Foogi – A Cross-Platform Calendar & Scheduling App

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In Outlook in my enterprise, I can easily and quickly check to see who is available for a meeting at a given time. Definitely an efficiency booster.

But what if you are trying to coordinate times and attendees outside of the organization, using different platforms? Yes, of course there is an app for that. Foogi promises to match up invitees’ calendars to find the free / available times in which you can schedule your meeting. Foogi is not a calendar replacement. Instead, depending on how much information users share within Foogi, it will compare schedules and offer times within the existing calendar app so users can create an event. It works across a broad spectrum of calendaring systems, including Outlook, Gcal, iCal, etc. – users just need to have the Foogi app installed on their phones. If they don’t have Foogi installed, the app will send time suggestions to invitees by email, with one click meeting acceptance. It automatically adjusts for time zones.

If you are like me, it is at about this point in time when you start wondering about how much information are you actually sharing here? Foogi’s page indicates that only the starting and ending points of your available times are shared outside your device. There are some features coming down the road that will allow users to custom tailor what users show for available time, such as only show up to one free hour per day, or only availability on certain days during certain times. Even if you choose not to share availability in the app, you will soon still be able to see others’ available times in your calendar to ease the scheduling task.  Another soon to be released feature is the ability to group contacts and see all free / busy times for group members in the same interface to speed up the meeting creation process.

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Another thing to keep in mind is that Foogi users will automatically show in your contacts list – so app usage is shared with other app users. While slightly intrusive, it does serve to make the app more seamless. While offline or out of signal, Foogi stores your notices and will push them to your device once your are back online.

Also, in order to get the app, you have to provide your email address and cell number – the app is texted to your device, where you install from there. iOS, Android and Windows phone flavors.

It is free. Which is always nice.

I haven’t used the app yet, but if you can get around the issues of sharing your app usage and partial calendar information with Foogi contacts, and are fine with giving out your number and email in order to load it, the app does promise a feature we often take for granted here in the enterprise in Outlook. It certainly is a nice thought that you might be able to leverage that same convenience across devices and for free, using the ubiquitous smartphone calendar that rides around in your pocket.

Here’s the promo vid for your viewing pleasure.

oTranscribe: Free, Open Source, Easy Transcription Web Tool

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Recording your thoughts, lectures, or other audio sources is all well and good, but maybe you want to memorialize those sounds in written word. There are plenty of tools out there to accomplish this, but thought I would mention here one that recently came to my attention. oTranscribe, developed by journalist Elliot Bentley, is a web app that allows you to import an audio file, open a word processor and type while the audio plays. It will play whatever formats your particular browser can process and has a built-in file converter. Controls are found on your keyboard, which makes it easier to stop, rewind, etc. You can insert time stamps with Ctrl + J or Cmd + J, which will allow you to jump to the insert points. The transcription is stored locally in your browser’s cache, nothing is uploaded. While this means you can’t access the goods from another computer, you also enjoy greater security with respect to your data. 

The keyboard stroke controls include the following:

Audio playback

  • Esc: Play/pause
  • F1: Rewind
  • F2: Fast-forward
  • F3: Slow down
  • F4: Speed up

Text editing

  • Ctrl+B: Bold
  • Ctrl+I: Italics
  • Ctrl+J: Insert timestamp

Note: On OS X, using Cmd instead of Ctrl.

Chromebook / Chrome OS alternative controls

  • Ctrl+1: Rewind
  • Ctrl+2: Fast-forward
  • Ctrl+3: Slow down
  • Ctrl+4: Speed up

Pretty cool. Thanks Elliot!

PacerPro – Going Free-ly Into The New Year

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Remember PacerPro? That cool web service that helps you interface with PACER in a much more civilized manner than the actual PACER site? I introduced it here in the Studio a little over a year ago. At that time, it was an introductory release with an anticipated monthly cost and separate charge for  mobile app access. At the price, it was still a fantastic bargain for anyone who has to deal regularly with the federal PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) databases, with documents numbering in the billions. You may recall from my post here that it offered a great cross database searching and filtering, (which is sorely lacking from PACER), great document management and bookmarking features and mobile access and no additional Pacer charge for pulling documents out of the archive.

So, how do you make an already awesome service even awesomer? You offer it for free. That’s right. Free. You still are charged for your PACER access, as your PacerPro account is tied to your PACER account, but because of how PacerPro is set up, you can minimize those costs through better targeting and filtering of your results. In case you don’t remember what the PACER charges are, access to court documents costs $0.10 per page, with a cap in a single document at $3.00. The cap does not apply to name searches, reports that are not case-specific and transcripts of federal court proceedings. Because PACER is a transactional system, you can’t go back and access your prior research efforts without having to pay twice or more.  PacerPro, on the other hand, allows you to bookmark your cases and return to them in the My Cases tab.

Another small but useful feature of PacerPro is the data behind the documents – when you save a document out of PACER, the file naming convention makes no sense and you have to rename everything so that you can figure out what you have pulled down. PacerPro uses a smarter naming convention that defaults to a file name that makes sense, which saves you some time when saving and moving on to the next document.

Another thought to keep in mind – while the paid services offer some access to the materials in the PACER system, only PACER has everything in the PACER system. So, when you really need to be sure you have every federal filing, you should check your search in the PACER database, using PacerPro to get your results in real time.

There are lots of details in the information that PacerPro shows that really make the service useful – you can see when dockets have been updated, you can see more key information about the matter on the results page than you can in regular PACER, etc. All these features make PacerPro more efficient and user-friendly.

Why the change of price? PacerPro is adding paid features at some point in the future. Even at free, however, the PacerPro basic service is quite robust and useful, so I can only imagine how cool the paid features will be. Here is the list of current features from PacerPro’s FAQ:

  • Simultaneous searches. Search across one or more district courts in real time.
  • Aggregated results. Say goodbye to wading through multiple web pages to see complete results.
  • One-click download. Download the entire docket with a single click.
  • Freebies. Previously downloaded documents are free.
  • Automatic PDF labeling. PacerPro saves you time by sensibly labeling your documents.
  • Bookmarking. Once you’ve found a case on PacerPro, you’ll never need to search for it again.
  • One-click docket update. Dockets update at the push of a button.
  • Advanced docket search tools. Locate the right record with robust search options, including boolean and proximity searching.

Wait. You say this isn’t enough free goodness for you? Then check this out. PacerPro has taken on the task of monitoring the uptime status of the various district courts across the United States. You can check out the “health” of the courts’ online systems at this link here.  There is a scale that looks a lot like Weather.com’s storm rating graph – from green and healthy to red and acute or even black and down – across the various districts. At writing, the Federal District Court for the  District of Connecticut is looking quite red and acute, while the District Court for the District of New Hampshire is green and healthy. Hover over the districts to see the actual upload speeds. You can get speeds from the last hour up to the last minute – very useful real time information if you are down to the wire on a court filing. You can generally see the high performing and low performing courts, and can even compare court speeds to the speeds of other popular sites, like Healthcare.gov, and Google.com. The site promises that more courts will be coming soon. There’s a Twitter account right now that provides live updates when court sites go down (https://twitter.com/PacerPro). Very cool feature, indeed!

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One last add: Ellen Gilmore, a reference librarian at BOALT, is in the process of creating a series of short videos which demonstrate how to use PacerPro’s free services. You will be able to  check them out at the pacerpro.com site once available.

UPDATE: the tutorials are live at this link.

So, all good from the fine folks at PacerPro. Check out the service by signing up for free with your email and PACER credentials and let me know what you think. I think you will be impressed.

eSummary Mobile Offers iOS App for Lawyers & Insurance Professionals

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Apps are getting more and more specialized. Now there’s an app tailored to insurance professionals and their need to pass claims information securely from and to their iDevices. eSummary Mobile from ABI Document Support Services is trying to fill that niche with its iPad and iPhone app. It really is the mobile version of its pre-existing eSummary software. It is essentially an encrypted file-sharing tool with an insurance bent, in that it allows access to insurance claims files and attached documents, in Microsoft Word and Excel, Adobe PDF and other file types. It also permits cross document and folder searching of file names and key words. The security is decent, with AES, 256 key encryption on the device and SSL encryption during transmission off the device. Moving around in the app is slick with swiping and zooming within and between docs.

No pricing information available on their website, but there is definitely worth to purchasing good encrypted applications when performing functions with sensitive data. ABI Document Support Services clearly recognizes that professionals want to be able to use their familiar mobile devices to interact with their important data, so go check out the app and request a free demo to see if it would be worth it to you to manage your claims while on the move.

 

iTranslate Voice – A New iOS Translator App

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They could have called it Babel Fish, but they chose iTranslate Voice instead. Armed with an iDevice and this $.99 app, you can break the language barrier by simply speaking into your iPhone and beaming to your non-native language speaking friend. There, your phrase will be translated into their language and they can understand, respond in their language and send it back to you where it will be translated back into your language. This, my friends, is very cool. With more than 40 supported languages, you should be able to expand your circle of conversational friends immensely. The app can speak in the chosen language, look up words and phrases using your voice, connect devices for conversation through its “AirTranslate” function, and share translations via copy, mail, SMS, Twitter or Facebook post. With in-app purchase, your phone can speak with presidential authority using Obama’s or Bush’s voice. Bit scary, there, but whatever. Some languages are available for translation but not yet text-to-speech, some have dictionary support and others do not, so iTranslate is clearly a work in progress. Also, it needs an internet connection, so you have to be connected via wi-fi or cellular data for it to work. But still, an impressively easy option for on-the-go-translation. Bringing the world closer, one language barrier at a time. Nice work, iTranslate Voice.

Lost in Translation from Pedro Cascao on Vimeo.

Streaming, Personalized News Radio on Your Mobile? That’s Swell

 

 

 

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Everyone knows Pandora, right? I remember one of my very early posts on Advocate’s Studio was about the streaming music service based on the Music Genome Project that compared  your interests to other cool music you might like based on matching some 40 something-odd characteristics. I remember being totally blown away by the concept of Pandora when I first happened on it: it was one of those A-HA moments that hooked me deeply to web apps and the power of the Internet back in the day.

News radio, however, hasn’t had the benefit of personalized, algorithmic preference-based treatment like music has enjoyed. Until now.

Swell is a new free mobile app (currently iOS and soon Android) that promises a somewhat similar experience for news and podcast junkies. At first, you will get served a wide variety of podcasts and, as you skip or like shows, Swell will get better at guessing what you want to hear. This could include TED talks, NPR programs, ABC media, BBC media and other sources. Hopefully the sources will expand as the service gets more popular.

Starting with your Twitter login, Swell will base initial guesses on your network. Like Pandora, Swell will simply deliver up the content in a continuous stream, one after the other. Sort of like “set it and forget it”, but preserving the ability to skip or like to tailor the experience to your tastes. You can also bookmark content to return to later. Swell calls this a “lean back” format. So, I guess you just turn it on and lean back while the goods are delivered. The algorithm measures (from the site):

Expert rating: Rating and metadata assigned to the program by an expert human curator

User rating: Your judgment of the program inferred from how long you spend listening to episodes of the program

Content rating: A measure of how closely the content and topic matches your interests

Community rating: The Swell user community’s overall judgment of the content

Peer rating: Judgment of the content by other users similar to the you

You also can choose topics, on which Swell will then provide three articles before returning you to the regular playlist. Use of wi-fi or cellular data for downloads is selectable in settings. And, you can share content with friends on Twitter or Facebook.

Pandora remains a go-to app for me because I really like the “set it and forget it” or “lean back” approach to content discovery. So Swell seems like a pretty decent idea to me. If you prefer news to jams, then check out Swell. And let me know what you think.

Transcribe & Transcribe Pro: Transcription Made Easy

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Back several months ago, a free web tool and handy little Chrome extension called Transcribe was introduced. This tool allows you to upload an audio file in mp3 or .wav format and get a written transcription of the audio in your browser. The transcription auto saves locally in your browser with every keystroke. It also works offline – no need for an internet connection. It all saves locally and there is no storage of your transcription in a server anywhere, so your information is as secure as your own local computer. There are simple controls to pause, resume, slow down or speed up, and rewind or forward 2 seconds. So dead simple and great for a fast transcription.

Now Transcribe has made available its Pro tool. New features include the ability to save your transcriptions to the cloud. And a companion iPhone app allows you to record with your iDevice on the go and automatically get transcriptions in your Web account. A wave form visualizer allows you to skip past unwanted sections in the recording. And you can work on or with multiple transcriptions at once. The Pro version also appears to work with a broader variety of audio files. Exports are in .doc format.

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There is tiered monthly pricing depending on number of transcriptions and hours you desire, as well as a pay as you go option. The pricing is noted below, and Transcribe invites you to contact them for special student or multi-user pricing discounts:

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For most users, I would imagine the free tool would be sufficient, but there are definitely some nice features to the Pro set. Power users may want to spring for the monthly, if they are in need of dead-simple transcription on a regular basis. Nice tool, Wreally.

Let’s Talk iOS Gmail

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Native email on the iPhone and iPad has always left a lot to be desired, particularly if you are a Gmail user. Same has historically been true for Gmail users on iOS. However, with a major refresh of the universal iOS app yesterday, Gmail has really come into its own on the Apple mobile front. I’m not sure whether buying uber-popular email app Sparrow had anything to do with it or not – I’m just happy with the results.

 

Obvious changes include improvement in the physical UI, which is simpler and easier to view, and responds beautifully on my iPhone 5. Other improvements clearly had me in mind as well – I am thrilled that the newest version not only has multiple sign in, but allows really simple switching between accounts with icon-based buttons. You can add up to five Gmail accounts within the app – I’ve filled up four slots already.

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Another new benefit is better integration with other Google products – clearly the direction Google has been heading in with all its products. You can now add calendar invites and events from within Gmail without having to switch to another app. And you can post to Google+ from within your Gmail, such as +-ing a post.

 

There are notifications, now, if you prefer to have your incoming email accompanied by a charming tone and a lock screen note. Really. Some people like that.

 

Easily add photos or scribbles to your emails. Yes, scribbles. You can draw something and attach it.

 

Search in the iOS app is now predictive – Google will offer up options as you type your query. Certainly speeds things up a bit. And, with infinite scrolling you can slam through 150 emails with a few swipes, without having to reload after 50 items.

 

All of the new features have usability in mind. I like the new app so much, I am thinking of moving it to the tray. A lot of these features have already been available in the Android version, which really is no surprise at all. And Google also updated the Android version yesterday as well, keeping it well ahead of the iOS version with pinch-to-zoom on individual messages and swipe (left or right) to delete or archive. There is also an ability to “auto-fit” a message to your phone’s screen, a thumbnail view of attached images that can be tapped to open a swipeable gallery, and the ability to attach phone-captured videos to an email. For phones with Android 4.0 or higher, unfortunately, but still pretty cool.

 

Both apps are free. What are you waiting for?

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Someone’s Finally Tamed Pacer! PacerPro To The Rescue

Have you ever used Pacer to retrieve federal docket information? Did you enjoy the experience? C’mon, now, be honest. It pretty much stinks, no two ways about it. There is little doubt that Pacer – the massive on-line nationwide database of U.S. Appellate, District, and Bankruptcy court records, with 214 separate databases and an estimated trillion documents  – is sorely in need of a modern make-over. But I wouldn’t recommend holding your breath while the federal government gets around to doing that.

In the meantime, two entrepreneurs have taken upon themselves the massive task and have come up with PacerPro – a much more pleasing web-based skin and set of tools for anyone wishing to interface with Pacer. John Sanders, previously of Apple and Autodesk, and Gavin McGrane, an attorney, have quietly spent the past couple of years combining their legal and technical expertise to develop PacerPro, which makes searching Pacer simpler and, dare I say it, even enjoyable. Gavin and John kindly offered me the opportunity last week to watch PacerPro in action and provided me with the overview of the product, which launches today as a preview release.

PacerPro definitely leverages the Pacer databases, but changes how researchers interact with them. Pacer users are familiar with the form-driven search interface that makes creative searching incredibly difficult – it is nearly impossible to hone in quickly on the exact document you may be looking for in the traditional Pacer interface. But with PacerPro’s streamlined look and feel – with intelligent search fields for the Pacer search tool and a Google-like natural language interface for the archive tool that accesses all Pacer docs that PacerPro’s users have retrieved, results are easier to find, sort and scan. There are tools to bookmark cases under the My Cases tool, and the ability to store documents in folders so that you can find them easily at a later time and “sync” the documents with other users, via their email. Imagine – you can directly share a Pacer document with someone else electronically! Space-age!

What makes it even more space-age is the companion mobile iOS app – you can access your collected resources stored in PacerPro on your iPad. Even offline. Even while on a plane or in a courtroom. Very cool indeed.


The key features of PacerPro at launch include the following (taken from their press release):

  • Searching PACER – PacerPRO’s robust search tools’ capabilities include: Search across multiple courts simultaneously to find a complete set of records. Filter these results to identify relevant cases quickly. Save past searches.
  • Document Management – Once the relevant information is retrieved, users can bookmark cases for easy access.  PacerPRO automatically indexes the docket for quick and easy searches.  Electronic files make it easy to create and save collections of documents, reflect changes in the docket, and organize document collections.
  • Mobile Access – Entirely web-based, PacerPRO provides attorneys access to important case information anywhere at anytime.  And, thanks to PacerPRO’s iPad application, attorneys can now take curated docket collections offline — great for places where internet access is not always available, such as the courtroom, on airplanes, and at depositions.  No more delays while you update paper files.  No more lugging boxes full of binders stuffed with pleadings.
  • PacerPRO Archive – PacerPRO is in the process of compiling our own archival database.  The PacerPRO Archive returns results with simple, one-word or boolean searches.  We are constantly adding to the PacerPRO Archive. Archive searches are free.

No doubt, Gavin and John have taken on a pretty big task. But it seems they have risen to it with a nicely designed product that will help litigators or anyone neading ready access to federal docket materials interact with Pacer more easily and with a lot less pain, from pretty much anywhere.

The service is not free – the PacerPro online subscription will cost $25 month, which represents a special introductory price. The iPad app is also subscription based, at $15 a month. Plus your usual Pacer charges when you request a document, although archive searches are free. Remember, the archive is all documents that PacerPro users have requested via Pacer – the archive is a secondary database automatically created and accessible via natural language search. So, while it won’t be cost effective for the infrequent user, the time savings alone may be worth the cost for heavy Pacer users, litigators and anyone else needing regular, quick access to the federal courts.

I wish Gavin and John all the best with their application – they clearly have seen a need and filled it nicely. Looking forward to playing with PacerPro myself. You can find more about it at their newly live website at pacerpro.com. Or follow them on Twitter at @pacerpro.

Colligo Briefcase Pro for Sharepoint On The Go

Our department was one the first in the company to switch from a traditional static intranet site to a far more full-featured Microsoft Sharepoint site. Needless to say, I was involved in the push. Sharepoint is a web-based tool designed for enterprise use that incorporates many features to promote collaboration between coworkers, including intranet portals, document & file management, collaboration, social networks, extranets, websites, enterprise search, and business intelligence.

Once I get my hands on a great tool, my first thought always is: how can I get this on my device so that I can carry it around with me? If you want a very capable mobile option for Sharepoint, I suggest you look no further than Colligo Briefcase Pro. There is a lite version as well, with more limited functionality, but Colligo kindly provided me with a code to access the $14.99 Pro version for my review. Colligo Briefcase Pro enterprise offers even more features around security and remote management.

Briefcase Pro works with SharePoint 2007, SharePoint 2010, or Office 365 sites. It allows you to store, sync, view, edit, and find SharePoint content on your iPad or iPhone. Access and share files, lists, images, documents and emails. Synchronize SharePoint content to your iPad or iPhone automatically, for instant access, even when offline. The user interface is beautifully simple – it’s no harder to use than any of the other cloud-based storage applications, once you get past setting up your app and connecting with your enterprise Sharepoint site. Set alerts to monitor file changes. Share files using links. Leverage search within the app.

First and foremost, though, as with any interface with the enterprise, security is the key. AES-256 bit hardware based encryption type security, remote wiping and password protection within the app. With the Colligo Administrator software, there are even more security features available to the enterprise. There are also plenty of settings to allow you to control what gets downloaded and stored, size and type limits and when such downloads should occur, which is great when storage space or connectivity are issues. This is a far safer, far more secure way for business users and employees to access enterprise content than some of the other mobile options they may be tempted to use (looking at you, Dropbox).

There are some new features in Briefcase Pro 2.0. Whereas previously you could only download files, now the process is two-way so you can upload as well. There is offline editing available, which will then sync once you are online again. The familiar “open in” dialog on your iDevice is now usable from Briefcase, so you can use your application of choice, like Documents to Go or Goodreader, to work with the content. Check in/check out indicators, as well as conflict detection and resolution features. And you can edit your custom and standard lists. There is day/week/month view support in the Calendar and you can create “Playlists” of your favorite files for quick access. There are column filters to hone in on what you are looking for. Plus rich-text viewing.

Not everyone is using Sharepoint, so Briefcase’s appeal is somewhat limited in that regard. However, if you are a Sharepoint user, I have yet to come across a more full-featured mobile application for the suite. Stay connected with your business, your colleagues and your important files via Briefcase Pro. Check out more about the options on the Colligo website here.