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As the food coma from Thanksgiving wore off, I glanced at my collected research for the best new apps from this past November. Holy crap, we’ve returned to what happened in August and September – a TON of new apps with applications for lawyers!
Well, I was about to set upon my task, when a case of walking pneumonia – a silly name for an illness that makes walking a wobbly experience – came to visit. However, the illness has mostly passed, so it’s time to get to work!
Here are my best new apps for lawyers released in November 2015:
Multi-platform apps begin at the (1:06) mark of the podcast.
There are a few companies that are going to be mentioned on this list anytime they create a new app, simply because of how important the company’s product is to lawyers. LinkedIn is one of those companies (see the next entry on this list), and so is Dragon Dictation. Although not because of how used it is (quite a lot), but because of how much more it needs to be used!
Dragon Anywhere is a mobile add-on to your Dragon tools. Provided you have a stable internet connection, Dragon Anywhere gives you cloud-based adaptive speech recognition right on your smartphone. (Translation: You can dictate, and your phone will actually know what the hell you’re saying!)
There are a lot of cool tricks you can do with this app that I discuss in greater detail in the podcast. Suffice it to say, if you’re the type that does a lot of dictating while you’re away from your office, this is a wise investment.
As I said earlier – and have said about two or three dozen times – whenever LinkedIn creates or overhauls an app, it’s going to appear on this list. That’s because if you’re a lawyer, you’re on LinkedIn. This entry is the latter of those situations – a complete (and long-awaited) overhaul of LinkedIn’s flagship app.
While LinkedIn is great for making connections in your field, it also has a lot of great content shared by similar-minded professionals all over the world. The problem always was that their app was really bad at letting you find that content. No more. LinkedIn now goes with the “less-is-more” approach that, in my opinion, will make the app much more usable.
The app is now neatly divided into a 4-part system: Home, Messages, My Network, and Search. Home is where you’ll arrive when you enter, and where you’ll find a curated news feed with relevant info and recommendations. The Messages section eliminates the (terrible!!!) Inbox, which is replaced with the less formal (and private) chat system. The other two sections are pretty self-explanatory.
Part of the continuing mission (hopefully not a 25 year mission like 1701-D) of this blog has been to help lawyers eliminate the legal pad. The best way I’ve been able to approach that goal is through note taking apps like Microsoft’s OneNote. Well, last month, they released a significant update.
iOS users of OneNote will now be able to add audio recordings to notes – a feature available to Android users for some time now. This will be of great use to lawyers who like to record preliminary thoughts from the road or keep audio recordings of meetings. Now they’ll be organized! OneNote is also now a “3D Touch Enabled” app (a continuing theme this month), allowing users to open an option list right from their home screen without entering the app itself.
Android users aren’t left out, either, with the addition of the OneNote badge. While using your device, you can enable a floating “badge” that lets you quickly jot a note while in another app, browser, or media player. No need to switch apps (and potentially deal with app refreshing that makes you lose your place!).
If you ever wondered what happened to that YouSendIt company (that was such an amazing tool), it became Hightail. This app, called either Spaces or Hightail Spaces, depending where you look, is just another example of how Hightail is expanding out of simple file sharing and into the business collaboration realm.
Spaces is a team collaboration tool. They’re a dime a dozen, these days though, right? Add comments to documents and PDFs, everything seems to do that nowadays. Well, they don’t allow you to add comments to photos, images, and videos, do they? Spaces does! The comments are threaded and files can be uploaded from your device, email, or Dropbox.
How is this useful for lawyers? Well, it’s quite useful when you start thinking of images as something other than just photos. Ever write a plan on a whiteboard? Take a photo and share it for commentary. Do you use a mind-mapping app? Take a screenshot and share it with your team. Or do use it for video, getting your co-workers’ feedback on your new marketing video before you upload it to YouTube!
For more info, check out the podcast.
iOS apps begin at the (13:57) mark of the podcast.
Evernote by Evernote, Inc., free. (Update)
My go-to app for note taking and organizing saved information, Evernote released a significant update last month with two significant new features.
The first is the ability to create sketches right within Evernote itself. Previously, you could create a sketch with the companion app Penultimate, but importing wasn’t always seamless. Sketches (or just handwritten notes) can be done with Apple Pencil, Jot Stylus, or your finger, and includes 3D Touch Enabled options. Probably the best part of this update is that handwritten notes entered in any sketch will be searchable, thanks to Evernote’s handwriting recognition tools.
The second part of the update makes Evernote split-screen compatible if your device supports the feature. As we’ve seen with several other note-taking apps, developers are taking seriously the need for users to be able to take notes while reading/viewing/watching what they’re taking notes about. This addition was essential for Evernote to remain a major player in this group.
Cortana by Microsoft Corp., free.
Relax, it’s only in beta… and you’ll need to be approved, but if you are, you can bring the glory of Microsoft’s Cortana to your iPhone!
So why is Cortana, the Siri- and Google Now-esque voice assistant something that iOS users will want? It’s not quite as full-featured as Siri, and actually compares better with Google Now. However, don’t forget that Microsoft Windows 10 just launched. And Cortana is prominently featured. Oh, and the important part: you can sync your account data between platforms.
So when you teach Cortana about your interests and your preferences, they carry over to your phone. That includes things like calendar and reminder settings! While you’re not allowed to replace Siri, like you can with Google Now on Android devices, who knows what the future will hold?
PPT Control Pro by Guohua Gao, $3.99.
Ah, PowerPoint. The Achilles Heel of lawyers everywhere. Most don’t know how to use it to create excellent presentations, and even those that do frequently lack the tools to make the presentation look like the slick ones at TED Conferences.
Well, I can’t help you with the first part (right now, but not a bad idea for a webinar), but PPT Control Pro is a tool designed to at least make you look like you’re a slick professional when you present. This app turns your iPhone into a PowerPoint or Keynote remote control. Focusing on simplicity, it’s easy to use, and will even automatically detect and link to your computer. That’s right, you won’t need to call your IT guy (even though a lot of you still will).
Wunderlist by 6 Wunderkinder, GmbH (Microsoft Corp.), free. (Update)
For reasons passing understanding, Microsoft hasn’t taken complete control of Wunderlist yet, despite buying it in June. Oh well, all it really means is I have to list the developer as you see above. However, Microsoft decided that Wunderlist did need a complete overhaul, and that’s what you get with this update.
Already one of the top task management apps on the market (I’ve been critical of their approach only in that it doesn’t work for me), this update gives Wunderlist a sleek new interface. Your lists are now front and center, replacing what was an outsized picture of your face (it’s about time). Wunderlist is alson 3D Touch Enabled, giving you access to the Quick Add feature right from your home screen.
For more info on the Wunderlist update, check out the podcast.
UnRoll.me by UnRoll.me, free.
It’s the unicorn of the business world. How many emails do you get every day? How many of those are newsletters or subscriptions or automatically generated emails that you don’t read? Or that you might read? For me, it’s too many, and I know people with a lot more than I have. You really need to check out UnRoll.me.
De-clutter your inbox with a swipe. Automatically unsubscribe from an email list by swiping to the left (now the non-Tinder generation can get some meaning from “swipe left”) or add the email to your “Rollup” by swiping right. What is your “Rollup”? Well, its a once-daily digest of the regular emails that you identify you want to keep, but don’t want to see in your inbox. You even get to designate what time of day your Rollup is sent!
Firefox by Mozilla, Inc., free.
For more info, check out the podcast.
Android apps begin at the (26:58) mark of the podcast.
Work Chat by Facebook, Inc., free.
A few months back, Facebook announced that they were creating Facebook at Work, an enterprise social media network. It’s about to come out of beta, and Facebook already indicates that it has several major customers already onboard, ranging from small companies to multi-nationals. So, in keeping with their philosophy, they’ve released a standalone chat app for Facebook at Work – Work Chat.
If your company has Facebook at Work, you’ll be able to send and receive messages from other individuals, set up group chats, share photos and videos, and make voice calls right from the Work Chat app. The more important application for lawyers, however, is that this is yet another set of communications that you and your clients need to be aware of in discovery. Make sure your clients understand their preservation obligations, or this could get messy!
The debate about encrypted apps and software rages on. Several governments are seeking backdoors into software, France is apparently trying to ban TOR, the anonymous web browser, and at least one country wants to ban WhatsApp completely.
Regardless your position on these issues, there’s no question that lawyers need to have secure communication with their clients. So why not use the tool that Edward Snowden uses? Text and images are encrypted before they leave your device, and decrypted on the other end (that’s end-to-end encryption for those who don’t know), meaning even the Open Whisper Systems employees don’t have access to your communication. Chat in real time and even create group chats – all encrypted.
And you thought Work Chat was a discovery nightmare.
Google Drive by Google, Inc., free. (Update)
Collaboration is becoming more and more important for lawyers and law firms, particularly those interested in establishing robust project management. (If you’re not interested in project management, you should be.) Thankfully for users of Google Drive, last month’s update focused almost entirely on making collaboration easier.
In order to collaborate, first you need to share something. Google Drive used to make this a fairly annoying process. Not anymore. Gone are the days of email notifications and email authorization – when you had to wait for the person you were collaborating with to confirm your access via email. Now, notifications are pushed through the app and access management is all controlled from within the app.
Snap by fbarrosodev, free.
One of the ways that Android has always had an advantage over iOS is via customized widgets. Little tools placed on your home screen that took you to exactly where you wanted to go. Until there were 75 of them. As with anything, too much of a good thing can be a real pain in the ass.
Snap wants to clean that up a bit, while also making those same widgets even more accessible. Snap allows you to place widgets into a “drawer” that goes into your notification bar. Why there? Because not only will your home screen be a little less chaotic, you’ll now be able to access your widgets from within any app! All you need to do is choose a widget, select how much size it’ll take up, and you’re done!
For some tips on how lawyers can benefit from Snap, check out the Podcast.
Chrome Browser by Google, Inc., free. (Update)
For whatever reason (there are several, actually), I never really got into the Chrome browser. However, I seem to be in the minority, particularly on mobile devices. Everyone I know uses Chrome on their phones and tablets. And for them, November included an update with potentially huge upside.
Now, on your Chrome Browser, you can enable a “Data Saver” mode. Particularly useful when you’re at the end of your monthly data or in an area with really poor service, Data Saver will load webpages without loading the images. The result – much faster loading of web pages and much less data used! You can even selectively load images on any page once the image-free page has loaded completely.
PAUSE by ustwo, Inc., $1.99.
Texpand by Isaias Matewos, free (or $3 for unlimited version).
Alto Mail by AOL, Inc., free.
For more info, check out the podcast.
Windows Phone apps begin at the (39:55) mark of the podcast.
Box by Box, Inc., free w/ Box account. (Update)
If your law firm isn’t using cloud storage nowadays, you’re… well… way behind the times. One of the most popular services available is Box (especially for those interested in Box’s HIPPA Compliant rating). Last month, Box released a huge update for it’s Windows-based apps.
All Box apps on Windows 10 devices (desktops, laptops, mobile devices) are universal. What you can do with one you not only can do with the others, but it will all act and interact the same way. One major beneficiary of this update is Box’s collaboration tools, which will be universal across devices, ensuring that nobody is left out of major changes to documents or important notes and comments.
Windows has always had a problem with clutter. The most visible of this is your desktop right now. Don’t even bother denying it, your computer desktop is a freaking mess. Worse, Windows systems have always collected lost of little bits of data, bogging down your device and reducing your available space. Oh, and YOU’RE a pack rat too. How many of the same picture do you have saved? We know, we do to.
Well, the Storage Cleaner app is designed for you. With a sleek interface and user-friendly design, Storage Cleaner will clear your device’s cache (temporary files, basically), to free up more space. More importantly, it will identify duplicate photos and even large files, allowing you to delete items you accidentally downloaded twice.
There, now you have more room to clog up with the duplicates you download in the future!
GoPro by GoPro, Inc., free.
Facebook by Facebook, Inc., free. (Update)
For more info, check out the podcast.