Outline App Offers Import Utility for Circus Ponies Notebooks

A rather nice little app called Outline is going to release an import utility for Circus Ponies Notebooks. Outline runs on Mac and iPads and, here’s the really nice part, works with Microsoft OneNote. Outline originated as an iOS app that could read-write to Microsoft OneNote. Originally, OneNote was not available on the iPad and this developer put together Outline as a solution for accessing, reading and editing OneNote files. The interface is better and more flexible in some ways than OneNote. Another benefit of Outline over OneNote is the built-in ability to create a hyperlinked hierarchical Table of Contents to all notebook sections and pages.Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 12.46.59 PM

Finally, Outline offers a very smooth export to PDF where OneNote just seems to make this task difficult.

Of course, Outline also works as a standalone app without using OneNote or Microsoft OneDrive and can sync via Dropbox, iCloud and Box. So, rejoice Notebook users, there is now an opportunity to breathe some life into your beloved notes. Although Outline is not free like OneNote, right now they’re offering a 30% discount for former Circus Ponies Notebook users. This is a great example of an indie developer seeing an opportunity and making the most of it. The importer is currently in beta testing and limited to sign up, but should be released soon.

Reduce PDF for Court E-filings

Compressing or reducing PDF  document file size for e-filing with a court

E-filing documents saves a tremendous amount of time. But, getting file sizes right can be a huge headache. Our local e-filing (Utah) limits file size to about 7mb. Our local federal district court limits PDF file size to 10mb. Often times, a file that seems too large to upload as a single document can be compressed or reduced in size. PDF files now come from a variety of sources (clients, opposing counsel, online). We have no control over the settings when creating the original document. Cleaning up the pdf can often reduce the file size and allow filing without splitting up the document into multiple uploads. However, if you think you can compress a 452 page exhibit down to 10mb, you’re probably dreaming. File size remains a function of the analog document. Keep in mind that reducing below 150 dpi using any of these procedures may make small text virtually unreadable and may also effect the ability to convert to usable OCR.

Option #1 – Print and rescan the entire document and scan ‘good’ scan settings, i.e. 150 dpi. Of course, printing and re-scanning the document eliminates many of the efficiencies associated with using electronic versions of the file and wastes a tremendous amount of paper.

Option #2 – Use built in tools for Acrobat, Preview or PDF PenPro. In Preview, select file > export, then choose ‘Quartz Filter’ and ‘Reduce File Size’ from the drop down menus. Using Preview, you’re likely to get a reduction that makes small text difficult to read. PDF PenPro uses the same ‘filter’ as Preview, so you’re not going to get much mileage there. Acrobat has some very powerful file reduction features and granular control under the file > save as (from drop down choose Adobe PDF Files, Optimized). But, if there are any oddities in the document, you can end up with errors coming from who-knows-which-page. If you keep it simple and don’t muck around too much with the settings, you can get a good result. Pro-tip: Create a ‘temp’ folder on your desktop. Copy all exhibits to that folder. Create a batch process for reducing file size and run it on all exhibits after they have been put in the temp folder. Now you can visually see which of those files, even after reduction, is not going to pass the through the e-file size restrictions.

Option #3 – Use a ‘paid-for’ utility from the app store. Right now there are three paid utilities on the Mac App Store, PDF Squeezer ($3.99)(View in Mac App Store) allows you to create your own filter settings and has built in settings which work well, but no batch procession; PDF Compress Expert ($3.99)(View in Mac App Store) a little bit clunky interface with no option to rename documents, but does allow batch processing; PDF Compressor ($29.99)(View in Mac App Store) which also allegedly allows ‘batch processing,’ but is simply too expensive to purchase for review here.

Option #4 – Roll your own or DIY. The ‘paid for’ versions are, at bottom, doing something that any user can do using Automator or AppleScript. There are at least a couple articles out there that teach you how to create your own ‘filter’ on the Mac which will then be accessible in either PDF PenPro or Preview. If you are a hacky type, go roll your own.

For now, it does not appear that there is an easy way to accomplish PDF file size reduction using an iPad.

Timestream Case Analysis Tool & Review

Case Analysis Using Timestream

Well designed and smooth interface. A nice approach to viewing cases from a chronological perspective and virtually no learning curve. Features a bit limited on the 1.0 release given for review and few quirks. Lawyers looking for a different view of their case facts might find a place for Timestream in their toolkit.

Getting Info Into Timestream

Putting events into Timestream is fairly straightforward, but with a few quirks. Events consist of date, time and description. Files can also be associated with an event via the Finder or drag and drop. Tags can be added to events. Tags are a bit quirky. If you have ever used a tagging system with software before (Evernote, DEVONthink etc.) you probably expect to be able to just start typing a tag in the Tags field and, if the tag already exists it will autocomplete. If the tag does not exist, hitting return will add a new tag once you finish typing the word. Timestream requires each tag to be entered using a mouse click on a “+” button and selecting the tag. This must be done for each tag added to an event.

Filtering & Searching Case Info

Searching can be done on the fly by selecting a tag, using word search across titles and descriptions or a combination of both. Searches on words can be single word, boolean and include at least rudimentary wild card support, e.g. surger* will return all results for surgery and surgeries. Saved searches can also be created using either or both, but with the added benefit that more than one tag at a time may be used for the search. Selection of more than one tag requires that ALL of those tags be present. I.E. it is an ‘and’ type search and cannot be changed to an either/or search for multiple tags. Searching only occurs on information entered in Timestream and does not extend to attached files, so it won’t search through any of the attached PDF text.

Case Analysis Mac Software Timestream

Summary

At this point, the software is well developed, does not seem buggy and provides a useful tool if you aren’t already doing case analysis in a manner that allows you to see your case facts chronologically. A few more features would be nice, including the ability to see events in a list or spreadsheet view as opposed to being stuck with the timeline view. It would also be good if the app searched the text inside attached files which contain searchable text. Additionally, import and export functions would be much appreciated and perhaps help with data entry as well. Finally, it would be great if all of your hard work could be shown in a ‘presentation’ view format or at least be exportable for use by other time lining software such as BeeDocs 3D Timeline. Although Timestream bills itself as capable of converting a timeline into a ‘multi-modal, multi-media presentation tool that runs in any web browser,’ that feature is not currently available in the testing program provided for review.

Timestream is cross-platform and there are plans for iOS apps as well. Pricing is not yet available.

Essential Mac Apps

The best part about Macs is the ease of upgrading to new hardware. In the old Windows days, an upgrade to new hardware meant hours lost reinstalling applications, hunting down serial number and praying to the software licensing gods that there wouldn’t be some crazy limitation preventing you from installing software you already purchased on your shiny new computer. With a Mac, the ability to easily transfer an entire user environment (apps, data, settings) from the old hardware is dead simple.

But, recently, I came into possession of an iMac. Not having worked from a desktop in a very long time, I decided to do a clean install of OS X and then track which apps I was forced to install first.

The First Apps Installed On A Clean Mac

Notably, you can get quite a bit of work down without installing anything. OS X’s built in Mail, Calendar, Preview (reads PDFs) and Address Book get you up to speed fairly quickly, and for free. But, it also didn’t take long to start needing other stuff to get the job done quickly, and more comfortably. So, from first installed to last, here’s the list of essential Mac OS X apps used in my daily routine.

June 29, 2012: Update – I was just over at MILO and read New Jersey estate planning lawyer Victor Medina’s response listing his essential Mac apps. He included Dropbox and Alfred (or LaunchBar). I actually use both of those and, in fact, installed those early on but they so seamlessly integrate into my workflow that I forgot to include them on the list altogether.

1. BusyCal – Sync with just about anything and list view.
2. Moom – Getting windows set just right on the screen.
3. 1Password – Surprised this didn’t come in first, really. Tracks all your important passwords AND credit cards, driver’s licenses etc.
4. TextExpander – Too many joys to explain, from audience specific signature lines in emails to shortcuts for legal citations.
5. OmniFocus – When you get tired of spinning your wheels and going ten different directions at once, put some direction to your energy (just don’t put it all into micromanaging your ToDo list, a.k.a. know when to stop organizing what you need to do and start doing stuff.)
6. Pages – Because, eventually, you’ll need to write something with substance and formatted in an eye pleasing manner.
7. DEVONthink Pro Office – Heavy lifting, digging deep case and issue analysis.
8. Skitch – Screenshots, but importantly, screenshot filenames which tell you where the screenshot came from, including the page number of the PDF you were looking at when you took the screenshot.
9. Circus Ponies NoteBook – Collecting and building notes, depo outlines, thoughts, themes and exhibits, so that it can all get thrown together into a Trial Notebook.
10. Default Folder X – OS X’s continuing shortcoming? Finder. Fix it with this nice little utility that makes the finder truly useful, including the ability to add OpenMeta tags to files as you save them.
11. DEVONtechnologies Free Word Service – Ever need to delete bunch of line endings or change an ALL CAPS line to small caps? Go get this free utility to quickly and effortlessly manipulate text.
12. DEVONsphere – $4.99 on the app store. Get it and play with it. It can be a bit of processor hog, so set it on a weekly index schedule, preferably on a day you are not working.
13. OmniOutliner Pro – The old standby outliner. It is a great way to organize depo outlines and the standout columns feature allows you to sort by date, or do spreadsheet style calculations.
14. Parallels/WinXP (TextMap, WordPerfect) – Bleh. Occasionally you just get sucked back in… think of it as going into the storage room in the basement to pull some old file out of archives and then relish your return to the sunlit corner office of Mac OS X.

Do you have a ‘must install’ app not listed above? Tell us about it in the comments, including the ‘why.’