Law Office Software of the Month – Microsoft’s Mouse Without Borders

matrix-podsThere are times, usually when I encounter some amazing software or incredible piece of technology, that I think The Matrix got it right. We are all suspended in goo somewhere, and what we perceive as reality is merely a computer construct.

Okay, perhaps I’m overstating the case, but when I first used Microsoft’s Mouse Without Borders (“MWB”), which is a FREE program, it seemed too magical to be true. I will say up front that there is a very narrow set of circumstances that would make this software useful to anyone, but it is truly awesome if you fall within that group. Here are two potential uses:

Use a laptop as an extra screen

In this article I have already explained the leap in efficiency you enjoy when using multiple monitors. I also explain that I don’t think a laptop is the best choice for your primary office computer, one reason being that while you can run multiple monitors off of a laptop, it’s a kludgy system to have to set that up every time you start your day.

But if you have an old laptop, MWB let’s you use that laptop as an extra screen. You simply install the free software on both computers, and then your same mouse and keyboard control both.

It’s not an extra monitor in the literal sense because you can’t drag a running window from your desktop computer to the laptop. But that is kind of a distinction without a difference because you can just run whatever program you want on the laptop. Let me give you a typical example of how I use MWB that will illustrate the point.

I use an all-in-one computer in my home office. I love the form factor of an all-in-one because there is no tower to deal with and minimal cords. I can add a second monitor using the HDMI output, but then that defeats the clean look of the single monitor sitting on my desk.

But there are times when I am preparing brief at home that I want three windows open. Let’s say I’m preparing a motion for summary judgment. I want one window for Westlaw, another for the motion I am creating, and a third with a declaration I have prepared, so I can weave references from the declaration into the motion. My all-in-one has a nice big 24 inch monitor, so I can open Westlaw and WordPerfect on that monitor, but what about the declaration?

For that, I just set my laptop beside my monitor, open the declaration, turn on MWB, and I’m off to the races. The keyboard and mouse that I use for my all-in-one now also control the laptop; just like it was a extra monitor. I can copy and paste text to and from the desktop and laptop. MWB even allows you to set the relative positions of the screens, so if my laptop is to the right of my desktop monitor, that’s the way the mouse moves.

Use MWB as a virtual KVM switch

On occasion I have the need to access two computers at the same time. One such instance is when I buy a new computer, and I’m making the transition of software and data from my old computer. During the transition, I like to have both computers running so that if I have a need for a program I haven’t transferred yet, it is available to me. I could use the program list from the old computer as a checklist to make sure that every program has been transferred, but I find this two computer system to be less taxing. I can remain productive while I wean myself off the old computer.

This has always been possible using a KVM switch, which stands for keyboard, video, mouse. With a KVM switch, you can switch between two computers, but MWB is much better suited, because both are visible at the same time. I use four monitors at the office. For the transition, I plug one into the old computer, and the three remaining monitors into the new computer. Since I am using the same keyboard and mouse, the fact that I am using two computers becomes almost transparent. When I tried to call up some information from my catch-all program Notescraps, and realized that I hadn’t installed it on the new computer, I just moved my mouse to the screen of the old computer, did the same search, and up it popped.

Speaking of Notescraps, I arranged for all my readers to get this great program for FREE. Just go to my review of Notescraps for the information.

Quick Tips: Replacing a Computer with Almost No Downtime

At least for me, when a computer dies, the biggest pain in the keister is not the cost of a new unit, but the much greater expense in terms of time spent installing all the necessary programs and drivers to get it back on par with the computer it is replacing. Inevitably I pull out my the installation CD to install, say, Outlook, and I find that the license code card is missing. Then, since I use four different monitors with either landscape or portrait orientation, I have to set all those up within Windows settings. There are dozens of these tweaks. Sometimes months after I have installed a new computer, I’ll go to call up some program that I seldom use, only to find that it never got installed on the new system.

So when the inevitable happens and your computer finally dies, here are two systems I have come up with to minimize the pain of having to replace a computer: Continue reading

An Amazing Way to Proofread your Legal Documents

Proofreading red pencilIt’s probably a leftover from my days on law review and later as a magazine editor, but I cannot stand to see typos, whether I created the document or not. Especially bad is when I call up a document I have used previously to, say, draft a demurrer, and I find a typo, meaning that the first document was filed with that mistake.

When I receive a brief from opposing counsel, replete with spelling errors, I immediately think less of the attorney for being so sloppy. Especially in the case of spelling errors, it just screams laziness because it means the attorney ignored the red underlining when drafting the brief, and then didn’t take the 30 seconds necessary for a final spell check. No doubt opposing counsel could not care less about my assessment, but what if the judge shares my sanctimonious nature?

I once heard a judge, at a continuing education seminar, explain that he looks for a basis to deny a motion if the attorney used the passive voice. Another judge wrote in a ruling I had happened to see while at court, that he had greatly reduced the amount requested in a fee application because the attorney did not use proper Bluebook citations. He reasoned that if the attorney is that lazy about citing cases, he is probably not very efficient when preparing a motion. If there are judges out there with that sort of mentality, do you really want to submit a brief with grammatical and spelling errors?

The best way to proofread your legal documents.

Continue reading

Why this Lawyer Loves His Apple Watch — Top 9 Favorite Benefits

seiko message watch

I seem to have this need to date myself, but I will confess that my love affair with smart watches actually started back in the 1990s, with my Seiko Message Watch. It was basically a pager, but it could show text messages from my office and family, along with stock prices, sports scores, and weather forecasts – all right on my wrist. The thing that made it far more functional to me than a standard pager was the subtlety factor. Looking at a belt pager for a message was a pretty blatant act, but with a watch, I was never out of contact with my office or family, even during a trial, because a quick glance at a watch is socially acceptable (and fully expected during a trial since you must be ever aware of the clock). When Seiko cancelled the service, I was crestfallen.

Now, some 20 years later, technology has finally returned me to this former glory.

Apple-WatchFor those of you unfamiliar with the very nature of an Apple Watch (which was me until I got one), it is primarily an adjunct to your iPhone. At least that's the way is started, but with the introduction of the Apple Watch 3, the watch is now far more standalone, even allowing phone calls without the assistance of your iPhone. But even if you use the Watch only as an adjunct to your iPhone, it is well worth the purchase price.

In my opinion, the single most important feature of the Apple Watch is Continue reading

Law Office Software of the Month — BatteryBar Pro (and it’s FREE!)

image of batterybar proHere is a great little laptop battery utility I have been testing. I found it so essential, that it's now on all my laptops.

Windows offers an icon that can show you the percentage of charge left in your laptop battery. I feel like it will also give an estimate of the time remaining on your battery, but in preparing this article I couldn't get that information to display.

In any event, BatteryBar Pro displays in your taskbar at the bottom of your screen, and provides far more information than does the Windows battery icon.

To start, it shows the remaining charge in your laptop battery, and if your computer is plugged in, shows the time remaining until it reaches a full charge. I would have never thought I needed this latter feature, but when I'm headed out to a few hours of writing at an ocean side coffee shop (for some reason the roar of the ocean and the hubbub of the coffee shop is the perfect backdrop for writing), it's nice to see how much longer I have until the battery is fully charged. BatterBar gives the specific time the battery will be fully charged. If only a few minutes are left, I may have a cup of coffee and wait for a full charge. (I often have a coffee before heading out for coffee. It's a sickness, I know.) That's far better that seeing only that the battery is 97% charged, with no indication how long the remaining 3% will take.

An awareness of battery life is a good thing. I don't like worrying about the availability of an AC outlet. At one particular Barnes & Noble I frequent, getting a seat near an AC outlet in the café is about as likely as spotting a Yeti in the romance aisle (they prefer to hang out near the magazines). I have an ultrabook that will get me through an entire depo without charging, but I also have a beautiful 17-inch HP laptop that I prefer to use for writing, but it's charge only lasts about 3.5 hours. The intended task and the battery life dictates which one I take.

Based on my experience, BatteryBar offers a much more accurate reading than the Windows utility. It maintains historical information on how long it takes your battery to charge and discharge, which apparently enables it to be far more accurate.

BatteryBar also displays the capacity of your battery in milliwatt-hours (mWh). This can be useful if you have multiple batteries with no obvious indication of their relative sizes.

But the final feature is what I find really killer. It is able to determine what it calls the “battery wear” of your battery. You have probably experienced the reality that your laptop just doesn't go as long as it used to. That's because rechargeable batteries only last so long, and soon they can no longer hold a full charge (or at least don't hold a charge as long). BatteryBar shows how much of your battery's storage power has been lost. For example, in the picture, you can see that the battery has a stated size of 86,580 mWh, but 31.7% of that has been lost. This information let's you know it might be time to get a new battery (or to start taking two).

BatteryBar Pro offers a free version that is really all you need, but if you are a power user (get it?), there is an upgraded version that contains additional features, including customizable icons, low battery warnings and easy access to the Windows power schemes. This upgrade supposedly costs $8 for a lifetime license, but there appears to be a perpetual 50% off offer. Go here (not an affiliate link) to download BatteryBar Pro for free, to see if you like it as much as I do.

Law Office Software of the Month — NoteScraps

Attorney Software -- NoteScraps

[NOTE: This article that began as a simple software review turned into quite the saga. I've left the entire piecemeal story here for entertainment value, but the bottom line is that this software is now available for FREE (at least for now). Ignore the part that says the software is $20, and read to the end to see how to get if for FREE.]

I can't believe that I first reviewed the program about two years ago, but as I just found myself using it, I decided it deserved an updated review for the benefit of anyone who may not have seen the prior review. When I first published the article, I received a number of emails, mostly from former Tornado Notes users such as myself, thanking me for helping them to find a new, old favorite, as it were.

Right now, are there any sticky notes attached to your computer monitor(s)? Any notes scribbled on legal pads on your desk? If so, you might be a perfect candidate for a simple program called NoteScraps.

Many years ago (geez, I think it might have been in the days of DOS), I used and loved a program called Tornado Notes. The program was like using electronic sticky notes, but with the ability to search them instantly. It was the perfect program for catching information that I might put on a sticky note or, worse, just try to remember. What made Tornado Notes perfect was that it required no effort. Hit the hot-key combination, and up pops a blank note ready for input. Then, when I needed to recall that information, another hot-key combination would pull up all my notes. I would start typing the information I was looking for, and all the notes that did not contain that information would disappear, leaving only the note I was looking for.

Tornado Notes was “upgraded” to a new program that contained far more features, and that was its downfall. The beauty of the program was its total simplicity.

I found a replacement for the old familiar program that I loved so much, called NoteScraps. Continue reading

How to Use Speech-to-Text Dictation for a Quantum Leap in Efficiency

The feeling you'll get when you use speech-to-text dictation.

The feeling you'll get when you use speech-to-text dictation.

I finally removed the small impediment that was preventing me from fully implementing speech-to-text dictation, and I have realized a quantum leap in efficiency as a result. You owe it to yourself and your clients to take a few minutes to read this article, in order to see the amazing things you can accomplish with this technology.

I'm not talking about dictating files that are then given to your secretary for transcription (although you can do that as well). I'm talking about software that allows you to create documents with your voice, instead of the keyboard. If you are resistance to voice-to-text dictation software, it may come from the fact that your experience was similar to my own. Continue reading

How Content Marketing and SEO Overlap

Content marketing has seen a surge in popularity in recent years. This often prompts the tired old claim that SEO is dead of course. It isn’t, but it has had to adapt and evolve to suit the modern web just as other disciplines – such as web design – have had to. Now, good SEO is not just about link building, keywords and technical SEO, it’s about social, content and building relationships too.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: xen.com.au

Here is an interesting and informative article by an Aussie, about the interplay between content marketing and SEO. But the author, like most, fails to emphasize the niche factor.

In my law firm marketing book, I use the example of a random set of characters, such as jqa8t9q03u5134. If you create a site containing the keyword jqa8t9q03u5134, and someone searches for jqa8t9q03u5134, I guarantee your site will come up on the first page of Google for the keyword. Most likely, it will be the only site returned.

So what is the point of this story? Continue reading

Putting the “Alternative” Back in Alternative Dispute Resolution

business conflict resolution concept

A recent settlement victory showed me once again that you can achieve amazing results at a mediation if you never lose sight of the fact that you are unrestrained by any “negotiating rules”, even if (or perhaps especially because) no one else in the room understands that to be the case.

Most who attend a mediation have in their minds that meditations must go a certain way, completely forgetting the “Alternative” in “Alternative Dispute Resolution”. Use that to your advantage, and don’t be afraid to let your crazy out.

I’m reminded of the scene from Fort Apache the Bronx, with Paul Newman. Not the greatest movie, but in one memorable scene, a cop (played by Newman) is confronted by a knife-wielding crazy person. Continue reading

Best Client Call of the Week

Stressed businessman strangling himselfMany attorneys find it to be a quaint concept, or pretend not to understand, but at Morris & Stone we will only represent a client if we are on the right side, which we define as the party who should win if justice is done.

We learned long ago that the practice of law is far more enjoyable if you are fighting for justice, as opposed to being a partner in crime with a client who is attempting to avoid paying a valid debt, trying to prevent competition, or whatever.

So with that policy in mind, here is how the best client call of the week went:

“Ring ring.”

“Morris and Stone, this is Aaron Morris, how can I help you?”

(It’s a funny thing, but about half the time, if the person is calling to speak to me, they’ll respond, “is Aaron Morris available?” Many people just can’t engage their brains that quickly. But I digress.)

“Are you the defamation attorneys?”

“Yes, we handle defamation cases. What’s going on?”

“Well, do you represent plaintiffs or defendants?”

“We represent whoever is in the right; whoever deserves to win.”

“Oh, you won’t be able to help me then.”

“Click.”

It’s good to have a realistic sense of your case. Continue reading