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Well, what a crazy month January has been! Hopefully everyone made it through ok! This month wasn’t quite as much of a blockbuster month for apps, but there are still plenty of good ones to talk about.
Here are my best new apps for lawyers released in January 2016:
Multi-platform apps begin at the (1:28) mark of the podcast.
Ok, the updates to Outlook across all platforms last month are so significant, I’m not going to waste any space with chit-chat:
On iOS and Android devices, you can now schedule or join a Skype call directly from the Outlook app. Your calendar description will automatically include a link to the event, and can access the call directly via the link in their app. Navigation improvements and the three-day view have also been added. Don’t like Outlook’s contacts? You can push your contacts directly to your device’s native contacts app.
iOS users are able to create an Outlook calendar widget in the Notification center, so scheduling doesn’t necessarily require opening the app. Additionally, users can now print directly using AirPrint printers, and Outlook is officially 3D Touch compatible.
Android users are now able to save files and attachments directly from your inbox and cloud services to your device’s local storage.
Even Windows Phone users don’t miss out, with a new Year view and improved email rendering via better image scaling.
Yep, I had to pile these apps all in together. It’s becoming trendy for the companies responsible for these big productivity suites to release significant updates rather frequently these days, which is fine by me. So what did Google do to improve some of Microsoft’s best competition?
Another trend – collaboration, which is the theme for this particular Google apps update. Across all platforms, users can share files and loop other people into a discussion simply by adding their name to a comment. If the new people don’t have access, Google will prompt the creator to allow access.
On Google Docs, users will now have the comment button pop up instantly when they select text, making commenting on shared documents much easier. Importantly, Google Sheets and Slides officially join the collaboration age, as the comment feature long available for Docs is now available to all users of the apps, across all platforms.
Since Google Drive is already one of the best collaboration platforms on the market, this round of updates demonstrates that Google’s setting its sights on Microsoft.
For more info, check out the podcast.
iOS apps begin at the (7:15) mark of the podcast.
Airmail by Bloop S.R.L., $4.99
Most apps that set out to improve your experience with some basic productivity task do so with one slick, killer feature. While the features tend to be pretty cool, that myopic focus on one feature can leave the rest of the app lacking. Even worse, you can get stuck with what some developer thinks is the best organizational structure for the app.
Airmail, on the other hand, wants its greatest feature to be that it has no great feature. What it does offer is options. Endless customization. Oftentimes too many choices can be a detriment, but it seems that Airmail may have successfully navigated that issue. It handles the basics – multiple accounts, notifications, filters, folders. It seems normal, except that…
Most of the actions you can perform in Airmail can be changed to suit your preferences. For example, if you think swiping left is a stupid way to delete an email, change it so that swiping left sends a reply. Don’t like inbox filtering? Turn it off. People have different preferences when it comes to managing email, and Airmail is one of the few apps that allows different users to get the most out of their email.
Interact by Agile Tortoise, $4.99.
Ah, contact management, my old foil. We meet again. If you’re like me, the basic contact systems just don’t cut it. They’re either lacking certain essential functions (seriously, if “Mailing Address” isn’t an option, you’re system isn’t for lawyers!) or isolated and hard to update.
Interact can help with that. It’s not a full-fledged system the way FullContact is, but rather it’s a Contacts app on steroids. With great features for grouping your contacts together, you’re also able to rearrange the order of contact credentials (if I see “Webpage” put between email and phone number in another app… !) to make more sense.
The power feature, though, is the Scratchpad. Take notes or copy details in any plain text format and add the information to a contact. Great feature if you’re into networking!
News Pro by Microsoft Corp., free.
Something about a curated news feed just makes you feel special. Selected news topics and stories based on your interests, sent right to your phone. Well, Microsoft’s vaunted Garage Project has yet another entry on this list with NewsPro, a news app that uses all of the clubs in Microsoft’s bag to give you that special feeling!
Leveraging Bing news and connections to your LinkedIn and Facebook accounts, News Pro gives you the news based on your particular profession and interests. While it allows you to select other topics of interest, early reports indicate that for professionals who need to keep up-to-date with their particular industry, News Pro is an app you shouldn’t miss.
Unhand Me by Tantsissa, $1.99.
One of the most useful security apps available is Find My iPhone, which allows you to track and remotely wipe your device if it’s ever lost or stolen. Unfortunately, it’s only useful once you’ve already lost your phone, which kind of sucks.
Jumping in to try and fill that little space of time before your phone is actually lost is this fun new app. Unhand Me is basically an app designed to keep other people from messing with your phone. By default, when an unauthorized person picks up your phone, Unhand Me triggers your phone to should “Unhand me, you beast!” and lets out a scream.
Interesting Apple Watch functionality exists too that probably makes this app more useful, but the whole premise is damn awesome.
Cubes by Inbox Cube, Inc., free.
For more info, check out the podcast.
Android apps begin at the (16:59) mark of the podcast.
Wildcard by Coopkanics, Inc., free.
Ever feel like news apps are either a slow drip of nothing or a firehose of incomplete or incomprehensible stories? Wildcard wants to fix that for you. At it’s most basic, Wildcard is a news app. Curated by Wildcard’s human staff, you’ll get the top stories, direct to your phone…
… and in an understandable, useful format. Each story gets its own card. Tap on the card to see a short summary and varying source link. Hold a bit longer to get more and more of the story. You can tap the link and go to the story’s source, or read the entire story within the app.
Trackendar by Sick Martian, free.
Most of the task management tools that I discuss on this site tend to be simply about keeping your tasks, well, managed. Trackendar is a bit different. It’s not a calendar or a scheduler, but rather something for tracking your day and keeping your life managed.
You log occurrences (simple events like reading or basic tasks), habits (exercising or performing the less interesting parts of your to-do list), and values (which is like occurrences but with a numeric value). Aside from allowing you to keep track of basic things that you’ve accomplished during your day (hello attorney time tracking!), it allows you to see your past accomplishments and upcoming tasks in a sleek, easy-to-use format.
Another plus, the developer appears to be incredibly responsive to comments in the Play Store. Not something you see every day.
Chrooma Keyboard by GameLounge, $1.49.
One of the biggest advantages that Android has had over iOS is the availability of a wide variety of third-party keyboards to use on your mobile device. While Apple has finally started allowing them, the innovation is primarily happening on Android. You won’t find a much better example than Chrooma.
As with most third-party keyboards, you get options. On Chrooma, that includes an optional number row, the ability to adjust the size of the keyboard overall, and is swipe-enabled by default. Chrooma’s key feature, though, is all about looks. The Chrooma keyboard will change colors to fit the design of the app you’re using, making it much easier on the eyes.
That’s not it’s only trick though. You can choose between having one flat color, or having each of your row of keys a different gradient. Another amazing feature is the Night Mode, which automatically adjusts color tones according to ambient light. Oh, and they’re constantly upgrading it.
As the long-running gold standard for office productivity software, any significant update to any of Microsoft’s “Big Four” (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook) are going to get mentioned here. Well, January saw some significant improvements made in all four – you already saw the upgrades to Outlook. Well the Android versions of the other three received attention as well:
Microsoft Word for Android now allows users to utilize the Smart Lookup tool that is a featured addition to the Office 2016 products. Within a document, get relevant definitions, pictures, and more directly through Bing!’s search engine.
Microsoft Excel for Android now includes instant access to table styles, for making visual adjustments on the go. Additional pasting options allow you to paste a formula, or just the value or format, of a copied cell. New sharing options via WeChat and QQ apps has been added as well.
Microsoft PowerPoint for Android also received the update for sharing, plus one of my favorite tools – embedded media playback right inside the presentation itself.
Notepad by Splend Apps, free.
For more info, check out the podcast.
Windows Phone apps begin at the (26:26) mark of the podcast.
For Windows Phone users who are fans of the task management system ToDoist (a favorite of ours here at TCA), you now have a fully functional app to go along with it! Channeling the success of the app Trello, Boards for ToDoist uses a Kanban view to visualize your tasks and projects as cards – a great tool for visually-inclined people.
Although it’s being labelled as “experimental,” Boards allows you to do everything you would do on ToDoist, and syncs it directly to your ToDoist account. Assign tasks, leave comments, upload attachments, assign work, add new tasks using natural language, and more. With the inclusion of an offline option, this app is a must-have for Windows Phone users who have found the native task management systems lacking.
Dropbox by Dropbox, Inc., free (Update).
As we’ve already discussed, collaboration is definitely in vogue among small businesses, so the Dropbox app for Windows Phone was finally updated to match its iOS and Android relatives.
Add comments directly to shared files for better communication, bring others into the conversation with “@ mentions,” and quickly find important information and changes with quick search. These updates may not set the world on fire, but it’s nice to see Windows Phone catching up a bit!
Microsoft Authenticator by Microsoft Corp., free (Beta).
For more info, check out the podcast.
About the Author
Brian Focht is a civil litigation attorney and technology enthusiast. In addition to being the author of The Cyber Advocate, he is also the producer and host of the Legal Technology Review podcast, and co-founder of B&R Concepts, a small business technology consulting company.