December 20, 2014

Tom Mighell: Spring Cleaning During the Summer – Taking Out the Junk

Editor’s Note: This post is the third in a series about maintaining technology and improving functionality.

I’ll finish my “Spring Cleaning During the Summer” series by talking about what’s inside your computer, now that we’ve done our best to clean the outside.  If you’re like me, you’ve installed a lot of programs that you no longer use, and you probably also have a lot of junk on your computer that you don’t even know is there.  For example, when you open an attachment to an email, Windows is very helpful (sarcasm intended) when it saves a copy of that attachment in a temporary file.  If you aren’t regularly cleaning out that Temp folder, you’ll be very surprised all the junk that’s being stored there.  Here are a couple of suggestions on how to keep the junk off your hard drive.

Delete What You Don’t Need.  If you have programs you don’t use anymore, I recommend you not use the Uninstall Programs feature of Windows – it does a decent job, but I find that stray directories and registry entries are often left behind.  Instead, I use Revo Uninstaller (free, or $39.25 for more features), which does a fantastic job of thoroughly removing a program from your computer.  It uses the program’s own uninstall process to remove the basic files.  Then it does a deep cleaning of your registry and file structure, and gives you the ability to delete all the files and items it finds.  I run Revo Uninstaller at least every month or two, especially if I have installed new programs I don’t use or like during that time.

Keeping Up to Date.  It’s also important to regularly update the programs you do have, but it can be a pain to have to keep visiting all the software sites to see if an update is available.  Most programs have a “Check for Update” feature under the Help or About menu, but that can also be time-consuming.  Instead, check out UpdateStar ($34.95), a program that scans all of your software, and regularly reports back if there’s an updated version.  You can download many programs directly from UpdateStar – it’s an incredibly convenient way of updating your software.

Time for a Deep Clean.  I’ve mentioned CCleaner (Free) a bunch on this blog and in presentations, and there’s a reason for that – it is an amazing computer cleaner.  I will run CCleaner after running Revo Uninstaller, just in case it happened to miss a stray file – CCleaner has its own Registry Cleaner which will scan for obsolete or unneeded registry entries and get rid of them for good.  CCleaner will also empty your Recycle Bin, and remove files from those pesky hidden temporary files that get created whenever you open attachments to an email.  You can also use CCleaner to do a more thorough cleaning, to make sure that the empty space on your hard drive (otherwise known as the slack space) is completely wiped of any residual programs, documents, or other data.

Put Everything Together Again.  Sometimes files or parts of a program get a little separated from each other on your hard drive.  The closer things are on your hard drive, the faster and better your drive performs.  That’s why it’s important to “defragment” your hard drive on a regular basis. If you’re using Windows 7, you already have a defragger built in – just go to “Search Programs and Files” on the Start Menu, type in defrag, and the Disk Defragmenter window appears; you can then configure your schedule, or start the defrag process right then.  If you aren’t using Windows 7, then check out this page of ten disk defragmenter software programs.  One of my favorite tools, PerfectDisk, is listed at #2 – it’s a great option.

And that’s it!  I do all of these things once a month, and at the most once every two months, and my computer is in pretty good shape.  Try it for yourself.

Tom Mighell is a Senior Consultant with Contoural, Inc., where he helps companies address their records management, electronic discovery, and litigation readiness issues. Tom has followed technology trends for more than twenty years, and works with lawyers to help them use technology in ways that provide great service to their clients. He writes about technology topics, as well as the latest in law practice management tips, tricks, and resources at Inter Alia, where this post originally appeared on August 29, 2011.

Tom Mighell: The iPad for Lawyers – All About Apps

In the first post in this series, I made the argument for investigating whether the iPad can add value to the way you provide service to your clients. Today, in hopes of persuading those of you with lingering doubts, I’ll discuss the best part about having an iPad: The apps! The iPad doesn’t run “programs,” not like you’re used to on a PC or Mac, and most iPad apps are not as full-featured as software programs. Still, apps can do some amazing things.

Here are some of the apps that I recommend for the practicing lawyer.

Being Productive. The iPad is not the best device for creating legal documents, but it’s a great tool for taking notes and working informally on legal documents. My favorite note-taking apps include Note Taker HD, Penultimate and WritePad. You can use a stylus or your finger to write in a notebook or legal pad-type page, then save those pages to PDF or another location. If you need to work with Microsoft Word or iWork documents, take a look at DocsToGo, QuickOffice Connect or Office2HD. Apple’s iWork suite (including Pages) is also a good investment for document and presentation creation.

Reading Documents. Although the apps listed above are great for working with documents, they just don’t do the job when it comes to reading and marking up caselaw, briefs, contracts or other documents. My picks for apps that make iPad reading a joy include GoodReader, which will allow you to view just about any type of file, and iAnnotate PDF, a fantastic annotation tool.

Legal-Specific Apps. iPad apps designed specifically for lawyers are starting to make their way into the App Store, and there are some intriguing choices. You can find dozens of apps that provide access to your state’s laws, the U.S. Code, CFR, Constitution and many other laws and regulations. Just go to the App Store in iTunes and search for “law” or “legal,” or be more specific if you know what you’re looking for.

Beyond legislative resources, some of the better apps are designed to help lawyers at trial. One set of apps—including Jury Duty, Jury Tracker and iJuror—help you not only pick a jury but monitor jurors’ reactions during trial. Unfortunately, none of these does all of these, but hopefully future releases will include the complete functionality. Apps like TrialPad and Evidence allow you to present evidence to a judge or jury. You simply connect your iPad to a projector (using a VGA adaptor, purchased separately) to show PDF and image files during trials or hearings.

More Resources for Lawyers Who Use iPads

This is only scratching the tip of the app iceberg, and already I’m running out of room.  With more than 60,000 apps designed for the iPad, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out which app is best. To keep up with the latest apps, for lawyers or otherwise, check out these resources:

Next, in our final post in this series: Accessories for the iPad owner.

Tom Mighell is a Senior Consultant with Contoural, Inc., where he helps companies address their records management, electronic discovery, and litigation readiness issues. Tom has followed technology trends for more than twenty years, and works with lawyers to help them use technology in ways that provide great service to their clients. He authored iPad in One Hour for Lawyers, which was published in March 2011 by the American Bar Association. He contributes to the Attorney at Work blog, where this post originally appeared on April 4, 2011.

Tom Mighell: Hosting a Meeting from Your iPad – A Review of Some Meeting Apps

Lawyers have lots of meetings. So you’d think that the iPad would make an ideal tool for hosting and attending meetings. And you’d be mostly right.  Mostly.

There are a lot of apps that allow you to attend a meeting from your iPad. Unfortunately, when it comes to actually hosting a meeting from your iPad, the apps I’ve reviewed still have a ways to go, in various ways. I’ve taken a look at four meeting apps, and have some brief remarks about all of them, from the least iPad-friendly to the most. For purposes of this discussion, what makes a meeting app iPad-friendly is the ability to both join and host a meeting, and associated functionality with both.

GoToMeeting (Free, download in iTunes) – GoToMeeting is certainly one of the biggest online meeting providers. However, its iPad app has no hosting capability. You can join the meeting and view what the Host is sharing on-screen, but that’s about it. The audio for the meeting is available via your iPad, or by calling the conference line provided. Grade:  C-

WebEx (Free, download in iTunes) – another giant in the online meeting space, the WebEx app is only marginally better than the GoToMeeting app. It does allow users to create and start meetings on the iPad – it’s pretty easy to log in to your account, create a meeting, and start it on your device. However, once the meeting is started ou cannot actually share information with meeting attendees on the device. You can view attendees, and share video with other attendees, but that’s about it. Of course, viewing meeting content on the device is great, but without the ability to interact with the meeting host, it’s more of a one-way conversation. Grade:  C

Adobe Connect (Free, download in iTunes) – I’m,a big fan of Adobe Connect, even though they provide free meetings for only up to 3 people. A couple of weeks ago they released this iPad-compatible app, but I have to admit that I can’t get it to work. Whenever I try to login to a meeting, I get a “Network Error” message that won’t go away. I tried to find an answer in the user forums, and found that others have been having the same problem – but no one is answer their questions there. If any Adobe folks read this, can you please respond in the comments on how to fix the Network Error issue? In any event, even if I could get in, I’d have the same inability to drive a meeting as I would in GoToMeeting and WebEx – that capability just doesn’t exist yet. So as much as I like the Adobe Connectd web product, for now the app grade has to be Incomplete.

Fuze Meeting (Free, download in iTunes) comes the closet of the apps I’ve reviewed to being a complete meeting experience on the iPad. When you start it up, you are given the option to Start a New Meeting, Join a Meeting, or view your list of meetings. When you start a new meeting, it instantly starts – a box pops up asking you whether you want to join the conference call from your iPad, or by having the Fuze service call you.

When you start your meeting, you are given a couple of options. The first is to Add Content – from the app you can add content from either your Photo Roll or from your Fuze Online Library. To make sure content is in the Online Library, you’ll have to upload it from the computer-based version of Fuze. (Box.net connects with Fuze, but I don’t think you can upload content direct from there into your iPad meeting).

Inviting Attendees is a snap – just press the Invite Attendees button on the home page, or click the People icon once you are in the meeting. Then just select email addresses from your contact list, or type in a new address and add it. Your attendees will be able to join by clicking on the link in the email.

So far, so good. But here’s where Fuze starts to let me down.  You can pull up a document on your screen to view it with your attendees, but you don’t have the ability to annotate the document; to do that, you’ll have to give control to one of your Web viewers, or access the Fuze meeting via the web yourself. To do this, you’ll need to make someone else either the presenter or annotator within the iPad app.

Annotators can mark up a document in any number of ways – freeform drawing, arrows, text annotations, and squares, circles and triangles. Any annotations can be deleted by using the handy eraser tool. If you upload a multi-page file – PDF, Word, or PowerPoint document – you can move through the document from page to page from the iPad app.

While the meeting is going on, attendees can chat with each other via the handy chat feature, which allows you to chat with everyone or just particular attendees.

Of the tools I’ve reviewed so far, Fuze is clearly the front-runner. If only I had the ability to annotate documents on the iPad, I’d find it nearly a complete tool. As it is, I have to give this app a solid B+. Check back for updates on meeting apps as new tools become available.

Tom Mighell a Senior Consultant with Contoural, Inc., where he helps companies address their records management, electronic discovery, and litigation readiness issues. Tom has followed technology trends for more than twenty years, and works with lawyers to help them use technology in ways that provide great service to their clients. He authored iPad in One Hour for Lawyers, which was published in March 2011 by the American Bar Association. He publishes the iPad 4 Lawyers blog, where this post originally appeared on June 2, 2011.