Going Mobile? Keep Me Movin'!

Any excuse to quote a Who song. Some sobering (or exciting) numbers depending on your point of view: mobile usage and applications clearly are set to boom. Business Wire reports on a study released by ABI research that postulates mobile app downloads are expected to surpass the 44 billion mark by 2016. Android and Windows 7 are steadily gaining traction and the number of smartphone and tablet options are ever increasing. With 3 billion downloads from the Android Market and over 10 billion from Apple’s App Store, we are well on our way to ditching traditional software / hardware systems for specialized, single use apps in an ever-changing, infinitely customizable format. Apps are easy to install and use and then uninstall when no longer useful. Developers that aid users in finding the gems amongst the hundreds of thousands of options will hold a special place in users’ hearts.

Apps are being used to generate revenue in and of themselves, as well as promote other business interests, services and networks. Ignore the huge demand for mobile tools at your peril – people everywhere are going mobile!

Image courtesy of the atlantic.

Your Status Has Changed

Little things, like a change in status, can make all the difference. Take, for instance, this innocuous little email that popped into my Gmail inbox today:

Oh, goody! Will keep you posted …

I'm A VIP

It’s true. I love apps. Even apps that don’t work on my own system. Fortunately, there are plenty of apps that run on my iPhone 4 and iPad. And I never miss an opportunity to check out a new one. I am particularly fond of apps that take iOS4 functionality in a whole new direction or create a new method of interacting with these crazy smart phones. As I have often said, “It’s all about the apps.”

Now I am an “apps VIP”. Well, an Appsfire VIP to be precise. I have written about Appsfire before (link here). It is a fantastic way to learn about and share new apps. Appsfire leverages the knowledge of the crowd with its sharing tools and website loaded with goodies. It features apps VIPs – people who make it their business to delve into App Store offerings and share interesting new tools in their on-line endeavors.

After writing about Appsfire here in the Studio, they kindly invited me to submit my “app mix” and join the VIP group. So I did. And they did. You can check out my mix and the mixes of other VIP’s here. The direct link to my apps is here. You can “like” and share my app mix – if you have any questions about any of the apps, give me a shout in the comments here and I will be happy to let you know my thoughts.

Appsfire also has a couple of apps of their own that make discovering and sharing new applications easy and fun. Appsfire comes in a fully iOS4-friendly iPhone version (link here) that adds much of the functionality of the web page interface right onto your phone. You can even compare apps with a friend via bluetooth and use the personal recommendation system to learn about new apps.

Also, check out their iPad app –  Appstream – an “app”solutely fascinating scrolling stream of hundreds of apps that you can click on learn more about. The cool animated wall displays apps in real time:

Appsfire is simply the best way to learn about and share your passion for iPhone and iPad apps on the web or on your iDevice. They even keep you notified when paid apps go free. Check out their website at the jump above. And, if you get totally crazy about apps like me, maybe you can become an App VIP too.

See you on Appsfire!

MaxiVista + iPad: Expand Your Screen Estate

If you are an extreme computer-powered multi-tasker, there is no such thing as too much screen space.  If you aren’t already using a second (or third or fourth) monitor on your system, I will bet dimes to donuts that you have thought about it or would like to do it. It isn’t always the simplest process. Readers may recall my extensive review of the Nanovision Mimo USB monitors, a supposedly plug and play solution to the multi-monitor issue. I loved the monitors and what they did for my productivity until Nanovision updated the drivers and all of a sudden the monitors refused to work. Sometimes hardware (and software) are like that.

Finding myself mini-monitor-less, and having gotten used to the benefits of multiple screens, I have been looking for a solution to the problem for a little while now. In the meantime, I purchased an iPad, one of the benefits of which is a beautiful 9.7″ wide screen. Naturally, I wondered if somehow I could use the iPad to fill the gap left by the now defunct and defective Mimos.

Bartles Media GmBH has come up with a partial solution for those running Windows Vista or 7 – powered machines (and possibly XP machines, although I couldn’t see support for that on their site). Their MaxiVista iPad app (link here) allows you to set up the iPad as a second monitor. The iPad app costs $9.99, but they were very kind to provide me with a free discount code to try it out for myself. MaxiVista (link here) also comes in desktop versions, so you can link up to THREE additional pcs on your master computer. I only tried the iPad version, but I can only imagine how cool their desktop software might be (prices range between $40 and $100, depending on feature set, but there is a free trial available).

To get up and running, you have to first download the PC application onto your main computer. This was simple enough. Once completed, a little MaxiVista icon appears on your desktop. Then, activate your iPad’s MaxiVista app and the PC app. The devices “speak” to each other through your local network – my PC had no problem finding the iPad, and could even “see” that it was either to the right or left of the desktop. The PC app will ask you to confirm the iPad’s location, and you can check either yes or no and save your settings. Once you get past this point, you will see your desktop screen extended onto your iPad.

The app itself works well. I do get a “Com Surrogate” error message whenever I start the PC app, but the error doesn’t seem to do anything more than annoy (I did try a couple fixes, but couldn’t get it to go away). The screen refresh is a little bit slow, so I would not recommend it for views requiring fast refresh, such as video. I also note that, because the iPad always seems to default to the left side of your desktop screen, you will probably want to set up the iPad on the left side of your computer so that the movement makes sense. Some reviewers of the app seem to be sorely disappointed that the iPad loses its touchscreen ability when it is in second monitor mode, but I am not terribly troubled by this – most second monitors are not touchscreen-capable and the app does precisely what it is advertised to do – operate the iPad as a second monitor. Of course, if MaxiVista updates the app to somehow provide touchscreen control of the iPad while in second monitor mode, I will be a supremely happy camper indeed.

In any even, MaxiVista is a complete bargain in my book. My Mimo monitors, which had half the screen size of the iPad, cost well over $100 apiece. Most screens will cost you at least that. If you already have an iPad, the MaxiVista app will only set you back ten bucks. And, unlike my Mimos that relied on buggy device drivers, it WORKS.

How am I using it? Right now, I have two scrolling social feeds in side by side windows on the iPad, while I write the blog post in my main screen. I specifically chose auto-scrolling / updating feeds so that I wouldn’t need to shift my attention to that screen other than to glance at it. I can see the updates in the corner of my eye and take a quick peek, then get back to work. As such, I can keep tabs on more information at once.

iPad & Desktop Screens

iPad Screen Only

Desktop Screen Only

The mouse moves easily between the screens – much better than the mouse movement on the Mimos. Resolution on the iPad is more than adequate – I can see the iPad fine at 20 inches away without my distance glasses. In addition to monitoring multiple websites at once, I can see using this set up for my vector graphics program, setting the palettes and brush menus off to the iPad and keeping the main screen fully open for the drawing itself. Another great option would be to use the iPad to house your chat windows, while working on the main monitor. I had a reason to use this set up back a couple months ago and only wish I had MaxiVista installed at that time. How about loading a document that has no cut and paste option over on your iPad screen while you type what you need from it into a document in your main screen? Been there, needed that too.

MaxiVista is not the only App Store option out there. As I haven’t tried the other, Air Display (separate apps for Windows and Mac systems), I cannot comment on how effective it is. I can say that I do recommend the MaxiVista app for anyone running a Windows Vista desktop and an iPad. I can’t think of a simpler, most cost-effective solution to the multi-monitor problem.  Well done, MaxiVista!

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Civilizing The Discovery of iPhone Apps

Image representing AppsFire as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

With more than 200,000 apps in the App Store, finding the best of the best is becoming increasingly difficult. iTunes and Genius are not of much assistance and third party sites and services have leaped in to fill the void.

A credible competitor in this field is AppsFire (link here) .With a newly revamped page, desktop tool and download-able iPhone application, AppsFire really streamlines the process of discovering, demoing and sharing iPhone apps and presents a very real challenger to the iTunes monopoly. You can search for apps yourself, or, if you are in need of some expert advise, check out the VIP section on the Web – lists compiled by tech elite and power users. AppsFire also will recommend apps based on your app downloads and history.  The iPhone app lets you compare apps with other iPhone toting friends via Bluetooth.

The AppsFire interface looks great on the iPad. The team is also developing a similar product for the Android marketplace. Take a look at what the tech press has to say:

“there needs to be a way to filter out what you don’t want and find what you do [….] AppsFire may offer just that”
“Appsfire is a service that makes it easier to share your favorite iPhone apps with your friends”
“The must-have App Sharing app”
“AppsFire is an interesting idea [..] It then generates a list you can share with friends”
“The app is a breeze to use on both desktop and the iPhone, and takes app sharing to a new level”
“[Appsfire is] Helping solve the discovery of relevant applications”
“The Perfect Merge of iPhone Apps and Social Media”
“AppsFire is a nice little software piece that[..] can be counted upon for finding apps that might interest you”

And, check out their demo video below:

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Fastcase: An iPhone Lawyer's Fast Friend

Last week I mentioned it, this week I review it. I have downloaded and have been playing with Fastcase’s new, FREE, iPhone application that offers a portal to a database of caselaw and statutes at your iPhone-bearing fingertips. New to Fastcase? From their site:

Fastcase is a next-generation, Web-based legal research service, that puts the complete national law library on your desktop anywhere you have Internet access.  Fastcase’s smarter searching, sorting, and visualization tools help you find the best answers fast – and help you find documents you might have otherwise missed.

Fastcase reaches back to volume 1, page 1 of the major federal reporters and also includes primary caselaw from the 50 states and statutes as well as other materials  via its Web interface. Fastcase had already positioned itself as the affordable, legal research option, free to many via bar memberships. Fastcase is sure to blow that particular part of the field wide open with its free legal research iPhone application, the first of its kind to hit the App Store.

The iPhone application uses the same process as Fastcase’s web-based application – a natural language and relevancy weighted search function. But Boolean search works too. What’s more, there is a citation analysis tool integrated into the search results. No need for an existing Fastcase account: I quickly filled out a form within the app, providing my name, company, job title, and log-in information and achieved full access immediately. In their welcoming email, they include an offer for a free trial of their web product (aaahhh, THERE’s the marketing hook.)

Fastcase lists the features of its app as follows:

  • Free, searchable library of American cases and statutes
  • Keyword (Boolean), natural language, and citation search
  • Browse or search statutes
  • Most relevant results first
  • Customizable search results that you can sort five different ways
  • Search results automatically display number of citing cases
  • Jump right to most relevant paragraph of any case or statute
  • Integrated research history
  • Save favorite documents for use later
  • Case law is updated regularly

Not bad for a free application.

Of course, I have opened and closed the doors and hood, kicked the tires a couple of times and have run a few searches. In a word, it delivers.

I entered my search query:

set my jurisdiction and date parameters,

and let it run. Thirty seconds later, my results showed up.

The relevancy-weighted algorithm assigns a relevance score to the case from 1 (not relevant) to 100 (right on point). Authority check shows via an orange button indicating how many times the case has been cited overall and how many times it has been cited by other cases in the search results. You get more details on the citing cases when you press the button.

When you click on a particular case, it brings up the header with both the official and West Reporter citations (cool!), docket number, court, parties and officiating judges. There are arrow buttons to scroll through the results list, a save button to save a particular case (which you can also copy, paste and email to yourself if you want to print 😉 ) and a “most relevant” button which brings you to your search terms. The case text is easy to read and it hypertext-links you to other cases cited within the text.  Footnotes are displayed at the end of the case.

A burning question in my mind is how quickly Fastcase gets decisions loaded into its database. I haven’t queried Fastcase themselves and my research did not disclose a clear answer.

Another potential drawback for frequent users of the Big Two premium legal research products is the lack of the editorial treatment in these cases – no headnotes, keynumbers of introductory paragraph summarizing the case posture and holding. This editorial treatment is the value-add the Big Two lean heavily upon in keeping their prices at the top of the range. The lack of these features in Fastcase and, consequently, their app, may dissuade some from using this tool for more than the occasional quick look-up while on the go. But I do have to commend Fastcase’s relevancy algorithm – in an area of law that I am VERY familiar with, Fastcase quickly showed some of the key cases right at the top of the results list. Impressive showing for the first, free, legal research app for a mobile platform.

I give Fastcase’s app a hearty two-thumbs up for both effective implementation and the surefire “kick-in-the-pants” this free tool will bring to this somewhat archaic, top-heavy industry.

Run. Don’t walk.

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The Business Card

Just past the outer boundaries of my short-term memory, I posted in the Studio about cutting-edge tools around the antiquated concept of the business card. While it is indeed a concept that has been around for more than a century – back in the very old day, people employed them for personal use as calling cards – recent developments have catapulted them past the present and straight into the future. I discussed some of that cool card tech in that earlier post (link here).

Rather than rehash that tech, I thought it might be interesting to share with you the apps / non-apps that I am currently using to pass my contact information. My tool belt holds three items: Bump; Cardreader; and, some beautiful, old-fashioned, paper cards.

Bump (site link here ) is an app that was suggested in the comments to my original post and I really love it. Until recently, its only limitation was that you needed another iPhone user to take advantage of it. With its most recent update, it works with Android phones too! And since Apple and Google will soon be taking over the world, Bump should become ubiquitous.

From their site, Bump:

is a quick and easy way to connect two phones by simply bumping them together. Exchange your phone number, photos, or compare friends with just a bump.

*       *       *

There are two parts to Bump: the app running on your device and a smart matching algorithm running on our servers in the cloud. The app on your phone uses the phone’s sensors to literally “feel” the bump, and it sends that info up to the cloud. The matching algorithm listens to the bumps from phones around the world and pairs up phones that felt the same bump. Then we just route information between the two phones in each pair.

It really does work! You can send your own contact information, or you can attach a contact from your phone and send it to someone else. So easy- with very few exceptions, Bump has worked perfectly for me. App store link here.

Check out the demo video below:

Next up is Cardreader (site link here). This is a recent download of mine. For people who still believe in the old-fashioned, paper-style contact herald, Cardreader can get that information into your iPhone with relatively little effort.

Cardreader is essentially a mobile scanner. It works best on an iPhone 3GS, as it makes full use of that phone’s auto-focus function. The tech employed is pretty impressive: it uses a real OCR engine – the ABBYY Mobile OCR Engine. It does not send the information to a web server for processing – all processing is done locally within the app so there are no worries about sensitive contact data being shared.

Open the Cardreader app, and it shows a list of contacts with images to the left. The little “i” at the bottom opens up the settings, where you can access FAQ and Instructions, set shake protections, set dictionaries, toggle image enhancement, camera lock, perspective card view, and reset settings. There is a little business card icon at the top right. Click on that icon and the camera opens. Camera view is overlaid with the words “top” and “bottom” so you can allign the card properly. Take a picture of the business card you want to import (you also can select one from your iPhone photo album). The data is read through the OCR processor and you are given the ability to edit and save. When done, the information and picture are synced with the address book and stored in contacts.

As if this wasn’t cool enough, you can browse visually through your address book using the built in 3D card view feature, which looks suspiciously like iTunes Cover Flow. This feature alone might make the app worth the $5.99 price.

I have taken several card pictures with it. The more challenging the card layout, the greater the likelihood of errors requiring correction. I have to say that I am mostly impressed with the results. Below is a picture of a card I took that sucked up the information flawlessly – no edits necessary:

My feeling on Cardreader is that it is a fantastic implementation of iPhone technology that serves a very useful purpose for business professionals. App store link here.

Last but not least, I want to show off my new paper cards. I performed some crowdsourced investigation of the opinions shared by my social media friends and came up with this fantastic on-line printing company, Moo Cards (U.S. site link here). Moo prints custom business cards, mini cards, post cards and greeting cards using your uploaded artwork or one of their scads of gorgeous designs. Speaking of gorgeous, let’s talk about their card stock and print quality. It is to die for. The web interface worked beautifully (that has not been my universal experience with online printers and photo production) and service was fast and perfect. And they are a very reasonable price for full-color, two-sided graphics.

I cannot rave enough about these cards. I created my information graphic and uploaded it. I then selected a series of 11 diferent backgrounds from their design library. My cards arrived with glorious color, each with a different design on the back. Although my image below does not do them justice, this will give you an idea of how beautiful they are:

My “card” arsenal is now complete!

What are you using?

Cutting-Edge Social Engagement – Your Own Mobile App

200811 app store at apple store
Image by superciliousness via Flickr It’s getting simpler and cheaper all the time to have your own iPhone or Android app. I have been watching the news on tools for creating your own using media, RSS and other content generation. I am completely psyched about the possibilities, but I have been less than pleased with the prices and constraints. Here is a run-down on what I have found so far:

Yes, you too can have your own mobile application! And you don’t even need to know code! By simply morphing your content (which you are already creating anyway) into a neat, little, iconized package, you can leverage the Mobile Web to expand your audience. Until now, app-making services seemed the domain of the big players. Recently, however, the process has become very simple and relatively affordable. Today, I found a tool that might even persuade me to make my own!

iSites: (link) This is the one I just found in an article by Ben Parr over at Mashable! that got me all excited to make an app and to write this article. The service launched today and allows you to transfer your RSS feeds into a complete iPhone (and soon Android) app. You cannot beat the cost: $25! You supply the feeds (most social sites – Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, etc. – and blogs have them or you can create your own). Then customize the look and feel. Click a button, publish in the particular App Store and voila! You been App-motized! For $99, you can integrate with AdMob advertising. From Ben’s experience creating his own app:

It comes with a lot of great features that simply make it work: video support, image thumbnails and the ability to “favorite” articles. The feature that I like most, though, is quick sharing, which allows the app user to share an article via Facebook, Twitter or e-mail. The entire thing just looks slick and professional.

We’ve seen other tools for creating your own iPhone app, but this one is one of the simplest and cheapest on the market so far. iSites even offers analytics on downloads, app views and which of your content is the most popular.

I think I might just do it!

While iSites looks like THE ONE FOR ME, there are certainly other options out there. Here are a few I pulled from scanning the Web (haven’t used any of them myself, so this is by no means a review).

MobileRoadie: (link) Although primarily directed at bands, this tool can be employed for disseminating any media via a mobile application. Link your ticket sales, concert dates or ecommerce site. Use your own graphics, or let Mobile Roadie do it for you. My understanding is that their apps are pretty slick and the process is pretty painless. Mobile Roadie offers marketing advice as well. It’s not terribly cheap – $499 set-up fee and $29 per month to maintain. If you use MobileRoadie’s hosting, you also pay 1 penny per download. But it might be worth the investment if your app goes viral. Check out the video for more info:

AppMakr: (link) For the mere price of a couple of Benjamins, you can have your own iPhone application via this service. It allows you to convert your RSS and Atom feeds (blogs, status updates, Twitter, iTunes podcast feeds, Flickr streams, YouTube, WordPress, etc.) into a downloadable, iconized iPhone app. Pretty cool, no doubt. The app can be submitted to iTunes as a free or paid download. Free apps can embed AdMob, Medialets, DoubleClick, and Google Adsense for more money-making opportunity. Just customize via the AppMakr site and AppMakr will do the rest. For $199, you are limited to their templates and branding. For $499, you can publish the app under your own masthead. Even with the more expensive option, you sacrifice some control in favor of the convenience of AppMakr’s assistance in provisioning, building and managing the application. Check out PointAbout’s quick vid on its service below:

Sweb Apps: (link) Sweb is an online service that also offers the ability to build an app without coding skills. There are templates for creating the apps, background image choices and custom icons. You can track usage demographics via an online dashboard. Sweb also offers mobile storefront incorporation. The fee is per button, with 4 costing $200, 6 costing $300 and 8 costing $400, a one-time set-up fee of $50 per button plus a $25 monthly fee. Also not so cheap.

AppBreeder: (link) AppBreeder offers kits for creating your own application, with pre-defined settings and “gadgets.” Again, no coding experience required. Covers a multitude of mobile platforms, including Android, iPhone, Blackberry, etc. The kits are categorized around your type of business. While signing up and a web-based, ad-supported app is free, monthly costs increase as you lose adds, make the app native or spread the app to other than the iPhone platform.

AppIncubator: (link) With AppIncubator, your initial investment is free, but AppIncubator retains a slice of the profits. Plus, AppIncubator has to like what you have to offer before they will submit it. MEDL Mobile’s iPhone application also permits development without coding by taking on the heavy lifting in exchange for a piece of the pie. You submit your ideas to the “incubator” and, if it looks good, they will create your app and promote and market it.

MyAppBuilder: (link) If you have content to sell, this app’s for you. The on-line builder permits direct content creation or RSS feeds, including Twitter updates. You input the information, MyAppBuilder creates the app and submits it for your review before submitting it to Apple for their review. $20 to process your data and $29 per month, thereafter.

BuildAnApp: (link) Another web-based service, that allows app creation for various platforms. There are templates, as well as the ability to customize graphics. This one is still in private beta, but seems promising with its offer of an email distribution tool for alerting people of your impending application.

Check out some other great, niche options here in this article by Sara Perez at ReadWriteWeb.

What are you waiting for?????

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Mobile PDF Manipulation

Zosh IconAnother tip for the mobile warriors – pull PDF’s into an iPhone application that allows you to annotate the document with text and to even sign it. Handy stuff for PDF forms. The app is called Zosh and requires that you sign up with a free account. The account permits you to email the PDF to Zosh’s servers so that it can be sent back to you in an editable form. You have control over colors, fonts and text treatments, like bold and italic. When done, either request that the finished form be sent back to you or forwarded to someone else. Sign on the iPhone screen itself to create an electronic signature via the app’s ingenious scrolling function.

I can’t count how many times I have been sent a PDF that I first opened on my iPhone, which I then tabled for later attention because I could not deal with the PDF at that time. For $2.99, Zosh seems a pretty bargain and a decent add to your business tool kit.

Hat tip to iPhone J.D., and hit the link here for a comprehensive review, screenshots and demo video.

Zosh Screen Shot

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JD Supra Does It Again, iPhone Edition

Legal EdgeTaking an already great service and making it better: that is what today’s top information providers should be all about. JD Supra, the online, legal document sharing site where lawyers and law firms can “give content and get noticed,” is taking their show on the road with a brand new, shiny iPhone application. Called Legal Edge, the application allows you to access JD Supra’s topical categories and the sublists of documents organized within those categories. Drill down a bit further and you can view PDF or web-based versions of the documents. Documents submitted by premium accounts will also bear a “Contact Contributor” button, allowing a user to immediately reach out to the document’s author or law firm.

There is a growing number of law-related applications in the App store, but what makes JD Supra special is its status as a collective work of the legal community – the product of its contributors. This is great for those searching legal authority: Legal Edge directly connects users to some of the best minds in the profession – complete with a showcase of their talents  – right on their iPhones, where more and more people are spending more and more of their time. It is also great for contributing practitioners: with a single upload, a lawyer’s content will be featured on the JD Supra Web site and related Twitter and Facebook feeds, RSS feeds, email and now the iPhone via Leading Edge. Now THAT’s what I call publication!

Oh, and guess what? It’s free.

It gets even better. JD Supra is working with firms to develop custom, firm-branded applications to exclusively stream that firm’s content. Firms can leverage JDSupra’s expertise and create their own iPhone app, a strategy representing  one of the hottest trends in tech-based marketing.

My experience with the app is that it is simple, easy to navigate and efficient: with two clicks, I can view an expert’s thoughts on bankruptcy, insurance, real estate, intellectual property and even legal marketing. One more click and I am in contact with the author. There are twenty categories at present, but I anticipate that JD Supra will keep developing the content and finessing the application and maybe even adding features at some point down the road.

You can get Legal Edge for free from the App Store right now. If you take it out for a test drive, please come on back and provide feedback in the comments! Would love to hear your thoughts.

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