Friday, October 02, 2009

ABA Reviews Apps

The October, 2009 issue of the ABA Journal (and online) has a great review of lots of great applications of interest to practitioners. "70 Sizzling Apps, for PC, PDA and SmartPhones," by G.M. Filisko does a nice job, talking to users. From librarians' point of view, the most interesting, of course, are the research and reference apps, and I've extracted that portion of the article, but there are lots of other apps, from document display, to productivity, accessibility, task management to maps, fun and games.


The iPhone offers a free app of the text of the U.S. Constitution. WaffleTurtle Software also offers a $.99 version that allows you to search the text. For additional founding documents for $.99, there’s the iPhone’s Manual for the United States of America with the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, the Gettysburg Address, the Patriot Act and more.

The first foray into iPhone and iPod Touch apps by West, part of Thomson Reuters, features the eighth—and most recent—edition of Black’s Law Dictionary. The legal standard costs $49.99. “People are used to apps being cheap, so instinctively people wonder whether it’s worth the money,” says Richardson. “But I think it’s a good value considering how much the book and a version on your computer cost.”

[note to OOTJ readers: when I searched West's pages, I found a combined product, Black's Digital Law Dictionary, 8th, with Words and Phrases, with Black's Law Dictionary, Pocket 3d, Bundle Package which costs $105. I did not find a standalone 8th edition Black's in electronic format for $49 on the West product page by searching for "Black's Dictionary" either as a book/cd, software or other product. I did find a 9th edition of the Black's Dictionary available in print for $75.]

WaffleTurtle offers searchable iPhone apps of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ($2.99); Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure ($2.99); Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act ($4.99); Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure ($2.99); Federal Rules of Criminal Proce­dure ($2.99); Federal Rules of Evidence ($2.99); Lanham Act ($2.99); local patent rules from seven federal district courts whose dockets attract great numbers of intellectual property cases ($2.99); Sarbanes-Oxley Act ($1.99); securities laws including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the Securities Act of 1933, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, the Invest­ment Company Act of 1940 and the Invest­ment Advis­ers Act of 1940 ($4.99); federal copyright code ($1.99); and federal patent laws ($2.99).

“I frequently use these apps,” says Richardson. “It is incredibly useful to have the law in your pocket.”

Get definitions, synonyms, audio pronunciations, sim­ilarly spelled words and the word of the day for free on your iPhone with, which includes a thesaurus.

And if you need to go back in time, there’s an app for that too. Lawyers who are out of the office can use the free Firefox browser app Resurrect Pages.

“We have a case in which a company’s terms and conditions are at issue,” says Mack Sperling at Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard in Greens­boro, N.C. “Our opponent says, ‘On this day, we had these terms and conditions on our website.’ My partner pulled up the webpage for that particular date, and they weren’t there.”

Evernote is a handy free app for clipping articles online, taking notes or recording a voice note on the go, says Hafen. “I use it to collect language I’ve used in past arguments, information I might use in a future motion, and snippets from opposing counsel’s briefs. I organize it by subject matter and tagging so I can find information quickly. The key for me, though, is that it syncs flawlessly with Windows, my Mac at home and my iPhone.” It’s also available for the BlackBerry.

If you don’t have the time to read every legal website and blog every day, signing up for RSS (re­ally simple syndication) news feeds sends the headlines directly to your computer or mobile device. “FeedDemon for Windows is my favorite RSS reader,” says Hafen of the free app. “I use it to stay abreast of my practice subject matter, changes in the law and recent decisions. It also helps me stay current on industry news and current events, and syncs flawlessly with my Mac and iPhone.”

Walter Reaves, a solo in Waco, Texas, uses the no-cost Google Reader. “I couldn’t live without it,” he says. “I also just installed a free Firefox app, Accessibar, which allows you to increase the text size.” Accessibar also allows you to manipulate a webpage in other ways to make it easier on your eyes, including increasing line spacing and providing text-to-speech reading as you hover over type.

[Note to OOTJ readers: there are other Firefox apps that also do this as well as functions in browsers to "zoom" which enlarges as well]

Also available for free are two providers of syndicated content and social media services: NewsGator for various platforms and Viigo for the BlackBerry.

Not sure your search engine is pulling up the results it should? Surf Canyon, a free Firefox and IE browser app, claims to accelerate your search process with Google, Yahoo, Live Search, Lexis Web and Craigslist by finding relevant results even if they’re buried in page 100 of your search results. With each search, Surf Canyon adds a bull’s-eye icon you can click on to highlight the additional results.
Don't forget to look at the rest of the article. Librarians will be interested in the other apps, too. And don't forget users of Firefox have lots of other apps they can choose from, and reviews to help them choose. Look here for the centralized Firefox Addons home. i-Phone users have:
AppCraver that provides free apps and reviews
iPhone App does the same, though it seems to be un-edited.

Blackberry sells apps here. And PC Mag reviewed Blackberry Apps last April here, "20 Top Picks from Blackberry App World. More currently, BB Geeks reviews them here.

1 comment:

Mark Cramer said...

Thank you, Betsy, for including Surf Canyon in your post. We've designed the application to help with difficult queries, so we believe that would be particular useful for research. Our home page is at, which includes a version for Internet Explorer.