In a few weeks, I’ll be presenting the seminar 60 iPhone Apps in 60 Minutes at ABA TECHSHOW, but I thought I’d share a sneak peek at ten of the best apps for busy lawyers. Thanks to my co-presenter, Jeff Richardson, of iPhoneJD fame for his contributions to this post. These are among the top apps to keep iPhone lawyers productive and successful.
AppBoxPro. Every iPhone owner needs one of these multi-function apps that includes a currency converter, date calculator, translator (text), tip calculator, international holiday calendar, unit converter, battery life meter, and more. AppBoxPro is the best I’ve found to date. This one $0.99 app thus replaces the need for many separate, single function $0.99 apps.
Bento. Bento is a $50 powerful but easy to use database for the Mac. It doesn’t have all of the features of a professional database program like its big brother FileMaker Pro. But if you use a Mac and you need to create a database to keep track of just about anything for yourself, Bento is a great fit. It is designed to look like iTunes, and is just as easy to use. The $4.99 Bento iPhone app can be used as a standalone product, but is most useful as a companion to the desktop app. You can sync the app with your computer, and virtually all of the fields are carried over to the iPhone, including any fields that contain pictures. You can also create a new database from within the Bento app. Indeed, if you don’t have a Mac running Bento, then this is the only way to use the app. When you tap the “New Library” button you can create either a blank database or can start with a pre-designed template and then edit it. Templates are included for the following: Projects, Contacts, To Do Items, Recipes, Diet Log, Events, Files, Inventory, Event Planning, Time Billing, Home Inventory, Expenses, Exercise Log, Vehicle Maintenance, Classes, Digital Media, Student List, Membership List, Products for Sale, Equipment, Issue Tracking, Items Sold, Customer, Donations, and Notes. Each one of those templates are excellent examples of the types of databases that it would be handy to keep on your iPhone. The Bento app also, by default, includes a database called Address Book. This database contains all of the contents of the Contacts on your iPhone and is always synced with the latest information.
Bump. Bump is a new way to exchange contact information instead of using business cards. Merely open the app and select the amount of personal information you want to divulge, then gently bump your iPhone against the other person’s iPhone and you will share information almost instantly. Yep, this is a high-tech business card exchange.
Documents to Go Premium. This app lets you edit, create, and view Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files. (You can also view, but not edit, other file formats such as PDF, Apple iWork, and others.) The editing features are sophisticated, but the app also does a much better job of viewing files than the iPhone does on its own. And if you use Microsoft Exchange or Gmail for your e-mail, this is the only app that can directly access your e-mail attachments so that you can download an attachment to an e-mail, view or edit it, and then send it to someone. This is an essential app for most every lawyer.
Dragon Dictation. Just as powerful as it’s big brother Dragon Dictate, this free, easy-to-use voice-recognition app is a quick alternative to typing e-mails, text messages, tweeting, or updating your status on Facebook. Damn accurate too.
DropBox. This is yet another file sharing service that provides on-line file storage, access, and sharing from multiple computers and mobile devices. It has a very clean interface and is easy to install and set up. Users receive 2 gigs of storage for free, with 50 gigs running $10 per month, a bit pricey given other available options. Still, I keep documents I am presently working on in my DropBox account, just in case I need a copy.
Google Mobile App. You can always do a Google search using the Safari web browser on the iPhone, but the marquee feature of the free Google Mobile app is the ability to just speak your search terms. Start the app and hold up the iPhone to your face. The app will use the proximity sensor to sense your face and play a beep so that you can say some search terms. Give the app a second and look at the screen, and you will see search results.
People. This free app is essentially a national “White Pages” database at your fingertips, and a very good one at that. It can search for a phone number, requiring a last name and city; it will search for a person or business based on a street address and zip code; and it is a reverse phone directory too. It’s very handy for personal and professional use, and avoids many of the ads and sales pitches from websites promising similar services.
ScanR Business Center. There are other apps like ScanR (such as DocScanner and JotNot) and they cost less, but you’ll be happier paying the price for this one. ScanR allows you to create PDFs using your iPhone camera or using a picture on your camera roll. Just take a picture of the document you need, upload it to your ScanR account (free to set up), the document is next e-mailed to you as a PDF, but not a searchable PDF. If needed, quickly run the new PDF through OCR software and now you have an editable document. I’ve tested this from business cards to old magazine articles, and I have not been disappointed yet.
Skype. This app lets you make either free or very cheap calls on your iPhone using VOIP (voice over internet protocol). While you can use this app at home, it is particularly useful when you are traveling internationally. If you have Wi-Fi access, such as in a hotel, you can talk to any user on Skype for free, or even more useful, you can call any landline or cell phone in the U.S. for just a few pennies per minute, which is far less than you would pay with international roaming charges, not to mention far less than what most hotels charge to make international phone calls.
Bonus app because I couldn’t cull the list down to ten!
Things. This task management app is for iPhone users but also has a separate app for Mac computers. It does one thing very well and only one thing: it keeps track of your projects. It’s not cluttered with calendar, contact manager, and other functions, which allows this app to have a very clean interface. That makes it easy to use for just about anyone. When the app is opened I can clearly see what I need to complete today, what I have scheduled to do next, and what ideas I have recorded to complete in the future. When installed on both a Mac and an iPhone, information can be synced over the same wireless network.
Want more? Join us at ABA TECHSHOW in March!