Word Processors on iPad for Lawyers: Word Compatibility Shootout (Part II – Pleadings)

This is a follow up to the post I did a couple weeks ago about the Microsoft Word compatible word processing apps for the iPad. In that post, we compared how the different iPad apps handled some basic Word formatting that a lawyer would use in notes, correspondence, memoranda and the like. In this post, we’ll see how the different iPad apps handle pleading specific formatting.

Once again, our four major contenders are:

My methodology for this test was the same as the first test. First, I created a basic pleading on my desktop using Microsoft Word 2003. I made sure to include the major types of formatting one might find in a pleading: line numbering, caption, case citations, a text box, a footer and footnotes.

Click on the image for a larger view of the original file.

Once I had an original, I imported it into four iPad word processing programs. Within each app, I made a change to the document to ensure that the file was being saved anew by the app. I then exported the file from the iPad back to Word on my desktop. I created a pdf of the resulting output for use in this post.

A quick note about WYSIWYG performance. The iPad version of the file and the ultimate output often bore no resemblance to one another. While the ultimate output from a couple of the iPad apps was very good, you wouldn’t know it from looking at the iPad screen. In other words, the iPad, while having Word compatibility, does not provide a WYSIWYG experience. To highlight this, I captured a screen shot of the iPad screen of each app as I was editing the. Those images are also pasted below.

QuickOffice Connect Mobile Suite (iTunes link). QuickOffice did a great job. All formatting elements in the final product appear to be intact. Footnote preserved (even though not visible while editing on iPad). No WYSIWYG on the iPad. No line numbering, no text box, lost the footnote.

QuickOffice final output

QuickOffice on iPad

Pages (iTunes Link). Far from great. Caption has been moved around a bit and a bunch of extra space has crept in beneath the caption. The pleading now takes up a page and a half rather than one page like the original (only first page below). Footnote was also lost. Pages is closest to WYSIWYG on the iPad. Line numbers and text box made are showing up, but some formatting and spacing problems have already crept in distorting it from the original.

Pages final output

Pages on iPad

Documents to Go Premium (iTunes Link). About tied with QuickOffice. Caption, line numbering, case formatting, footnote, text box all appear intact in the final product. Terrible WYSIWYG performance (no line numbering, butchered caption, no text box), but gets top marks for final output.

DTG final output

DTG on iPad

Office2 HD (iTunes link). Sadly, Office 2 HD turned in dead last. Lots of formatting changes, caption is a wreck, line numbering lost, line formatting lost, pleading pushed onto a second page. Oy. Far from WYSIWYG performance on the iPad.

Office 2 HD final output

Office 2 HD on iPad

Verdict. As before, the ultimate output from Documents to Go Premium and QuickOffice Connect Mobile Suite are best. Both of these apps preserved line numbering, the caption box, case citation form and the footnote. Sadly, the output from Office 2 HD and Pages isn’t even a close second. Interestingly, the app that provided the best WYSIWYG experience on the iPad was Pages by handling the line numbering successfully.

I have all of these apps on my iPad for testing purposes, but QuickOffice Connect Mobile Suite (iTunes link) is the one that I use when I need Word compatible functionality. Even though the final output is on par with Documents to Go Premium (iTunes Link), I find the file management capabilities of QuickOffice to be superior (or at least easier for my brain to understand). That said, I am still muddling around in these apps a bit. I do most of my iPad writing in SimpleNote, so I haven’t had the experience with the full  featured word processing apps on the iPad to learn all their respective quirks yet.

Next in this series I think we are going to tackle contract drafting. I think the most notable formatting element there is use of outline numbering of various styles (each with differing indentation) and automatic cross references. Let me know in the comments if there is something you’d like to make sure I address.


Word Alternatives on iPad: Documents To Go Premium (with a caution)

Documents To Go for iPad

Just a quick note to point out that DataViz has updated its popular Documents To Go app (and its Premium counterpart) to be universal apps now formatted for the iPhone and the iPad. Documents To Go allows users to create, edit and view Microsoft Word and Excel compatible documents right on the iPad. The Premium version of the app adds PowerPoint functionality as well.

I’ll give the app some time for a full review and post my experiences later. I see from the App Store comments that some users are experiencing problems accessing some of the remote disk options. In the few minutes I have used the app, I’ve not experienced this problem. I am experiencing a problem viewing files in other apps that were created or modified in Documents To Go. While I was able to open a basic MS Word document easily in Documents To Go, once I saved it back to my Dropbox, I was unable to view that file in Dropbox or any other iPad apps (trying GoodReader, Office 2, Pages) getting an error about an unrecognized file format. I was able to open the file on my desktop just fine.

For now, I would recommend not using Documents To Go with any critical or time sensitive files. I’ll test the app more fully and report as well as continue to monitor the comments of other users.

Some users are reporting being charged for this app even though they are already owners of Documents To Go for the iPad. This is an upgrade of an existing app and should not result in a charge. To avoid a charge, I’d recommend the following: If you have the iPhone version of the app installed on your iPad, an update over the air through the App Store on your iPad should get you the new version without additional charges. If your copy of Documents To Go  is not currently installed on your iPad, I’d recommend updating the app through iTunes on your desktop, connecting your iPad to your computer, add the app back to your iPad using iTunes and then syncing (this is what I did). Do not click on “Buy App” in the App Store to upgrade. This may be the reason some people are reporting being charged again (typically when you try to buy an app you already own, you are not charged twice – the app simply downloads again – perhaps something in the upgrade to a universal app is preventing existing owners from being recognized when tapping Buy App in the App Store).

Let me know in the comments any early experiences you are having with Documents to Go.

Documents To Go is available in the App Store for $7.99 for the regular version (Word and Excel) and $11.99 for the Premium version (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and some other features). These prices are 20% off the regular price until June 4, 2010.

Upcoming App: Paddock by ManyTricks

Take a look at this video demo of an upcoming app by ManyTricks called Paddock.

Though the speed of the iPad minimizes lost efficiency in switching between apps,  (say from Safari to Mail), a windowed work environment could prove to be very useful in certain circumstances. I often draft a document or compose an email while referring to a pdf. The ability to have both on one screen would be more like how I work at my desktop. It would seem that use of an external keyboard would be ideal in these situations to avoid chunks of the screen being taken up by the virtual keyboard.

Looking forward to this in the App Store!

Unscientific Survey: iPad Adoption Rate by Lawyers will be Crazy Low

On Friday of last week, I gave a short CLE presentation. The audience was about 100 business lawyers whose years of practice comprised the following (helpfully provided by the CLE sponsor):

  • 0-4 years of practice: 28%
  • 5-10 years of practice: 30%
  • 11-15 years of practice: 8%
  • 16-20 years of practice: 3%
  • Over 20 years of practice: 24%
  • Nonlawyers: 7%

At the beginning of my presentation, I put up a slide with a picture of the iPad and asked how many people, by show of hands, recognized the product. Out of the 100 or so in attendance, approximately 35 raised their hand. I then asked how many planned on buying one for work or home use. No more than 5 hands remained in the air. Handicapping the data a bit, my portion of the presentation was in the morning after a break. So, people were still relatively alert, caffeinated and not yet checked out for the nice Friday afternoon.

I still expect to have to stand in line on April 3 to get one. Apparently, I won’t be standing with many other lawyers.

Track Changes on the iPad – An Update

A short followup to my post yesterday about recommended Word compatible word processing apps for the iPad. A commenter on that post quickly pointed out that I didn’t talk about the ability to create and manage tracked changes. Quite correct, and I should have. I’ve more or less written off tracked changes support given previous coverage of the subject so didn’t think to mention it. But I’m glad the commenter did, as I can provide an update.

What hasn’t changed is that none of the Word compatible apps can create or manage (i.e., accept or reject) tracked changes and comments. What has changed is that I’ve been able to confirm that Documents to Go Premium (iTunes Link) can display tracked changes and comments. I mistakenly told the commenter on Monday’s post that this functionality only worked with .docx files but in doing some additional tests today, I was able to display tracked changes and comments made in .doc files as well. The screen shot below shows how tracked changes and comments appear.

Viewing Word tracked changes in Documents to Go

The ability to display but not create or manage tracked changes and comments is a nice feature but as the commenter mentioned yesterday, isn’t really a solution. Because the tracked changes can’t be accepted/rejected, this feature doesn’t change my overall preference for QuickOffice Connect Mobile Suite (iTunes link). Just like for footnote compatibility, I’ll keep Documents to Go around, but will continue to use QuickOffice as my default app for Word compatible writing and editing (when I’m not using text).


This Time for Real: The iPad as a Legal Pad for Attorneys

If you have been wanting to use your iPad as a legal pad, go and install Penultimate right now (here’s an iTunes link to get you on your way). In a nutshell, this app turns the iPad into a very functional notetaking app. No fancy OCR or conversion of handwriting to text here. Just straight notes organized into notebooks. Notes you take are easily exported to pdf as an entire notebook or a page at a time.

Below is a sample of a short note I took using Penultimate. I found that I could write almost at full speed – I think my handwriting was only slowed from using my finger rather than a stylus.

Note from Penultimate

I’ve also attached the pdf export of my note to this post so you can see the actual export from the program. The app uses the familiar interface from the iWork suite for opening a new note and paging through existing notebooks. Instead of “My Documents” at the top of the screen, you see “My Notebooks.” Penultimate has a multiple undo feature, an eraser and a command to erase the entire page.

I love the real pen and paper feel of the app. The app uses earthy brown tones and has a natural or recycled paper feel to it – like a Moleskine. I found my handwriting to be just as legible (or illegible) as when using paper. I especially like how the app renders handwriting as though put down with a nice pen full of ink. No jagged curves, just smooth writing. You can select either grid, lined or plain paper. Though I would prefer not to carry around a stylus, I think a stylus is truly necessary to be able to write full speed.  I did not have a stylus available during my testing of this app – but I have a Pogo Sketch on order now.

I only have a few qualms about the program. First (and this isn’t Penultimate’s fault), the pages are sorta small. Consider the notes you take on a legal pad in a typical meeting. You should probably double or even triple your page count. Even though the iPad device is very close to the size of a legal pad, the writing surface is about 2 inches slimmer and 3 inches shorter.

Second (again, not a Penultimate problem), when you rest your palm on the iPad while you write at the top of the page, your palm “smudges” will sometimes register rather than the tip of your finger or stylus. So, you have to hover slightly when writing at the top of the page (especially in portrait mode).

I’d also like the ability to move pages around. Currently configured, this is exactly like a Moleskine notebook. Short of pulling pages out, you can’t move them around in the notebook. Of course, this is easily solved inside a pdf editor. Perhaps some page management will be available in a future version.

Finally, I might like to change ink colors sometime. This is a small nit, as I don’t use it when taking notes in a client meeting very often, but I can see where the option might be useful.

Those of you who caught my post this morning about Note Taker will note that I hastily declared the absence of functional note taking apps on the iPad. Shame on me. Penultimate was released over the weekend and has quickly climbed to the top of the charts in the Productivity section of the App Store. While I’m excited to see what Note Taker will look like on the iPad, I’m convinced that Penultimate is the ultimate note taking tool on the iPad right now. Get it while they have $2.99 introductory pricing in the App Store.

PDF export from Penultimate.

Tablet Legal Named to ABA Journal Blawg 100

Vote for Tablet Legal!

I was happy to learn that the editors of the ABA Journal selected Tablet Legal from among the 3,000 or so law blogs they track for inclusion in the ABA Journal Blawg 100. This list will be featured in the December issue of the ABA Journal. Looking at the other blogs comprising the top 100, this is impressive company to keep and I’m flattered to have Tablet Legal included even before its first anniversary.

You can register and vote for your favorites among the Blawg 100 – more on that below. Even if you don’t vote, be sure to check out all the amazingly great content being generated by these writers. I see that some of my favorite blawgs made the ABA list including Law Law Land, That’s What She Said, First One @ One First, Techdirt and the inspiration for Tablet Legal, Jeff Richardson over at iPhoneJD.

To vote for your favorite, you need to register at abajournal.com. If you haven’t registered previously, the process is relatively painless and free. You can vote for up to 12 of your favorites among the Blawg 100 and Tablet Legal (in the legal tech category) would be honored to get your vote.

Thanks to everyone who reads and comments at Tablet Legal and thanks to the editors at the ABA Journal for including my little hobby in the Blawg 100.


TabletLegal on Alltop

Happy to see and report that TabletLegal has been added to the iPad category of Alltop.  While there are quite a few iPad blogs on Alltop, TabletLegal is the only law focused blog that I noticed on their iPad list.

Alltop is a great way to consume RSS on your favorite subjects if you (i) don’t know what RSS is or (ii) don’t want to mess with a reader. Use MyAlltop to customize a page just for you filled with the most recent links to your favorite blogs.

Video tutorial for Alltop is below and see here for a FAQ about the MyAlltop feature.

Thanks, Alltop!

Soundpaper: Notes + Audio on the iPad


There is no shortage of note taking apps for the iPad. Soundpaper (iTunes link) by David Estes distinguishes itself in this crowded space by pairing audio recording capabilities with its basic type entry notetaker in a unique way.

The interface for Sounds pretty standard:  a file list in the left pane and the note pad in the right. Soundpaper’s notepad is supplemented with a “Record” button, a time counter and a playback slider. Unsurprisingly, tapping “Record” begins recording audio. Smartly, Soundpaper suppresses the clickty-clack sound effect generated by the iPad while recording. This also suppresses other iPad generated audio. (this may be a multitasking limitation and/or for copyright reasons as much as anything else). As such, it isn’t possible to play a podcast or song in the iPod and take notes about it using Soundpaper.

Soundpaper Recording Slider

In playback mode, you can tap on a word in your notes to immediately jump to the portion of the audio that was happening when you typed that portion of the notes. The jump is instantaneous and accurate. This is useful to review a speaker’s precise comments, when you doze off or if your notes can’t keep up with the speaker.

I used this pairing of audio and text to “bookmark” a lecture I attended recently. Rather than typing extensive notes on location, I simply noted the start of each of the main subjects covered by the speaker. Later, I was able to use these bookmarks to review the comments of the particular sections I was interested in. I found I could use the app this way while standing or at in a dining room where taking extensive notes wouldn’t have been practical.

Audio files recorded with Soundpaper can be exported from the app as high-quality AAC formatted 64kbps mono mp4 email attachments. The developer says that a 30 minute file is around 15MB. The audio and text integration can only be used in the app, however. Files can be exported via email or shared with a computer via wireless local network. Note that when accessing the mode for sharing via local network, any other computer on the local network could access your Soundpaper files (this is true for many apps that allow for local network file sharing, but would require someone to be actively “looking” for your iPad on the network at the time you invoke local file sharing capability to be able to access your files).

Soundpaper doesn’t allow insertion of images, handwriting or formatting of typed text. For me, this is OK but I can see where some of see other choices would be helpful, especially in a classroom setting. The ability to capture handwriting (and match with audio) would be the first of these features I’d like to see if done well (i.e., like Penultimate).

Soundpaper is a special purpose app. I think a typical lawyer would have limited use for the app on a day to day basis, but when needed it handles it’s job admirably. I can see this as a killer app for law students or when conducting an interview. A paired Bluetooth keyboard would improve the usefulness of this app by allowing for more comprehensive and speedy notes. There are desktop apps with this same functionality (notably Pear Note and Transcriva), though to my knowledge Soundpaper files (at least the pairing of text and audio data) aren’t compatible with these apps

Of course, don’t forget to check applicable law and copyright issues before recording someone without their consent.

Soundpaper is available in the App Store for $2.99.