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Like TabletLegal? Tell the ABA

The ABA Journal is working on its list for the “Blawg 100,” its annual list of recommended legal blogs. You can have a look at the results from 2009 here. If you like what I’m doing, I’d be flattered if you’d let the ABA Journal know about TabletLegal. And if you’d like to see something different, let me know in the comments!

I’ve already given notes to the ABA about three of my favorite blawgs. Give your favorite legal writers a couple seconds of your time by submitting your comments to the ABA.

Getting Files into the Cloud from your iPad

I’ve written a lot about the different apps you can use to create and view files on the iPad. I’ve also mentioned Dropbox a ton as a key element in my document storage and retrieval workflow on the iPad, though there are lots of good cloud storage solutions. Unfortunately, some of the file creation apps don’t easily allow you to save a new file to these cloud based tools or they are inconsistent in how to do it. As a result, new files often live in the app in which they were created, sending your file management tactics back to the floppy disk days. So, for files I plan to use elsewhere (back at the office, home, with my assistant), I use Dropbox to ease these file management troubles (though this tip works with many cloud storage solutions). One required app to use this tip is GoodReader. Here’s how you do it.

In my example, I’m using a file created in Pages. In some of the more fully featured apps you can shortcut certain of these steps, but if you understand this general workflow, you will be able to navigate any app’s idiosyncrasies.

  • Step 1. Any file creation app worth it’s salt will allow you to email a newly created file out of the app. So, once your file is ready, start by emailing it to yourself.
  • Step 2. Go to Mail and open the file you just sent yourself in Mail’s viewer. In the upper right hand corner you will see the Open In…” button. Tap that button and you will see a list apps on the iPad that can open the file. Tap “GoodReader.” this copies the file into GoodReader.
  • Step 3. Switch to GoodReader. Tap “Manage Files” and then tap the file you want to move into the cloud.
  • Step 4. From the list of choices on the right hand side of the screen, select copy (or cut). Then tap “Connect to Servers.” Select your cloud storage solution of choice and then tap paste.
  • Done!

    Personally, I like to then remove the file from the creating app and GoodReader to avoid file multiplication and versioning woes. Note: confirm the file is safely in the cloud and readable before deleting versions on the iPad.

    Some apps make this process simpler. For example, in Documents To Go Premium, you can move the file to GoodReader from within the app or use the “Save As…” feature or simply name your cloud storage target as the destination. Quick Office Connect Mobile Suite shortcuts the whole process by allowing you to simply drag and drop a file from the app’s file manager into your cloud drive. Apple’s apps do no such favors. Nor do many of the special purpose note taking apps.

    Word Processors on iPad for Lawyers: MS Word Compatibility Shootout

    Reports in June put the number of iPad specific applications in the App Store north of 10,000. No small number of them feature ways of capturing and manipulating text. But for many lawyers, Microsoft Word compatibility is the gold standard, as it is nearly ubiquitous in law firms. While my personal iPad workflow relies primarily on plain text, the numerous comments on this blog and e-mails to me suggest that most attorneys want Word compatible files from start to finish. So, this post sets out to determine which of the Microsoft Word compatible word processors for the iPad handles the import and export process the best. I’m not tackling other features here – just basic Word compatibility.

    The criterion for inclusion in my test is the ability of an app to (i) import Microsoft Word files, (ii) edit those files and (iii) export Microsoft Word compatible files. By my tally, there are currently four major word processing applications for the iPad that feature this level of Microsoft Word compatibility. Those apps (and their developers) are:

    Pages – $9.99 (Apple)
    Office 2 HD – $7.99 (Byte 2) (Tablet Legal review)
    Documents to Go Premium – $14.99 (DataViz)
    QuickOffice Connect Mobile Suite for iPad – $9.99 (QuickOffice, Inc.)

    All of these apps are iPad native versions, though they have been on the iPhone for some time.

    My test was pretty simple. I started with a blank document in Microsoft Word. I added some lorum ipsum and applied simple text formatting. Clicking the thumbnail on the right will take you to an image of the original word file.

    As you can see, it contains the following basic text formatting:

    – normal text, ragged right justification
    – normal text, full justification
    – bullet list
    – numbered list
    – bold, underline and italics
    – tracked changes (deleted text, added text, comment balloon)
    – table (with left, right and center justified text)

    A few comments about how I came up with this list. First, while this is but a small sampling of the formatting available in Microsoft Word, I think it is reasonable to conclude that these are the most frequently used formats. Second, I wanted to focus on formatting that I thought a lawyer would use most commonly. For this reason, features like image inserts were not tested. While other formatting is used in pleadings and business agreements, the above formatting is probably all that is necessary for typical legal correspondence and basic drafting. I plan to do a similar post in the future focused specifically on pleading formatting (line numbering, line spacing, footnotes, captions) and business agreement formatting (automatic section numbering, numbering formats, section cross references, page breaks).

    To test the apps, I imported my original Microsoft Word 2003 file into each iPad application. Once in the application, I added some text to the document in various locations. I then exported the document from the iPad application in Microsoft Word format. These exports were then opened in Microsoft Word 2003 on my desktop from where I created a PDF. Each of the resulting PDF files is attached at the bottom of this post.

    In my test, Documents to Go Premium and QuickOffice Connect Mobile Suite for iPad finished in a dead heat. Both preserved the formatting of the original Word document the best. Most notably, while both DTG and QuickOffice do not display tracked changes on the iPad (the document is displayed as though the changes are “accepted”), the tracked changes formatting was preserved when the file was exported out of these iPad apps and viewed again in a desktop version of Word. This is both important and promising. It is important in that it is good to know that tracked changes formatting is not lost while using these apps (even though it can’t be viewed). It is promising in that it suggests that perhaps this is something that can be addressed in an update of the app since the track change data appears to be preserved in the file on the iPad.

    Office 2 finished next. The main failing here was with the tracked changes. In the final export from Office 2, the text marked as deleted was reinstated, the added text was inserted and the comment bubble was deleted (though the text from the comment bubble was oddly preserved in the last line of the document)..

    Pages finished last. It failed in the same manner as Office 2 with respect to tracked changes except the deleted text was in fact deleted rather than preserved. It went on to muck with the formatting of the table and the formatting of the text I added to the table was inconsistent with the rest of the document.

    For straight Word compatibility, Documents to Go and QuickOffice are equals as far as this test goes. Realize that if you have no need for tracked changes, then any of these applications will do a fine job of allowing you to view, edit and send along Microsoft Word compatible documents. Note that these applications all have extensive feature sets, different price points and other strengths and weaknesses that may make a different application better for your situation.

    What does your word processing workflow entail? Which of these apps are you using as part of your workflow? Others I haven’t mentioned?

    PDF Files

    Original Doc
    DTG Export
    QuickOffice Export
    Office 2 Export
    Pages Export

    iPad Web Traffic Share at Tablet Legal

    I was inspired by John Gruber over at Daring Fireball to take a look at what comprised the operating systems of devices accessing Tablet Legal. For the month of April 18 to May 18, it breaks down like this:

    Tablet Legal OS Share

    • Macintosh      43.18 %
    • Windows        36.92 %
    • iPad              19.13 %
    • Other               .77 %

    Given that this is a blog dedicated to the iPad, no surprises to see nearly 20% of the visits originate on the device. The roughly equal split between Mac and Windows visitors may suggest similar interest in the device between those two demographics. I was a bit surprised not to see more iPhone access (it is buried along with Linux and Android in “Other”).

    The iPad browsing experience is certainly as good or better than my desktop browsing experience – far better when I want to be on my couch or back porch. Would love to know how many readers in the Windows and Mac group also have an iPad.

    Case + Keyboard = ClamCase for iPad

    Promising iPad case from ClamCase. Integrated Bluetooth keyboard allows for use as a netbook but can be easily folded behind the device when using just as a tablet. Looking forward to seeing it in person fall of 2010.

    My main wonder if a case like this eliminates the mobility and simplicity of the iPad. In other words, if I need this, shouldn’t I just get a laptop? As commented over at TUAW:

    I already have something that disguises my machine to look like a laptop. It’s called a laptop.

    PDF Annotation on the iPad for Lawyers: iAnnotate

    One app many lawyers have been looking is a good PDF annotation tool. I was surprised to find that there was really only one dedicated annotation tool in the App Store: iAnnotate by Aji (iTunes link).

    I’ve been trying out iAnnotate for a few days now. As expected, the iPad is a natural device for reading and marking up PDF files and iAnnotate is a very competent annotation tool. I think it is a must have app for any iPad carrying attorney. That said, there is definitely room for improvement, both in the feature set and in the interface. I’m hoping that another good annotation tool arrives on the scene and the competition drives the development of this critical tool for lawyers.

    Getting PDF files into iAnnotate

    In The current version, there are three ways that I discovered to get PDF files into iAnnotate for use. The first method is to use the iAnnotate Reader Service. This small application, once installed on your desktop computer, makes PDF files in folders you specify visible to iAnnotate via your local network. PDF files in subfolders of specified folders are also accessible. In my tests, is method worked successfully, though I was frustrated by the extra steps this method takes. While there are ore methods of getting PDF files on the device, this is the only method if you want to take advantage of certain of certain of iAnnotate’s advanced annotation features (more on that later).

    Document Sharing

    I was also able to successfully get docs into iAnnotate via my preferred file manager / reader application GoodReader (iTunes link). Good Reader is one of a number of applications that takes advantage of the Document Sharing features of the iPhone OS. From the manage Files pane of GoodReader, you can select “Open In…” and be presented with a list of installed apps that handle PDF files.

    This inter app connectivity is also available in the stock Mail app. Viewing a PDF attachment to an email presents you with an “Open In…” button in the top right corner that, once selected, will allow you to open the file in Annotate.

    Because Dropbox is my “files on the go” tool of choice, the GoodReader route works well for me because GoodReader connects to Dropbox. I also prefer this method over the iAnnotate Reader Service as Dropbox doesn’t require me to be connected to my local network.

    Importing via iAnnotate Reader Service

    That said, in the current version, the iAnnotate Reader Service is necessary is you want to take full advantage of the annotation tools in iAnnotate (like search, text highlight, underline, strike rough), if you want to share your annotations or if you want to transfer them back to the desktop. The reason for this is that the annotations in PDF (not just iAnnotate, but any app, desktop or otherwise) reside in a metadata layer that can ride along with a PDF file. Withoutis metadata layer, pdf files are just images. The iAnnotate Reader Service uses some mojo to make sure this metadata layer is readable by the iAnnotate app.

    Nonfunctional “Read” and “Mail” buttons in iAnnotate

    iAnnotate says that rendering this metadata is a processor intensive task that is better done on the desktop. iAnnotate claims that this rendering can also be done in app, though I haven’t been able to accomplish it this way yet. I see a “Read” button in the file info viewer in iAnnotate which I expected to do the metadata work in-app. So far, tapping that button is without effect.

    iAnnotate also says that the ability to share annotations via email will be included in the next version of the app.

    Annotating Documents

    The interface for iAnnotate is unique when considered alongside other iPad apps. Rather than the typical approach of creating contextually appropriate menus from a set of icons at the top of the app, iAnnotate uses customizable button bars along the edges of the viewing area. Tapping on an annotation tool takes you out of navigation mode and into that tool’s annotation mode.

    Sample of all annotation tools in iAnnotate

    iAnnotate annotation tools include the following, most all of which can be done in whatever color you choose.

    • highlighting
    • strikethrough
    • underline
    • freehand drawing
    • sticky note style comments
    • bookmarking

    Note that the highlight, underline, and strikeout annotations are only available in PDF files that have come in through the iAnnotate Reader Service as they require the metadata file described above. Also, while you can view annotations that existed in the original PDF document, those original annotations are not editable. iAnnotate says the ability to edit existing annotations will come in a future update.

    Getting Annotated Documents Out of iAnnotate

    The main way to get documents out of iAnnotate is again through the iAnnotate Reader Service. Emailing from the app is not yet enabled but is promised in the next version. Exported documents opened properly in Acrobat and Preview. Annotations from iAnnotate appeared properly as well.

    Other Features

    iAnnotate offers the ability to customize the content and location of the button bars in the app. You can browse/annotate multiple PDF files at one time using the apps unique tabbed browsing feature. I think this is a is tremendously helpful feature for lawyers who often have multiple sources open at one time. Text within PDF files (having the accompanying metadata file) can be copied and pasted into other apps.

    Gripes

    My gripes are mostly small things, some of which are promised to be addressed in the next version. I’m not crazy about the iAnnotate Reader App. I need to be able to pull a PDF out of email or my Dropbox and be able to edit right then. I can’t be tethered to my local network to get the metadata file iAnnotate needs for certain of its tools.

    One thing I’m hoping continues to evolve is the interface. Put simply, I don’t particularly care for the interface of iAnnotate – which is to say I think it is ugly (and nonstandard) – even if functional. The app reminds me of what you get when a PC developer makes a Mac app. While I recognize that I’m an admitted interface snob, I initially held off on purchasing the app because of what I could tell about the interface from the App Store.

    iAnnotate “New”

    Simple Note “New”

    While an extensive tour of the interface quirks would really detract from an otherwise positive review and solid app, let me mention a couple examples. Have a look at the “New” button in iAnnotate and compare that withthe “New” button in Apple apps like Contacts, Calendar, Notes and in third party apps like Simple Note (iTunes link) (where this review was largely written). I’m unconvinced that the iAnnotate “New” button is more functional than these starker alternatives or worth whatever extra design effort went into making it.

    Compare also the button bars of iAnnotate to the sliding toolbar of an app like Docs 2 (iTunes link) (part of Office 2 HD reviewed last week). The sliding toolbar offers more functions in less screen real estate. The iconography is clean and understandable. Perhaps this is an aspect of the app that will evolve over time.  Again, I recognize that this may just be a personal preference, which is why my recommendation is otherwise quite positive.

    Recommendation

    I think iAnnotate is a must have app for any lawyer that uses PDF files. All the critical annotation tools are there and easy to use. The output from iAnnotate integrates seamlessly with your desktop PDF tools. Though the app is still developing in certain areas, it is a very capable first release that I look forward to seeing develop.

    iAnnotate is available in the App Store for $6.99 (iTunes link). The price will go up to $9.99 once the first update is released (though no response to my inquiries of Aji as to when this might be).

    Comparing Legal Documents Using the iPad? Not yet (but a workaround).

    A couple days ago I received the following e-mail:

    Hi Josh,

    Thanks for a great blog.

    Just wanted to highlight one feature that, unless I am mistaken, no iPhone/iPad app offers: track changes in word processors.  Being an M&A/contracts lawyer, a track change option is an absolute need for me if I want to use the iPad for work.

    Have you heard that track changes would be coming to any of the apps?

    Greetings from Belgium.

    Christophe

    I am also a business/M&A lawyer and I deal with document comparisons extensively. Unfortunately, I think our friend Christophe from Belgium is correct. I am aware of no tool that correctly handles track changes from Microsoft Word or that can generate markups while typing or from between two documents. Some observations and a bumpy workaround.

    In Pages on the iPad,  tracked changes are simply accepted upon opening. Opening a document with tracked changes in a file viewer like GoodReader (iTunes link) has a similar result as does opening a document with tracked changes in QuickOffice (iTunes link) or Documents To Go (iTunes link). Of course, marks are viewable as pdf but not editable.

    Select Versions to Compare

    A person can create a markup using the iPad through Google Docs. Doing so is not an easy task. First you must create a new Google Doc as your “original.” From there, you either edit or paste replacement text as your “revised” version.  Google Docs saves all your changes as separate versions. At any time you can select any two versions to generate a markup. Google Docs seems to work fine on the iPad.

    So, you can’t see your markups as you edit, but you can generate a markup. Google Docs gives you something like this:

    Google Docs Markup

    Interestingly, this has not been a problem in my particular work flow with the iPad. So far, much of my writing on the iPad has either been “rough draft” of letters or contract provisions. In the couple times where I have been editing with the need to generate a markup, I’ve been making my edits in a new version and doing the comparison at my desktop (I personally don’t like to see the markups as I type, but I know some people do). Pages for the iPad chokes on things like auto numbering and formatting which many structured contracts employ. So for that reason, I haven’t found the iPad a good tool for editing documents with that type of formatting. Google Docs also struggles with some of the same formatting stuff imported from Word.

    I fully expect an app to come along with this functionality.

    I’ll keep you posted if I see something addressing this need.

    iPad Quick Review: Writing for Lawyers

    I’m putting together a series of quick reviews about iPad features in the next few days. There is lots to talk about regarding the iPad, but my goal is to keep things as focused as possible on issues that I think will be of particular interest to lawyers. If there are any features or capabilities you’d like me to tackle, please let me know in the comments.

    For this first review, I gave Pages a quick spin to see how writing works on the device. Words are stock in trade for many lawyers and being able to wield them efficiently on a mobile device is critical. This post and the documents attached below were all written on Pages for iPad using the virtual keyboard only (some minor edits excepted). My real review is in the body of the attachment, but I’ve also pasted it below.

    The attachments are .doc and .pdf versions of a my review written entirely in Pages for the iPad (WordPress doesn’t allow Pages files as links for some security reason I’m not able to figure out at the moment – suffice to say the native version looked fine). The exports were also created by Pages for iPad as well. You’ll see that the PDF export looks fine. The .doc export lost some formatting (seemingly related to the image mask), but the text is intact. Hopefully something that will be remedied in a software update.

    Hello All:

    Hi. Just test driving the Pages word processing application on the iPad. I am using the iPad in landscape mode which gives you a big keyboard. It is almost as big as a the standard Apple wireless keyboards (pictured below). I the iPad keyboard is shorter than the Apple wireless keyboard by about half an inch (from Q to P).

    I was able to use the browser to snap this photo from the web (press home and power buttons simultaneously). That saves the image to the photo library. From there, I could easily insert the image into this document. I was also able to adjust the mask to hide the rest of the image (very pleasantly surprised to find that feature).

    The keyboard is different in that you don’t rest your fingers on it. You sort of hover over it (even the slightest touch registers as a key press) Also, just sitting here in my bed, I find that I don’t use my pinkies to type. Sort of a three finger plus thumb thing. My typing is fairly accurate (I’ve had to go back and correct about 4 words in this letter). Now, this is all with the virtual keyboard. It also connects with any Bluetooth keyboard – in that case, the typing is normal.

    In my testing, the .doc exports were a mess. The PDF exports appear fine. I’ll post all thee versions at TabletLegal for review.

    My initial review is that I could easily draft letters or even simple contracts using just the virtual keyboard. Emails and such are also easily manageable from the iPad. Formatting is a bit slow going, but I’m attributing that to just not being familiar with the interface (having a pre formatted template from which to start would solve most of that) For longer bouts of writing, I’d want to have a Bluetooth keyboard.

    Yours in Testing,

    TabletLegal

    Here are the exported versions for your viewing pleasure.

    Review Letter – iPad Pages – .doc Export

    Review Letter – iPad Pages – .pdf Export

    Legal Apps on the iPad: Great Expectations

    With iPad delivery only days away now, I’ve been giving some thought to what things I’m most looking forward to trying out on the new device. Below I’ve listed the top 10 things I want to try on the iPad that I use currently in my practice. These aren’t all iPhone apps – some are SaaS services that I want to try in the larger version of mobile Safari. Also, where I mention iPhone apps, I’m specifically talking about running them in “maximized” mode rather than at their native resolution. Note that there are lots of other great legal applications out there for the iPhone that aren’t on this list. I’m specifically listing things that, because of how implemented on the web or the iPhone, will translate best or most interestingly to the iPad platform.

    1.  LogMeIn Ignition (iPhone app | iTunes Link). Allows you to access and control your computer as though you were sitting in front of it.  This killer app was recently discussed at the 2010 ABA TechShow and mentioned in the ABA’s Law Practice magazine. The app works on the small iPhone screen by allowing scrolling and zooming into particular areas of the remote screen. While zooming and scrolling are what make remote access possible, it is also what would make a long session of remote access difficult. The larger iPad screen should simply scale your desktop screen to netbook size – more than usable for longer sessions.

    Highrise

    2.  Highrise (web app). I think the folks at 37Signals are simply geniuses and use many of the online tools they create. Highrise  is a web based CRM app that I use to manage my business development. While they just released a very nice iPhone app (iTunes link), I’m mostly looking foward to using Highrise in mobile Safari. While it works on the iPhone’s mobile Safari, there is a lot of panning and zooming. The iPad should make this webapp as easy to use as when I’m sitting at my desk.

    Backpack

    3.  Backpack (web app). Another webapp from 37Signals. While Backpack is very versatile, as a advocate and user of GTD, I use Backpack mostly for my numerous work and personal to do lists. Again, while it works on the iPhone both in mobile Safari (and in great apps like SatcheliTunes link).

    4.  Google Reader (web app). I use Google Reader on my desktop to manage my RSS feeds. I also use a weblink to Google’s mobile version of Google Reader on the iPhone (yes, I hear that Reeder is the best and I mean to try it out, haven’t gotten there yet). But I’m not interested in the mobile version of Google Reader on my iPad, I want to try out the desktop version in mobile Safari. Like many of Google’s mobile apps, you can opt out of the mobile formatting and get the regular desktop interface. I can consume my feeds much more quickly in the fullscreen web app mostly due to the keyboard shortcuts built into Reader (if you use Google Reader and don’t know these shortcuts, learning just the “j” and “k” commands will change your game – go do it). Will these shortcuts be available on the iPad without a keyboard connected?

    Dropbox

    5.  Dropbox (web app).  These guys already have a killer iPhone app (iTunes link) to let me have all my files with me on all my computers at all times without a USB stick.  This is another one where I want to see how the web version performs in mobile Safari because of the additional features available.

    6.  Documents To Go Premium (iPhone app | iTunes link) and QuickOffice Connect Mobile Suite (iPhone app | iTunes link). Both of these are apps for accessing, editing and sending Microsoft Office compatible documents. Each program has its strengths and weaknesses as excellently documented over at iPhone J.D. I expect the iPhone based navigation systems to be a bit weak on the iPad. I’m mostly curious about text entry and document viewing. I worry that the document scaling built into these iPhone apps won’t be able to take advantage of the iPad screen as currently coded.

    Zosh Signature Pad

    7.  Zosh (iPhone app | iTunes link). I discussed this app just the other day. This app allows you to access, electronically sign and deliver documents from your iPhone and has made my day on more than one occasion. I fully expect the app to have the same functionality on the iPad but with better document viewing, manipulation and editing. The magic of this application is its “signature pad” feature which I predict will not translate terribly well onto the iPad as it will take up the entire screen rather than a more natural signature sized piece of the screen. Already looking forward to the iPad version of this app that (I hope) they are developing.

    8.  RightSignature (web app). I also just covered this app. Another tool for managing, signing and delivering signatures on contracts and forms. RightSignature tackles the signature process via SaaS tool – a completely different approach than that taken by Zosh. At present, accessing RightSignature on an iPhone presents users with the mobile version of the webapp. My understanding is that the version of mobile Safari on the iPad is the same as that on the iPhone. As a result, visiting a website that automatically detects and displays a “mobile” version for the iPhone will do the same thing on the iPad. I’m hopeful I’ll be able to bypass the mobile version of the website on the iPad (like is possible on the Google apps) so I can use all the features of the product.

    stanza interface

    Annotate, share, copy and more in Stanza

    9.  Stanza (iPhone app | iTunes link). This is an excellent eBook reader. But I don’t use it to read books. No, I use it to quickly and easily create ebooks out of the statutory compilations I use frequetly. Using the Stanza Desktop application, you simply input a url and the application generates an eBook version of the website. Like many states, Oregon publishes its statutes online – each chapter separately. I’m a business lawyer so I like to have the corporations code, the LLC statute, etc. with me at all times. Stanza allows me to easily turn these into ebooks I can read, search, copy, annotate, share, etc.  Sure, the iPad will have its iBooks application that reads the open ePub format. But, as far as I know, it doesn’t have the copy, annotation and sharing features built into Stanza. Stanza has a brilliant text scaling feature that should translate well to the iPad allowing users to take full advantage of the larger screen with just the iPhone app.

    Text Entry in Pages

    10.  iWork Suite (iPad app). This is the big one. On the release date, I think these will be the only iPad specific productivity/work  applications that have been developed with the benefit of having an actual iPad in hand. Ostensibly, these are apps developed by the folks who know the device the best, who have had it in hand the longest and know how to take advantage of its features. Looking at the Guided Tours Apple posted yesterday, the iWork apps demo well and seem to have a ton of features.

    So, that’s my list. Do you have an app or service you are looking forward to try? Let us know in the comments!

    iPad Developer Interview: Cliff Maier

    I’m happy to introduce what I hope will be a recurring series here at Tablet Legal: Developer Interviews. I’m reaching out to developers of applications for the legal industry to see what they think of the iPad, how they are developing for the new device and what we might be able to expect once the iPad is released. To start us off, I contacted Cliff Maier to discuss his thoughts about the iPad. Cliff is the mind behind Waffle Turtle, developer for nearly 40 legal related applications. Cliff’s work has been covered well over at iPhone J.D. (where he has even been found to respond to user questions in the comments!).

    I started off by asking how he got into software development initially:
    My background is as an engineer. I have a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and spent the first decade of my career as a microprocessor designer for companies like Sun and AMD.
    As part of that, I picked up programming, and toward the end of my career most of my time was spent writing code – at AMD I was responsible for much of the software they used to do chip designs, and I wrote a lot of it myself. I went to law school while still working at AMD, and when I graduated I found that almost all of the software for lawyers was absolute garbage, so I started writing software for my own use. When I first saw the iPhone, I realized it was going to revolutionize the computing industry, and I immediately signed up as a developer (I was one of the initial round of third-party developers). I started by writing software I wanted to use myself, and there we are.
    TL: Looks like you have close to 40 legal related apps currently in the store, with more to come. How do you select your topics for development?
    I started with apps I wanted myself – a lot of the I.P. law and Federal practice stuff.  Then I took polite requests.  That’s pretty much still how I operate, with the understanding that there are too many apps for me to constantly be updating them as statutes change – so I take requests there, too, updating what I can as often as I can.
    TL: What are your initial impressions of the iPad as a device from a user’s perspective? From a developer’s perspective?
    It’s a far more capable of device, and much more is possible with it. The question is whether the form factor is such that it will lose the iPhone’s chief advantage – it’s always in your pocket.  As a developer, it’s not much different than coding for iPhone, but you need to rethink the entire user experience.

    TL: Do you think the user experience needs for lawyers is different from that of other types of users? Put another way, what types of interface considerations do you have when building more of a “working” app as opposed to a “leisure” app?

    Well, depends on what type of users you compare to, I suppose.  I think my approach is colored by my experience writing code for engineers.  I want to minimize the physical and mental effort involved in doing things, make features easily discoverable, etc.  I also think like an engineer, so to me statutes and rules are outlines, not a series of pages. This colors everything about my approach.  I also try to “fit in” with the platform – on iPad it’s not quite clear yet what the design aesthetic is, since we’ve seen only a few app demos.

    Q: Have you downloaded the SDK?

    Sure have!  And I’ve been coding like a mad man, trying things out, and working with different potential user interfaces. This is a quick screen grab from a potential approach I’ve been working with:

    Possible Configuration of Maier Applications for iPad

    TL: What are the major advantages you see to developing for the iPad platform? Disadvantages? New challenges or opportunities?

    The primary advantage is screen real estate.  This allows much more flexibility in what can be done.  Until I have an actual iPad in hand, though, I won’t know for sure what else is different.

    TL: Any thoughts about how any of your apps might change for the iPad platform?

    I’m thinking of using a single reader app for all the content, though I’m not sure that will work yet.

    Sort of like buying a “library” instead of a particular book. What else are you looking at?

    I’m also playing around with completely new user interfaces and a completely different way of interacting with content – my apps have always differed from other law-text apps in that while others tend to treat the content as pages in a book, I tend to treat the content as an outline which can be collapsed and expanded. On the iPad, with its much bigger viewing portal, I’m exploring ways to extend the metaphor further.

    TL: Any major issues that developers will face in developing for the new platform even though the underlying code is based on the iPhone?

    I think one major question is whether developers will sell combined apps that run on both iPad and iPhone, or whether the differences in user interface, functionality, etc. be so great that developers will fork their development and have separate apps for each platform. While it is possible to write one app that runs on both platforms, is it worth having double the code, bloating the apps, etc.? So far I’m leaning toward having different apps on each platform, but I’m still exploring and waiting to see what the community thinks – I hate to make people pay for yet another version, but I don’t think there’s a heck of a lot of value in just scaling iPhone apps up to fit the iPad screen.

    TL: Seems like could create pricing issues especially for existing customers who want the new interface but who have already paid for the content.

    Absolutely.  I would love if Apple would provide some sort of “upgrade” pricing feature. I’d be happy to give iPad versions for free to everyone who has an iPhone version of my apps.  Apple has been fairly inflexible in allowing this sort of thing, and developers don’t even have anyway to know who has purchased our apps.  I’m thinking about what can be done, but I don’t have any clear answers yet.

    TL: Are you trying to have any apps ready on launch day or are you going to wait a week or two to see how things shake out in the app store?

    I’d like to have at least one or two ready, but I don’t think I would release anything until I have a device in hand. As I mentioned, I need to see what the “look and feel” of all the built-in apps is so that I can fit it, and I need to check my performance and track down any bugs that may not turn up in the simulator.  I think it would be irresponsible to release an app without testing it on a device.

    TL: OK, most important question. Which device are you thinking about getting?

    The top-of-the-line 3G model

    :-)

     I may need to get a wi-fi model, too, to have one for testing so I can release apps sooner.

    Thanks to Cliff for doing this. You can find all his apps in the App Store (iTunes link).

    Update (02/26/2010): I see that Jeff over at iPhone J.D. also did a great interview with Cliff back in late 2008. Tons of great details – check it out!.