Touchfire Keyboard for iPad

A long, long time ago, I pitched in on a Kickstarter project for a rubberized keyboard overlay for the iPad. The concept attempts to solve one of the biggest problems for touch typists and typing on the iPad, namely, the inability to lay your fingers on the virtual onscreen keyboard without initiating input. The Touchfire Keyboard for iPad seems to solve some this main problem but, as can be imagined, a rubber on top of a touch screen interface does feel a bit unnatural… it just feels better if there is skin on surface rather than an artificial barrier between you and the one you touch. But, such is the price to be paid if you want to avoid unintended typing on virtual keyboards.

A Screentop Touch Keyboard For The iPad

The Touchfire keyboard is an interesting experience. Although there are more typing errors than with a real keyboard, the ability to actually rest your fingers on the keypads provides a more tactile experience. The J and K keys have the traditional bumps, so you can find your way quickly to the resting position. Although the keys are raised, there is practically no pressure bump when depressing the keys.

This keyboard will come in handy if you need to do a lot of typing on your iPad in an environment where the dictation feature is not an option such as on a plane, in a meeting. Using the Touchfire keyboard is certainly preferable to trying to use just the onscreen display. However, it is not an ideal solution for long term use as you’d be better off switching to a Bluetooth keyboard or moving to your laptop. But, as a lightweight keyboard which requires no power supply, and takes up virtually no space, it seems that it may have hit a sweet spot.

The keyboard is held in place by magnets which work with the iPad magnets to keep it in place. There are small metal bumps provided along with 3M adhesive which stick to an Apple Smart Cover. Those metal bumps then match to magnets not the keyboard itself. Together, the keyboard can then either be left magnetically attached to the iPad for use, or retracted back with the Smart Cover to get out of the way. The keyboard stays in place really well while on the iPad for typing, yet unclips easily due to this magnetic set up. The Touchfire’s ability to move out of the way by attaching to and rolling up with Apple’s Smart Cover combine with thin and light materials to make it an unobtrusive and easy to carry accessory. However, the magnetic clip also increases the width slightly and tends to slip, cycling the iPad on and off if it is set to unlock the screen when opening a Smart Cover.

Typing accuracy is nowhere near that of an actual keyboard, but is efficient enough to make you suddenly realize the limitations of the onscreen keyboard, such as having to touch and hold the “!/,” key in order to get an apostrophe or the “?/.” key to get double quotes and you can completely forget about typing out numbers with any speed. But, of course, these are limitations of an onscreen keyboard which are simply made more glaring by the efficiency of the Touchfire keyboard.

Overall, the Touchfire is a bit of a niche iPad accessory. At $49.99 it is a bit steeply priced, by way of example a casual iPad user saw it and guessed the price to be around $10-$15. But, if this niche fits for you, it might be worth picking one up.

MacSparky – Paperless


I didn’t want to write this. No, really, I didn’t want to write this. You see, other lawyers read this blog. Other lawyers are my competition. ‘Paperless’ by David Sparks makes it far too easy for other lawyers, a.k.a. my competition, to adopt a paperless system. Also, I’m quite jealous. David Sparks has written a book that I wish I could have written. Available, for now, in iBooks format only.

But, here’s the thing. The book is just so amazingly straightforward, awesome, and educational that I can’t help but pass it on. If you ever wondered how you could possibly go paperless, start here, look no further. David Sparks has written not only something that is beautiful to look at and read, but also entertaining and informative in a way that allows even the most entrenched Luddite to move forward with technology in their life. So, if you have an iPad and can spare the five bucks (come on you can spare five bucks) go pick up this book.

Which Flavor iPad?

One of the most often asked questions: “Which iPad should I choose?” Spoiler alert: Get the Verizon model, as much memory as you can afford.

Why the Verizon iPad? Wireless Presentation.

There are three ‘flavors’ for the latest iPad. First, wireless only which means no internet access unless you are connected to a wireless network. For some people, they don’t care about needing to piggyback on strange and unfamiliar wireless networks. If you fear the seedy back alleys of free wireless, go with an iPad that has built in cellular technology from either Verizon or AT&T (sorry, not available on Sprint at this time).

More specifically, go with the Verizon version. Why? (1) Tethering. (2) You can tether the AppleTV to your iPad and, yes, that means you can now carry one less device for wireless presentations in court (or elsewhere). With an AppleTV tethered to your iPad, you can also use AirPlay to stream back to an AppleTV connected to a projector.

Finally, get as much memory as you can afford. Although cloud storage is becoming ubiquitous, it’s still nice to have as much headroom as you can get.

New, next generation iPad review.

new iPad review

The retina display is truly amazing. There is a notable difference in legibility for these tired lawyer eyes.

Dictation also seems to work over the Verizon LTE network. However, you must be connected to the Internet in some fashion in order to use dictation. This means that if you are airborne with wireless turned off for the iPad in airplane mode, you will not be able to dictate. (Probably much the relief of your co-passengers.) The dictation button pops up, so far, in virtually every application that has a textbased entry. Additionally, the dictation app seems to dictate punctuation very well, as well as long sentences which can sometimes be a result of having worked in the legal field for far too many years. There is a noticeable warmth which generates from the back of the iPad with extensive use. I cannot tell that if this is a result of the cellular network and the dictation app, or just a side effect of the unit itself.

With the addition of the ability to dictate, the iPad will quickly find itself a home in many lawyer hands. This tool, the iPad, and the accuracy of the dictation, really elevate what was previously a difficult and time-consuming task of creating documents into an easy-to-use process. Testing in Circus Ponies Notebook also allows dictation. This really will be a game changer. The ability to quickly create outlines, within a trial notebook, by speaking out loud will certainly alter my use of Circus Ponies Notebook. Previously, most heavy text entry based work was conducted on the Macintosh itself. However, with the ability to dictate, this changes everything. Notably, if you’re dictating long passages, the dictation mode will occasionally pause during dictation and then allow you to resume dictation by tapping the microphone button again. further testing reveals that dictation mode also works in OmniOutliner, iThought HD, and yes, even Twitter. Good luck keeping those tweets under 140 characters.

If you previously purchased an iPad 2 and are a lawyer, you may seriously wish to consider upgrading to the latest version. The dictation feature is simply amazing, the retina display is crisp bright and beautiful, and, at least on the Verizon LTE, internet speeds are lightning fast.

This post was dictated, read, reviewed and corrected entirely on the iPad.


iPad Wireless Presentation

When Steve Jobs announced the iPad he called it ‘magical.’ Magical seemed a bit silly and somewhat corny. Over the past year and a half or so, the iPad offered more and more to the point that it has truly become magical. And that, perhaps, was the genius of Jobs… the ability to see the magic of the future, today.

The recent update to iOS 5 combined with an Apple TV (ATV) software update confirms the iPad as a serious piece of technology easily accessible to everyday folks, and even lawyers.

You can now, from a chunk of aluminum and glass smaller in size than a legal pad, wirelessly display across the room virtually anything that can be shown on your iPad. Need to show a street scene? Stream Google Earth, wirelessly, straight to a projector, pinch to zoom, swipe to tilt. Need to show detailed anatomy? Fire up Netter’s Atlas and present beautifully detailed anatomical drawings with pinch to zoom. Want a 3D anatomy? Do that too with Visible Body, a really great anatomy app that lacks the fine detail of Netters, but wows with 3D zooming, pan and tilt on all anatomical structures. Need to mark up a PDF or photograph? Yeah, you can do that too, live, in front of the jury. GoodReader, ReaddleDocs and PDF Expert all stream a beautiful mirrored copy of your markups. Need to show a witness interview or video of the scene? Check. Wirelessly.

Want present without simultaneously mirroring your actions to the display? At least three apps recognize the ATV as a separate display and retain the iPad display for the user to manipulate the projected image. TrialPad smartly and critically shows only the particular exhibit, treating the ATV as a secondary display and leaving the iPad screen available for markup and annotation hidden until ready to display. Apple’s Keynote presentation program also uses the ATV as a ‘secondary’ display, again leaving the iPad to function as a presenter only screen where you can view individual slides, highlight the slide on display with a laser pointer, or read your presenter notes. iAnnotate can simultaneously show an exhibit on the projector via ATV, while allowing you to reference your examination outline on the iPad itself. Really, really useful stuff and all from two little tiny pieces of technology that seem so innocuous: a slab of aluminum and glass and a small black cube.  Magical.

So, here’s the step by step for doing any of this in a courtroom:

1. An iPad running iOS 5

2. An Apple TV

3. Both devices connected to the same wireless network

4. A projector connected to the Apple TV

The Apple TV uses an HDMI out cable, so your projector will need to be capable of accepting HDMI input (many projectors only accept VGA). Once you have your Apple TV up and running, with the latest software installed, you need to make sure that both the ATV and the iPad are running on the same network. This is the only ‘techy’ part of the whole project and there are three options: First, use whatever wireless network you can find in the vicinity and hope that it is stable and fast enough to support you. Not a very good option, IMHO. Second, and cheapest, pick up an Airport Express and use it to set up a local wireless network. An Airport Express will only set you back about $99 if you pay full retail and can often be found on discount at sites like Other World Computing for as cheap as $59. Third, but not least, set up your MacBook as an ‘ad hoc’ wireless network. Then, connect your iPad and ATV to the MacBook’s ad hoc wireless network.

Once this is all set up, from the home screen double tap the home button or four finger swipe upwards.

Then, swipe the active apps tray in the bottom of the screen to the right.

Now, you should see the AirPlay icon. Tap it and select your ATV and turn mirroring on. Wash, rinse, repeat.

On the Bleeding Edge

Back in the dark ages (prior to the widespread availability of the ‘personal’ computer), my father worked in a corporate environment. There was always a push for the most up-to-date technology as a tool which could speed work, improve accuracy and even take out the garbage if you were willing to just spend the time writing code. Unfortunately, due to limitations of hardware at the time, that kind of coding eventually only produced a program that would flash “take out the garbage”on the screen at a given time and day.

One particularly impressive piece of technology available to staff: a “presentation” device. This device consisted of a series of rackmounted slide projectors which could be operated so as to give the effect of “transitions” between slides.

This amazing slide projector had cutting edge features such as a 1300 lm lamp; forward and reverse control of slides; an RS-232 serial connector; random slide access via remote control or computer; a built-in dissolve feature (0 to 10 seconds); and it weighed in at a feathery light 26 pounds. All this for a paltry $1,560 (lens not included). Surprisingly, the manufacturer did not include the most important feature in the press release materials: an amazing capacity to consistently overheat and crap out 5 min. into a 20 min. presentation.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Recently, in the middle of trial, about to begin a cross exam of a witness, the TrialPad app, when reconnected to the cable at the podium, refused to display anything other than mirror mode.

The revolutionary software, this secret weapon, this huge advantage over my worthy but technologically handicapped adversary, was now not only worthless, but also a potential scuttling of my whole boat. Technology rigorously follows Murphy’s law: anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

Belt and Suspenders

In addition to having spare batteries for the remote, a spare bulb for the projector, a spare laptop/iPad in case it craps out, and your presentation on a spare USB drive you must have, more than any of these, a plan ‘B.’

Plan ‘B.’ The cross exam depended on a few key documents and prior testimony. Time to go old school. At every trial, the important exhibits (there should usually only be five and absolutely no more than ten of these) should be blown up and placed on foam board. Now, here’s the trick: get those blow ups laminated. This allows you to draw, write and highlight directly on the blow up with dry erase markers which can then be later erased. Next, always have a hardcopy of your exam outlines contained in your trial notebook. Last, always have hardcopies of the depositions. With these items in hand, you never need to worry that technology will fail you. You only need to question whether the time and money involved in technology are worth the the effort.

Note: The fatal bug in TrialPad appeared in a previous version and has since been corrected.

iPad at Trial

Maclitigator just completed a four day jury trial (a.k.a. “in the Soup” as my friend Chuck might say) using the iPad as the primary means of getting information in front of the jury.  Here’s the low down on how it went.

iPad for Trial Presentation

The last post on the iPad indicated that it isn’t (yet) of too much use in the day to day affairs of a trial attorney.  However, at trial, the iPad really shines. Trial technology should be transparent. This means that it should not appear to the jury as (1) overly flashy; or, (2) a complete headache and a distraction to the attorney. Apple has created a product which facilitates presentation of evidence without getting in the way and does so in a completely unassuming fashion.

The iPad sits low and is the perfect size to place next to a legal pad or other notes while at the podium. Using Keynote, all documents to be admitted at trial were loaded in. BlankiPad_Trialslides provided a ‘tabbed’ divider set up, separating photos of the scene, x-rays, medical records, tables & summaries into their respective categories. Once the “Trial Slides” were completed, examination outlines cross referenced the appropriate slide. The slides were not ‘motion slides’ or slide incorporating transitions or other fancy Keynote stuff. Just a single page per picture/document. Photos were grouped as a single exhibit (e.g. Exhibit 5 was a series of 5 photos, or 5 slides in Keynote).  The slides were then printed out and placed in an indexed binder which referenced the Exhibit number, the slide number, and the tab within the three ring binder. In this fashion, slides could be pulled up quickly and all evidence to be admitted was contained in a single Keynote presentation.

All deposition transcripts were transferred to Keynote as separate presentations, using PDFtoKeynote, a great little application that will take a multi-page PDF and turn it into a Keynote presentation, one page per slide.  Because the iPad can switch so quickly between presentations, flipping from the Trial Slides to the deposition transcript slides during a cross examination is an effortless process. Jumping back and forth between evidentiary exhibits and impeachment transcript evidence works like a charm and is much more smooth than wandering around the courtroom looking for the paper documents. PDFtoKeynote also works great for moving over multipage medical records too.

One caveat about using Keynote. If you develop your slides on a iMac or MacBook, be aware that (1) presenter notes do not transfer; (2) some fonts/transitions/image groups do not make the cut and will be replaced or removed. There is an Apple support article detailing these issues, but realistically your slides should be single page evidentiary focused, not slick “hey look at me stuff.”

Hardware Setup

Hardware setup could not be simpler.

(1) a good high lumen projector (>2500 lumens);

(2) a high quality and long VGA cable. Don’t try your local Shack or Bust Buy, they’ll either sell you an overpriced “Monster” cable or tell you that you can’t run long VGA cables because the signal fails. We ran a 25′ thin VGA cable from the projector to the podium with no loss of signal and at a cost of about $25. Our cable came from VPI and was good quality.

(3) an iPad, of course;

(4) a VGA video adapter cable for the iPad;

(5) the silicon inCase for iPad (get the black one, obviously). The iPad itself is a bit slippery. Sweaty palms and all during trial, the inCase silicon provided a great grippy feel and prevented the hard ‘bang’ sound of aluminum on wood at the podium. One downside of the case is that the iPad VGA video adapter would not fit through the opening. This required pulling the case slightly down to plug in the video.

Only twice did a technology hiccup occur during use at trial. On opening a presentation for the first time, Keynote abruptly quit, resulting and returned to the iPad home screen. Tapping Keynote and reopening the presentation quickly cured the problem. It’s a weird little bug that will probably be remedied and can be avoided by opening the presentation in advance. But, even with the ‘crash’ of Keynote, two taps and the thing was back up and FAST. The first time it happened there’s that momentary panic, but it opened up so quickly that the second time it happened I didn’t even notice it.

The MacBook came along at trial, but sat somewhat despondent at counsel’s table. Never once was it taken to the podium. It did come in handy for a quick search, during opposing counsel’s direct exam, for cross exam references in the witness’s deposition. But, iPad then took over by pulling up the transcript for the jury to see. More about the trial itself can be read here.

iPaid for iPad

Putting the iPad through its paces, this post was drafted using Dragon Dictation on the iPad.  What follows, within quotes, was completely drafted and edited on the iPad.

“We keep hearing about the iPad’s “magical” experience. However, the only magical thing about the new iPad is the ability to make people pull money out of their pocket and simultaneously make them blind to the shortcomings of the device which they receive in exchange for that cold hard cash. Getting any real work done on the iPad is next to impossible. The keyboard itself makes typing documents more than difficult. But, add to that fact a complete inability to move documents easily back and forth between the desktop and the iPad a practice in frustration.

So, here is a complete review of the iPad as relevant to attorneys.

What it’s good for right now.

Right now. There are some amazing things that the iPad can do. Following is a list of applications which are necessary for attorneys.

Dragon dictate. This little application is quite amazing on the iPad. It enables you to dictate at an accuracy and ease much much greater then Macspeech/Dictate.

Nuance’s Dragon Dictate represents everything that should happen with a dictation program. I don’t need to train it, I don’t need to alter words in its dictionary, I don’t need to pay outrageous sums for special legal dictionaries. Granted using Nuance to dictate something like 790 3P third 1004 (Utah 2007) can be a bit frustrating.

GoodReader: this application allows you to “mount” an server for remote file storage such as Dropbox or local network hard drive.  Only by doing this can you readily and easily access files which are not available on the iPad. Good reader also allows youIMG_0005 to read Adobe PDFs in an easy way which restructures the text flow so that you are not scrolling all over the screen and also incorporates the ability to cut and paste text, albeit an entire page at a time.

iWork/Keynote: Keynote is going to be an application which gets used at trial very easily. Loading slides in and then scrolling to them during trial will be very easy. You can transfer keynote slideshows from your Mac to iTunes which are then transferred over to the iPad. Or, you can create slideshows directly on the iPad itself. Assuming that you have loaded all necessary images into the photo browser.

What it’s not so good for:

Right now the iWork applications simply have no usable means of transferring documents back and forth between an iPad and a desktop machine. There is no built-in file management system for the iPad. Additionally, many of the advanced features in keynote and numbers will be lost on transferring over to the iPad.

Bottom line: wait to buy the iPad. There is no specific “need” for attorneys to have this device at this time. While the future of the iPad may hold magical and amazing things in store for attorneys, the inability to do any significant work and the complete lack of applications which support the workflow of an attorney

What to look for down the line: There needs to be a more robust and easy-to-use method of transferring files back and forth between a full desktop computer and the iPad itself. Additionally, there needs to be a more legal specific applications. OmniGroup is going to crank out OmniOutliner for the iPad as well as OmniFocus.  Both of these will be welcome additions.

Additionally, if Circus Ponies were to create an iPad version of their Notebook software this would be an amazing addition to the iPad which would make it infinitely more usable for attorneys. Specifically, either OmniOutliner or Circus Ponies Notebook would make taking depositions with the iPad very very easy and enjoyable, to the extent that a deposition can be enjoyable. In effect, no more playing the who sunk my battleship while asking questions over the top of the laptop screen thrown up as a barrier between you and the deponent. Similarly, either of these applications, if they supported an external monitor/projector hookup, would greatly increase the efficiency with which direct and cross examinations could be conducted at trial while simultaneously displaying the exhibit, document, or other evidence directly on screen for the jury and judge to observe.

Finally, look for Apple to create a feasible file transfer solution. The current method of transferring files back and forth is a complete mess. Requiring users to transfer files via iTunes is simply unworkable as it not only makes things unnecessarily complicated, but the net result is two different versions of a single file.

Sent from my iPad”

A few notes: Cut and paste from Dragon Dictation into WordPress did not work. Additionally, the screenshots, although taken directly on the iPad, were also uploadedDragon Dictate Error via a MacBook. Finally, Dragon Dictate has some kind of word limit to what it can handle (see screen shot). After dictating for a while, the app gives an error message that the server is busy, but if a new dictation note is started, it works just fine.

iPad or not to Pad

Hype, criticism and speculation.

The iPad, Apple’s much awaited tablet platform, currently draws almost as much speculation as it did before it received a formal announcement. The hype, criticism and speculation didn’t end with the announcement. Criticisms run the gambit and, some are properly laid. A few key things might, however, make this a very useful tool for the trial attorney.

iWork Keynote will be a huge boon to conducting presentations in Court. If the video out will allow dual display the same as Macbooks, i.e. you can view a ‘presenter’ display while using the projector for the slide, it’s almost a no brainer for court room presentations.

Also, if the iPad can multi-task, this would make the remainder of the iWork suite worth exploring on the tablet platform, although questions remain the ergonomics of typing and mousing about with a cursor. Since it is a touch interface, does the user move their hand from thetypevsmouse keyboard to the screen to change the cursor location? If so, and given the awkward angle shown with the keyboard attached, it doesn’t seem like a very functional workflow.

OmniGroup, makers of OmniFocus and OmniOutliner, two of the most frequently used pieces of software by Maclitigator, announced plans to port their entire suite of applications to the iPad.  This, also, is a huge boon. OmniOutliner is a really great application for deposition outlines, including the ability to Quicklook attachments from within the outline itself. Maclitigator long ago lamented the ‘Battleship’ atmosphere a laptop creates between a deponent and the examining attorney… it’s already hard enough to conduct a meaningful deposition in the adversarial process without also erecting a physical barrier between yourself and the witness. So, taking a deposition with a tablet is finally a reality with the iPad. But, as above, this raises the question of what file system and syncing capabilities the iPad will allow. Even with the best of preparation it always seems inevitable that you dig through the file on your laptop looking for a reference mid-deposition.

Finally, Frasier Speirs column over at Macworld makes the best argument for iPad as a device which will succeed, both among professionals and neophytes. He points out that the iPad, with its simple interface and elimination of the typical ‘techie’ problems will solve the bane of all computers …

… the infantilizing effect of high technology on adults. From being in control of their world, they’re thrust back to a childish, medieval world in which gremlins appear to torment them and disappear at will and against which magic, spells, and the local witch doctor are their only refuges…..

That article sums up why the iPad confuses (and frightens0 so many ‘techie’ types… it will make technology usable, accessible and meaningful without needing to ‘think’ about using it. As soon as Dragon/Nuance port a full blown dictation system to the iPad, it may be close to over for the laptop as we have known it.

End of a Love AffAir.

I am writing to tell you that this relationship just isn’t working out for me, even though we’ve been together almost one year. I need to be happy and I’m just not happy anymore. When it all started, the sparks and super sexy attitude filled my eyes so much that I could not accept that you just did not complete me. And, I must confess, I have been seeing someone else. Yes, they are a little thicker around the middle, but they really fulfill all my needs. Plus, no offense, you’re smart, skinny super thin sexy, but you just lack the processing power I sometimes desire. Also, you are a little uptight, not enough ports and slots.  And don’t get me started on the way you hide your battery and memory.  I can see why you hide the memory part, it being so small and all.  But your battery too? Finally, that hard drive…. so shallow and slow and scant on space. A bulimic supermodel, always a binge and purge of information and data just so you could fit into that thin aluminum shell.  I know you’ll find someone who truly loves you for what you are, a white hot, super thin model of aesthetic perfection. They might even tolerate your diva like demands of a high price for low output. But me, I’m moving on. The new MacBook has all I need, even if a little bit heavier, I can live with the weight gain. So, goodbye Air, we’ll always have the memories.

If you wanna be happy for the rest of your life, never make a laptop a paper thin slice. Take my advice and here’s what you do, get a fatter laptop to carry round with you.