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Best New Apps for Lawyers – September 2015

best new apps

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First, please let me apologize for my absence over the past few weeks. A combination of major involvement in a large construction defect litigation case and my wife and I moving into our first new house kept me INSANELY BUSY over the last month. Hoping to rectify that in the next few weeks, though.

More importantly, the apps. Well, June and July were actually relatively light for high-quality apps, so I wasn’t expecting too much from August. My mistake. Tons of great new apps have dropped, and sadly, I had to leave off plenty of good ones.

Here are my best new apps for lawyers released in August 2015:

Multi-Platform:

Multi-platform apps begin at the (0:46) mark of the podcast.

best new appsAdBlock Browser by Eyeo, free (iOS, Android) /
Crystal by Dean Murphy, $0.99 (iOS only).

Regardless which side of the Ad-Blocking Software vs. Online Publishers debate you are, there’s really no denying that the current state of online advertising is a mess. Ads pop up on every part of every site you visit (I really do try to minimize the intrusion!), and actually destroy performance in a lot of cases. In fact, I can think of too many sites whose content I love, but whose ads make me shudder at the thought of even visiting.

Well, Apple has finally announced that it’s jumping on board and allowing developers to help everyone block ads. Two major new apps were released for mobile last month as part of that – AdBlock Browser and Crystal. They both do roughly the same thing… and they’re both potentially problematic for the same reason.

Crystal, one of the most popular apps in the iTunes store, recently announced that it’s going to begin allowing advertisers to buy their way onto a whitelist. That’s right, you had to pay for the ad blocker, but now advertisers will get to pay to get access to you anyway.

AdBlock Browser has been one of the most popular tools on the market for blocking ads on your desktop browser, and just released new apps for both iOS and Android. Oh, and it was just sold. To an unknown buyer. And AdBlock’s original creator is no longer involved with the company. How much would someone pay to get access to AdBlock’s 40 million users? Another excellent question…

ToDoist by Doist, Inc.free (iOS, Android). (Update)best new apps

ToDoist has long been a favorite of this particular blog, and for good reason. It’s an app that takes very seriously the idea of setting out to do something and do it well. ToDoist is one of the best task management systems available. This past month, the ToDoist crew rolled out an entire re-branding of the platform.

But this update is definitely more than just a fresh coat of paint. A number of new features have been added, focused on helping you manage your to-do list more quickly.

Quick Add allows you to type your task details into the same field, which ToDoist automatically recognizes, highlights and categorizes each piece of information. Quick Comment allows you to attach notes to any task – click the speech bubble and add relevant notes. The new Quick Find navigation bar lets you search for information in a drop-down menu that includes tasks, projects, labels and filters.

Further, the web app is now optimized for any screen size, meaning you can now use ToDoist from your phone the same way you do on your desktop.

best new appsOutlook Groups by Microsoft Corp.free (Office 365 subscription required) (iOS, Android, Windows Phone).

Have you been dying to “Like” your emails from co-workers, or discuss you boss in an email to opposing counsel using an @mention like on Twitter? No? Me neither.

Ok, I admit it, I’m selling Outlook Groups a little short in going for a cheap laugh (although they did ask for it). In reality, Outlook Groups is an excellent collaboration tool for firms using Office 365. Through Groups, you can participate in group email conversations, collaborate with your team remotely on a shared OneNote notebook, and review each other’s Word, Excel, or PowerPoint documents.

For teams looking for easier ways to collaborate remotely, Outlook Groups is definitely worth checking out.

Honorable Mention:

None this month!

For more info, check out the podcast.

iOS:

iOS apps begin at the (11:24) mark of the podcast.

best new appsInvite by Microsoft Corp.free.

One of the great revelations that has occurred recently in the legal field revolves around the discovery of scheduling tools like Doodle. Combining your calendar with tools usually used for opinion polling, it’s now possible to send out an email to 20 other attorneys, and find a mutually agreeable time for a deposition in less than six weeks.

And Microsoft wants in on that game! While not the full automated tool that Doodle has become, Invite – another one of the fantastic apps out of the Microsoft Garage Project – works with your existing contact list and calendar to help you schedule meetings.

Add a new event by naming it and suggesting times and places for the meeting. Once the pertinent details are in place, you select who the invite will go to, tap the times you’re available, and hit “Send.” Your home page shows your upcoming meetings, along with any outstanding responses. Recipients check boxes for times they’re available, and you get an email response.

Invite may be basic, but it’s intuitive and easy to understand. Oh, and it’ll be coming to Android and Windows Phone soon.

best new appsAsk LegalShield by Shake, Inc., USAfree.

Whether you love this app or hate it, you need to know about it, because it’s not the last of its kind.

So the company behind the app Shake, an admittedly brilliant approach to automating contract creation using your mobile device, recently announced they were teaming up with LegalShield, one of the largest providers of pre-paid legal services in the U.S. Given the history of the two companies, it seemed that pocket-sized pre-paid legal services were inevitable.

They’ve decided to take it a step further.

Ask LegalShield allows you to find answers to basic legal questions. Right on your phone. Without signing up for services. For free. Sample questions include “Can I collect child support from an out-of-state parent?” and “What are the advantages of a limited liability company?” Basic questions, to be certain, but helpful. If more in-depth legal assistance is required, the app will refer you to an attorney in LegalShield’s nationwide network.

Which I’m not a member of…

best new appsPaper by FiftyThree, Inc.free. (Update)

“When you have an idea, put it on paper.” A catchy phrase, it certainly captures the essence of the previously iPad-only app – great for doodles and diagrams.

The designers at FiftyThree decided it was time to expand, and to describe this update as a simple expansion is a huge understatement. First, they’ve massively expanded Paper’s iPhone app, which is now completely supported.

But more than expanding the platform, Paper’s update represents a massive shift in focus, from a sketch pad to the home of your ideas. Create notes and notebooks in the form of text (including written using Paper’s stylus, helpfully named “Pencil”), photos, sketches, or any combination. Quickly convert a list of ideas into tomorrow’s check-box to-do list, or add a handwritten note to an important photograph.

It’s not as detail-oriented as Evernote, but if you like taking notes on a notepad-type interface, and for free, check it out.

best new appsGoogle Keep by Google, Inc.free.

While Paper might not be ready, at the moment, to challenge Evernote as king of the notebook-organization apps, Google Keep is more than willing to throw down. For two years, Android users have had access to this app, and it’s now finally come to iOS. Designed as the one-stop-shop for collecting and organizing your thoughts from around the web, Keep will at least make you consider your devotion to Evernote.

With a desktop web app, you can capture and share your notes on any device, wherever you are. Notes, lists, photos and audio are all organized by color-coded Post-It style rectangles. Share your notes for collaboration, to make sure everyone is always working from an up-to-date checklist.

Another powerful tool – set both time and location-based reminders for things. Driving by the courthouse? File that document. Driving by Hallmark? Buy your wife an anniversary card!

best new appsCardflow+ by Qrayon, LLC, $7.99.

What is it about index cards that are so helpful. We used to use them for a lot of things, before everyone went digital. Quiz yourself – flashcards. Giving a speech, notecards. Even in the digital world, look at how many to-do list apps and note-taking apps use an index card-based approach.

Cardflow+ cuts through the pretense, and gives you an organizational app for your iPad that combines the best features of your iPad with the best features of index cards. Write down notes, draw sketches, create lists, add photos, and organize based on color coding or font. Best of all, zoom out to get a 30,000 foot view of your cards, just like you could standing at your office desk.

Honorable Mention:

OneNote by Microsoft Corp.free. (Update)

Password Chef by Naranja Studio, LLC, $2.99.

Tweetbot 4 by Tapbots, $4.99.

For more info, check out the podcast.

Android:

Android apps begin at the (23:10) mark of the podcast.

best new appsAndroid Pay by Google, Inc.free.

Google has replaced the Google Wallet app (although you may not have noticed, since they just released a different Google Wallet app) with Android Pay. So what is Android Pay exactly? Well, not to be glib, but it’s Apple Pay… on an Android. Let’s face it, the future of paying for things involves getting rid of your regular wallet, so this is a solid start.

In addition to supporting your major credit cards through your bank, Android Pay is also designed to handle your rewards cards and gift cards. Once loaded, just tap your phone on the NFC payment terminal, and you’re ready to go! It’s still a little bit limited, with updates expected through the year. You’ll also need to have your screen locked with a passcode for it to work… but you should be doing this already!

best new appsMicrosoft Send by Microsoft Corp.free. (BETA)

Microsoft released it’s latest Garage Project email app Send for iOS in July, and now it’s available for Android in beta. Seeking to combine the best parts of text messaging with the best parts of email, to streamline your email process.

Essentially, this app is designed to make sending that quick email to someone in your address book much easier than opening up your email app, and… you get it. Basically, like text messaging for people whose phone number you don’t know.

best new appsGoogle My Business by Google, Inc.free. (Update)

The Android version of the Google My Business App (by… Google) received a significant overhaul last month, with accompanying iOS update expected soon. The basic premise for the app is to allow you to manage your business’s local info on Google Maps. Don’t think this applies to a law firm? Then you haven’t been paying attention!

The update itself is designed to allow easier edits and updates to your company’s profile. Additionally, you can now view your business’s profile on Google Search, Maps or Google+ (assuming you care… I don’t) with a single tap. Most importantly, they’ve significantly upgraded the insights and feedback for your respective pages.

best new appsPixPass by Vijay Sharmafree.

If you haven’t had digital security on your mind lately, you haven’t been watching the news. Just this past week we’ve learned that one of the companies that’s supposed to protect your credit, Experian, lost 15 million people’s data to a hacker. Oh, and ScottTrade just lost 5 million users’ data to a hacker. Well, they just announced it… turns out they didn’t even know that they were hacked in 2013 until the FBI told them.

Anyway, that leads me to why the hell you don’t use better passwords. Well, because secure passwords are hard to remember, memorable passwords are not secure. PixPass wants to help you change that by using images to generate cryptographically strong passwords. It generates a secure password, and links the password to an image for you to remember.

It’s actually a very interesting and innovative approach!

best new appsFax Plus by Softxpert, Inc.free (transmission rates starting at $0.39 per page).

For most of the business world, the idea of converting to electronic fax doesn’t make much sense – most of modern business hasn’t used a non-electronic fax in a decade. Not us lawyers! Nope, we have a special affinity for our fax machines. It’s partially because the applicable federal and state rules (not to mention privacy laws like HIPPA) love fax machines too!

Fax Plus wants to help you bridge the gap between your fax machine and your mobile device. A gap, if you haven’t noticed, which is widening considerably. All you have to do is take a picture of a document, or use a stored PDF file, and link it to a fax number. For a flat fee, you can then fax the document anywhere in the world.

It’s a pretty basic app, but I’m a fan of that kind of thing.

Honorable Mention:

Move to iOS by Apple, Inc.free.

Drivemode by Drivemode, Inc.free.

For more info, check out the podcast.

Windows Phone:

Windows Phone apps begin at the (31:46) mark of the podcast.

best new appsSlack by Slack Technologies, Inc.free.

Slack, the cross-platform collaboration system that has become the darling of small business in the past few months, has finally released their app for Windows Phone. While this technically is a Beta test, they’re rapidly adding new features and fixes as the month has gone along.

The app allows file sharing, group messaging, private messaging, all managed in a central environment. For group collaboration on projects, or just to make sure everyone is in contact and on the same page, particularly in remote locations, Slack is a great system. The only major feature missing from the Windows Phone app (but is expected soon) is the traditional search feature.

Honorable Mention:

None this month!

For more info, check out the podcast.