Today I came across an article on Lifehacker.com – a great list of 10 Apps and Services That Are More Than Meets the Eye. I’ve always believed that part of my job here on this blog is to inform those who provide or perform legal services with information about what’s new in the world of tech. However, an equally important job is to make sure I’m helping you get the most from what you already have.
With that in mind, here are 10 Apps That Do WAY More Than You Thought:
10) Google Voice
Although little has been updated in Google Voice since it premiered – hopefully not a sign that Google plans to do with Voice what it just did with Bump – the app still has a lot of great features that lawyers can utilize. Aside from allowing you to forward calls AND send and receive texts from your computer, Google Voice’s voicemail-to-text feature alone is worth the time and money.
But guess what, that voicemail-to-text feature isn’t necessarily just for voicemails! Dictate into Google Voice while you’re on the road. What about those regular voicemails? Well, failure to return important client communications is one of the top ethical complaints against attorneys. Use your ability to filter through your voicemail through your Gmail account, and always know which calls are from your clients, and which ones you can safely ignore for a while!
9) Text Expanders
Odds are your most intimate experience with text expanders comes in the form of your firm’s billing software (if you enter your own time, that is). Ever noticed how they’re set up to translate “re” into “regarding,” and “int” into “interrogatories”? That’s a text expander.
Using a text expander, you can actually navigate through your computer’s folders, type non-English characters, and use them to avoid getting spammed on Twitter! Seriously. Haven’t you Twitter users noticed that anytime you use the word “iPhone” in your tweets, you instantly get the “Click here to get a free iPhone”? As suggested by the TUAW blog, use text expanders to say those words that spam trolls search for, and you can avoid a lot of hassle.
The biggest utility in a law firm, however, is the ability to set up massive document automation projects.
Ok, as lawyers, we’re pretty familiar with one of the “hidden” benefits of Facebook – research. Facebook has become one of the hottest tools to research clients, opponents, opposing counsel, and even judges. And provided you don’t start issuing “friend” requests under a false name or to represented parties, it’s pretty much kosher as far as ethics go.
However, Facebook has some other little features that you may not know about. Facebook’s video chat (and Google’s Hangouts) provides excellent quality video conferencing, although there isn’t necessarily support for “attorney-client privilege” mode. Use Facebook to share files with a closed group, like a private FTP server. Facebook’s event scheduling system is well-suited to schedule things like depositions, mediations, and other multi-attorney gatherings. One of the newest additions, Graph Search, has a whole host of clever uses.
It’s also not bad for news and information gathering, either.
I think that I will forever be shouting the massive benefits of using Twitter. And those I’m shouting to will forever ignore me just because it’s Twitter. No, you don’t care what I had for breakfast. But guess what – I have no interest in telling you what I had for breakfast, and neither do millions of others who use Twitter on a daily basis!
It’s all about using the right tools and following the right people. Half of the ideas and discussions that I write about or get involved in come directly from my Twitter feed. When you decide to use Twitter to listen instead of talk, as suggested by Kevin O’Keefe, it’s amazing what you’ll find.
You can also send messages to Evernote or Remember The Milk, set up alerts and get information, and keep up to date on the latest news events (as I discussed in my most recent article). You can even set up in-home automation using Arduino, and tell your coffee pot to start brewing. One of the best uses I’ve found out recently is that most companies now offer real-time customer service via Twitter. It’s been necessary when my web hosting went down a few days ago!
6) Your “Other” Mobile Browser
Do you use Chrome as your default browser on your smartphone or tablet? Most people do. However, that doesn’t mean that your device’s native browser can’t be useful too!
Using Opera, for example, is great when you’re stuck attached to a Wi-Fi that operates slower than your old 28.8 bps modem. It’s designed to run on slow connections. Have concerns with your firm’s BYOD policy? Have one browser that you use for work, one for personal. You can even use your device’s native browser when you need a higher level of privacy!
5) Google Maps
Sometimes, something does what it purports to do well enough that you never think about what else it can do. If Google Maps didn’t have a propensity to send me through bad neighborhoods when I visit big cities for the first time, Google Maps would be just that.
But aside from seeing where you are, and telling you how to get where you’re going, Google Maps’ feature set has a ton of other uses! Want to know what the general parking situation is around the office where your next deposition is at? Check out the neighborhood on Google Street View. Before you go, take a look at the accident scene from the case that just landed on your desk!
You can also use Google Maps to remember where you parked your car, track places you’ve been that you want to remember, and see if you have any friends living near the bar where you’re planning on watching the next game… er… holding your next mediation.
4) AdBlock Plus
Yes, it blocks ads on your web browser. But used correctly, it can do a LOT more.
AdBlock can clean up the ads on your Facebook page. Nice, huh? It’ll also filter out ads on YouTube. It’ll also allow you to block image previews on Twitter. Now that Facebook has decided to allow videos to auto-run, wouldn’t you like the capability to prevent that? Use AdBlock.
Even if you’re not blocking ads, there is one other major thing that AdBlock Plus blocks: malware. By adding a malware filter to AdBlock, you’ll actually be prevented from accessing websites designed to infect your system with malware, trojans, and other spyware.
Every law firm needs to secure important, confidential data. One of the first lines of defense is prevention, and AdBlock can really do the trick!
More of a “tool” than an app or system, understanding what you’re really able to do over Wi-Fi can be huge! Remember what Wi-Fi really does: connects you. To the internet, yes, but also to other computers.
Your phone becomes a remote control… for your trial presentation. Print case law research to your firm’s printer while sitting in court. Need access to a file for a hearing? Using the Wi-Fi that is pretty much standard in all courtrooms, just access your file remotely. The judge needs a copy? If your courthouse allows access, just print it at the clerk’s office! The key is to remember what Wi-Fi really is: your connection to everything.
Yes, I tend to be a bit bipolar when it comes to my coverage of Google. Do I think they’re an evil corporation (redundant?), hell-bent on destroying your privacy in order to increase their profit? Well, yes. Do I also believe that they do what they do better than anyone else? Yes. Gmail is no exception.
Most users probably do have a tough time even navigating all of the little features Gmail has just for sending and receiving email. For you folks, Lifehacker has you covered! Got all that? Good, because we want more!
Need ready access to a file or set of files, but your firm doesn’t have Dropbox set up? Attach it to an email and put the email in your draft box to access it anywhere. (This is actually a trick that some terrorists used to use so that their emails weren’t traced – save drafts in one account, and just access that account from anywhere. I’m pretty sure the NSA is on to that one by now.) You can even set up Gmail to “snooze” an email – automatically turning your email from “read” to “new” – after a certain number of days or hours to remind you of something you need to do.
1) Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive, and really any other cloud storage.
Although I’ve definitely harped on the security issues these systems tend to have, they are so freaking useful that Dropbox remains my most-used app. But did you know that you can use Dropbox to monitor your home computer for unauthorized access? Yep. Print documents remotely to your home printers? That too.
Host your own website. Wait, what? Yep, you’re able to host a start page or web page through Dropbox.
Have any other interesting uses for these apps, or other clever or odd uses for other apps? Leave them with your comments below!