All Our Technology Tips
Force PDFs to Download Instead of Load in Browser
Are there fillable PDF forms on your website?
When loaded within a browser, the fields in forms like these generally can’t be filled out – the PDF will need to be downloaded in order to be filled out.
Why not cut out a few extra steps for your site’s visitors, and make the PDF automatically download rather than load in-browser?
A hat tip to Gabriola Graphics for this super simple solution to do just that:
“All you have to do is add the word download to your <a> tag and if your browser supports it your visitor will get a Download Where? prompt.”
Corral Multiple Email Addresses Into One Email Client
Do you have two or more email addresses? Tired of flipping between web pages to check them all? Why bother. Instead, set them all up in one email client.
Here’s what this looks like on my computer.
When I click “Inbox” I can see all inbox messages from the six accounts listed here. To focus on the contents of just one inbox, I click the name of that inbox.
Given how much time people still spend on email, this tactic ought to help save time. Also, I can file all my email in my own folders, offline, by having them come into a mail client.
The screen shot above shows how this looks in Mac Mail.app, but most email software lets you do this. I have this set up on my Mac, iPad and iPod Touch. (I don’t do this on my phone – long story – but I likely will when I eventually spring for an iPhone.) I could also create this setup in Microsoft Outlook and other email software.
There are other ways of doing this. For instance, you can have all email accounts but one forward messages to the one you want to use. The only shortcoming is that you would need to sign in to another address to reply from that address, if the original email wasn’t sent to your “main” address. (Switching addresses in software like Mac Mail is as easy as choosing the “from” address from a drop list.)
That said, email forwarding is a great way of keeping messages coming from addresses you eventually want to get rid of. Soon enough, the only messages going to that address will be spam.
Do you use multiple email addresses? How do you keep track of correspondence in each of them? Let us know in the comments below.
—Luigi Benetton (@LuigiBenetton)
[This tip originally appeared on luigibenetton.com]
Minimize Email Triage Time
Imagine if your email system could look like this at the end of your day (presuming your inbox is empty):
This is more likely to happen if email lands in the right folder without you having to triage it from your inbox. Dealing with each message in the order it was received in your inbox can lead to context switching — a major drag on productivity. The time spent doing triage can instead be used to handle business email.
To minimize email triage time, build these five email habits:
1. Set Up Folders in a Logical Manner
Having folders scattered all over means you mix contexts. And that makes you less able to target the messages that matter. Here’s how I set up my work email folders (and document folders, for that matter):
2. Put “Tags” in Email Subject Lines
Include the matter name or number in the subject line of each email you send. Use this habit for things outside client matters, too. You’ll understand why this is important when you read the next habit.
3. Create Rules to Automate the Filing of Incoming Messages
Rules are automatic actions your email program performs when triggered by criteria or conditions you have specified for incoming or outgoing messages. Email rules can be based on many criteria. Here’s a list from Mac Mail. The options in Microsoft Outlook and other email software are much the same.
Here’s the Mac Mail list of actions the software can take when a message meets defined criteria. Again, other email systems feature similar lists.
All these options might make email rule creation seem daunting. It isn’t. Here’s the type of rule I suggest you set up:
If Subject Line contains “Project 1” move message to folder “Project 1.”
This rule works reliably well since few people bother to change subject lines during email correspondence. On the few occasions that correspondents do change the subject line and remove the “trigger text,” the email lands in your inbox. Get automatic filing back on track by changing the subject line when you reply.
By the way, each email rule needs a name. In this case, name the rule “Project 1.”
4. Create Rules for Other Types of Emails
In the same way that you want to direct business or client email to your business or client folders, you can have your email software file newsletters, family correspondence, news about networking events and other types of messages as they come in. This won’t happen all at once, of course. You’ll need to continually train this auto-file feature. If you stick with it, though, you’ll spend less time on email triage and more time focusing on your priorities.
5. Run Email Rules on Your Sent Items Folder
Messages you write can matter just as much as those you receive. That’s why you may want to file relevant messages you’ve sent into the right folders.
Once you’ve created rules, there’s an easy way to have them take effect on sent items. Go to the Sent items folder, select all messages, right-click (or Control-click), and run your email rules. If you haven’t visited your sent items folders in a few years (or ever) and they’ve piled up, sit back and let the process chug along. Once it’s done, your email will be much more organized.
Prevent Inbox Busywork
These email automation habits are powerful ways to prevent inbox busywork. As you work with rules, you can explore other ways they can automate tasks you commonly perform. But what matters is that you create the rules you need as soon as the need arises.
Do you have any favorite email automation tips? Please share them in the comments below.
—Luigi Benetton (@LuigiBenetton)
[This tip originally appeared on Attorney at Work]
Uncover Hidden Document Metadata
Each time an electronic document comes into being, metadata is created along with it. People often add their own, too. From the obvious (like page numbers) to the obscure (like dates of creation and author names), every piece of metadata serves some purpose.
During discovery, document metadata can prove just as important as the visible contents in the document. That’s why legal teams need to comb every document for metadata. (It’s also why many use metadata “scrubbers” on documents they share with other people.)
Things can get interesting when one legal team unwittingly sends documents to opposing counsel that contain metadata they weren’t aware of. The following tips cover some of the most common “accidental” metadata disclosures. These types of disclosures don’t always happen, but they’re worth checking for in files. And if you find such metadata, disclose your finds to opposing counsel. (Be sure to check for related ethics guidance in your jurisdiction; the American Bar Association has a handy resource for checking state metadata ethics opinions here.)
Turn on Track Changes in Microsoft Office Documents
Modern document revision often happens in the margins. Well, the right margin of Word documents. That’s where authors place comments and questions, each one labeled with their Office user ID. (The “Track Changes” feature can be called different things and be in different places in other types of documents.)
When authors choose to view a document in its “final” form, that margin and its notes disappear. Doing so means they might forget to get rid of Track Changes content before sending the document on to others. If that happens, that document will travel with all commentary and suggested additions and deletions. These threads can reveal deeper thinking behind a given document and offer hints to a legal team that wasn’t supposed to see those threads.
Check Document Properties
Ever wonder who the actual author of a document happens to be? How about when the document was created? If you’re checking a photo, was it ever opened using Photoshop? You can learn all this and more by checking a document’s properties.
Look for Hidden Rows and Columns in Spreadsheets
Sometimes an author will hide rows or columns to conceal information they contain. You won’t know until you unhide them.
Spotting hidden columns or rows should be straightforward. For instance, if one column is labeled F and the next one you see is J, that means three columns have been hidden.
Check Document Headers and Footers
From author names to Bates stamps to file paths, headers and footers can contain plenty of useful information.
For instance, sometimes authors redact documents by “cutting” them down once they reach the PDF stage. You may be holding a four-page document that says, in the bottom-right corner, “Page 7 of 19.” If you see something like this, you should go “hmm …”
Look for Speaker’s Notes in PowerPoint Documents
Sometimes presentation files contain entire scripts on crammed slides in fonts only bald eagles could read. And sometimes content is kept to a minimum, interspersed with tastefully chosen images that engage the audience.
That’s what the audience sees. What the audience doesn’t see is any speaker’s notes created in the spot reserved for such notes with each slide. Short of a video or audio recording of the presentation, this user-generated metadata may provide the most insight available into what was said.
Does a PDF Contain Redacted Parts?
If you receive a redacted PDF, try this:
- Select and copy redacted bits.
- Paste them into a text editor like Notepad, TextEdit or Microsoft Word.
If you don’t see anything “under” the redacted parts, the PDF’s creator knows how to redact a PDF properly.
But if all the creator did was draw black lines on top of the material to be redacted, those black lines don’t carry over when the material is pasted into a text editor. Who knows what fun stuff you might learn?
Mining for More
Expect disclosures such as the ones outlined here to become less frequent as more lawyers learn how to prevent them. That said, they haven’t all learned yet, so the above tips are certainly worth trying whenever you review electronic documents during discovery.
These aren’t the only ways to look for valuable metadata in documents. Did I neglect to mention your favorite tactics? Share them in the comments below.
—Luigi Benetton (@LuigiBenetton)
[This tip originally appeared on Attorney at Work]
Use Sheet Shot Tools to Create Better Instructions
A picture is worth a thousand words, and pictures of your device’s screen are no exception. Those screen shot images can help people troubleshoot problems with your device — and help you better communicate how-to instructions as well.
Sometimes you will see people taking pictures of their device screens with their own (or other people’s) phones. Don’t do that. There’s an easier way. Instead, investigate your device’s built-in ability to take screen shots — also known as screen grabs or screen captures.
Types of Screen Captures
You can capture your device’s behavior in several different ways.
These are simple “photos” that show your screen at the precise moment you “click the shutter” (that is, hit a keystroke or key combination, click a menu option or button, press a button). Most, if not all, computers and smartphones enable static captures out of the box.
Have you ever perched a camera on a tripod, hit a timer button and rushed into a group photo to be in the picture when the shutter activated? Most screen shot software offers this feature, too. It helps you bring up menus, dialogs and other graphical elements that may not appear in a static screen shot.
Sometimes the behavior you want to show can’t be effectively captured by one static shot or a sequence of shots. That’s when you need to record a video of what happens on your screen.
Built-in Screen Shot Tools
Smartphones and tablets usually enable screen shots. For instance, on any iOS device, press the power and home buttons simultaneously. The screen flashes, the device emits the sound of a camera shutter and the picture is saved in the Photos app.
Both Windows and Mac computers ship with built-in tools. In Windows, it’s called the Snipping Tool, and on a Mac, it’s called Grab. Both Windows and Mac also feature default keystroke combinations that let you capture a segment of a screen, the whole screen or a specific window, without starting up an app.
Both systems also ship with annotation tools. Once you take a screen shot, you can add comments, arrows and shapes to it. This can be more effective than pointing out the things you want to highlight using text that accompanies the screen shot.
In Windows, the Snipping Tool itself offers an annotation interface. To do more sophisticated annotations, open Paint. On a Mac, use the Preview app. (The screen shot below shows Preview’s Annotate menu.)
The Mac also ships with QuickTime, which lets you perform elementary video screen capture. The Xbox app in Windows features a screen video recorder as well.
Note: Video files get large quickly, so consider using a file-sharing tool instead of email, or posting the video to a video-sharing site like YouTube.
Third-Party Screen Capture Options
I’ve used a variety of paid tools to capture software behavior to insert into documentation and, to a lesser extent, to report bugs.
Sometimes these tools enable better manipulation of screen shots than software included with the computer. They automate parts of the workflow. When you take upward of 100 screen shots a day, you appreciate having the software handle sizing, file types, file locations and other mundane chores associated with each shot.
For static and timed shots, I’ve often used Snagit ($49.95). When it comes to producing screen video that I want to narrate, Camtasia ($199) is a better option than QuickTime. TechSmith makes both tools, which range from $49 to $199 and come bundled for $224.
These paid programs don’t cost much compared to the efficiency they provide, but most legal professionals don’t need to take screen shots every day. The tools embedded in modern computing devices meet most people’s screen capture needs.
Do you have a favorite screen capture tool? Please share your tip in the comments below.
—Luigi Benetton (@LuigiBenetton)
This tip originally appeared on AttorneyAtWork.com.
Writing With Mind Maps
When I start to write a document, the ideas in it never get to the page in publishable order. (I know I’m not alone in this.) Pieces of the “story” float about.
Many writers feel a compulsion to write from the start of a new document. That compulsion could make writing feel like cycling while gently holding the brakes. In more severe cases, it seems to lead to what some people call “writer’s block” and painful delays in drafting a document.
What writers need is a method they can use to create a first draft. Of course, lots of magic happens during revision of that draft, when writers refine their thoughts. (That’s when they apply Word styles.) But they need a first draft to work from. If getting to that first draft is difficult for you, read on.
Writer’s Block, Begone!
I don’t get writer’s block. That’s because, when I start writing, I just write the first things that come to mind. I write each “piece” as it “floats into view” and worry about order later.
In my pre-computer high school days, I was taught to write individual sentences on cue cards, or index cards. Then I could order the cards on a large surface (often a floor in my parents’ home) and move them around as I saw fit. I could also create new cards and remove ones I no longer needed. This was my introduction to mind mapping.
Enter Mind Mapping Software
I’m no fan of cue cards. Instead, I now write those individual sentences in “nodes” using mind mapping software. I open a document, label the central “root” node, then start adding nodes connected by branches. (Do you want to see what that looks like? There’s an example further down this post.) Later on, I move nodes or add and delete them as needed.
Here’s the big advantage of doing this using software: Once I have my nodes lined up the way I want them, I copy the root node into a text document so that I can begin writing. All my points appear in the order I set, waiting for me to link them together, to write from point to point. That’s when I have the first draft.
That first draft is half the battle, and it takes much less time to write than it would using other methods.
A Quick Demo
I use MindNode to create mind maps, but there are plenty of tools available, from free to “enterprise-grade” (i.e., pricey).
Here’s what the mind map for this article looks like.
This is a read-only version. However, you should be able to:
- Navigate the map.
- Zoom in and out.
- Mouse over nodes to fold and unfold them.
(You can also go directly to the MindNode site, here, to play in a larger screen.)
(You might notice that this version does not read the same way that this post does. Remember — the map is only a first draft. I refined the post further after I mapped it.)
And here’s what the mind map looks like when I paste the root node into a text editor. The first line is the mind map’s root node. Subsequent lines are indented according to how “deep” they are in the map’s hierarchy.
As this video shows, MindNode diagrams can be exported in various formats and shared in different applications and devices.
Mind maps don’t fix all writing woes. (Other tools might help you handle some of those.) But mind maps do help you complete a first draft. Just don’t censor or edit yourself too early in the process. Worry about grammar, spelling and other corrections and refinements later.
Other Possibilities for Mind Maps
Mind maps have many other uses besides writing. You can use them to do things like:
- Plan projects.
- Create organizational charts.
- Create lists of all kinds.
Explore mind maps beyond simply writing. You might find they boost your creativity in ways you never imagined.
Do you use mind maps? If so, what tools do you use? What do you create with them? Let us know in the comments below.
—Luigi Benetton (@LuigiBenetton)
[This tip originally appeared on Attorney at Work]
Add Your Summer Office Hours to Your Google My Business Listing
Does your firm or organization have shortened office hours over the summer? Or perhaps you’re taking some time off over the next couple months and therefore closing up your office for a week or two. Either way, you want to make sure potential clients aren’t showing up at your office but finding it unexpectedly closed.
If your office hours will be deviating from the norm this summer, make sure you load those exceptions into your Google My Business profile so that they automatically appear in your maps and search listing.
To do so, log into your Google My Business account and click on your business listing. Then click the “Info” tab on the left-hand side menu. Below the hours section, you’ll see a spot for “Add special hours” – click on that.
Now you can add your closures, and rest assured that your Google business listing will be working even when you’re not.
Happy summer holidays!
Back Up Your Text Messages to Gmail With SMS Backup+
Some days, it feels like text messages are the new email. Texting is rapidly becoming just as common as email for business uses (and may well have surpassed email for personal uses), but are you as careful with preserving your texts as you are with your email?
Maybe you use text messaging for business purposes and want to make sure your messages can be retrieved if they are inadvertently deleted or if your phone is lost. Or maybe you find yourself needing to locate a message but unable to remember whether it was in a text or an email… and would rather not spend hours searching through both inboxes. (Or maybe, like me, you need to delete some old texts because there are so many that your texting app has become sluggish.)
Whatever the scenario, if you use texting with any regularity, you’ll probably be interested to know about an Android app called SMS Backup+.
SMS Backup+ automatically backs up your text messages into Gmail, which is extremely useful because not only are they preserved and safe, they are searchable. This app will back up SMS, MMS, and call logs into your Gmail and Google Calendar with a separate label. And as a bonus, you can also use it to restore messages to your phone.
Once downloaded, the app is very easy to get up and running. If you have a lot of texts to back up, it may take a while for them all to copy over, but that will just run in the background until it’s complete. Once installed and set to auto backup, your texts will be backed up and available in your Gmail account within moments of sending or receiving.
Need Free Photos? Try Unsplash
Need an image for a poster, website, or social media post but don’t have a budget for stock or custom photography? Check out Unsplash, where thousands of photographers have generously made their photos available completely free for commercial or noncommercial purposes.
Simply type a keyword into the search bar and you’ll be presented with tons of photos that have been tagged with terms that match or are related to your search. The search function is pretty basic, but I’ve always been able to find what I need by getting creative with alternative search terms.
The site is very straightforward – you’ll see from this FAQ that using Unsplash is not complicated. Once you’ve downloaded an image, it’s yours to do whatever you like with it. There is no requirement to credit the photographer or the site, though it’s encouraged, and Unsplash has made it easy to do so with the “give credit” button that appears on every photo.
Do you have other favourite sites for high-quality, free photos? Please share in the comments.
Use Canva for Easy, Eye-Catching (And Free) Infographics
You stare at a Word document full of dense text, nary a headline or bulleted list in sight. You aimlessly play with font sizes and faces and tables and margins, knowing you aren’t really making any progress. Not even clip art can save it. You’re doomed: the document is utterly, completely boring.
We’ve all been there, faced with this seemingly impossible task: to somehow transform pages of text into something people will actually read. (Or better yet, something people will actually WANT to read!)
The next time you find yourself in this unenviable position, I encourage you to check out a free, nifty online tool called Canva.
I discovered this tool while trying to turn the Slaw Reader Survey results (which began as a snooze-inducing “wall of text” of raw data) into something engaging and eye-catching that folks would be excited to read.
Here’s one of the infographics I created to show where Slaw readers live:
- tons of templates and backgrounds that you can customize with your own material (for this particular project, I used some templates almost “as is”, and started other infographics from scratch)
- a vast assortment of icons, images, typefaces, etc.
- a simple interface with helpful built-in rulers and guidelines
- good interactive tutorials to show you the ropes of the service
You can also use Canva for social media graphics, posts, presentation slides, and really any other graphic-based creation you can think of. I encourage you to try it out – not only will you come up with something aesthetically pleasing and useful, I bet you’ll have fun while you’re at it.