Archive for category .PDF

The Digital US Supreme Court

Last week I learned HERE that US Supreme Court Justice Scalia reads case briefs on an iPad. Newly appointed Justice Kagan is also digital, and reads her case briefs on a Kindle. Check out her comments in this video:

Glad to see the Supreme Court adopting technology to save time and paper.

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Excellent Tutorial on Creating Digital Signatures

I’ve been using a digital signature for a long time, and I recently ran across this excellent tutorial on how to create your own.  Check it our if you are interested.  It can save you a lot of paper.

How to create a digital signature stamp in Acrobat from Digital Workflow CLE on Vimeo.

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iPad Interface and Court Records

iPad’s are working flawlessly in the Court and Office setting. I’ve attached screen shots below for for the benefit of any body that uses the local system.

Our Circuit Court allows remote access to Court files for attorneys to the cases they are attorney of record on. Our office case management system is basically a website we host on our intranet, allowing any device with a browser to access and open case files.

The iPad works great for those functions, allowing me to open any active or closed case in the last 10 years, view the documents in those case files, and even play the audio and look at any photos contained in them. All of the screenshots below are directly from the iPad’s interface.  Click any picture to open it in the native iPad resolution.

Landscape Screen:

Portrait Screen:

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Reviewing the Kindle

Recently, I bought the Kindle. I looked at a number of different readers, but eventually went with the Kindle because the Sony Touch was slightly more expensive and there has been some talk that the text on the Touch isn’t quite as sharp. I bought the smaller Kindle because I can’t picture having the larger screen without the ability to use a stylus to write notes. If I’d bought a larger screen ereader I would have gone with Sony’s because it has a stylus and its lower price. The smaller Kindle, at $259, was the best price for an ereader that I trust.

The Good: When you use the Kindle for what it is built for it does an amazing job. It is the perfect replacement for paperbacks. The e-ink is crystal clear and it’s not another glowing screen to wear out your eyes. You can adjust the font size and I did bump it up a size because of my eyes which were never so great and which have been worn out by too much staring at glowing screens; if you have younger eyes you may bump it down a size to get more on one screen. You can hold the tablet easily in one hand and click the button to change the page with your thumb. Personally, I suggest that you don’t get one of the many covers which make the Kindle look like a book and will require you to use both hands like a book. It just works perfectly as a one hand device.

Prices at Amazon are generally very reasonable. Amazon held the line at $9.99 maximum for all e-books until recently. After a recent dustup with some major publishers, Amazon was eventually forced to give ground. Still, I think the highest price I saw was $14.99 and I found a number of classic books, such as Blackstone, for $.99 (I even found Moby Dick available free of charge). Outside of Amazon, other companies can provide digital books which work on the Kindle through various formats. Some companies are reasonable about this and some are insane enough to think that I’ll pay the price of a hardbound book even if they haven’t paid for ink or paper or shipping or the profit the brick and mortar would have taken.

All-in-all, once ereaders come down to a reasonable price (they really should be $99 or lower), there will be no reason for anyone to buy a paperback anymore except sheer stubbornness. The only reason to buy hardbound books will be to have the book on a shelf to impress people.

The Bad: The thing I’m most upset about has nothing to do with Amazon. It has to do with legal publishers. This would be a good medium for legal trial books – the ones companies put out every year for practitioners to take to court with them so that they are able to make arguments on the fly. Specifically, I checked for Criminal Offenses and Defense in Virginia, The Law of Evidence in Virginia (usually called “Friend”), Police, Crimes and Offenses and Motor Vehicle Laws of Virginia (yearly selected codes for crime and traffic), and the Annotated codes (both Lexis and West). None of these were available. Neither West nor Lexis had any useful books which could be downloaded on the Kindle. Last year, West announced that it was putting 30 of its books out for the Kindle, but there wasn’t a single one of them which was really of use.

The Other: PDF’s don’t work well on the Kindle; it shrinks them in size and can make them very difficult to read. I can’t really complain about this because if I’d wanted full size I could have bought one of the larger ereaders.

I also can’t use the wireless downloading of books, but this is not Amazon’s fault. When the Kindle 2 was first released, it worked great in Southwest Virginia/East Kentucky as it was CDMA cellular based and worked on providers like Verizon, Alltel, and Sprint. Newer models are GSM Global devices designed to work more places in the world on services such as AT&T and T-Mobile. We just have very limited wireless GSM service here in the mountains. I was able to get the wireless to work over in a town in Kentucky, but didn’t download any books (just checked the internet). Not having wireless isn’t all that bad, all you do is download a book from the Amazon site to your computer and transfer it via a USB cord.

The internet browser on the Kindle is primitive. It works about like a phone browser on a non-smart phone. If a site is optimized for mobile browsers the site is easily read; if the site isn’t optimized for it (or has flash) it’s just not going to work very well. Basically, you should be able to read well put together blogs and newspapers.

The MP3 player is basic. It works. It can also play music while you read books. My Creative Zen is more versatile and smaller, so I use it instead.

Versus the iPad: There have no shortage of stories predicting the death of the Kindle because of the coming iPad. At this point the Apple reality distortion field is in full effect, so it’s hard to tell. The one actual bit of research I’ve been able to find indicates that the Kindle is actually doing better than the iPad.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this continues. I know that since I’ve started carrying mine their have been a lot of people showing interest in it and most of them are people I don’t see buying an iPad for personal use (or any other tablet computer). My main hope is that the competition from multi-purpose tablets will drive ereaders down to where their pricing ought to be, perhaps $79.99 for the smaller and $124.99 for the larger unit. It’d also be nice if they finally went to color e-ink. I hope they don’t try to change from single focus devices to multi-focus. If the ereader providers try to compete at that level they’ll lose.

Conclusion: As something to read with, the Kindle is easily better than a paperback book. In the end, even at $259, it will pay for itself in money I save on books (assuming the current pricing scheme holds) in about 18 months, but it is really too expensive to achieve the level of market penetration it should be getting. If you can afford one buy it.

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Use Optical Character Recognition to search an entire .PDF portfolio

Acrobat for Legal Professionals has a new great tip posted on how to use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to batch process all the .PDF files in a portfolio to make them all searchable at once. This would work great for a client case file or files full of legal research. Imagine being able to search all of the cases you have from Lexis or Westlaw for certain words or phrases. OCR makes it possible.

You can read about it and learn how to do it HERE.

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iPad for lawyers

With the release of Apple’s iPad just around the corner, many websites are popping up with tips and tricks on how the device can be used by lawyers. The MacLawyer has a good summary HERE.

I’m very excited about the iPad. Our case management system is web based and can be accessed from any device with a web browser, such as the iPad. The iPad can open and potentially edit .pdf files, which is how all of our documents are saved. The iPad can also view photos, videos, and play the audio recordings we regularly use in Court. Another huge benefit? You can buy 2 iPads for less than the price of one tablet PC.

Have your own firm? Track your time and billing with the iPad using a billing/time app such as Timemaster and generate .pdf invoices with GetPaid!. Forget a file at your office? Access it from the iPad with DropBox. Need to control the computer on your desk at your office? No problem with LogMeIn Ignition.

With the iPad, prosecutors could have access to current case files, closed files, a web browser for online legal research, email, and the entire Code of Virginia in one small device with enough battery life to last all day in Court. It is all pointing to a smart fit in an much more affordable package for digital lawyers. The iPad is available for pre-order Friday, and will ship April 3.

UPDATE: Good article HERE about selecting the version that is right for you.

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Don’t have a computer with .PDF creation software? No problem.

If you need a .PDF file and are not using your computer, you can easily make one online. If you are like most people on planet earth, you have a Google account. A Google account comes with a great deal of free features, including Google Docs, an online document creator/editor. You can upload any type of file into Google Docs, including any type of word processor file.

Once you upload your file from your word processing software to Google Docs, you can then save and download it in multiple formats, including .PDF.

Check out this screenshot:

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Share PDF files on your website with Scribd

Scribd is a free service I’ve been using for a while that allows you to embed code in your website and allow visitors to view documents in multiple formats. For example, here is Lane Kiffin’s contract with the University of Tennessee:

101909 Kiffin Contract

It is 23 pages, but you can easily read, search, download, print, or share it.

By embedding it in your website, you also don’t have to host it or waste your storage on it. Have a standard client info form you require to be filled out? Put the document on your website and allow clients to read it and fill it out before their appointment.

Head over to SCRIBD and check it out.

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Metadata and the attorney…

Know what metadata is? Metadata is basically data about your data. Metadata is the who, what, when, where, and why of documents, pictures, etc… that you create. For example, the metadata in a Word document may contain the author of the document, when it was created, the text that was edited, deleted, etc….

Imagine drafting a plea agreement, contract, will, deed, etc… in Word. Any opposing counsel could open the document and see the metadata, and perhaps the changes and revisions you made. Why do we care? Ethics. You could potential be sending out sensitive client information unwillingly. While not malicious in itself, metadata can cause you some serious concerns when dealing with a client’s sensitive documents.

Most programs like Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc… insert metadata into their files. A good practice for any attorney is to get rid of it if you don’t want anyone else poking around in it. How do we do that? By scrubbing it, of course!

There are a lot of ways to “scrub” metadata from a document. If you are using Adobe Acrobat products and creating .PDF files, it is easy. Before you save the document, simply select “document” then “examine document”. Look at this example of Lane Kiffin’s contract with the University of Tennessee:

Look at the left column. It shows the metadata in this document and even gives the option to look at deleted or cropped areas, and remove the metadata. The ability to remove metadata is one more advantage to the .PDF file format.

If you use Word, there are several ways to remove metadata from your Word documents as well. Newer versions of Word have a similar “examine document” function like Acrobat, but older versions don’t. If you use older versions of Word, you may be interested in the free program Doc Scrubber. You can download it HERE. Doc Scrubber is only for Windows computers, though.

While beneficial sometimes, metadata can certainly be bad for attorneys. Some states have addressed this in legal ethics opinions and made it the sending lawyers duty to remove it, and admonished receiving lawyers for looking at it as a unauthorized look at potential attorney-client privileged information. So why risk it? Just remove it.

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Save any printable document as a .PDF file for free

The .PDF file format is quickly becoming a necessity for any business. If you are an attorney and work in Wise County or in any Federal Court, you must know how to save documents as .PDF files. For many newer office software suites, the ability to save a document as a .PDF file is built in.

But what if you have an older version of Word, or are still using WordPerfect? You may be interested in PrimoPDF or CutePDF. Both work virtually the same, installing a “virtual” printer on your computer. The benefit gained is the ability to create a .PDF file from any printable document. Both work well, you can’t really go wrong with either. The videos below show how simple they are to use.

Go Here to download PrimoPDF.

Go HERE to download CutePDF.

Own a Mac? The ability to “print to” or “save as” a .PDF is built in.

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