What happens when four lawyers from diverse practices and backgrounds get together to discuss how each uses their iPhone to improve their productivity and reduce a few of life’s frustrations? You get a great list of iPhone apps that are sure to help you too! Apple reports over 25,000 apps are now available via the iTunes store, making it a daunting task to sift through to find the best.
So here are some of the favorite picks from David Sparks of the MacSparky website, Ben Stevens of The Mac Lawyer website and Reid Trautz of Reid My Blog! (who are presenting on this topic at this year’s TECHSHOW, which is taking place right now in Chicago) and Jeff Richardson who runs iPhone J.D., a site dedicated to attorneys using iPhones.
- People (free): This app is essentially an iPhone gateway into an online White Pages that is very powerful and very comprehensive. Reid notes that he has located contact information for individuals by using this app that he didn’t think could be easily found.
- Note2Self ($2.99): This is David’s favorite voice recorder on the iPhone. It automatically starts recording when you hold it up to your ear and as soon as you are done, it gives you an easy menu that allows you to email the voice file to yourself (or your secretary). This is perfect for capturing ideas and tasks for later action.
- reQall (Free): This voice-to-email reminder system is the poor man’s replacement for Jott, and works quite well. Just download the app, open a free account with reQall, and go! Just dial reQall and speak for up to 30 seconds; within minutes reQall transcribes the message and e-mails it to your pre-designated account. Messages can be sent to others email addresses too.
- Evernote (Free): Evernote is a cloud based information manager. You can drop notes, pictures, snippets, and other bits of information in it. Evernote then synchronizes the data between multiple devices including PC and Mac computers. While the information is up in the cloud, the Evernote servers do their best to apply optical character recognition to all of your files (including pictures) making it even easier to search your data. The iPhone application does a great job of capturing new bits of information and giving you access to all of your other Evernote data.
- OmniFocus ($19.99): A Seattle based Mac-only developer, OmniGroup, last year quietly released what David considers the best task list management application he’s ever used. Based loosely on David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” system, this application allows you to sort tasks and projects on a variety of criteria including project, priority, context, and time. Their OmniFocus iPhone application puts all of the power of this application in your pocket. You can use this application for everything in your practice from managing the most complex litigation to remembering when to order new stationary. It also is location aware. That means that if you are in the supermarket, the application reminds you to buy spicy carrots for taco night.
- Things ($9.99): Currently the best-selling task management app at the iTunes store, Things is also based on the "GTD" system. Many users, including Reid, like the simpler, cleaner interface and easier learning curve than OmniFocus. Tasks are easily added and monitored, and related items like web pages and documents are easily associated with each one. Things also has a Mac application–named Best of Macworld 2009–that syncs with the iPhone via any wireless network.
- Calc-12E ($15.99): David loves the HP 12-C financial calculator. This application faithfully recreates the device on your iPhone. It has the same buttons, functions, and the same RPN calculations. It also has some added bonuses. For instance, with the touch of a button you can email yourself TVM reports.
- EasyWriter ($2.99): Why hasn’t the iPhone’s built-in Mail app supported landscape mode from the beginning? Apple’s upcoming 3.0 revision of the iPhone OS software (due this summer) will finally add this feature, but in the meantime David has been using this app which allows you to compose email in landscape. With built in text snippets for frequently typed words and phrases and spell check, David considers this is a no brainer for anyone who writes a lot of email.
- Sideways ($1.99): The app Reid uses to type emails in the landscape mode, similar to Easy Writer above.
- iSignature ($0.99): The iPhone lets you use a single signature for all of your e-mails. This app allows you to select from up to six signatures to use in your e-mail. Jeff’s review on iPhone J.D. is here.
- gMail (free): Ben has his firm’s email hosted in gMail (using Google Apps), and this free web app gives him instant access to his email account, including the ability to archive. Jeff uses gMail as his back-up e-mail account, and he also loves this web app. Note that there is nothing to download from iTunes; just go to mail.google.com using Safari on your iPhone and you will see an iPhone-formatted webpage. Jeff suggests using the + button in Safari to add a link to gMail on your home screen, which you can tap to launch just like you would any other app.
- Cliff Maier Attorney Reference Apps ($0.99 to $8.99): Attorney and part time iPhone application developer Cliff Maier has released a variety of reference applications for the iPhone covering various federal and state rules and statutes. Being a California attorney, David particularly like having the California Evidence Code and Code of Civil Procedure on his iPhone. Jeff loves the Fed. R. Civ. Pro. and Fed. R. App. Pro. apps. The applications range in price from $0.99 to $8.99 and cover a variety of federal and state jurisdictions. Jeff posted an interview with Cliff Maier on iPhone J.D., along with several reviews of many of these apps. They were great when they were first released, and with the recent addition of features such as bookmarks, a jump button, improved search, and multiple ways of viewing the rules (by sections are "flattened" all at once), Cliff Maier has set the standard for what a good iPhone legal reference app can be.
- The Law Pod reference apps ($0.99): Most attorneys will prefer Cliff Maier’s apps because they have more features, but it is nice to have an alternative, especially one that is inexpensive. The Law Pod has done a nice job creating apps with the federal rules. Click here for the review on iPhone J.D.
- Manual of the United States of America ($0.99): With this app from Clint Bagwell Consulting, you get several reference materials including the Constitution, selected Supreme Court cases, the Federalist Papers. While not useful on a daily basis, it makes David smile knowing he’s got Publius on his iPhone. Jeff’s review on iPhone J.D. is here.
- Wikipanion (free): There are lots of Wikipedia apps for the iPhone, but Jeff likes this one the best. The price is right (free) and it is very powerful, allowing your iPhone to quickly link to a virtually unlimited source of knowledge.
Time & Billing
- Time tracking apps (free to $59.99): Jeff has described almost two dozen apps on iPhone J.D. that allow you to track your time using your iPhone, which can be especially useful when you are away from the office.
- DateCalcPro ($2.99): This application answers the often asked question, “What is 45 days from today?”. If you need to calculate dates (most attorneys do), this full-featured application does it quickly and easily.
- DaysFrom ($0.99): Another app that allows you to quickly calculate dates in the future or past. This one lacks some advanced features, but is simple and fast, which makes it Jeff’s favorite.
- Air Sharing ($4.99): One of the more popular apps for the iPhone allows you to access your computer files (documents, spreadsheets, slideshows, etc.) from your iPhone, provided you have set up access to those files via the Air Sharing service. Takes about 10 minutes to set up, then works like a charm. Was free in beta, now $4.99.
- FileMagnet ($4.99): This application allows you to store documents and PDF files on your iPhone for later reference. There are several applications in this category, but David has found that FileMagnet has got the job done for him on trips and in trial.
- MobileFiles 2.0 ($3.99) and MobileFiles Pro ($9.99): Jeff used to use DataCase, but has recently changed to MobileFiles Pro because the app makes it so easy to get documents to and from the iPhone. The Pro version even allows you to use and edit Excel Spreadsheets, so (for example) you can keep a legal interest spreadsheet on the iPhone and actually use it, unlike other apps which just let you view a static image of a spreadsheet. The app will soon add the ability to edit Word files.
- Google Maps (included): The purpose of this article is to cover apps that you can add to your iPhone, but this built-in app is so good that we couldn’t resist mentioning it. The interactive features of Google Maps via the iPhone is worth the price of the phone service alone. David often use the Google Locator feature to find himself on the map, and then search for nearby restaurants; with a couple quick taps on the screen, you are talking to the restaurant to check table availability. Works for myriad businesses.
- Google Mobile App (free): Jeff loves that he can quickly start this app, hold up the iPhone to his face, and then say what he is looking for and have a Google search run based on what he says. This is often a lot faster and more convenient than typing out search terms.
- Say Where (free): A voice recognition add-on to Google Maps that allows you to speak your destination rather than enter the text into Maps. Amazingly accurate!
- Where To? ($2.99): This application does no more than streamline the Google maps search process but it does it with panaché. Several of us like that it also lets you save favorite searches. Using it on an iPhone 3g, it can locate all the courthouses relative to your current location in seconds.
- Google Earth (Free): David recalls when getting aerial photographs of a property was an expensive and time consuming process. Now you can do it right on your iPhone using Google Earth.
- Various weather apps: It is always nice to know the weather when you are traveling. Jeff likes the free apps AccuWeather, WeatherBug and The Weather Channel apps, but perhaps Jeff’s favorite is not an app at all — Weather Underground has a fabulous iPhone-formatted version of its website at i.wund.com.
- Twitterific (free): Reid likes this free for using Twitter from your iPhone, but is considering a switch based on Jeff’s opinion below.
- TwitterFon (free): This is currently Jeff’s favorite Twitter app.
- Facebook for iPhone (free): Popular and useful for accessing Facebook when you are away from your computer. Works well, as it allows updates of your status, monitoring of others’ status, and chatting with online friends. Ben uses this far more often than he should, and Jeff is also quickly finding it addictive.
- NYTimes (free): Nice app for reading the latest New York Times articles.
- USA Today (free): While the articles are less in depth than the New York Times, this iPhone app is very nicely done.
- ABA Journal (free): The latest legal news.
Fun and Relaxation
- Relax ($2.99): When you are upset, angry, or stressed out many experts say to relax and visualize something peaceful. Well, this app is that visualization: It contains looping videos of soothing scenes–such as a crackling fire, seashore, and mountain streams–that will tame the beast in all of us. Ahhhhhh.
- Wurdle ($1.99): This is Jeff’s favorite timewaster on the iPhone. Similar to the Boggle game you played as a kid.
- 2Accross ($5.99): This is currently Jeff’s favorite crossword app for the iPhone. You can access tons of free crosswords, plus if you are a New York Times subscriber, you can download all of the current and archived Times crosswords.
- Remote (free): If you have an AppleTV, Apple’s free Remote app is a must have. The iPhone makes a great remote control for the AppleTV.
- Shazam (Free): How often have you heard a song on the radio but can’t remember or didn’t catch the name of it? Enter Shazam. Merely hold your iPhone near the music source and press the "Tag Now" button, and in less than 20 seconds you have the name and artist of the song–accurate about 95% of the time in our experience. Of course, you can immediately buy it via iTunes. Cha-ching!
- Movies (free): This great app from Flixster allows you to find movie listings for local theaters along with descriptions and movie trailers. You can even buy tickets online via this app.
- i.TV (free): Jeff loves this app which gives you not only your local TV listings, but also movie theater listings, access to your Netflix account, the ability to buy tickets, etc.
Of course, with more apps coming on the market everyday and the new iPhone 3.0 just around the corner, we’ll probably be back soon with more ideas for you, your iPhone, and your law practice.