ZeroPC Makes Cloud Information Management Easier

I am starting to see more about cloud desktops: virtual operating systems that you access through your browser that look like your normal desktop computer.  ZeroPC caught my eye because it offers some of the information management tools that I think are important for lawyers managing information with cloud-based services.  It has the added benefit of additional tools although it is not rich enough a desktop OS for a lawyer to rely on.

ZeroPC does an excellent job of relying on your pre-existing accounts and passwords.  When I signed up to ZeroPC, it used my Google account – which has a very strong password – rather than creating a separate username and password.  I prefer cloud services that employ this method because I trust mature cloud providers over more recent ones.

The service uses your Web browser and I was able to use it with Chrome on both my desktop and tablet.  You are presented with a Windows-like desktop when you access your account.  Unlike remote connection resources like GotoMyPC, where you are accessing your own computer, this is a virtual desktop running on a cloud server.  There is a button where the Windows Start button would be and icons on the desktop.  This is a cloud service, though and it enables you to manage your information across multiple services.

One feature that I like is the storage management.  You can connect your ZeroPC account to cloud file synchronization services like Dropbox, Box, Sugarsync, and Google Drive.  Once connected, you can move files from one account to another from within the ZeroPC interface.  I recently looked at another site that does the same thing.

Storage Dashboard in ZeroPC shows all of your accounts. It aggregates information to show you available space over all of your linked accounts, as well as used/unused space in each individual service.

ZeroPC does a good job treating multiple resources as one.  You can attach multiple e-mail accounts in the same way., creating a unified inbox.  It will auto-configure Google and Yahoo! mail accounts but you can add other IMAP mail servers as well.

It also provides another feature that I think can be powerful:  cloud search.  There is a search box at the bottom of the screen, on your virtual task bar.  When you search for files with the box, it searches across all of your connected cloud services for results.  This is not new – I’ve discussed both Cue Up and CloudMagic before – but ZeroPC has done a good job of providing it as part of a much more functional environment.

Search results from Evernote, Google Drive, and other cloud storage using an Android tablet and Chrome Web browser

This approach to a cloud desktop would seem to be useful for someone who had a variety of cloud-based resources that could be connected using ZeroPC.  It is distinctive because they not only provide the connections but a familiar interface in which to use them.  It appears to be based on a Linux operating system, and comes with a simple text editor, image tools, and other applications, like the tablet-familiar ThinkOffice productivity suite.  If you want to view a document, you can open it using the Google Docs viewer, for example.  There is even a Web browser on the desktop so that you do not need to open a second window or tab.

There is a free version so you would have to watch how much information you were transferring or storing in the extra space ZeroPC offers.  Paid versions offer additional benefits and features, mostly in the areas of bandwidth and storage space.

Citepin Legal Citation Management

This site jumped out at me because of the trend of pin-related sites, like Pinterest.  Citepin is a fee-based service that allows you to upload documents and then apply a set of metadata to them for easy retrieval.  It’s default fields include jurisdiction, so you can tag each document with the appropriate court, document type, and creation date.  If you don’t upload a document, you can still link to an online resource and apply appropriate metadata.  You can try out the site for 2 days and upload 500 MB, or sign up for 1 GB of storage for $36 a year.

The concept is interesting because it provides a shortcut to add law-specific metadata for quick retrieval.  I could see a lawyer using this for a personal knowledge management system.  But the metadata isn’t so rich that you couldn’t create something similar using tags or categories in a product like Evernote.

Evernote Updates for iOS

Evernote 5 for iOS gets a nice review over at Readwrite.  It sounds like the interface has been redesigned for tablets.  In particular, I like the sound of the ease of getting to the Page Camera.  One benefit of tablets is there ability, with good cameras and larger formats, to act as a useful document capture tool.

I’ve been playing around with both Evernote and Microsoft’s OneNote apps on an Android tablet and it’s interesting how different their approaches are.  I like Evernote because it’s so free form – you can assign a tag and associate with multiple other documents or clips.  OneNote has more structure and, from a research perspective, can be a better tool if you have a single matter you are focusing on.  I use Evernote when I’m storing things for later, but I may or may not have a specific use for them at the moment.

If you have been waiting to use Evernote on an iPad, version 5 sounds interesting.  Like so many things related to research, though, you may find that the new interface doesn’t suit how you want to manage information.

Free Search for Paid Journal Articles

The deep Web contains a significant amount of information that you cannot reach with typical Web search engines.  The emergence of Proquest‘s Udini search enables to you retrieve content from their databases: 150 million articles from 12,000 journals according to the promotional content on the Web site.  The site represents the best of online search, where everything but the search box has been stripped away.  It is nice to not have the typical glut of information (even the so-called bento box approach) to orient to before getting to the search box.

Unfortunately, there is not much to suggest this is a resource most lawyers need to add to their toolkit.  A quick perusal of their legal information shows that it is weaker even than the typical law journal content available in Westlaw or LexisNexis.  Google Scholar results that  surface links to Heinonline, or better, a search on HeinOnline itself, is likely to bring far more comprehensive coverage of legal information than Udini.

Some of the content retrieved by Udini shows that it can be purchased but it is already available for free on the Web.  Compare these two, for example.  You can purchase a full version from Proquest of Moving in the Cloud from the ABA Journal, June 2011, for $3.99.*  Or you could download it for free from the ABA Journal itself.  Where Proquest will add value is in the older content that is not available on the Web.

Yes, Udini provides a comprehensive search option and yes, it offers some additional research management tools within its site.  This might be an incentive if you are not already using a service like Evernote or Microsoft’s Onenote.  Like those programs, Udini allows for capturing content outside of the Proquest content online.  This will make it useful outside of the legal profession but is unlikely, without more compelling content, to make it a service that many lawyers or law librarians would use on a regular basis.

* Something’s funky about this one.  If you see the bottom of this preview, the metadata suggests the publisher is the Water Alternatives Association.  I’m pretty sure this isn’t right.

Search Google and Your Evernote Research at the Same Time

Charles Hamilton at GigaOm has a nice roundup of updates to Evernote’s Android app that is worth a read.  If you are not using a research notebook yet, Evernote is definitely one to take a look at.  One of the functions I use is Evernote’s simultaneous search.  If you have used Google Desktop, this will be a familiar function for you.  When you search Google, your results are supplemented by returning results from your Evernote research notebooks.

Evernote's Simultaneous Search on Google
Evernote's Simultaneous Search on Google supplements your results with information from your notebooks.

If you aren’t using simultaneous search, you can activate it by right-clicking on your Google Chrome Evernote Web Clipper extension or going into your add-ons options for Firefox. Internet Explorer, or Safari.

Research Add-ons Chart for Lawyers Using IE, Chrome, Firefox, and Safari

This page was inspired by a recent conference presentation I saw that focused, like much of this blog, on extensions and tweaks for Mozilla’s Firefox or Google’s Chrome Web browsers.  The legal profession is predominantly using the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser, however, probably at even greater levels than the general population.  It is sometimes hard to determine what add-ons or extensions work for Microsoft Internet Explorer, because there is no comprehensive central marketplace for available resources.

Here is a chart with a list of free extensions that can help your online research and the browsers for which they are available.  It’s not comprehensive, but it has a number of resources that are available to 3 or more browsers.

I have made a selection for each category and browser but there may be other options.  Keep in mind that the add-on may be for a particular version of the Web browser or require a particular operating system, so they may not install for the version you are running.  You can also go directly to sites like IEAddons.com for Internet Explorer, Mozilla’s Add On site, Google’s Web Store (or the old extension site), Safari Addons, and the Userscripts.org site to find tweaks for all major Web browsers.

Feel free to add your own favorite research-related extensions or add-ons in the comments!

  1. Click the icon that matches YOUR browser to go directly to an available extension.  If the icon is grayed out, then I didn’t provide a link.
  2. Hold your mouse pointer over the icon before you click it.  I have added a tool tip for each icon to try to help you before you click away.
Access Internet Explorer-designed Sites without Internet Explorer IE Tab 2 Add-on for Mozilla Firefox IE Tab Add-on for Google Chrome Not available for Safari
Block Ads IE Adblocker Adblock Plus Add on for Firefox Adblock Add-on for Chrome AdBlock for Safari
Bookmark Synchronization XMarks Add-on for Internet Explorer Bookmark synchronization is built in to Firefox browser Bookmark synchronization built in to Chrome Web browser XMarks Add-on for Safari
Case Law Citation Locator UK ONLY:  Justis J-Link Add-on for Internet Explorer US ONLY:  Jureeka Add-on for Mozilla Firefox Not available for Google Chrome Not available for Safari
Citation Management with Zotero (free) Not available for Internet Explorer Zotero Citation Management Add-on for Mozilla Firefox Zotero Alpha Add-on for Google Chrome Zotero Alpha Add-on for Safari
Diigo Web Highlighter and Research Manager [FLI post on Diigo] Diigo Research Manager Toolbar for Internet Explorer Diigo Research Manager Toolbar for Mozilla Firefox Diigo Research Manager Add-on for Google Chrome Not available for Safari
Evernote Web Clipper [FLI post on Evernote]

Evernote Add-on installed with Evernote for Windows

Evernote Add on for Firefox

Evernote Add-on for Chrome Add-on for Safari installs with Evernote for Mac
Google Search Result Term Jumping / Highlighting Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer supports term highlighting and jumping Search WP Add-on for Mozilla Firefox Word Highlight Add-on for Google Chrome Not available for Safari
Google Scholar Star Pagination for Cases [FLI post on pagination] Not available for Internet Explorer Not available for Firefox Google Scholar Star Pagination Add-on for Google Chrome Not available for Safari
Greplin Personal Cloud Search [FLI post on Greplin] Not available for Internet Explorer Not available for Firefox Greplin Add-on for Chrome Not available for Safari
Instapaper Deferred Reading Instapaper Bookmarklet defers reading for Internet Explorer Instapaper Bookmarklet defers reading for Mozilla Firefox Instapaper Bookmarklet defers reading for Google Chrome Instapaper Bookmarklet defers reading for Mac
Readability Not available for Internet Explorer Arc90 Readability Add on for Mozilla Firefox Arc90 Readability Add-on for Chrome Not available for Safari
Surf Canyon Personalized Search Results Surf Canyon Personalized Search Results for Internet Explorer Surf Canyon Personalized Search Results for Mozilla Firefox Surf Canyon Personalized Search Results Add-on for Google Chrome Not available for Safari

Search Your Personal Cloud with Greplin

I ran across an old New York Times article mentioning Greplin, an interesting cloud search tool.  The site will index your information from online services you use, sites like  productivity tools like Google Docs and GMail and Evernote to social media and research tools like Facebook and Twitter to file storage sites like Dropbox.com and Box.net.  Lawyers who are moving their practice further into the cloud and off their local machine may need a replacement for the desktop or internal search tools they were using.  Greplin is a great option.  Here’s a 4 minute screencast on how it works:

The Greplin index remains on their servers so, like all cloud-based content, lawyers should consider whether the index – which contains the text of files stored the services Greplin searches for you – contains confidential information.  You should review their privacy policy and particularly the section on encryption.

I have had an account with Greplin for awhile and was converted to a free account when they rolled out a premium version.  I haven’t been a big fan because I search from my browser and rarely remembered to go to the Greplin site in order to search.

They have fixed that and rolled out a Google Chrome extension for the service.  Now that I can search from my browser without going anywhere, it is more likely to become an integral tool for me.

Mobile Lawyers Can Take Note of Catch

There are a number of online research notebook tools, including Evernote and Iterasi, but these can sometimes be overwhelming.  Mobile users have an alternative for grabbing information while on the go in Catch.com.  It is a note-taking tool that is available on Android devices, the iPhone, and iPad.  As you grab images, Web addresses, and type notes, it can save and synchronize them out to the Catch.com site.  You can also work directly at Catch.com to type in your notes.

Like many new Web sites providing information management tools, Catch utilizes tags to help you organize your notes.  Unlike a lot of sites, where the tags are distinct from the content – you usually click on a list of words after creating your content – the tags are built into your content.  As you type, you place a hash tag (or shebang) # in front of the word, and it becomes a tag.  All subsequent notes can adopt the same tag, giving you a controlled vocabulary so that you can reuse the same keywords – same spelling, etc. – and connect up related notes.  Each tagged word becomes a clickable link, so you can retrieve all related notes by clicking on the tagged word and, if you want to retrieve a different group, just click on a new keyword.

Catch also has a sharing feature, where you can send out a Twitter message or Facebook post with a link to your online note.  I’m not sure lawyers would want to share in such a broadcast manner, but it’s an interesting idea that you could send a link to someone by e-mail and they could view the item.

I’m not a heavy mobile device user but I can see how this would be great for spontaneous information capture, as opposed to research requiring notebooks.

Evernote Online Research Notebook Gets Add-ons

If you have read the text or some of the postings at this blog, you’ll know that I’m a believer that we’re seeing David Weinberger‘s small pieces,loosely joined philosophy come to pass with many of the most important Web tools for legal research.  Instead of trying to build the best all-in-one application, build the fundamental application and make it fantastic.  Then let others build add-ons and enhancements that users can opt to add or not.

Evernote is a great, free tool and the new add-on site, Evernote Trunk, only provides more power to an already great tool.  Trunk?  Check out Evernote’s elephant logo!   If you’re a Twitter fan, you can use the Seesmic add-on to send your Twitter messages from your Apple iPhone or Android smart phone directly to your Evernote notebooks.  Not using Evernote yet because you’re still using paper?  No problem!  The Office Drop add-on let’s you use the postal service to send your paper documents, where they’ll be scanned in and uploaded to your Evernote notebooks.  Not the typical add-on but still a clever enhancement for the service.

The announcement of the site caught a lot of buzz, but I think it was this Lifehacker post that really grabbed my attention.  It lists 5 add-ons that are particularly good, including a Nitro PDF plug-in that enables you to mark up then save PDFs to your Evernote account.

If you haven’t yet tried an online notebook, you should definitely look at downloading and installing Evernote or trying out their Web-based site.  It could really change how you prepare cases for trial or manage your legal research notes and information.

E-mail Your Research Notes into Evernote, Better Than Ever

I mention the Evernote research notebook in the FLI text and it has some great features on your computer.  They have just announced improvements to their Web version (to which you can synchronize your computer-based notebooks for better access) .  One that caught my eye was the ability to e-mail a note into a notebook.  I like any tool that enables you to avoid having to visit and log in to a site to use it.  Anytime I can search from my Google Chrome Omnibox or save a bookmark into Delicious without going there, I’m happy.

Evernote’s new e-mail feature works the same way.  You could already e-mail a note into Evernote, but now you can send it into the specific notebook into which you want it placed.

If you’re an Evernote user, here is the blog posting with information about the new feature and how to use it.  If you’re not using Evernote or another research notebook, this free tool can really change how you research, for the better.