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Windows 10?  Yawn.

If nothing else, the imminent launch of the new Windows OS gives us opportunity again to wonder why the Powers-That-Be at Microsoft continue to fail to grasp the obvious:

In terms of user interface, they got it right – with Windows XP.  Its been mostly downhill from there.

XP set the gold standard for user satisfaction.  That seminal OS would probably still have many millions of added, happy home and office users if the company hadn’t eliminated support for it a bit more than a year ago.

At its front-end, Windows 7 represented fairly lateral change from its predecessors, but Windows 8 and 8.1 were functional and marketing disasters. For many, the inevitable, reluctant change to Windows 8 came only with new computer purchases, and was followed by an equally inevitable scramble to find add-ons, including start menu hacks, that made Windows 8 function mostly like Windows 7 and XP.

While I am sure there have been many improvements along the way in the back end of these post-XP operating systems, from a strictly function-based analysis, I can’t think of a single thing I do on my Windows 8 computers that I couldn’t do on my Windows XP computers – or mostly, for that matter, on my Windows 95 computers that came before.

I’m hardly a casual computer user. It says a lot, then, that these fancy new operating systems mean so little in terms of the quality of my digital life.

So now, Windows 10 is about to arrive, a free download for many, and like most (I suspect), I will eventually make the change out of curiosity, if nothing else.

I fully expect that I will continue to ignore whatever this version does with its “Metro” apps, as I do on Windows 8.1. If there are additional, unpleasant quirks in 10 that fundamentally change my desktop experience, I will find workarounds to allow me continue to work in the comfort of an XP-like environment that’s as familiar as possible.

It was never broke, and now they are fixing it again, down at Microsoft.

For my part, I do not want my Windows experience to be like my iPad experience. I typically use my desktop and laptop for heavy lifting – concentrated and extensive law-related and creative tasks.

In my view, the iPhone and iPad are adequate or better for just about everything else – emails, documents, web-surfing, and social media, included.

I don’t want a dumbed-down environment for laptops and desktops that tries to emulate the simplicity of a tablet. The desktop and laptop cannot survive as products by trying to be as tablet-like as possible.  Windows products are still genuinely better for certain things. Its complexity makes it so.

Microsoft would be well advised to pay closer attention to why and when people actively choose to use their Windows-based computers, rather than reaching for their readily accessible phones and tablets.  If only Microsoft would just make it easier for users to do those things, and forget about the bells and whistles so few actually use…

Not gonna happen.  I know.

So change and Windows 10 are now upon us.

We will adjust.  Most of us will take whatever steps are necessary to make Windows 10 feel like Windows 7 or XP, and life will go on until Microsoft finally gets it – or Windows products become truly obsolete (whichever comes first).

Rant complete.

Garry J. Wise, Toronto (@wiselaw on Twitter)

 

♫  Snap, what a happy sound
Snap is the happiest sound I’ve found
You may clap, rap, tap, slap but
Snap… makes the world go round…♫

Lyrics and music by Moosebutter.

scansnap ix1500

Continuing with the theme of technology that just works, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500.

This little scanner punches way above its weight.  In fact in the years that I have been talking about scanners and going paperless, no one has ever said that they have regretted purchasing one of the ScanSnap line of scanners.  They have been a hit with every size firm, with every practice area and every type of lawyer right across North America.  Why?  They do their job simply, quietly, quickly and very efficiently.

What do they do?  Here are the specs:

  • 50 page automatic sheet feeder
  • full duplex scan
  • 25 pages per minute in full colour, faster in B&W
  • works with Windows and Mac computers (I use mine with my MacBook Pro)
  • works with Android and iOS mobile devices and tablets
  • comes bundled with Adobe Acrobat Standard (for Windows PCs only, regrettably for us Mac users) as well as other bundled software
  • comes with a ‘carrier sheet’ – a dual layer clear plastic sheet that allows you to scan loose papers and receipts
  • can be set to OCR (optical character recognition) files automatically
  • detects colour, greyscale and black & white
  • you can create a PDF, text-searchable PDF or JPEG file
  • using Wi-Fi, you can scan directly to a personal computer, iPhone, iPad or Android device
  • if you wish, you can scan directly to your existing Evernote, Dropbox, Google Docs, SugarSync and Salesforce accounts

The ScanSnap iX500 comes with a set of bundled software:

  • ScanSnap Manager (Windows and Mac)
  • ScanSnap Organizer (Windows)
  • ABBYY FineReader for ScanSnap (Windows and Mac)
  • Adobe Acrobat X standard (Windows)
  • PFU CardMinder (Windows and Mac)
  • Rack2-Filer Smart and Magic Desktop (Windows) – Available only with iX500 Deluxe
  • ScanSnap Folder (Windows)
  • Scan to SharePoint (Windows)
  • Scan to Mobile (Windows and Mac)

Full specifications can be found here and system requirements here.

I have a ScanSnap at home and love it. It has allowed me to take my paper files and digitalize them and eliminate the need for paper files.  I also upload my documents into Dropbox and this allows me to have a full cloud-copy as well as a local copy of all my documents.  Have a hard drive failure?  No worries…get a new PC or Windows, link it to your Dropbox account and ZIP…your documents are now dowloaded on your local computer.  I know ..I experienced this.  Everything in my Dropbox account was quickly and easily recovered notwithstanding the HD crash (unfortunately I found out to my regret that my photos..that I thought were backed up in iCloud ..were not.  Now all my photos are backed up in Dropbox).  For important documents and folders, I use third party encryption that creates encrypted volumes within Dropbox for security.

In my world, Snap makes the world go round.

David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver, BC.

 

♫  He ain’t no drag 
He’s got a brand new bag… ♫

Lyrics, music and recorded by: James Brown.

 

solo ultracase

This post continues the ‘no brainer’ posts about technology.  This time it is about a bit of technology that most people don’t put much thought into, I suspect, namely their computer laptop bag.

Now some people will say that a bag is a bag is a bag.  I am not one of them. In fact I can say that I am quite particular about my bag.  I had a nice laptop bag given to me by our local Continuing Legal Education provider for being a volunteer that fit the bill nicely, but when it finally wore out after many years of hard use, I started looking for a replacement.

I first settled on an Eagle Creek bag – the “Strictly Business” carryall.  Prior to this purchase I had had a number of bags from Eagle Creek of various sorts and liked them all. However, I discovered that the handles on the Strictly Business were too long…the bag almost dragged on the ground when carried by the handles rather than the shoulder strap- and I am a fellow who is 6’2″ tall.

But when the zipper blew after only 6 months of owning the bag, I went in search of an alternative bag.

What are the features that one looks for in a laptop bag?  To me the important features are:

  •  Size: Look for a nice padded internal compartment for the laptop that is well-padded and once inside, won’t allow the laptop to slide around much.  The compartment should be wide enough to take your laptop without a lot of extra room. The standard is to fit a 15″ laptop…if your laptop is bigger or smaller you may want to consider a larger or smaller bag.
  • Durable construction.  The bag that I received from CLE-BC lasted years of heavy use.  That was my measure of durability. Look for good padding, stout seams and good hardware, especially the zippers.  If you live in an area of significant rainfall or other harsh weather, ensure that the laptop will stay clean and dry inside.  I prefer a soft-sided laptop bag but some may prefer a harder case.  Personal preference.  Velcro should close easily and be secure. Magnetic fastenings should stay closed.  Seams should be well-sewn.
  • Style:  You are going to be taking this laptop bag to business meetings, on airplanes, checking into hotels and generally having it with you most days.  Accordingly the bag should match your style.
  • Weight: Leather may be a good choice in terms of durability and style; personally while I like the look and feel of a great leather bag, weight was also a consideration.  I carry a great deal of ‘stuff’ and the extra weight of a leather bag was too much for me since I walk to and from the office.  Accordingly, a fabric bag that is largely waterproof is high on my list of requirements.
  • Size: As I mentioned, I carry a lot of ‘stuff’ from the laptop power cord to various other cords, papers, USB drives, my chequebook etc…so I want a bag that has lots of compartments, pockets, internal zipped pouches etc to organize things such as your cell phone, business cards, pens, a chocolate bar or two, your wallet and passport and even your toothbrush and toothpaste. Ensure that your laptop bag meets the new restricted size limits if you plan to use it on airplanes.
  • Color: I am not referring to the color of the outside of the bag…that is a matter of personal preference.  But the new bag that I acquired..the Solo Urban 17.3″ Ultracase, while black (with orange trim) on the outside is bright orange on the inside. If you are accustomed to ferreting around trying to find something inside a black bag you will totally appreciate the difference a bright orange lining makes.  Finding something is now effortless.  Plus the bag is perhaps one of the sharpest I have seen for looks.  It it is a joy to carry and easily organizes and stores all my ‘stuff’.

A laptop bag can be one of the most important overlooked items in your business life.  When it works well it is practically invisible since it performs its duties effortlessly and in a way that matches your lifestyle.  I am quite pleased with my Solo Urban Ultracase…Daddy’s got a brand new bag!!!

David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver, BC.

 

 

The Wall Street Journal, of all places, had a feature this week on the increasing prevalence – and acceptance – of mindfulness training for lawyers.

In Lawyers Go Zen, With Few Objections, writer Jacob Gershman delivers more than just a clever headline.  He focusses on the enhanced listening skills that can be developed through mindfulness techniques.

I don’t have much personal expertise in this area, but I do have the luxury of deferring on this topic to my significant other, Toronto marketing consultant Sandra Bekhor, who has completed mindfulness training.

She notes:

“Sharper listening skills will make you a better lawyer, presumably, whether you are listening to your client, opposing counsel or a judge. What you do with that information is up to you.

“Mindfulness training puts you into the present moment, so your observation skills are sharpened. You’re not distracted by preconceptions about the person you’re dealing with or the situation you are in. Being present helps you pick up on subtle messages like body language or emotional responses that you might otherwise miss.

Picking up on it can be a gold mine.  It helps you see past the game face.

Of course, mindfulness is far more than just another tool to be utilized to gain tactical advantage, Bekhor notes.

Mindfulness training reduces anxiety, allows us to decompress and sharpens our ability to enjoy life, as humans and professionals.

Those interested in learning more can access the Ontario Bar Association’s Mindful Lawyer CPD series.

Archived video of the OBA’s six-module programme is available free online to OBA members.

Garry J. Wise, Toronto

 

I’ve previously blogged at Slaw Tips on the virtues of using Siri’s dictation functions to draft letters, emails and other documents typically created in day-to-day legal practice.

In short, dictation with Siri has increased my productivity, precision  and the overall quality of my work product.

For those who are similarly inclined, I wanted to share a great list of Siri commands that can be used for punctuating as you dictate.  With kudos and credit to iPhone Tricks, here is a partial excerpt:

Punctuation and Commands

Below you can find an extended list of punctuation and commands that iPhone’s voice recognition software can detect and apply.

Command                   Result
Period (Full stop).           .
Comma.                             ,
Exclamation point.         !
Question mark.               ?
Colon.                                :
Semi-colon.                      ;
Dash (Hyphen)               –
Forward slash.                /
Equal sign                        =
Dollar sign                       $
Euro sign                         €
Percent sign                    %
Registered sign              ®
Copyright sign               ©
Trademark sign             ™
Ampersand                     &
Smiley                              :-)
Open quote                     “
Close quote                     “
Open / Close paranthesis.             ( / )
Open / Close brackets                    [ / ]
Open / Close curly bracket.          { / }
New line                                            new line
New paragraph                              new pgh

Another good list of Siri Dictation Commands is here via CrushApps.

Sorry if the iPhone-centricity of this post has left anyone feeling bored or left out. Android and Blackberry users, feel free to entertain yourselves here.

Garry J. Wise, Toronto (@wiselaw on Twitter)

 

♫ I just want the simple things..♫

Lyrics, music and recorded by Miguel.

simplyfile

 

This post continues the theme of innovative  technology for lawyers.  John Heckman, a legal technology consultant for whom I have a great deal of respect recently wrote in his blog “Does it Compute” a piece entitled:
Technophobe and Proud Of It — the Consequences.  He states that there are “attorneys whose willful refusal to become conversant with their firm’s technology will drag down its productivity and ability to respond to client needs.” John then quotes Sharon Nelson, another good friend and legal technologist who is a co-author of the annual American Bar Association’s Solo and Small Firm Technology Guide (for which the write is a contributing author) put it bluntly: “The raw choice is that lawyers must choose between adaption and extinction.”

Well, fortunately there are technologies that are simple, effective and easy to use even for technophobes.  SimplyFile is one of them.

This application which is a toolbar add-on for MS Outlook on the PC (not Mac..sigh!).  It does one thing very very well. It is an adaptive program that learns from you where you like to file emails in your Outlook folders.

If you set up your Outlook folders to match your client files, then SimplyFile will help you quickly and easily move both incoming and outgoing emails into their proper file in Outlook. It learns from you and correctly guesses the correct folder 80-90% of the time.  Moving the email to the right folder once Simplyfile guesses the folder is just a mouse click.

No longer will you end up with all your outgoing emails in the ‘Sent’ folder in Outlook.

No longer do you ‘drag and drop’ emails to organize them.

I have been using SimplyFile for years now and love it. There are companion applications that speed up other tasks and for those I refer you to Techhit’s web page.

If you use a Document Management System (we use OpenText) Simplyfile helps you move your emails into your profiled folders in Outlook and from there they are indexed into the DMS system.  I understand it is equally effective with Worldox and other DMS platforms that work with MS Outlook (but you should check with your DMS provider first).

When it comes to legal technology there is no question that for maximum adoption by lawyers on all points on the legal technology spectrum, the applications should keep it simple.

-David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver BC.

 

 

♫  Good lookin’, so refined
Say wouldn’t you like to know whats going on in my mind?
So let me get right to the point
I don’t pop my cork for every guy I see
Hey Big Spender
Spend, a little time with me…♫

Music and lyrics by:  Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields, from Sweet Charity.

wordrake

This column starts what I hope will be a series of columns on new and innovative technologies for lawyers.

The kickoff column in this series deals with WordRake.

WordRake is editing software for lawyers.

Most of us have to write for a living. Contracts, pleadings, documents, memorandums – even blog posts – our ideas are as clear as the words, grammar, syntax and tone that we use to communicate our thoughts.

Other than hiring an editor to go over your work, we are pretty much on our own to do our own editing and proofreading.

That is, until WordRake. As Gary Kinder, the developer states, the secret to writing well is rewriting. WordRake will take your writing and suggest edits to remove unnecessary words, improve phrasing, improve your grammar and make dull sentences sparkle.

It allows you to write clearly, be understood and make things happen with your written communications.

If nothing else, you can improve your writing by subscribing to Gary Kinder’s Wednesday Writing Tips.

WordRake works in Windows and with MS Word and Outlook. Alas, it doesn’t work on a Mac or I would be using it to help tighten this column. There is a 7 day free trial at www.wordrake.com.  So let me get right to the point, spend a little time with WordRake; it may be the best $199 (Word and Outlook for 1 year) that you spend this year.

David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver BC.

 

 

Which email client does your law office use?

I raise this question, as the purchase of a new computer for my desktop has necessitated the migration of all my emails – around 20 Gigs worth – to my new machine.

Out of habit, if nothing else, we have used Windows Live Mail as my office’s email client of choice.

While I suspect MS-Outlook has long been most lawyers’ preferred email software, I was always fond of Outlook Express, the predecessor to Windows Live Mail. When OE was discontinued, we migrated to Windows Live Mail as the path of least resistance.

Windows Live Mail, however, has become increasingly clunky over the years, and key, “can’t live without them” features, such as the ability to use email stationary, have for unfathomable reasons, simply been eliminated from the software.

We worked around these limitations by continuing our use of older, legacy versions of this software. And it worked just fine.

As we discovered, however, Windows 8.1 does not appear to allow the installation of these legacy versions.

As a result, I have made a long-avoided migration to MS-Outlook.

The migration process was a rather simple, if time-consuming, three-step process.

  1. First, I exported all required emails from Windows Live Mail to a version of Outlook that was already installed on my old computer. Note that to use this method, it is necessary to have Outlook installed (with a profile set up) on the computer from which the export is being done;
  2. Using Outlook on my old computer, I then exported all emails, via the resulting PST file, to our data server, where it will also be permanently archived for backup purposes;
  3. Using Outlook on my new desktop, I imported the PST file from our data server, and my emails, including storage folders and subfolders, were restored.

My email life can now seamlessly carry on.

Outlook has numerous advantages over Windows Live Mail that were apparent even in this transition process.

Windows Live does not support exporting directly to our data server, for example. The software’s export function only allows saving to the desktop that hosts the program. This makes backing up and archiving a very cumbersome process.

The ability to export to a single PST file also has numerous advantages for archiving purposes.

So I am finally aboard the Outlook train.

Are there any other Windows Live Mail holdouts out there?

– Garry J. Wise, Toronto 

 

♫ wheeeeeeeeeefit
whoafit
holy$#*!fit
findyourfit..♫

Lyrics and music by Seth Olinsky (Akron/Family).

Who knew that keeping track of your fitness could be addictive – and fun? Welcome to the world of wearable technology and in particular, the Fitbit.

fitbit

The FitBit Flex is a wearable fitness wristband that helps you track your daily activity in terms of steps, distance, calories burned and active minutes.

It tracks how long you slept and the quality of your sleep. It buzzes when you have achieved 10,000 steps in a day (the first time mine did this I almost jumped out of my skin!).

It synchs wirelessly to your computer and smartphones. You can log additional activities such as biking, skiing, running and more.

As you achieve your fitness goals, you get email reminders and badges that reinforce your progress. You can also track drinks of water and calories eaten in the food log section.

If what gets measured gets done, the FitBit is a fun and novel way to keep on top of your fitness goals and see how you are doing.

There are different devices ranging from the Flex (above) to the Surge that incorporates a heart monitor and is classified as a ‘Fitness Super Watch’ with GPS, notifications, music, Auto Sleep monitoring and alarms.

Since keeping fit is something that all of us need to do more of, it is good to know that the Fitbit can be a great little way to get that little bit of motivation to achieve your goals with a tiny bit of wheeeeeeeeee….

 -David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver, BC.

 

 

image

Some call it Mobilegeddon.

Google began to roll out a mobile-friendliness update last Tuesday, April 21, 2015.  With this latest, major algorithmic change, Google will now be boosting search rankings of mobile-friendly web pages on its mobile search results.

According to Google:

A page is eligible for the “mobile-friendly” label if it meets the following criteria as detected by Googlebot:

  • Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
  • Uses text that is readable without zooming
  • Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom
  • Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped

How will this algorithmic change affect your law firm website’s search results?

Your website’s traffic from search results will begin to be impacted by whether it passes or fails Google’s mobile optimization requirements.  With failure, your site’s search rankings on mobile searches may take a serious hit.

While early indications are that the sky has not yet fallen, and only modest fluctuations in search results are at this point being seen, it’s important to note this update is still in its implementation phase.

The long-term impact of this change may not yet be fully apparent.

Many commentators, including Kevin O’Keefe of LexBlog, forecast significant negative consequences for law firm websites that fail the mobile-friendliness test:

Those law firms who don’t act will suffer the consequences of their content being ranked well below mobile friendly content on smart phones – the result will be significant reductions in search traffic.

Google has published a mobile-friendliness test tool that allows you to easily check whether your website pages are mobile-compliant. Note that this test applies to each individual page, rather than entire websites.

If your key pages don’t pass the test, this might be a really good time to be in contact with a web developer about updating your site.

  – Garry J. Wise, Toronto (@wiselaw on Twitter)