Will Microsoft Build a Better Magnifying Glass?

Not to be outdown by the likes of Google and Wolfram Alpha, Microsoft appears to be unveiling its new search engine next week at the Wall Street Journal’s D: All Things D tech conference in Carlsbad, California, according to Resource Shelf.

The engine’s code name is Kumo, but it is really a rebranding of Microsoft Live Search conjoined with its new semantic ally, Powerset. And guess what? It is going to help us find more relevant results! The screenshots over at All Things Digital / Boomtown show a clean, spare look. PC World reports a three-column search results page with useful tools like related searches, a “single-session search history for quick backtracking”, and other related categories tied to your search inquiry. PC World uses an example of searching for a recording artist with results that include song lyrics, tickets, albums and the artist’s biography. Or searching for a product with results including images, reviews and product manuals.

Will Kumo stand or fall amidst the search stars? Not sure, but I can say this: more semantic competitors add up to us edging closer to a truly semantic on-line world! Kudos to Kumo!!!!

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More Free Legal Resources

This time, the “free and available” is brought to you by the Warren E. Burger Library at the William Mitchell College of Law. The site offers a tabbed window with primary legal materials by jurisdiction, topical materials, materials targeted to students, faculty and administrators, attorneys and non-lawyers, general information and research materials and secondary legal research resources such as blogs, citation and research guides, forms, journals and law reviews and portals and even a little international schwag.

There is a lot of good material to pour through. Consider adding it to your bookmarks, tagged “free”, “legal”, “resources”, and “research.”

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Speak Legalese to Your Computer & It Might Just Understand You

I have been toying with purchasing Dragon Naturally Speaking. I just love the idea of pacing back and forth, turning to my computer and bossing it around, ordering it to perform tasks without being tied to the keyboard, mouse or glide point. I have held off to date due to the cost of the program and my uncertainty as to whether it would work for my particular situation.

ABA Law Practice Today has an article by Rodney Dowell about a new version of Naturally Speaking that is particularly attuned to legal professionals. Dragon Naturally Speaking 10 Legal gets a thumbs up from Dowell, who was skeptical due to his questionable results with Version 9 Preferred. I haven’t used the program yet, so I cannot review it. But I can encourage you to hit the jump above, as Dowell puts a lot of detail into his review of this new and improved tool.

That law degree doesn’t come cheap. While Version 10 Preferred can be had for around the $150 range, Version 10 Legal ranges between $749 and $1,299. A key difference is the ability to dictate in Outlook and PowerPoint. The “legal” comes from the software coming pre-configured with legal vocabulary – nearly 30,000 legal terms – and the ability to format legal citations.

To summarize Dowell’s findings, here is his parting quote:

If you will only dictate in Word or WordPerfect buy Dragon Preferred. For me, however, the power of dictating to a computer lies in my ability to move across applications, work in Outlook and deal with e-mails, create macros and custom vocabularies, and the ability to create templates. This ability to broadly use the product across multiple applications is what makes the Dragon Legal edition a worthy purchase, especially at the lower price points.

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Follow The Librarians!

Connie Crosby, a tech-savvy librarian from our neighbor to the north, mentioned on her blog today that the Online University Lowdown has created a list of the 50 best blogs for law librarians to follow. Why do I mention this? Anyone interested in research, writing, technology and reference management should make a point of finding web-friendly library scientists and reading their offerings religiously. I have several of these blogs in my reader and I never fail to pull interesting and enlightening information from them. My first exposure to many of the resources that I have adopted was from a blog entry authored by a researcher or librarian. My first exposure to Twitter came from blog posts by Connie and another professional mentioned in her blog above, Steve Matthews.

Time is definitely precious, with all of the possible venues for information and engagement cropping up in our real and virtual worlds. If you have to budget time for information gathering, I recommend offering a little shelf-space to some of the fine resources mentioned in this list

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