What Do You Want For Nothing? Credenza

Great tip on a legal product over at Bob Ambrogi’s LawSites (a fantastic legal tech blog if you are unfamiliar). Credenza offers practice management software to lawyers, charging $24.95 per month for the goods (Credenza Pro).  But Credenza has just come out with a slightly simpler version for free – Credenza Basic.

Credenza’s system is great for lawyers who love Outlook – the software works within Outlook, adding features that will help you organize your calendar, tasks, emails, documents, research, phone calls, notes, billable time by client matter, file or project. It will track time as you work. The process adds “files” to Outlook, which essentially operate as tags for your tasks. Organize those tags according to any system you wish and mark time spent accordingly. Check out the list of tagging and organizing functionality within Credenza Basic:


There are differences between Basic and Pro, as there should be for $24.95 per month. The big differences are multiple users and integrated billing software – you can take that time you tracked within Credenza and create a corresponding invoice to clients. But if it is simply little old you plugging away, then the free option makes tons of sense. Head on over to the site and check out the links on each of the functions listed above – there is a lot to digest. Thanks, Credenza!

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Want Free Time Tracking Software? Try Chrometa

Now here’s a deal. Chrometa, a time tracking application, just dropped its price from $99 to free. The free Windows version runs locally on your desktop, while the web version is offered via paid subscription. Lifehacker has the goods on this program, which easily can serve as an hourly billing tool. It is easy to use – the utility starts working as soon as it’s installed. It then runs in the background and keeps track of all of your computer activities, including web tasks, applications use and emails. Sorting is by application or tool and it operates without your management. Your data can be exported to Excel and the interface can be password protected.  Couldn’t be easier. Check out Lifehacker’s article and link to the free download here.

Grammarly: Your Robotic Writing Assistant

There are those out there claiming that good grammar is outdated. And then there are those out there looking to turn a buck helping you fix your grammar and proofread your opus (opuses? opera?). Should you choose to pay attention to your grammar, you can turn to the online service Grammarly to afford you that second set of eyes. Grammarly doesn’t beat around the bush: the site proudly proclaims it to be “The World’s Most Accurate Grammar Checker.” Grammarly offers both online checking and integration with your local software – Microsoft Office Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, etc.  Grammarly checks for spelling, punctuation, and simple grammar checking, as well as highlights potential plagiaristic moments in your missive.  Grammatical errors are indicated in red and clicking on the error will reveal a pop up card explaining the wrong and the “write” of it. You can choose to “see less” of the explanation in the cards, and there are up and down buttons to give feedback on the feedback that is given to you in the card.

Word from reviewers is that Grammarly is near the top of the class when it comes to online grammar support, but that it falls a bit short as a local add-on, with much better options out there in WhiteSmoke or Writer’s Workbench. The other downside for me was a monthly subscription cost. For on-line, I would prefer a one-off option for the occasional support, rather than be required to pump in $20 or so bucks a month for a slightly better editor and checker than my word processor provides.

That said, those who make their living writing, or students whose grades depend upon quality written product, might find the money well spent. It’s always nice to have another tool to fit in you writer’s tool belt.

Your Stimulus Dollars at Work: Tightening Up Search

Imagine a search engine that employs experiments to learn from you? The computer scientists at Cornell University have and they are using stimulus money (a four-year, $1 million grant) to improve search based on such experiments. The scientists are looking to develop search engine software that can read your queries and clicks, as well as subsequent query reformulations, in order to understand search methodology and what does and doesn’t work. The software developed from these efforts will be best used in specialized collections – the examples from the press release include scientific and legal collections and corporate intranets.

The search engine software will learn what works best by analyzing user data, almost as if by osmosis. The researchers already have developed the aptly-named Osmot and are looking to improve the process by tightening the experimental controls. More on Osmot at this link.

What does it all mean for you? Smarter search engines might yield faster and better results, but I still hesitate slightly at the thought of a machine’s judgment regarding what is and is not relevant substituting for my own. In any event, it will be interesting to see where this inqury leads and the ramifications for search.

The Dragon On Your iPhone

Way back in the day, I always thought it extremely cool when the crew of the Enterprise used to speak out load to the ship’s computer and Majel Barrett’s soothing voice would respond accordingly.

Fast forward to today – I am often found cursing my iPhone’s touchscreen keyboard and the stupidly stubborn suggestions that it insists I really meant to write. Add to that the fact that there are many times I wish I could access a function on my phone without having to huddle over the screen and hunt and peck.

Enter the Dragon. Nuance Software’s Dragon Naturally Speaking has long been the name associated with dictation software for your desktop or laptop. From its humble beginnings, Dragon has evolved to become quite a powerful tool, capable of all sorts of functionality from email, to wordprocessing to search and beyond.

Nuance has now released an iPhone application called Dragon Dictation to bring some of that verbal pizzaz to the iPhone. The 3GS has limited voice functionality already built in, accessed by pressing and holding the home button. However, Dragon brings this functionality one step cooler by employing speech recognition technology to power emails and text messages and even the phone’s clipboard for cutting and pasting. Text is editable, too, so you aren’t stuck with “elephants dance merrily while I make cookies in the petunia patch” from your original phrase “just wanted to see if you needed me to pick up some milk tonight.”

The only drawback is that the service does require an internet connection (unlike the built in voice control) so that Nuance’s servers can go to work on your speech.  Oh and the other objection is price. No, wait, strike that. It’s FREE (for a limited time only).  For iPhone OS 3.1 users only. Go get it!