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Summer is nearly upon us! As Memorial Day passes into the rear-view, let’s take stock of what an amazing month May was for a lot of apps that will fit quite well into your law practice.
Here are the best new apps for lawyers released or updated in May 2016:
Multi-platform apps begin at the (4:19) mark of the podcast.
To start things off, let’s look at some major updates to Google’s Holy Trinity of Free Productivity Systems: Docs, Sheets, and Slides. First, all users will now have their most recent entries for all three systems automatically saved for off-line viewing. Sure, you could do this on your own before, but just like auto-recover is almost always more recent than the last time you saved your file, always downloaded is better than available when you remembered to download.
Users of Google Sheets, on both iOS and Android, will now be able to view images and drawings within the spreadsheets. For those giving presentations in the near future, Slides has a couple pretty awesome upgrades too. First, “Slides Q&A” is now available on mobile. Q&A allows the audience to post questions to you without interrupting your presentation, and then allows others attending the presentation to up- or down-vote the question.
For iOS users, you’ll be happy to know that ALL THREE of the apps are now 3D Touch enabled, allowing you to open your recent files directly from the home screen.
If you’re using ProtonMail, odds are you value the privacy and security protections afforded by its end-to-end encryption. In general, you probably value the privacy and security of your communications, right? Well, you’re going to love this month’s updates.
ProtonMail, one of the first email apps offering complete end-to-end encryption (and based in Switzerland, so you know they take privacy seriously), has a pretty solid system for protecting your communications. One of the weak points, however, was the basic physical security of your own device. Last month’s update helps address that concern – all users now have the ability to add a 4-digit pass code to the ProtonMail inbox, and the ability to set an auto-lock after a designated amount of time. They’ve also added support for Password Managers. All-in, some serious security boosts.
iOS users get a few extra toys as well, including Touch ID integration (that has a few security concerns of its own) and the ability to send attachments from iCloud and third-party storage apps directly into your encrypted messages.
Collaboration and efficient communication remain the hot thing in technology (despite reservations that some people have about never actually having time to work if you’re always collaborating… but I digress). Spaces is just Google’s most recent foray into that area, with Google Drive pretty much having kicked off the whole cloud-based collaboration software race a few years back.
Using spaces, you can quickly create a space designed for sharing information with a small group. Create a space for a topic, invite colleagues, collaborators, friends, family, or whomever with an emailed link, and share both files and information. Spaces has integration with Google Search (for inserting web content into your Spaces posts), Photos (for… photos), and YouTube (for… cat videos) built right in.
Members of the individual Spaces can comment on individual posts, and receive notifications for new activity. Along with an impressively rapid in-app search tool, Spaces is a great new app for sharing and collaborating with a small group, and quickly.
For more info, check out the podcast.
iOS apps begin at the (12:04) mark of the podcast.
Remember by Stephane Nguyen, free.
As I say at nearly every bar function or neighborhood block party – the American culture really screws up the idea of “meeting” new people. We give our names first, then give all the information that you need to have in order to remember the name. Context is EVERYTHING!
In professional networking, it’s even more important. Why? Because forgetting someone’s name, or that you met them at a certain place, has more than just social ramifications – it can impact your business. So you need all the help you can get. The new app Remember has an intriguing approach:
You meet someone, and enter their name, their contact information, and some other basic info about them into Remember. But that’s just the beginning! Right away, you can add follow-up reminders. Simple fare, right? Well, did you enter an email or phone number? If so, Remember is searching the web for social media profiles, websites, and organizations your new friend is connected to. Oh, and just so you’re not caught off-guard, the Geofencing alerts will remind you about all the people you’ve met at a place whenever you arrive there.
Email by EasilyDo, Inc., free.
This is what happens when companies other than Apple, Google, and Microsoft start getting good at the whole “digital assistant” thing. We are witnessing the rise of the truly intelligent apps, designed using state of the art algorithms that know you better than you do. If that idea doesn’t cause you any discomfort, allow me to introduce you to Email by EasilyDo.
That’s right, the maker of the EasilyDo digital assistant has created a smart email app – and it’s really freaking smart! It has the basics – unified inbox, customizable snoozing, and works with most email systems (not Exchange yet, but that’s apparently in the works). The most interesting part is the “smart” elements – they’re called “Intelligent Folders.” For example, Email will sort and locate all of your travel emails, and display important information – such as flight number, times, and seats – in a card.
If you’re curious, check out the podcast, because that’s where I’ll tell you about how truly smart this app is. There just isn’t space here!
CRM by Hubspot, Inc., free.
As I’ve shown time and time again, I’m a sucker for anyone who claims to have actually put together a CRM system that’s not going to cost me an arm and a leg. If you’re at all familiar with Hubspot, you probably know them as either (or both) the company with a nearly tyrannical leadership team, or the company who wrote all the How-To guides on being engaged on social media as a business.
Well, they’re also deeply involved in sales, and client relationships are critical. Hubspot CRM is a free (that’s right, FREE) CRM system, and this is its mobile app! View your contacts, their companies, your team, your partners, deals and pending tasks, and review and edit them from anywhere. Want to see the recent history of your relationship with the client in your lobby? Check out the timeline. Need to make – and track – phone calls and emails from a deposition in another state? It’s covered.
If you’re looking for a CRM, you can’t do much better than free, so give CRM by Hubspot a try!
Gboard by Google, Inc., free.
One of the best things Apple did with iOS was to open up their system to third-party keyboards. (Yes, I get it, I’m giving them praise for undoing something stupid, deal with it.) A number of third-party keyboards have been released, but don’t really offer much interesting. However, times may be a-changin’. Last month saw the release of Microsoft’s Word Flow keyboard, designed for the one-hand-typing of our modern age. This month, we have Google’s entry – Gboard.
With all the things you’d expect of a solid keyboard – lots of Emoji, predictive typing – Gboard also brings what has been standard fare at Android to iOS. Specifically, built-in Glide Typing and animated GIFs. But the real prize is the Google Search button. Search for anything: restaurants, antidotes to ancient poison, the perfect GIF for your long-lost ex, whatever. Heck, you can even search for the best Emoji to put in a text.
It’s lacking some of the intuitive functions of the Word Flow keyboard, and unless you’re using a 6S (or have smaller hands than I do), you might find the Google buttons to be a little too small. But it’s a damn cool keyboard!
Summit by Shaila Shenoy, free.
News apps are a dime a dozen, right? They all offer to collect your articles and show them to you in a pleasing way, blah blah blah. While I do agree with the general position of that statement, there are always exceptions. Summit is one of them.
Summit is a summary-based news app, that extracts the key points from the news article using modern natural language processing tools via its proprietary algorithm. Probably the best part of Summit, even accounting for its ridiculously smart natural language algorithm, is the context you get along with your articles. Maps, infographics, and other images help you get a better understanding of the news you’re reading, all without taking your whole day just to keep current!
Workflow by DeskConnect, Inc., $2.99 (Update).
YouTube by Google, Inc., free (Update).
TaxiLater by Joshua Meier, free.
iAnnotate 4 by Branchfire, Inc., $9.99.
For more info, check out the podcast.
Android apps begin at the (27:17) mark of the podcast.
Dark Sky by The Dark Sky Company, LLC, free (premium subscription $3/year).
Long one of the true cult favorite apps on iOS, the former Kickstarter campaign Dark Sky is finally arriving on Android. What does it do? Well, it’s a weather app. Wait, don’t leave, this one is actually unique! While you get the traditional weather forecast, including 5-day predictive forecasts, where Dark Sky is really amazing is it’s short term information.
Using unique radar images, unbeatable accuracy, and hyper-localized results, Dark Sky will tell you – to the minute – when it’s going to rain. It’ll also tell you exactly how much to expect (within the next hour – come on people you can’t expect much more)! With three available widgets (5-day forecast, one-day forecast, one-hour forecast – with the aforementioned rainfall prediction), this is a fun and useful app when you need to know what the weather is going to be like in the next hour or so.
Evernote by Evernote, Inc., free (Update).
Still pretty much the Swiss Army Knife of note-taking apps, Evernote released a massive update to its Android platform last month. Focusing primarily on the creation and manipulation of photos and documents within the app, lawyers and legal professionals can likely find a lot of uses for these new features.
First up – image annotation. Take a photo or upload an image into Evernote, users are now able to annotate that image with arrows, text, rectangular outlines, and freehand sketches. You can even blur areas of the picture based on your selections. Next – Automatic scanning. Long available on iOS, Android users now get one of Evernote’s most useful tools (other than the Web Clipper, of course). When you point your Android device’s camera at a document, Evernote determines the size and type, takes the picture, and crops the resulting image (which can then be annotated, as discussed above).
Other updates include support for strikethrough, superscript, and subscript within the app, and Premium Account users can now use the camera to automatically detect business cards and are able to annotate PDFs just like images (as previously discussed).
Translate by Google, Inc., free (Update).
You know, if Google keeps doing things like this, it’s going to be really hard to dislike them even after they make themselves immortal and conquer the world. While I could certainly be talking about any of their amazing tools, today I refer to “Tap to Translate” – the new feature released in the most recent upgrade to Translate for Android.
“Tap to Translate” allows a user to highlight any text – in any app on their Android device – and use Google Translator to read it. Highlight the text and a little icon pops up. Tap the icon and get your translation. Right there, within any app on your device, including messaging apps. As a companion tool, you will also be able to translate text from your primary language back into the foreign language you’re reading. If I’d had this in college, I certainly wouldn’t have gotten a D+ in French… I’m just not sure whether I’d have done better or worse.
Lens Launcher by Nick Rout, free.
There’s really no denying that one of the major advantages that Android has over iOS is the sheer amount of customization options available. Nowhere is this gap more evident than in the numerous launchers and skins available for Android, allowing users to have a completely customized setup for viewing, locating, and activating apps. Lens Launcher is an incredibly interesting take on this level of customization.
An “App Drawer on Steroids,” Lens Launcher uses two primary displays: an Equispaced Grid, displaying all apps regardless of size or count, and a Graphical Fisheye Lens through which you roam your app drawer. There are numerous customization options, including adjustable animations for when your finger is touching the display, adjusting the size of the icons, and even modifying the amount of distortion. If you’re looking for a cool, interesting way to explore your app collection and launch apps from your home screen, check this one out!
Calendar by Google, Inc., free (Update).
Yes, another Google app is on this list. Last month, Google upgraded Calendars to create Smart Titles – a feature that, regardless whether you think it was necessary, I guarantee it’s a time saver. This month, Calendars gets two cool new features, both of which bring Google’s amazing “Smart Apps” and detailed algorithms right to your phone.
The first is the “Goals” feature. Add a personal goal, like to “exercise more.” Answer a few questions, such as “how often?” and “what is the best time?” and Calendar searches your schedule for the best window. Add a conflicting event? No problem, Google re-schedules. (Ha, you thought getting out of exercising would be easy, didn’t you?!?) As you complete your goals, Calendar learns the best times to schedule your Goals, and will give you even better schedules in the future.
The second feature is “Find a Time,” an intelligent group-scheduling tool. Only available to Google Apps for Business (or Google Apps for Education) users, “Find a Time” is for scheduling a meeting time that works for everyone – even across time zones. Just create an event and identify the invitees, and Calendar provides a list of suggested times based on a combination of the invitees’ availability and when they usually conduct meetings. No times available? Calendar will analyze the conflicting events to find which can most easily be rescheduled.
Currently, users who don’t fully trust Google can view the calendars of all invitees, which might suggest that this feature will always be a business-only feature. After all, there’s still a few people who value the privacy of their personal calendars!
Notifly by Flyperinc, free (w/ in-app purchases).
Skype by Microsoft Corp., free (Update).
Voisi Recorder & Transcriber by VoisiCard, free (w/ in-app purchases).
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.