March 2011

Lawyers Using iPads: David Sparks

One of the things I always find interesting is how different people put the iPad to work, especially in a legal practice. Today I’m very excited to share with you the iPad home screen of Mr. David Sparks, author of MacSparky and co-host of MacPowerUsers podcast. I understand that David has also been shaking off the dust over at MacSparky Screencasts with a soon to be released epic tour of the GTD program, OmniFocus. I asked David to give us a tour of his iPad home screen and talk a little bit about how he uses the iPad in his practice. David, take it away…

So about this iPad, I love it. It feels like technology from the future and I immediately incorporated it into my law practice.

Here is my home screen. On my iPad I keep the home screen with my “go to” apps. The second and third pages are a series of alphabetized folders with names like Reading, Calculators, Reference, and (of course) Games.

So here is a rundown of some of my favorite apps:


I was resistant to GoodReader at first. The UI felt clunky and (silly as it sounds) the icon looks terrible. However, they just keep making it faster, easier, and adding more features. I have folders for all of my active litigation and corporate matters. I annotate and bookmark documents on my computers or the iPad and move documents back and forth using Goodreader’s new syncing feature. Seamless.


I have an ongoing fixation with text editors on my iPad. I am currently using this one because it is gorgeous, has great search features, and it syncs with my Simplenote folder on my Dropbox. I’ve got hundreds of text snippets I use in the practice and Simplenote/Dropbox/Notesy lets me share these between all my platforms: Mac OS X, Windows 7, and iOS.


iThoughts is a great touch based mind mapping application. I use it all the time to organize thoughts before writing briefs and long letters. Best of all, it saves to OPML so you can use it with all sorts of other applications.


Dropbox is a cloud based file system that lets you painlessly sync files between computing platforms. They have hooks to let iPad developers save and open files directly from your cloud storage and this is awesome. I think a Dropbox account should be mandatory for all iPad owners. I know some lawyers that run their whole file system off Dropbox.

There are a few applications that aren’t on my home screen but still useful to my legal practice.

PowerOne Financial Calculator

This is (in my opinion) the definitive financial calculator on the iPad. Also of interest to lawyers, it includes a date calculator so you can figure out exactly what 30 days from last Tuesday is.

Court Days Pro

Court Days Pro lets you set up rules for calculating calendar dates. Very useful.


LawBox is a digital statute book that lets you purchase statutes from selected states.


While iPad Keynote is not a replacement for the Mac Keynote (yet), it is still very useful in small groups. For big presentations, I still use the Mac. I like to use a remote to advance slides and looking down and swiping just doesn’t work for me.

Thanks for inviting me to TabletLegal Josh. I’m a big fan.

Thank you, David. I am looking forward to trading app stories with you at ABA Tech Show!

Getting Files Onto Your iPad (Part II)

This is the second installment in my iPad 101 posts about getting files onto an iPad. Last time I gave an overview about how to move files onto the iPad by mounting it as a wireless USB drive. This time we’ll talk about how to use a Internet based cloud service.

As I mentioned before, I think I mistakenly assumed that most iPad users know how to use all the different methods to get files onto an iPad. I think many people still like to move files around by USB flash drives via “sneakernet.” I don’t like and haven’t ever used USB flash drives because I find the wireless methods faster, easier, less likely to be lost and more secure. So today I’m going to walk through the process of moving files onto your iPad using the cloud service Dropbox.

Again, a typical situation: a lawyer needs to move a bunch of PDF files from his or her computer onto the iPad for review and annotation. The files are voluminous and large making e-mail impractical.

For this example, I’ll use PDF Expert (iTunes link), but know that this strategy can be used with many other file management or PDF annotation apps. The process is similar for many of the other web based storage services.


Three simple steps.

Step 1. Download and install Dropbox. It is super simple and free for 2 GB of storage. The end result will be a folder on your computer called “Dropbox.” Remember where this sits as you’ll need it later (I put an alias to mine on my desktop for easy access).

Download and install Dropbox.

Step 2. Now we need to link your Dropbox to the app you want to use. With PDF Expert, do this by tapping “Network” in the left navigation pane, then tap “Add” and then tap “Dropbox” from the list of services. Enter your Dropbox username and password. This will add your Dropbox to the list of “Favorite Servers” in PDF Expert.

Make Dropbox available to your app.

Step 3. Go to your computer and toss the files you want on your iPad into your Dropbox. Wait a few minutes and those files will be copied into your Dropbox.

Step 4. Back to your iPad. Tap the Dropbox account we added in step 2. All the files you just tossed into your Dropbox will be displayed. Tap each file name to copy that file to your iPad. Now get to work!

This is the method I use most frequently to move files onto my iPad. Once you get used to this process, you can start experimenting with features like synced folders. The help file for PDF Expert or your file management app of choice has detailed instructions about all the ways your iPad can talk to Dropbox.

Let me know in the comments what other “101″ type subjects might be of interest to you.

Moving Files Onto the iPad

Back to my iPad 101 series. Last time I gave an overview about how files are managed on an iPad. This time we’ll talk about how to get files onto the iPad.

I think I have mistakenly assumed that most iPad users know how to use Dropbox or WebDAV or wireless networking to get files onto their iPad. After all, many people still move files around by e-mail which is often fine for one or two items. For bigger jobs, I think lots of people still use USB thumb drives via “sneakernet.” So, for many users, it may not be immediately obvious how to move a big bucket of files onto the iPad. I hope to remedy that today.

Let’s take a typical situation: a lawyer needs to move a bunch of PDF files from his or her computer onto the iPad for review and annotation. The files are voluminous and large making e-mail impractical.

For this example, I’ll be using PDF Expert (iTunes link), but these strategies can be employed with other file management or PDF annotation apps. Today I’ll talk about how to use your iPad like a wireless USB drive. In a future post I’ll talk about how to use a cloud service.

Wireless USB Drive

Even though the iPad doesn’t have a USB port, you can still connect your iPad to your computer as a wireless USB drive. The precise steps to do this vary depending on if you use Windows or a Mac and which app you are using. But generally, the procedure is something like this:

Step 1. Find out the app’s IP address. In PDF Expert, you do this by tapping Network in the left navigation pane (image below). The IP address is a four digit number separated with dots like:

Find your iPad’s IP address here.

Step 2. On your computer, you need to mount the network drive.

  • On a Windows PC, you will click “My Computer” in the Start menu and then select “Map Network Drive.”
  • On a Mac, select “Connect to Server” in the Finder’s Go menu.

Step 3. You’ll then be prompted to enter the iPad’s IP address. You’ll precede it with http:// and then the number you determined under step one.

After completing these steps, the iPad will appear as a drive on your desktop computer just like if you plugged in a USB flash drive. Simply drag and drop the files you want onto this drive and they will be copied wirelessly to the app on your iPad. The settings you go through can be saved on your computer so you can easily mount the iPad as a wireless drive in the future.

The help files for all the major file management or PDF annotation apps like PDF Expert describe these steps in more detail if you get stuck. Most of these apps also enable you to add a password for additional security.

Personally, I don’t like USB flash drives because they are easily lost, create yet another version to manage and aren’t secure. I’ve used this method successfully on both my iPhone and my iPad and have never had need for a USB flash drive.

Next time we’ll talk about how to accomplish the same thing using a cloud based service like Dropbox. Let me know in the comments your preferred method for moving documents onto your iPad.

Speaking of iPads: Tablet Legal Tour

Just a quick programming note about upcoming Tablet Legal speaking engagements.

ABA – April 10-13 – Chicago, IL

As I mentioned before, next month I’ll be part of two presentations at the ABA Tech Show. I’ll be speaking at two sessions. The first is “Slate Shootout” in the Emerging Technology Track where Nerino Petro (Compujurist), Kathy Jacobs and I will compare and contrast the iPad with an Android tablet and a Windows slate (I know what device I’ll be rooting for). In the second, Jeff Richardson (iPhone J.D.), Reid Trautz (Reid My Blog!) and I will appear in the Smartphone/Mobility track to tackle 60 iOS apps in 60 minutes. Should be a jam packed couple of hours.

OSB PLF – Portland, OR – June 1

On June 1, I’ll be Joined by Jack Newton from Clio to talk about the iPad, practice management and paperless workflows at CLE by the Oregon State Bar Professional Liability Fund.

OADC – June 25 – Sunriver, OR

Finally, on June 25 I’ll be speaking at the Annual Convention for the Oregon Association of Defense Counsel out in Sunriver, Oregon.

If you plan to be at any of these events, please introduce yourself!

Hey Lawyer! New iPad? Get These Apps First (File Management)

So we are up to post number 7 in my series of eight posts of starter apps for a lawyer looking to build a basic work rig. No special trim packages or custom features: just a good stock setup. Last time I covered Word and Excel compatible apps. This time we are going to talk about file management apps.

Let’s be honest: file management is a bit of a chore on the iPad. Because file storage is segregated by app rather than located in a centrally accessible area requires some workflow changes in order to manage files and versions. I’ve talked about file storage and management from a conceptual level before. This time we’ll talk apps.

There are scads of file management apps for the iPad and I’ve tried a lot of them. Having tried a lot of them, I think the elements of a good file management app are:

  • hooks to your favorite cloud service (e.g., Dropbox, MobileMe,
  • ability to keep one or more cloud folders synced with your iPad
  • ability to preview all the file types you typically come in contact
  • can operate as a wireless USB drive over a local network
  • easy to navigate and organize files
  • ability to search by file name
  • need to be able to e-mail and print files easily
  • needs to be able to send files to other apps via the “Open in…” function
  • must be able to open .zip files
  • an option for a passcode lock

Some file management apps have additional features like PDF annotation. Depending on your workflow, this can be a valuable way to kill two birds with one stone.

So based on this list, I can comfortably recommend any of the following (in alphabetical order):

  • Avatron’s Air Sharing HD (iTunes link). An early version of Air Sharing was one of the first apps I bought for my iPhone years ago and I was happy to see when Air Sharing HD became available. Air Sharing HD handles all of the items in the list above admirably through a clean and intuitive interface reminiscent of the file manager from your desktop computer. I like the ability to switch between icon view or a detailed list view depending on my needs. At this writing, Air Sharing HD doesn’t support the ability to “sync” with a cloud folder. Air Sharing HD can also create a public folder accessible by anyone on your local network. I also like that Avatron is a local, domestic mobile developer (“Buy local” for apps? You bet.). I know that the Avatron folks (website) listen to user feedback via Twitter and e-mail and are responsive to users. Air Sharing HD is $9.99.
  • Goodiware’s GoodReader (iTunes Link). GoodReader covers all the requirements in the list above with a few other features as well. GoodReader has decent PDF annotation tools in addition to file management (highlight, underline, strikethrough, notes) which may allow you to forgo a dedicated PDF annotation app. VGA out capability allows GoodReader to double as a flexible presentation app. This capability was one of the first things I wrote about at TabletLegal, even before the iPad was initially launched: the ability to dump a bunch of different files, regardless of type, into one folder and launch an ad hoc multi-media presentation. GoodReader has a relatively clean interface that uses “panes” to organize some of the app’s functions. I like GoodReader’s interface, but I’m not as crazy about it as I was initially, having grown to prefer ReaddleDocs (discussed below). GoodReader is also tremendously affordable for all these features: an easy $2.99
  • Readdle’s ReaddleDocs (iTunes link). ReaddleDocs is my final file management app recommendation. ReaddleDocs has one of the most exhaustive lists of supported cloud storage services I’ve seen and also offers its own free storage service that you can sign up for through the app. I find ReaddleDocs interface to be the simplest and most attractive of the three apps mentioned, which is part of why it is the file management app currently on my home page. I find the simple and clean interface intuitive and very easy to navigate which makes it more useful in my workflow. A nice feature is ReaddleDocs’ ability to save a webpage as a webarchive or a PDF file. ReaddleDocs has some basic PDF annotation functions built in (highlight, note) which handle my rudimentary PDF annotation needs. ReaddleDocs is currently $4.99.

That’s it for file management. Let us know what you use in the comments. Look for the final installment in this series, remote desktop connection apps, coming soon.