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iPad and the Paperless Office - Part 2

Posted by attorney Timothy Williams

This is the second part of a guide published today.

Document Viewers

Unfortunately, the iPad does not come well equipped to view various document formats commonly used by attorneys. Thankfully, there are several apps that handily solve that problem. Below are some of the more popular ones.

DocsToGo. This is the closest to the Microsoft Word/Excel suite you can come in the iPad – at least until Microsoft finally gets off of its duff and submits apps of its own for use. In the meantime, this app allows you to create Word (.doc) documents, as well as Excel (.xls) and PowerPoint (.ppt). While not a perfect match, it covers the basic functions, and is easy to use. It is a bit clunky sometimes, as the text seems to take an extra moment to appear as you type, but it gets the job done if you want to create or edit Office-formatted documents.

iAnnotate. This is my favorite app to read and annotate PDF documents. Once a PDF is uploaded from Dropbox or e-mail, it allows you to search text for specific words, go to a particular page in the text, highlight in multiple colors, mark, add text, add notes, underline, strikethrough, date stamp, etc. You can then save, e-mail or print the edited documents. There are a ton of other options, such as the ability to add audio clips to text or to sign documents electronically as well. You can also group documents into logical categories, create sub categories, and generally organize the documents as you see fit. Also, it is the fastest PDF viewer/editor I have found.

GoodReader. Very similar to iAnnotate, and also opens Office, iWork, images, and other files. An excellent app. While my personal preference is iAnnotate, this is a very close second.

PDF Expert. Another excellent app hot on the heels of iAnnotate. Like GoodReader, it can read multiple types of files, not just PDFs.

Documents by Readdle. Yet another well received document viewer and annotator. Can read and annotate multiple types of documents.

Adobe Reader. This app can read and annotate PDF documents. However, it has fewer annotation options than the others. Also, it can fill out PDF forms.

Document Sharing

There are several options that allow you to share documents through the “cloud." This sharing can be done with yourself (synching documents across all of your own devices), or with others (sharing documents with co-workers).

Dropbox. I have been a big fan of Dropbox for a couple of years, now. The beauty of Dropbox is that it is integrated into many other apps. Moreover, it installs on your iPad, PC, Mac, iPhone, laptop, etc. It looks and feels just like any other folder on your computer or device. However, once you place a file in your Dropbox folder, it is automatically uploaded to the cloud. (Think of the cloud like a server). Then, that file is simultaneously downloaded to all of your devices. Should you happen to open the document later and make any changes, the changes are automatically made on the version stored in the cloud, and thus, downloaded to all of your devices. Therefore, you can pull the document on your iPad edit it, and those edits will immediately show up on your desktop. There are also options for sharing your folder with others, including coworkers. In terms of working with other apps, this app is the most integrated I have found.

Box. This is extremely similar to Dropbox. Same idea – cloud-based storage of a document that is available on all devices.

SugarSync. This app is also similar to Dropbox as well, but with some additional features. For example, you can stream your music stored on other devices through this app. You can also control what documents are on your computers remotely through the app. I have not yet used it, but it gets reviews on par with Dropbox. I do think that Dropbox has the upper hand in terms integration into other apps. However, SugarSync appears to win out on some of these additional features that go beyond that which both apps do quite well – store and sync files across all devices.

YouSendIt. This app has features quite similar to Dropbox. However, it is not nearly as well integrated into other apps. Moreover, many of its features only work with the iPhone. I assume that a future update will include these features on the iPad version as well.

Case Management

TrialWorks. There are several ways one can manage their cases electronically. At the office, we use TrialWorks as our case management software (, and are very pleased with it. Thankfully, TrialWorks also has a pared down version of its full case management suite available for the iPad, and it is designed to communicate with your server through the Internet or wireless network. As of the time of this writing, I am just starting to play around with the app, but have found it useful thus far. If you do not use TrialWorks, I note that there are also several other apps available to aid you in managing your cases.

Dropbox. This is also a great app for case management, in that you can control the organization of your various Dropbox folders. For example, you may have a folder labeled "Cases." In that folder, you would have case names, "Jones, Steve," for example. In each of the client-specific folders, you could create additional sub-folders – "Correspondence," "Memos," "Pleadings," "Discovery," "Chart Notes,""Bills," and so-on. Then, you can save the appropriate documents into each of these sub-folders as you see fit. This includes any documents (mail, chart notes, bills, etc.) that you have scanned. Not only are those documents available on all of your devices, but the file structure automatically transfers as well. Not bad for a free/low-cost service.

Note Taking

Yes, the iPad can replace the tried and true yellow pad! Indeed, there are multiple options available to generate electronic handwritten notes. However, unlike the yellow pad, many of the apps can recognize handwriting, perform word searches, automatically back up the notes, and can be reorganized on the fly. Below are a few of the more popular examples. (NOTE: each of the following apps is feature-rich, highly rated, and quite similar to one another in terms of function, features and ease of use.)

Penultimate. This is my favorite note taking app. It does exactly as it sounds – allows you to take handwritten notes. I like the lined paper options, as well as the fact that the notes are automatically backed up to Evernote. Thus, you can take notes on your iPad, set the iPad down, and instantaneously see your handwritten notes on your computer. You have several options as to pen color, line thickness, you can insert photos, clip notes out with “scissors" and move them to a different section, insert or reorder the pages, etc. It also recognizes your handwriting (or, in my case, attempts to), making it word searchable. Pretty slick. If you prefer to take handwritten deposition notes, I highly recommend this app.

Notability. This is also a handwriting app. Many of its features are quite similar to Penultimate. While it is missing the automatic Evernote upload that Penultimate has, it does offer some features not found in Penultimate. The first is the fact that the text will orient with the iPad - if you write a note while holding the iPad horizontally, then turn it vertically, the text will rotate so that you can still read what you wrote. Also, it offers a palm rest – a place to rest your palm as you write without marking the e-paper up. However, its most interesting feature is the fact that it can record audio while simultaneously recording your notes. The two recordings are time-synched. Thus, if you wanted to hear what was actually said when you wrote a particular note, you can go to that note and play the audio that corresponds with the time it was written.

Noteshelf. Another great notetaking app that is well received and well reviewed. "Impressive and feature-rich" according to MacWorld. Can organize your notes into different "notebooks" (file folders), with several options as to their appearance within the app. Really a pleasant user interface, with multiple note templates that are available. It has fully customizable pen colors, can upload and edit photos, and has wrist protection (prevents your wrist from marking up the page). It can also be used as an electronic whiteboard to present to a group (assuming you are projecting the image).

Notes Plus. Claims to be one of the most feature-rich handwriting apps in the App Store. Gets good reviews, so can't be too shabby. Can write, type, record background audio. Can annotate PDFs, insert images, and automatically backup onto Dropbox. Can also recognize your handwriting (assuming it is better than mine), turning it into a word-searchable format. Overall, one of the better choices out there.

PaperDesk. Allows you to take notes in several colors, fonts, add images, sketch, etc. No limit as to the type of content you are adding to a page. Can import PDFs from Dropbox. Can export your notes to Dropbox, GoogleDocs, E-mail, Twitter, AirPrint.

Note Taker HD. Very similar to the other apps in this area. Lots of color options, can fill in PDF forms, etc. You can also organize your pages into documents and folders, insert shapes, photos, clip art, output as a PDF, etc.

Daily Notes. Also very similar to the others. Feature laden. Gets great reviews. Dropbox backup. Word searchable. Can export as a PDF. Ability to organize notes into file folders, etc.

Additional resources provided by the author

Cited within the body of my guide.

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