what are your favorites? If you’re not using add-ins, what’s holding you back? Let’s continue the conversation online. Send me a tweet @TomMighell or an email at tmighell+dt@gmail.com. I’ll compile all your comments and post them on the Law Technology Today blog (lawtechnologytoday.org).

Tom Mighell

Tom Mighell is vice president of Delivery Services at Contoural and has served as chair of both the ABA Law Practice Division and ABA TECHSHOW. Email him at tmighell@gmail.com

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