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.

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.

Dlvr.it Now Sends to Google+ – Go Autopost Your Blog!

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Web routing tool dlvr.it pulls content from existing feeds and formats and delivers it to your social networks, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and many more social networks. As of this week, dlvr.it will now route your RSS feeds to Google+, which for me is great news. I already autopost my blog on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Now I can easily make sure my content gets posted to Google+ too. This is exciting news as dlvr.it is the first third party tool that allows such cross-posting to Google+. At this point, it will only publish to pages rather than personal profiles, but this is still a start.

 

Dlvr.it is a bit like a focused IFTT – its purpose is to deliver RSS content to social sites. But it is about more than simply delivering the news. It is a delivery mechanism and analytics dashboard, allowing bloggers, publishers and brands a way to instantly syndicate content and expand reach on the social web and into new channels. You can manage and measure the flow of your content everywhere your audience is. Dlvr.it publishes media, blogs, and other content to your social channels, instantaneously. You can then measure how people are interacting with that content. In the dashboard, see who clicks, comments, retweets and otherwise interacts with your content. What is cool is that Dlvr.it sends to more different sources than some of the other feed publishing tools, and automatically formats it appropriately for the destination. You also can set all or part of your feeds to go to different destinations. It has its own url shortener, or you can use bit.ly to shorten your links.

 

Free gets you five feeds into three social services, with a 30 minute window for delivery. Pro and Ultimate give you more for $9.99 and $19.99 per month, respectively. One of the add-ins is the Google+ Page destination. You also get support with the paid versions, push updates, geotagging posts, feed scheduling, advanced filtering and auto text edits, and other features.

 

If social media content syndication is important to you, then it might be worth a little change to set up your content to be delivered where and when you want it to on your social sites – taking the manual sharing piece out – and getting a little more feedback on how well your content is received. With the addition of Google+ as a social destination for dlvr.it, the cost is even more compelling.

Tabulaw – A Drafting Tool With A Legal Bent


Whew! Gone for a few days as I dug myself out from a pile of work (the paying kind). Perhaps if I had a software tool that combined my legal research efforts and results with a simple, effective sharing and composition tool, I could whip out those opinion letters and research projects faster and more efficiently. Wait – you say there is something like that out there? Have you heard of Tabulaw?

Tabulaw is a web-based service that combines all of the tasks of researching and communicating a point of law into a simple copy / drag / drop interface. Tabulaw is the glue for your other resources and tasks – it appears that it will work with Google, Westlaw, Lexis/Nexis, and perhaps other databases (here’s hoping for Fastcase), allow you to copy and save sections of research, along with their appropriate citations, which are then available to you to drag and drop into your final document. I really like the idea of aggregating from different sources into one, citable “notebook” of content that can then be manipulated and shared. As far as the collaboration element, I am not sure how they intend to implement this – it would be uber cool to make these research folders open to multiple contributors, along with traditional social sharing or direct links to Scribd or Slideshare.

Tabulaw is in private beta and I don’t have an invite so I haven’t yet tested it myself. But you can bet that I signed up for the beta. If I get in, I will get back with more info on this promising tool. In the meantime, check out their promo video below.

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.