Automation and apps for advocates

There is now a huge number of automations and apps to help the modern advocate manage juggling the torrent of information we all manage. I thought I’d share some I use, especially as the current Reader’s course comes to a close.

A lot of the apps I mention are Apple specific. I’ll mention those which are available on Android and PC, but if I don’t, it means I don’t know of any equivalents.

Personal logging

Sleep

Hardly a revelation to mention how important it is to get enough sleep, but keeping track of it can be a reminder when we’re burning the candle at both ends.

‎AutoSleep Track Sleep on Watch
‎AutoSleep Track Sleep on Watch
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Autosleep does what it says on the tin: tracks your sleep automatically. I reckon Autosleep visually presents the data far more legibly that Apple’s native sleep tracking built into its Health app.

iPhone screenshot of Autosleep data.
Compare this (Autosleep)…
iPhone screenshot of Health sleep data
against this (Apple Health)

Sleep++ is a popular alternative.

Weight & BMI

Once setup with your height, simply input your weight to calculate your BMI and log both weight and BMI in Apple’s Health app. Download here.

Use with Siri for voice control. (See here for how to use shortcuts.)

Location and travel

Logbook for car

‎TripLog Car Mileage Tracker
‎TripLog Car Mileage Tracker
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TripLog automatically logs your car trips, recording both your route and distance covered. Makes life very easy if you’re using the logbook method for claiming motor vehicle expenses (especially if you’re considered an itinerant worker travelling between multiple work sites). TripLog can be set to automatically start tracking when your phone connects to your car’s bluetooth, or when it detects movement in excess of 3 km/h. If more than one person uses the same car, it’s possible to setup individual users so you can distinguish between drivers.

Public transport

CityMapper plans and tracks public transport, and works across the world. Why use this rather than the local PTV app? Simply because once you know how it works, you know how to use it anywhere else in Australia and overseas.

Alternatives are Moovit, Transit, TripGo.

Parking

‎Cheap Parking
‎Cheap Parking
Developer: GDML Pty Ltd
Price: Free

Cheap parking finds cheap parking, as does Parkopedia.

‎PayStay
‎PayStay
‎EasyPark - Parking made easy
‎EasyPark - Parking made easy
Developer: EasyPark
Price: Free
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For street parking, the days of scrabbling for coins in the centre console are gone. Instead, pay by your credit card for the precise time you require, and download PDF invoices for tax purposes. Common services in Victoria are PayStay and EasyPark.

Location logging & sharing

‎Pado
‎Pado
Developer: Alexander Clauss
Price: $4.49
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Setup geofences with Pado, and start and stop tracking your route when leaving those locations, like home and work. Great record of when you arrived and departed court.

A life-logging alternative is Arc App (linked with Swarm for location marking).

‎Life360: Find Family & Friends
‎Life360: Find Family & Friends
Developer: Life360
Price: Free+

Life360 is a bit like Apple’s FindMy, but works on Android as well as iPhone, and can allow for larger groups and with the choice to have shared group locations only for certain times and activities, and users can specify precise or approximate location sharing.

If trying to remember where you left your keys or wallet is sometimes a challenge, consider either the Tile bluetooth tracker, or Apple’s AirTags. Tile has different sized trackers (like a wallet-sized creditcard tracker for wallets and purses)

Travel & accommodation

‎TripIt: Travel Planner
‎TripIt: Travel Planner
Developer: TripIt
Price: Free+
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TripIt automatically creates a travel itinerary from your booking emails, and provides you with directions from airport to car hire to hotel, and even notifies of you change of flight times and watches for those hard-to-get upgrade seats you’re hoping for.

‎AwardWallet: Track Rewards
‎AwardWallet: Track Rewards
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AwardWallet tracks all your frequent flyer and loyalty programs, and alerts you of expiring points.

Dates and times

Meeting scheduler

CalendarHero is an AI scheduler. Save on email ping-pong and instead let artificial intelligence allow people to select a convenient time when your calendar is open. CalendarHero has the widest range of video integrations, including Webex, Zoom, MS Teams, Skype, and Google Meet, and works with Office 365, Google calendar and Apple Calendar.

Alternatives:

Meeting links management

‎Meeter for Zoom, Teams & Co
‎Meeter for Zoom, Teams & Co
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Meeter collects all your online meeting links and places them in your menubar with a countdown to the next meeting, and a simple one-click-to-join button that launches the correct app and opens the meeting link. Works on Mac, PC, iPhone and iPad, and recognises links from Webex, MS Teams, Zoom, Facetime, Jit.si, Whereby, WhatsApp, Skype, and Telegram.

‎Hand Mirror
‎Hand Mirror
Developer: Rafael Conde
Price: Free
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Handmirror is a menubar app (Mac only) that will launch a preview of whatever you use as a webcam, so you can check your image and background before you launch your video meeting!

Calendar

‎BusyCal: Calendar & Reminders
‎BusyCal: Calendar & Reminders
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BusyCal is a significant improvement on Apple’s Calendar. I prefer it to Fantastical, which offers the same features (and additionally, a meeting scheduler) because it displays all my calendar groups in the side pane, where Fantastical requires delving into the settings to choose calendar groups.

There is nothing close in the PC world, and both apps leave Outlook calendar for dust.

While you’re at it, check out BusyMac’s BusyContacts for the Mac or Flexibit’s Cardhop for iOS , which are both a significant improvement on the basic Apple Contacts, and streets ahead of Outlook. They let you add in more than two email addresses for a contact — really, Outlook? — link contacts between work colleagues and assistants, note timezones, birthdays, anniversaries, prefixes, post-nominals, nicknames, public cryptographic keys, re-assign to different address books…all the things that make contacts helpful.

Task manager

‎Todoist: To-Do List & Tasks
‎Todoist: To-Do List & Tasks
Developer: Doist Inc.
Price: Free+
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ToDoIst is one of hundreds of Getting Things Done task managers. It’s frequently mentioned as one of the best because it’s available for PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, and has an enormous range of integrations.

The thing a task-manager will do that your calendar won’t is present a single combined list of all tasks in a specific project — say, a client case stretching over several months — and allow you to set reminders for individual steps and links to emails, documents, webpages, multimedia and other references needed to complete the project. A good project manager will integrate with your calendar so that you can see tasks as well as upcoming events.

Alternatives are:

Time tracking

‎Timely Automatic Time Tracking
‎Timely Automatic Time Tracking
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Timely is a time tracker that sits in the background on your Mac or PC, logging websites, apps and emails you’re working on, avoiding the need to remember to start a timer for recording work done. It offers a geolocation integration with phones so you can record when you arrive at and leave courts or offices, and also integrates with your calendar and Todoist. Also works on iPhone, iPad and Android. Lots of tech sites recommend Toggl (with or without Timery) but that only works on Apple devices and (in my view) is not as set-and-forget as Timely.

I setup projects for client cases (using the format FAMILY NAME First Name court case #), and solicitors as clients, so I can track work and billing and run an unbilled item report each month to make sure I don’t miss anything.

Date calculation

‎Date T Calc
‎Date T Calc
Developer: Roberto Panetta
Price: $1.49
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Date T Calc can calculate numbers of days between dates, or give you the return date for something in the future or past. Need to figure PSD? This is the app for you. When does a 60-day time limit run out, when you’re already 10 days into it? Scroll back to your first day, set the interval, and there’s your result. Yes, you can ask Siri or Google or Alexa to do it…unless you’re at the Bar Table and someone important is waiting for the answer!

Time zones

‎Zones - Time Zone Conversion
‎Zones - Time Zone Conversion
Developer: Tom Izaks
Price: Free+
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Zones shows time zones you select, and you scroll the timeline to convert times between them. (Tip for criminal practitioners: add in the UTC or “Zulu” time zone for conversions to local time from police body-worn video.) Klok is an intriguing alternative.

‎Clocker
‎Clocker
Developer: Abhishek Banthia
Price: Free
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On the Mac, try Clocker to show your chosen time zones in the menubar, or iStat Menus for a power option.

Finance

‎MoneyWiz 2022 Finance Tracker
‎MoneyWiz 2022 Finance Tracker
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MoneyWiz tracks and consolidates finances across your accounts to give you a single overview of money in and out.

‎Bobby - Track subscriptions
‎Bobby - Track subscriptions
Developer: Yummygum
Price: Free+

You know how more and more apps and services are using a subscription model? And how it all adds up? Bobby let’s you figure out exactly how much it all adds up! Track all your recurring subscriptions, in the currency of your choice, and chose reminders ahead of renewals so you can decide to keep or cull. Subtrack is a good alternative.

Paperless practice

Receipts

Paperless scans, OCRs (optical character recognition) and stores PDFs of your receipts, warranties, and other documents, and allows tagging and sorting for easy reference. I’ve been using it for a decade, and it’s amazingly useful to be able to put my fingers on a receipt for something bought years ago, and to track all my receipts for tax time. (According to the ATO website both businesses and individuals can use digital records if they wish.)

Paperless is available for Mac and PC, and although it uses a database to sort and file documents, the files themselves are just ordinary PDFs accessible inside folders that you can access if you ever decide to leave Paperless.

You could use Evernote as an alternative, but it’s a lot more work to organise.

Scanning

Fujitsu ScanSnap scanners are well regarded for their reliability and ease of use. The ix400 is probably best for most folks unless you need to do lots of large scanning jobs.

The ix400 is a sheet-feed duplex (scan both sides of paper in one pass) scanner that takes up no more room than a small printer. Search for the best price in StaticICE, GetPrice or ShopBot: you should be able to pick one up for around $500-odd.

For those occasions away from your desk, ScanSnap Pro does a really good job of scanning. (And is the best solution for tasks like scanning from books.) SwiftScan (formerly ScanBot) is a good but pricey alternative since it moved to monthly subscription.

Paperless tools

If you’re new to paperless digital tools, David Sparks’ Paperless Field Guide has clear but detailed explanations of all the major tools and apps.

Make sure you learn how to setup and use Word document template (.dotx) files, and while you’re there, check out the rest of resources available at Legal Office Guru.

There are many PDF programs to chose from, but similar to the way few programs do all that Office 365 does for Word and Excel, very few programs do everything that Adobe Acrobat DC does. Get the Pro version, or you’ll be unable to do things like OCR scans, bookmark, redact, or any of the other essential tasks for paperless practice.

And here’s the best way (IMHO) to setup Acrobat for easy use.

Screenshot of Adobe Acrobat document with bookmark sidebar and accessible shortcuts.
Adobe Acrobat setup with bookmarks side pane, shortcuts on the right, and how to display all the menu bar options you need.

Remote access

And, if you need remote access to a PC, Mac, iPad or iPhone — say you need to get a file on your work computer from home — AnyDesk is a great solution.

Transcription

Transcribe meetings, interviews, voice memos using artificial intelligence. Works on PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android. (Just don’t use it for remote court recordings, because, you know, Court Security Act and contempt.)

Alternatives are:

Utilities

Passwords

1Password is for all your devices: computer; tablet; phone; and watch. Create unique passwords for every account or website; store two-factor or multi-factor authentication tokens, add credit cards for easy online purchases. This is the first app I install on every computer and every device I own.

AutoReply to calls

On an iPhone you can silence a call by tapping the power-button once, and divert it to voicemail by tapping the power-button twice.

But rather than leaving your caller wondering why you’re not answering, you can also use send a short message to your caller, straight from the lock screen.

To set it up, open the settings app, then scroll down to and select phone.

From there, choose respond with text, and either accept the default responses, or enter your own.

iPhone screenshot in Phone menu and Respond with Text menu

Then, when you receive a call (except for calls with caller ID blocked), press messages and chose the quick response you want to send!

Screenshot of iPhone lockscreen with messages option and respond with text menu

Focus modes

iOS16 enhanced focus modes to allow for no one to contact you or everyone to contact you, and to create exceptions to that setting, as well as change the lock screen and widgets, and home screen, and even set it to change when launching specific apps, according to geolocation, or time.

Screenshot of lockscreens in different focus modes.
Locksreens setup for different focus modes (left to right): work, work from home, fitness, court.

Yoink

Yoink is a clipboard “shelf”. If you want drag a file from one folder, and just need to keep it available until you can open the destination folder or app, Yoink offers a place to place that file for just that moment. Available for Mac and also iOS.

Link openers

iPhone and iPad

Opener runs on iPhone and iPad and lets you choose the app where links open. Say you receive a message with a link from a newspaper website, and you have that app on your phone: opener will let you choose to open the link in that app, instead of a web-browser. It doesn’t sound very exciting, but one you have it, you’ll realise just how many times links try to open in something other than their corresponding app.

Mac

‎Bumpr
‎Bumpr
Developer: Scott Ostler
Price: $4.49
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Bumpr lets you choose where links open on a Mac. Choose each time, or set a preference for certain links to always open in a specified app. Choose which browser to open, or email client.

Alternatives:

Alfred

Alfred is a launcher, clipboard and workflow manager. Mac only, think of it like spotlight on steroids. Invoke it and from your keyboard search for and launch any file, application, or media. Or search for a contact, and select an email or phone number for them, and then send the document you search for straight to them, or ring them using the unicall workflow. It takes a little bit of time to get the hang of it, but once you do, you will never go back. This is the second app (after 1Password) I install on every Mac I own.

Alternatives:

Backup

If you store your digital work and life on a digital device, you must have a backup strategy. There are two types of digital devices: those that have failed, and those that are going to. If you decide to run any aspect of your work paperless, it’s critical you have a copy in the event of hardware failure to damage. What happens if your computer crashes? A fire melts your hard drive to slag? Fire sprinklers drown your disks? Your iPad is swiped at court?

Have a local backup:

And have an off-site backup in case of local catastrophe:

And, no, file sync services like DropBox or OneDrive are not a backup solution.

Bookmarks

Raindrop lets you sync and organise bookmarks across browser, and platforms. It has full-text search for those where-was-that-website-I-bookmarked moments, and creates a thumbnail for visual searching.

Alternatives:

Device backup and message extraction

Sometimes it’s handy to have a local backup of a device, especially to extract messages for use in court proceedings.

iMazing is my usual pick, works on PC and Mac, and allows me to wirelessly backup all my devices, and set a regular schedule for backups and deletion of old backups.

PhoneView is a good alternative (Apple only).

Both will only print Messages and WhatsApp chats for court use.

Alternatives:

Window management

Move windows to exactly where you want them, set keyboard shortcuts for layouts, and even craft default layouts for different workflows.

Moom is my go-to. I have a keyboard shortcut ⌃+⌥+⌘+X (or CTRL + ALT + CMD + X) that moves my active video conference window to just under my webcam, and re-sizes it to the top and centre of the screen, so looking at video means I’m (nearly) looking at the webcam.
Alternatives:

Wrap up

Spending the time to choose from these tools will make your digital devices so much more useful and powerful. And they have the advantage of asking computers to do things they’re better at than us: tracking, recording, storing, and notifying us of information when and where we want it. The more of these tasks you can shift out of your head and into a computer, the less cognitive effort you have to devote to busywork and the more time you have for important work.

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