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Tablets, scanner tech winners

Boston (Dolan) – The latest Lawyers USA tech roundup looks at the iPad and its competition, the Kindle 3 (in two flavors) and how to scan documents on-the-go.

Tablet that thought!

Tablet computers top the list of tech tools, and the iPad continues to be the shiny new toy of the legal tech world.

A new operating system for the iPad, iOS 4.2, was released last week, but it gets mixed reviews.

Two improvements get a thumbs-up: the ability to multitask between apps and organizing apps into folders.

“To be able to leave apps running midstream and go back without having to shut one completely down and reopen is really nice,” said Ben Stevens of The Stevens Law Firm in Spartanburg, S.C., who blogs at www.themaclawyer.com

The new operating system also solves the overflowing app problem by creating a way to group them together.

“One of the problems I’ve got with my iPad and iPhone is I’ve got more apps than there is space so they are spilling over. To be able to do grouping and navigate more quickly will be great,” said Stevens.

But a few features on the new operating system that turned out to be more limited than expected are the printing function and video streaming.

“It was touted to let you print to any printer, but now it’s been limited, and at this time HP printers are the only ones that have software to allow you to print directly from the iPad,” said Peter Summerill, a partner with Hasenyager Summerill Wahlquist in Salt Lake City.

A workaround app called Printopia allows you to print to any printer as long as a Mac is already set up on it, but it’s still a “pain in the butt right now,” Summerill said.

Another disappointment is that iOS 4.2 was supposed to offer AirPlay, a feature that would allow video and audio streaming directly from the iPad.

“I was looking forward to Air Play,” said Summerill who planned to use the feature to display trial presentations that include video and audio.

iPad users may have to wait for version 2 to see bigger changes and further refinements, said John Simek, vice president of Sensei Enterprises Inc. in Fairfax, Va.

Meanwhile, the iPad is not the only tablet in town. New kids on the block include a number of Android tablets ranging from $100 to $600, said Richard Georges, a solo attorney in St. Petersburg, Fla. who blogs about legal technology at http://futurelawyer.com.

Georges boasts that his Viewsonic G Tablet with a Tegra 2 processor and 10″ screen, which he recently bought for $400, has features that the iPad lacks, including microSD storage and an extra USB port.

“You can expect to see a lot of tablets between now and March. It’s going to be pick-your-poison time,” he said.

Two kinds of Kindle 3

Amazon has released two new Kindle 3 e-book readers.

Attorneys have been using the Kindle to read bulky documents on the run, and some have gotten into the habit of handing it over the bench for judges to view a document.

The two new releases are deeply discounted from the original Kindle DX’s $379 price tag.

For $139, the Kindle 3 offers a higher-contrast screen and reduced glare on a 6″ reading area and weighs 8.7 ounces. For an extra $50, another version gives you free 3G wifi access.

“With the lower end, you’ve got to find a hotspot. With the $189 model it’s built into the machine, so it doesn’t matter where you are, as long as you’re within range of a 3G network,” said Sharon Nelson, president of Sensei Enterprises Inc.

Although she admits the new prices are in the sweet spot, Nelson still prefers her Kindle DX for its 9.7″ screen, which is easier on the eyes, especially when asking a judge to read off it.

Portal4Law

A new Web-based product offers some unique features for document management and a monthly price tag aimed at small firms.

In addition to the familiar billing, calendaring and contacts that other software as a service (SAAS) practice management products provide, Portal4Law lets you search through all the content on a client matter, down to a word or partial word inside a document.

“The ability to search inside a document is a big differentiator” from other law practice management software, said Raphael Frommer, director of marketing at PortalSoft, Inc. in Mountain View, Calif., the maker of Portal4Law.

The search function allows you to use Boolean, wildcard (e.g., Al* Cohen, if you can’t remember if the individual’s name is Albert or Alfred) and fuzzy matching (which allows you to search for words related in meaning or spelling.)

Another feature the company unveiled Dec. 14 is a function that allows you to excerpt a portion of a document, such as a deposition, by dragging it into a separate thumbnail which will contain the page and line number of the original but can be marked up and summarized.

“When you go to court or deposition, you don’t have to take the whole document. You can have the excerpt in front of you and you can see the line and page number and [your own summary] of what you want to say,” Frommer said.

The summarization feature is included in the product’s $39.99 per user monthly cost, which also gives each user 10 gigabytes of storage in the cloud.

A drawback to these features in Web-based management software is that you will have to rely on Internet access in court, said Stevens.

“If you rely on it for trial presentation, then get in a courtroom where you’re not allowed or have not-good Web access, you’re screwed,” he said.

Mobile scanning

A portable scanner called the VuPoint Magic Wand is getting rave reviews.

You wave the cordless, battery-operated 10″ wand across a document and ta-da! It’s scanned, replacing the sheet-feeding method.

“They are going to have to physically come and pry my review copy out of my hands to get it back,” Jim Calloway, director of the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Management Assistance Program and a columnist for Lawyers USA, wrote on his Law Practice Tips Blog.

Another nifty way to scan on the fly is to use your mobile phone and a document scanner app, said Georges. Since making this discovery, he has ceased carrying any portable scanners.

Georges uses his smart phone equipped with an 8 megapixel camera (5 megapixels will do) to snap a photo of a document, then uses an app called Document Scanner by The Neat Co.

“Smart phones have better cameras so nowadays you can take high-quality photos. The software allows you to store it, email it, print it or export it as a PDF, whatever you want,” said Georges.

Lawyers USA

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