Computer Skills Everyone Should Know

At I Heart Tech, Adriana Linares is blogging about 10 Critical Computer Skills Every Attorney Should Know. In her first post of the series, she talks about operating system and file management essentials. Some of the skills that she covers are things such as creating a new folder and using the Shift and Ctrl keys to select files and folders.

She also provides links to tutorials on things such as moving windows, hiding windows, and switching between windows. I am constantly amazed as the number of people that I run across who do not realize the value of their computer’s ability to multi-task.

I have encountered people before who thought they had to close Outlook to use a different program. Some people have no idea what it means to minimize a window. Similarly, some have no idea how to move a window (or even that you could move or resize a window).

Sometimes it is easy to forget that people don’t have these basic skills. Most of the time, that is not their fault. Many people had a computer put in front of them, told how to operate a particular program essential to their job and then left to their own devices. Stated simply, this is what happens without proper training.

Look around your workplace, are there employees who do not know these basic skills. If so, send them to training. These are essential skills to have so people can operate their computers more effectively. The more effectively and efficiently they can operate their computers, the more efficient they can be when working for you.

A GMail Tip

The ABA Techshow Blog had a great GMail tip a couple of weeks ago. The post explains how you can tell if someone is accessing your GMail account from another location:

Once you’re signed in, at the bottom of the page you’ll find a lot of fine print.  Beneath where it indicates how much of your allotted storage space you’re currently using, you’ll see a line that gives the time and IP address of your last account activity.  Click on the “Details” link, and you’ll be taken to a window showing the last several times anyone signed in to your account, how (Browser, mobile, POP3, etc.), the IP address, and the time.  It will also tell you whether there is concurrent activity.  There’s also a button to allow you to close any concurrent sessions and link to allow you to change your password immediately.

I know that most people have a GMail account that they use for some purpose. Doesn’t it make sense to check this every once in a while to make sure someone else isn’t accessing your account?

Protecting Your Bates Numbers

One of my favorite features in Adobe Acrobat is its ability to add Bates numbers to hundreds of pages in less than a minute. Another great feature built into the Bates numbering feature is that, because Acrobat stores the Bates numbering information as metadata, it allows you to remove the Bates number from the documents. This is particularly convenient if you find that you want to reorder your documents before you produce your documents to the other side.

The downside of this flexibility, of course, is the fact that if you send these documents to someone else, then they can also modify your Bates numbers. Fortunately, this issue is one that is easy to solve and Rick Borstein explains how in a post on his Acrobat for Legal Professionals Blog. As Rick explains:

The ability to remove Bates Numbers is valuable in case you make a mistake during the numbering process. However, due to the adversarial nature of the legal business, attorneys may desire to limit what the other side can do with documents.

* * *

In this article, I’ll discuss how to “lock down” Bates Numbers so that they cannot be removed by Acrobat’s “Remove Bates” option.

In his post, Rick explains to how protect your Bates numbers in both a single documents and in multiple documents. Check out the entire post for his easy to follow instructions.

Making Google Docs More Useful

Notwithstanding the confidentiality concerns found with Google Docs, I know that there are plenty of people who use and love Google Docs. Don’t get me wrong. I think it is a very neat application and I have used it before for personal, nonconfidential stuff.

Anyway, for those who use Google Docs, Dumb Little Man has a post that provides 10 Google Docs hacks. From the list, my favorites are the bulk uploader, as well as the bulk download options.

Although I don’t know that I would keep my finances on Google Docs, the tip describing how you can easily keep track of your finances is pretty neat.

Also, I didn’t know this, but you can easily create polls using Google Docs. Now that is a cool application.

Check out the post for all 10 tips.

ScanSnap Tips & Tricks

For many years, most people I know in the legal technology field have been suggesting the Fujitsu ScanSnap as a great scanner at a reasonable price. I too do not hesitate to recommend the ScanSnap to anyone who is looking for a scanner.

If you are someone who uses a ScanSnap, you should check out the ScanSnap Tips & Tricks forum. The site has several tips to help you use your ScanSnap more efficiently.

Hat tip to Ernie at PDF for Lawyers for pointing this site out.

Adding Exhibit Stamps in Acrobat

Rick Borstein comes through with another great way to use PDFs in your legal practice: Adding dynamic exhibit stamps.

Rick explains:

Since PDF is the defacto (or often mandated) eFiling standard, it didn’t come as a surprise that I’ve received a few emails on this exhibit stamping PDFs over the last couple of years.

I’ve written previously about creating custom stamps, but an Exhibit Stamp has both a static graphic element and a changing numeric or alphabetic element. I have proposed a workaround using watermarks and the typewriter tool to some firms, but that still was a lot of work.

Only recently have I come across an elegant solution that can accomplish both steps with a click! When you stamp the document, Acrobat will ask you for the exhibit number, then stamp it on the document.

This is a great solution and anyone who uses PDFs in their practice should check it out.

Go here to get directions on how to install this stamp.

Also, once you have applied your stamps, don’t forget to flatten your page. Rick has instructions in his post on how to do that. You can find an alternative method of flattening here.

Using Checkmarks in Excel

Carol’s Corner Office Blog recently had a great trip on how to add checkmarks to an Excel spreadsheet. Carol explains:

I receive lots of e-mail from subscribers asking me if they can put checkmarks into the cells in their MS Excel spreadsheets. The short answer is yes!

There are several ways to place checkmarks in the cells of your MS Excel spreadsheets. Follow the steps below to learn how:

Note – Depending upon your version of MS Excel and Windows, you may not have some of the fonts below.

  1. Type a lower case a and change the font to Marlette or Webdings.
  2. Type an upper case P and change the font to Wingdings2.
  3. Hold down the ALT key and type 251.
  4. Click on Insert | Insert Symbol and scroll down and click on the checkmark. Click on Insert | Close | Enter.
  5. Hold down the ALT key and type 0252 and change the font to Wingdings.

I know that this is probably not something you need to do often, however, if you need a checkmark, you now know several ways to accomplish this. Check out Carol’s complete post. It contains 6 different ways for you to add checkmarks to your spreadsheet.

Making a Useful Signature Stamp

At PDF for Lawyers, Ernie the Attorney provides a great tutorital on creating a digital signature in Adobe Acrobat. The problem with using a digital signature in Acrobat is that most people don’t understand them. In addtion to your name, the digital signature contains other information that verifies that you signed the document and that it has not been changed since.

Ernie explains:

A signature, digital or not, has to satisfy two elements: (1) non-repudiability, and (2) acceptance by the receiving party.  In other words, the point of signing a document is so the recipient knows it’s from you, and that you can’t deny it’s from you (i.e. you can’t repudiate authorship of the document).  Digital signatures are far superior to regular signatures in this arena.  Where they fail miserably is in the ‘acceptance’ part.
Because digital signatures are not familiar to most people they freak out if they see a bunch of numbers where they’re used to seeing indecipherable human scrawl.  So, how to remedy this problem?
The quick and dirty fix is to do what I outline in that blurb I mentioned a few sentences ago. Just create a stamp and slap that on the document you want to ‘sign.’  It won’t be secure like a real digital signature (and if you want to repudiate it you can say your secretary exceeded her authority and stamped it without your knowledge).  But, let’s say you’re a fair-minded, by-the-rules kind of guy (or gal).  Is there another option?

Fortunately Ernie has solved this problem. Simply go to his post and follow his few simple steps to create a digital signature with an appearance that won’t freak people out.

Microsoft Word Tips for Jury Instructions

I just saw a great tip from Carol’s Corner Office Blog about printing jury instructions. One of the problems with preparing jury instructions is that you need a copy for you, opposing counsel, and the judge with citations on them. You also need jury instructions for the jury without these citations. Of course you can make one set, print them, delete the citation information, and then print them. It always seems, however, that something gets screwed up in this process.

Carol has a great suggestion that I have never heard before. She explains:

  1. Create your Jury Instructions for the judge, complete with citations.
  2. Now select the citations at the bottom of the page.
  3. Click on Format | Font.
  4. Under Effects, select Hidden, which will hide the citation text.
  5. When you are ready to print the judge’s Jury Instructions, click on File | Print or use the shortcut CTRL + P.
  6. From the Print menu, click the Options button.
  7. From the Print dialog box, select Hidden Text under Include with Document.
  8. Click OK two times to close the dialog box and print the document with cites.

I think this is a great tip that I am definately adding to my knowledge base. I just wish I had this tip a few weeks ago when I was preparing jury instructions.

PDF Tips and Tricks

Recently PDF for Lawyers pointed to a great article on How to Do Everything with PDF Files. I don’t know that the list actually covers how to do everything. However, it is a pretty comprehensive list with several different tips, including several for creating PDFs without using Adobe Acrobat. The first few tips include:

Q: First things first – How do I create PDF documents on my computer without Adobe Acrobat?

A: Get a copy of DoPDF – it installs as a virtual printer driver on your desktop just like Acrobat and lets you print PDF files from any Windows application including images, documents, emails, websites, etc.

Q: I don’t want to install software just for converting a bunch of documents to PDF. Do you know of any alternative?

A: Upload your documents to Google Docs via the browser and then export them as PDF files. Simple.

Q: A client just sent me a PowerPoint presentation by email. Since I am travelling without the laptop and my mobile phone cannot read PPT files, what should I do?

A: Forward that email message (with the PPT attachment) to – they’ll convert the presentation to PDF and email it back to you immediately. Most mobile phones can read PDF files.

Check out the article for the entire list. The list contains some excellent tips for manipulating PDF files if you do not have Adobe Acrobat.

Now I, like Ross Kodner, believe that the best PDF solution available is Adobe Acrobat. Further, as Ross explains, multiple ways exist to get a full version without paying list price. Additionally, when compared to other similarly powered software solutions, the street price of Acrobat is not out of line.

Despite my believe that everyone should have a full version of Acrobat. I recognize that the solutions in this list are useful for two groups of people. First, there is the large number of people who can’t or won’t purchase a full version of Acrobat. Second, are those who have a full version of Actobat but who are stuck working on a different computer because of travel, etc. In either situation, the tips here give you a great option to create or manipulate PDF files.

Note: I recently installed and begin using Nitro PDF and am in the process of evaluating it. I will be providing a full review on it in the near future. In the meantime, I would note that it has many features not found in other PDF programs and I am enjoying trying it out.