Aviary, a robust online image editor that used to cost $24.99 a year for the full version, is now available for free. According co-founder Michael Galpert, a "recent round of funding (by Spark Capital, Bezos Expeditions & others) enables [Aviary] to finally achieve this goal." The full announcement is available here. -M
This excellent, frequently updated list offers a wealth of information about Google products, including audience, launch date and cost. It also provides helpful links to discussion boards, help and idea pages, and official Google product blogs and Twitter accounts. According to the list, Google currently support nearly 350 products! -M [Thanks, Dan]
In their twist on the Thanksgiving question "What are you thankful for?", Lifehacker asked readers what free software applications they were most thankful for. Based on the responses and some Lifehacker magic, they compiled a list of the 61 Free Apps We're Most Thankful For. No surprise: Firefox is number one. Rounding out the top ten are VLC, CCleaner, Dropbox, 7-Zip, OpenOffice.org, Google Chrome, µTorrent, Notepad++, and Gmail.
Don't know what these applications are used for or need to know how to use them better? The Lifehacker staff has you covered. As a part of their list, they also posted links to reference materials. - K
Equal Justice Works has redesigned and updated their online guide to law schools for prospective law students interested in pursuing a career in public interest law. The redesigned Guide, which was previously done in partnership with Newsweek, offers better data and filtering options than earlier versions. While the Guide provides useful data for those trying to choose a law school based on public interest programs and placements, among other factors, it does not rank law schools. A press release announcing the launch of the Guide is available here. -M
Recently, my computer required fixing, and by fixing, I mean reinstalling everything from the operating system on up. Installing all of the extra software that I use (Firefox, Pidgin, GIMP, Adobe Reader, Microsoft Security Essentials, Evernote, Notepad++, and so on) was time consuming and tedious. It seemed to take forever.
Next time, I will not be installing each tool individually. Through Twitter, I found Ninite, an online tool that allows you to select from more than 60 software packages and, based on those selections, creates a personalized installer for you. Download, click a few buttons, and all of the tools you selected will be installed at one time. No more download, click, click, wait, download, click, click, wait. Just download, click, click, walk away, and do something better with your time. - K
Aseem Kishore over at Helpdesk Geek offers an impressive list of 99 of the best Windows freeware programs you may not know of. -M [Thanks, Carol!]
Yesterday Illinois Legal Aid Online, the organization that oversees client, advocate and pro bono websites and other access to justice technology projects in Illinois, launched its LiveHelp project, which allows individuals to use a web-based chat service to communicate with a “navigator” to help them find legal information on their client website, IllinoisLegalAid.org. The LiveHelp project, which was funded by LSC’s TIG program, supported by Pro Bono Net, and originally spearheaded by legal aid organizations in Montana and Iowa, has now been successfully replicated in several states. For more information about LiveHelp, contact Liz Keith at lkeith (at) probono.net. -M
Tinychat is a free web-based application that allows you to chat on the fly with whomever you invite. To set up a chat, simply enter a user name (no registration required) and Tinychat will generate a custom URL that you can send to others or, if you choose, broadcast to your Twitter followers or Facebook contacts. Tinychat also supports live audio and video. -M [Thanks, Dan!]
Today Idealware published a new report, A Consumers Guide to Low-Cost Data Visualization Tools, which provides resources and information on how to transform data into graphs, charts and maps. In addition to candid reviews of eight low-cost tools, the report also details principles of a good data graphic and common data visualization formats. The free report is available for download here. -M
For those of you who program and are called upon to learn new languages quickly: Jumpstart Lab, an organization that aims to make computer science accessible for "normal" people, posted the course materials from their Ruby Jumpstart course. This includes their Ruby in 100 Minutes tutorial that quickly covers the basics of the language.
For those of you who don't program and have never heard of Ruby, it's a newer language that supposedly makes the programmer's job easier. It was influenced by several other programming languages, including my favorite, Scheme. If you want to try Ruby out and get a feel for programming, check out try ruby! for a quick tour. (Take the tour. If you haven't programmed before, it's a really neat, easy to see what it is like. Take the tour.)
The Office Open XML Formats are based on XML and ZIP archive technologies. The new file format in Microsoft Office Word 2007 divides the file into document parts, each of which defines a part of the overall contents of the file. You can easily create, change, add, or delete data in a Word 2007 file programmatically or manually.
Nifty, huh? You can create and edit a Word 2007 document without opening Word. If you don't want to create a document from scratch but do want to see what's inside, take an existing Word 2007 file with a .DOCX extension and change the extension to .ZIP.
The July 2009 issue of LJN's Legal Tech Newsletter points out that this both good and bad for law firm IT departments. The Office Open XML Formats let other non-Microsoft data be stored in the file. However, this increases the chance that metadata and other information will inappropriately be shared with others. To find out how to protect yourself, see how to remove hidden data and personal information from Office documents.
And if you haven't heard of metadata before or are looking for more information about legal and ethical issues, check out The Posse List's E-discovery: Metadata grows in legal significance. - K
If you follow the LSTech e-mail list, you've likely seen posts about Adobe Reader's security flaws. Several alternative PDF readers have been suggested, including Foxit Reader and Sumatra PDF. But if you are uncertain of which of these suggested readers you should be using, Lifehacker's visitors are ready to tell you what they think the best PDF reader is and why. - K
Pingdom, a web-based service that allows you to monitor websites and servers, is now offering free accounts. The free account includes the same features and functionality as paid accounts, but can only be used to monitor one website or server. You must also pay for extra SMS alerts (20 are included, emails are free) and login every 90 days to keep your account active. To get started, sign-up here and use the control panel to setup your account. – M [Thanks Dan!]
I’ve recently started using Format Factory to convert video, audio and images and have been really impressed with the results. It supports conversions to (and from) all popular formats, including:
- Video: MP4/3GP/MPG/AVI/WMV/FLV/SWF
- Audio: MP3/WMA/AMR/OGG/AAC/WAV
- Image: JPG/BMP/PNG/TIF/ICO/GIF/TGA
While the user interface isn’t perfect, it’s fairly intuitive and has worked flawlessly for me so far (which is more than I can say for any other converter that I have used). Format Factory is available free for download here. -M
Laura Quin at Idealware recently compared various collaboration tools, including options that support informal conversations, online presentations, information sharing and long-term projects. She also created the above chart to help you to navigate your options and discusses how to choose the right software for your project. Read the full article here. -M
Last week I found Zamzar, a web-based tool that converts files from a variety of common formats to a variety of common formats.
What really caught my eye was that Zamzar converts text to speech. Expecting average, robotic results, I was pleasantly surprised when I tried it. The pace, pauses, and pronunciation aren't perfect, but the resulting audio is much better than the built-in text-to-speech capabilities of Windows and sounds much more natural. For an example, check out this MP3 from Zamzar of my Deadline and Filing Date Calculator post.
Even though the result was better than expected, I still wouldn't be able to listen comfortably for very long. But for A2J Author developers who want to add audio to key points in their interviews or website coordinators who have short but widely used content and don't have the tools or time to record an audio version, Zamzar might be an option. - K
Often, I have trouble adding and subtracting time, especially hours and days, because I think about it too much. ("Does today count? Does it not count? Maybe it does count.") So, I was thrilled this morning when Mike Monahan pointed out this Deadline and Filing Date Calculator from Atkinson-Baker. What a great tool for advocates and self-represented litigants! - K
Jim Luce, who writes and speaks on Thought Leaders and Global Citizens, authored a really nice piece at Huffington Post on Pro Bono Net, the wonderful, innovative nonprofit that Kate and I call home. -M
This week Idealware released a report that compares four open source content management systems: Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal, and Plone. After a brief introduction to content management systems (CMSs), the report looks at several important areas, including ease of configuration, scalabilty and security, and user roles and workflow, and assesses the positives and negatives of each system. Then the authors take a few pages to provide recommendations on when you might consider using each of the CMSs. I haven't had time to read the report yet, but based on the people involved and the quality of Idealware's previous reports, this should be a great reference for people who are investigating open source CMSs. - K
My very first post to Technola was about drop.io, a free online collaboration and file sharing tool that I used to host files that were too large to email. Since that time, drop.io has introduced so many new features and become so central to my productivity that it warrants another post. Here it is.
At its most basic, drop.io allows you to post files online in a password protected space with different levels of permissions. For example, I might create a drop for a project working group so that I can share monthly call notes and project status reports, password protect this “drop,” and allow members of the group to download, add, or delete content from the drop. But that’s just the beginning. Each drop also comes with a conference call number, which I could use to host my monthly calls, and a unique email address, fax number and voicemail number, which members can use to forward relevant emails, leave a voicemail or send fax transmissions to the drop. Additionally, each drop now comes with built-in chat, and can be integrated with Firefox, Facebook and Twitter. You can easily archive a drop in a zip file and syndicate your content using RSS, email alerts and SMS. A paywall can also be setup if you want to charge for content in your drop.
Whether you’re interested in a simple online file sharing tool or a more complex collaborative workspace, drop.io is a fantastic solution. Each free drop is limited to 100 MB, but you can upgrade for $10 a GB per year. Drops can also be customized using templates that they provide or custom colors and you can even upload your logo. To learn more about drop.io, I would encourage you to watch their "how to" video and check out these sample uses. They also provide a list of features here, and a blog (which, along with the rest of their site, uses drop.io) here. -M
I’ve long been a fan of Alltop, the self-described “online magazine rack of popular topics,” so I was thrilled that Technola was recently added to the law category (scroll down … down … a little further … further … there). Not only does this mean that we can display a clever Alltop badge (left) on our site, it also means that we can put Technola front and center in our custom Alltop aggregator, which includes many of the nonprofit, law and technology blogs that we love. As with most things we do, it’s a work in progress, but hopefully it will inspire you to build your own. If you do, be sure to share it with us; we’d love to see what you’re reading. -M
A critical vulnerability has been found in Adobe Reader 9 and Acrobat 9 and earlier versions. Here is the information available from the Adobe site:
This vulnerability would cause the application to crash and could potentially allow an attacker to take control of the affected system. There are reports that this issue is being exploited.
Adobe recommends users of Adobe Reader and Acrobat 9 update to Adobe Reader 9.1 and Acrobat 9.1. Adobe is planning to make available updates for Adobe Reader 7 and 8, and Acrobat 7 and 8, by March 18. In addition, Adobe plans to make available Adobe Reader 9.1 for Unix by March 25.
More information and the updates are available here. -M
Nicholas Gaffney provides a slew of free web tools in his Marketing the Law Firm Newsletter article, "Free Web Tools for the Way You Work." While many of the apps on this list will be familiar to you, Gaffney offers some excellent suggestions on PR and collaboration tools as well as advice on how lawyers and law firms can use these tools effectively. -M
If you work on web-based projects, you often want to know how your site renders in multiple browsers, but don't want to actually install them on your machine. Here are a few great free tools that allow you to do just that:
- Xenocode Browser Sandbox - Runs any browser from the web with no installation.
- LunaScape - Puts the "big three" browser rendering engines into one tool and allows you to easily switch between them.
- BrowserShots - Allows you to quickly run page tests on nearly every browser and version available.
Happy testing! -M
The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law just released it's "2008 Poverty Scorecard," an interactive website that allows users to see how members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives stack up based on their voting records on poverty-related issues in 2008. The site also provides background information on the 22 bills rated, allows you to send a message to your representative, and offers dowloadable CSV files of the scorecard data. -M
Today the Pew Internet & American Life Project released a report on "Twitter and status updating." Below are a few highlights:
- As of December 2008, 11% of online American adults said they used a status updating service like Twitter;
- 19% of online adults ages 18 and 24, and 20% of online adults 25 to 34, have used services like Twitter (use drops steadily after age 35);
- Twitter use is highly intertwined with the use of other social media and wireless technologies, although users consume news and own technology at the same rates as other internet users.
The full report is available here. -M
Law Technology News just posted a nice article that outlines seven steps for moving a law firm to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), as well as a few surprises that the authors encountered along the way. My favorite: "A surprising number of vendors could not transcend jargon and clearly articulate the value of system or carrier features." -M
This wonderful two-page Google Cheat Sheet (PDF) lists Google services, query structures, tools, advanced search structures, special web searches and background information on Google. Each of the sections is color coded based on skill level. [Note that this cheat sheet was last updated in October 2006, but much of the information remains relevant and useful.] -M
ABA Site-tation, a blog that covers technology issues facing the legal community, recently re-launched at a new address and with an updated look. Check out the the great information it offers on security, online tools, and mobile computing. - K
On JDSupra's blog, JDScoop, Adrian Lurssen profiles legal aid and non-profit legal organizations on Twitter in his latest effort to capture lawyers and legal professionals using Twitter. The post, inspired by today's New York Times article, Interest Rate Drop Has Dire Results for Legal Aid, also highlights nonprofit legal groups using JDSupra for online outreach, including Pro Bono Net and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid. -M
I wanted to share a few recently launched legal aid blogs and Twitter profiles, which I hope represent a new trend in social media adoption for our community in 2009:
- Lawscape: One perspective on the legal landscape in rural America, by Mike Monahan
- Florida Civil Legal Update, by Jimmy Midyette
These blogs are authored by two remarkably similar folks, both experienced legal aid lawyers, technologists, and extraordinary Southern gentlemen.
In addition to these examples, if your organization is considering launching a new blog see our list of legal aid blogs here. If you're considering Twitter, additional examples include @ImmAdvocates, @TRLA and @FarmwrkrJustice. -M
The Internet has given us plenty of opportunities to voice our opinions on a wide variety of topics. We had Hot or Not, RateMyProfessors.com, and Avvo, the site where you can rate your lawyer. I think that most of us agree that these sites generally won't boost our job performance. But at last, the Internet has given geeks a rating site that could make them more productive: Rate My Network Diagram. This site provides both an opportunity to learn more about computer networking and network documentation, as well as to receive feedback about a network set up. A h/t to Garrett Bladow for pointing this site out. His favorite network includes Godzilla. - K
Accountants, you are dedicated to seeing that we legal aid and pro bono program staff get paid on time. But often, all you get from us are missing receipts, late expense reports, and improperly filled-in paperwork. In fact, even when it comes to technology, we forget to cover tools that you can use to make your job easier. But today, technola is making an effort to change that.
Bankrate.com, a great source for financial calculators, also has a tool to help you find out how stable your bank is: Safe & Sound. Not only does it give you a star-based rating for the bank, it also links to financial reports and the bank's memorandum. This way, you'll be able to see if your bank has any problems and maybe get a better night's sleep.
Unfortunately, those other problems that I mentioned above--well, technola hasn't found the technology to make them go away. Promise to keep paying us anyway? - K
The October 2008 edition of First Monday includes an interesting article entitled "Reasons for the non-adoption of OpenOffice.org in a data-intensive public administration" by Philip Huysmans, Kris Ven and Jan Verelst:
It appears that although OpenOffice.org can be a viable alternative for the average organization, its functionality may not suffice for advanced users ... Based upon our results, it would appear that the increasing standardization of document formats, and the support of the ODF format -- and OpenOffice.org -- by third party vendors will be important in order for OpenOffice.org to become a viable solution in advanced environments.
First Monday has also launched a new podcast called Openness 2.0, a "five-part ongoing series brought to you by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the University of Illinois at Chicago Libraries. In Part 1: The State of Openness, Sandra Braman, Mary Case, and Steve Jones breakdown the current state of openness in policy, culture and academics." -M
Rather than highlighting the usual free software and tools, this week I wanted to point out a great article published this month on Idealware by Peter Campbell (blog), the director of Information Technology at Earthjustice, which is likely to save you both time and money when making your next major software purchase (i.e. case management system or CRM solution). Also, while a RFP may not be appropriate, many of the issues that Peter discusses in the article also apply to not-so-major software and hardware purchases. -M
When looking at software, it's hard to tell the difference between what's good or bad on first glance, and unfortunately, bad software is a lot like a bad haircut--it takes a long time to fix what only took only minutes to wreck.
Enter the Social Source Commons, which serves as a platform for social activists and advocates to list the software that they use to get their jobs done. Need software to help with IM? Social Source Commons lists 33 tools and lets you see who had added each of those tools to their "toolbox." You can also search by person to see what a specific person uses. For example, Beth Kanter (Beth's Blog) or Holly Ross (NTEN).
Don't find what you were looking forward on Social Source Commons? You can also check out Ohloh, which lists open source software that people are using and contributing to; Free Software Directory, which is a project of the Free Software Foundation and United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization that lists free software that runs under free operating systems; and Go2Web20.net, which lists Web 2.0 applications and services. - K
Last month, Illinois Legal Aid Online, in partnership with the Public Interest Law Initiative's Pro Bono Initiative launched a series of web pages aimed at encouraging law students, federal government attorneys, retired attorneys, and paralegals to perform pro bono work. These pages contain content that is tailored to each of these groups, including a video showcasing other group members' pro bono experiences, articles that explain the issues around pro bono work, and a list of available volunteer opportunities. - K
On Tuesday, August 26, TechSoup is hosting a one-hour webinar about implementing online surveys. - K
Ever visit a website and wonder "who is hosting this"? Check out Who is Hosting This?, a free website that tells you who hosts any domain (a Firefox bookmarklet and plugin are also available here). If instead you find yourself asking "who owns this"?, try dwhois.net, a simple, fast whois lookup service. -M
From Brian Lawlor, Regional Counsel at LSNC:
Legal Services of Northern California has launched the Findability Project, a TIG-funded initiative to demonstrate how a Google Search Appliance, integrated with a SharePoint Server, can be used as a core technology for implementing enterprise-level search, and as the basic building block of an organization-wide knowledge-content system.
To keep up-to-date with the project be sure to subscribe to the RSS feed here. For more background, go here. We'll be following this project closely, and look forward to hearing from others who are implementing internal knowledge management and content sharing platforms at their organizations. (For example, using a wiki to share documents with a funder prior to a site visit.) -M
Upfront, I'll admit that I'm not a Mac expert. I'm capable of using one and have even owned one. (Although I no longer own it -- it met a sad fate, which will get covered as the topic of a different post.)
But today on Free Friday, I wanted to take a minute to point those of you who use Macs to a post on the Mac Lawyer Blog - Top 10 Free Programs for Attorneys Using Macs, which provides a great list of software to cover all of the basic tasks that you need to do.
And while you're there, take a few minutes to look over the other posts. Ben Stevens, the blog's author, has a great collection of posts about being a Mac law firm and transitioning from PCs to Macs. - K
If you want to keep up with the top legal blogs but can't imagine ever having the time to sift through everything out there, you should check out LexMonitor. This site is attempting to aggregate all of the law-related blogs and currently lists nearly 2,000 sources. You can look at the front page to check out the hot topics or do a search for a specific topic. A couple of other neat things about LexMonitor:
[Note: Before I start on this post, your IT Department has asked me to say a little something. If your computer is really slow, check with them before you do anything. You can break things by doing what I did. This can make them very angry and frustrated and want to cry. Your IT colleagues have enough things in their day that do this to them. Don't be another one. And remember, IT staff are like secretaries and administrative assistants. Your work day goes smoother when you are nice to them.]
I'm not a fanatic memory manager; however, tonight, in order to use my computer, I had to learn a little about reigning in some hoggish use of memory.
Let me set the stage. I restarted my computer, and within minutes, it was incredibly slow. I wasn't doing anything complicated. I was just trying to make train reservations for my next trip to NYC. Only Outlook and FireFox were open, and a few more items were running in the background. Following my gut instinct, I first blamed Outlook, which typically uses more than its fair share of my memory, but its CPU and memory usage were low. A bit disappointed that the problem wasn't quite so easy to pinpoint, I turned toward the next set of likely culprits -- the three software programs that I had installed recently: AVG Anti-Virus 8.0, Firefox 3, and Xobni. Turns out that two of three were responsible for my problem: AVG Anti-Virus and Firefox.
Recently, AVG Anti-Virus 8.0 was released with a new feature, ACG Safe Search. This feature works with your browser and scans every web link to find out if it is good or bad. And it is a known memory hog. So I said good-bye to AVG Safe Search. I certainly I won't miss it. (Don't worry, Allison. AVG Anti-Virus is still installed.)
In doing my research on AVG Safe Search, I found out that memory management was a particular focus for the developers working on Firefox 3; however, a few default settings still seem to cause Firefox to consume more resources than necessary. While there are several places that you can read up on this, I would recommend the Internet Duct Tape blog and the mozillaZine article, "Reducing Memory Usage." I ended up changing some of Firefox's default settings, which has seemed to improve things. I'm going to stick with these settings for a couple of days and see what happens.
So as of tonight, my computer is much happier, and I've been able to make my train reservations. The best news? I was also able to get reservations for cheap at The Pod Hotel, my favorite NYC resting place. - K
Given the popularity of instant messaging and the ubiquitous packaging of instant messaging services with web-based email accounts, it's likely that you use more than one IM client. In order to avoid having to sign in to several different clients, you can instead use an IM client that supports multiple instant messaging protocols. Here are a few free instant messaging "aggregators" worth considering:
- Pidgin: This is the client that I use at work. It's simple to set up and supports nearly every protocol out there (although some protocols, such as Skype, require a plugin). Pidgin does not support voice messaging or webcams, but if you can live without those it's a good option. (Windows, Linux)
- Meebo: A web-based instant messaging client, meebo supports most common protocols, including Yahoo! Messenger, .NET Messenger Service, Google Talk, AIM, ICQ, and Jabber. You can also create public or private rooms (which can be embedded on your website), and there's even a handy Meebo Firefox extension. (Windows, Mac, Linux)
- Trillian: I mention Trillian because it's fairly popular and the free version is comparatively full-featured. It supports most common protocols, but for voice messaging and webcam support you'll need to upgrade to Trillian Pro ($25). (Windows only) -M
Yesterday Adobe launched Acrobat.com, a suite of online services that you can use to collaboratively create and share documents. The initial applications include:
- Adobe Buzzword for creating and reviewing documents;
- Adobe ConnectNow for online web conferences (limited to three people); and
- Acrobat.com organizer for sharing up to 5GB of files, converting documents to PDF and embedding documents in web pages, blogs, wikis, etc.
You can sign up for free at www.acrobat.com. -M
PC World announced it's list of the top 100 tech products for 2008 this week. Bad news - it's got a lot of cool toys on the list that cost a lot money. Good news - a non-profit website was ranked 23rd - NPR.org! What other notable items (i.e., Kate's favorites) made the list? Wikipedia, NetFlix, Craigslist, Scrabulous, Nintendo Wii, Twitter, Sidestep, and Lifehacker. And don't worry. For those hardware and electronics fanatics out there, plenty of those made the list as well. - K
You've found the perfect training to solve that nagging problem. Perhaps it's for that attorney who keeps asking you the same Word formatting questions, the sys admin who needs to brush up on their skills, or even your officemate who hums off key. But it's incredibly expensive. Why, oh why can't you find cheap, but good, trainings?
Well, here's technola to your rescue. Today, I present a few free training options.
- LSNTAP.org. If you are in a legal aid program and don't know about the Legal Services National Technology Assistance Project (LSNTAP), you've likely been hiding under a rock. But just in case you haven't heard, LSNTAP regularly holds and records technology trainings on a wide variety of subjects: MS Word, LegalMeetings, document assembly, Internet trends, website best practices, and so on. Check out their training calendar and their archived trainings. LSNTAP also holds monthly Tech Noodling Roundtables. While not really a training, it is a great opportunity for legal aid techies to interact with their colleagues and get some support.
- Lynda.com. Most of the technology training content that Lynda.com provides is available for a low monthly subscription fee ($25); however, you can check out chapters of many of their titles for free. For example, you can get a brief overview of XML, learn the basics of search engine optimization, introduce yourself to the basics of computer privacy and security, and figure out how to navigate PDFs.
- YouTube.com. Yes, YouTube has plenty of material that couldn't even be remotely classified as "training." But it does have useful material, too. For example, the officemate mentioned above might want to check out Singing Lessons with Nikki Scrase. Or perhaps you want to introduce your office to social bookmarking. Instead of creating your own materials, you could just point them to Social Bookmarking in Plain English.
So there are a few sites where you can find free trainings. But there are many more. Let us know in the comments below if you've got a favorite free training site. - K
This week's Free Friday takes a look at mind/concept mapping software. Whether you're looking to visually map ideas, concepts or arguments, here are a few free software solutions to help you get the job done:
- Bubbl.us: The best thing about Bubbl.us is that it's entirely web-based, so there's nothing to download and it's easy to share and collaborate with others online. Features include the ability to email your mind map, save it as an image, and embed it on your blog or website.
- The Visual Understanding Environment (VUE): VUE is a project at Tufts UIT Academic Technology, which provides a visual environment for structuring, sharing and presenting digital information. All software in this category allows you to structure ideas, concepts and information, but VUE shines it its ability to easily integrate digital content, whether stored locally or on the web. It also excels at presentation. VUE has good user documentation and a nice screencast overview.
- FreeMind: A more traditional mind mapping tool, FreeMind is a Java-based open source software. Its other potential uses include keeping track of projects, tracking research and as a knowledge base. Features include support of HTML links, one-click navigation, export map to HTML, an XML storage format and easy integration with many wikis. FreeMind doesn't support online sharing/collaboration or do well with rich graphics. -M
Montana Legal Services Association was highlighted in a recent Idealware article. Written by Michelle Murain (who you can follow on Twitter) and Laura Quinn, the article discusses three project management software packages (Basecamp, Central Desktop, and Trac) and how they have been implemented by three different non-profits. The article is a quick read that gives concrete ideas for how to use the software as well as what the organizations have found to be useful and not so useful. - K
Alltop, a great source of aggregated online content, just added a law category that manages to include nearly every law blog in my RSS reader. Alltop's simple, effective design makes it very easy to navigate, and when you're finished with the law stuff you can head over to some of the other interesting categories, like Nonprofit and Gadgets. -M
Now that TIG is over, I've moved on to the other items on my to do list.
The first two don't need much explaination, but I suspect that number three may. No, I am not considering becoming an arsonist. Feedburner is actually a tool for bloggers. It lets us more easily track how many people are subscribed to our feeds and, for commercial ventures, more efficiently profit from content. While Matthew and I aren't looking to profit from our content, we do like to know what people are interested in. So now technola has the burn.
If you are already subscribed to our feed, you don't have to do anything. You could subscribe to our new feed. It is a little bit prettier and fancier than are old feed. You can quickly e-mail an article to another person or save it to del.icio.us. But you don't have to.
If you haven't subscribed, you now have two options. You can either subscribe to our feed or sign up to get an e-mail when we post new content. If you are interested, see the links on the right-hand side. - K
Kate and I will be participating in a few sessions at the Equal Justice Conference in Minneapolis next week. If you're planning to attend, we'd love to have you join us.
- Tuesday, May 6th
Distance services/technology (2:30pm-3:30pm; Presentation at Self Represented Litigants Pre-Conference)
Presenters: Katrina Zabinski, Glenn Rawdon, Judy Meadows and Kate Bladow
- Thursday, May 8th
Using Technology to Advance Your Mission: Challenges and Opportunities for the Up-to-Date Legal Aid Law Firm (2:00pm-3:30pm)
Presenters: Kate Bladow, Kathleen Brockel, Rachel Medina and Alison Paul
Using Technology to Provide Technical Legal Assistance at the State and National Level (3:45pm-5:15pm)
Presenters: Matthew Burnett and Michael Monahan
There are a number of other great sessions on statewide websites, document assembly and legal aid technology initiatives, so be sure to check out the full agenda. If you won't be at EJC, just tune in to technola next week, where Kate and I will be blogging from the conference. -M
That's right, it's Free Friday, a new technola feature that highlights free - as in free beer - tech tools and resources. This week, a few free web-based project management tools to help keep those milestones in check:
- Project2Manage - A free, web-based project management solution that offers multiple levels of permissions for different clients & users, unlimited projects and the ability to post messages, manage tasks, develop to-do lists and create milestones.
- Google Sites - Google Sites is another great free project management option, particularly given its seamless integration with other Google apps, like Google Calendar and Google Docs. Here's an example (from Google) of a project management site using Google Sites.
- CentralDesktop - While only a limited version of CentralDesktop is free, this may be a good choice if you want to get your feet wet with a web-based project management solution with a lot of bells and whistles. The free version is limited to 2 workspaces, 5 users per workspace and 25MB of total storage space.
- ZOHO Projects - Like CentralDesktop, only a limited version of ZOHO Projects is free. Compared to CentralDesktop, you get more storage (100MB) and more users (unlimited), but less projects (only one). -M
Some time ago, I had picked up by Visualizing Information for Advocacy: An Introduction to Information Design from the Tactical Technology Collective. It turns out that the information wasn't what I was looking for, but it has an amazing list of open source tools that you can use to help convey information and design graphics. They are
- OpenOffice - an office productivity suite that has a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation manager, and drawing program. (Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X under X11)
- NeoOffice - an office productivity suite that has a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation manager, and drawing program. (Mac OS X)
- Ajax13 - a web-based office productivity suite that has a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation management, sketch tool, and media player.
- InkScape - a vector graphics editor that is similar to Illustrator, Freehand, or CorelDraw. (Windows, Linux, and Mac)
- PDFCreator - a tool to create PDF files. I use this tool regularly and have been pretty satisfied. I would recommend using this along with PDFBlender, which allows you to combine PDF files easily. (Windows)
- Scribus - a desktop publisher that has similar functionality to Microsoft Publisher. (Windows, Linux, and Mac)
- The GIMP - my favorite image and graphics editor. It is incredibly powerful, but people often complain that it isn't as user-friendly as Photoshop. I was too cheap to buy Photoshop, so the GIMP seemed like the right option for me. (Windows, Linux, and Mac)
- GIMPShop - a version of GIMP for people who want something that looks more like Photoshop. (Windows and Mac)
After finding that list, I can't wait for their next publication, Quick 'n' Easy Guide to Mapping for Advocacy, which should be available soon. I hope that it has a similar list of tools. - K
The Center for Access to Justice & Technology, in partnership with the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction, has released version 2.0 of A2J Author. With A2J Author, non-techies can create user-friendly interfaces that help self-represented litigants fill out court forms or other legal documents. A great example of A2J in action can be seen on the New York City Housing Court and Civil Court websites. A2J Author 2.0 has several new enhancements.
- Developers can move between development screens more easily.
- Audio files can be deleted with one button click instead of deleting the files one at a time.
- The courthouse graphic can be switched out for an alternative graphic.
You can download A2J Author 2.0 from the A2J Author community website. A2J Author is free for noncommercial use. - K
Recently, Aspiration and Idealware announced a Managing Non-Profit Technology Projects event for Oakland, CA on May 20, 2008 to May 21, 2008. Participants in this event will discuss project management tools and best practices. Registration information is available on Aspiration's website.
I highly recommend attending, especially if you are an accidental project manager. In January 2008, I went to the first Managing Non-Profit Technology Projects event in New York City and got to participate in great conversations about how much websites should cost, how to manage consultants and vendors, and how to collaborate with remote teams. Coming out of the event, I had new resources to help me manage the projects that I'm involved in, including a wiki that contains notes on all of the sessions.
If you aren't able to attend, sign up for the wiki anyways. You'll be able to read the session notes and benefit from the thoughts of the people who did go. - K
One of the best free resources available to nonprofit technologists is idealware, a site that provides informative reviews and comparisons of nonprofit software. Articles that may be of interest to folks in the legal aid community include:
- Donate Now: Selecting an Online Donation Tool
- Getting Started with Blogging Software
- A Few Good Low-Cost Constituent Databases
- A Few Good Email Newsletter Tools
- A Few Good Event Registration Tools
- Six Views of Project Management Software
- Grants Management Software: Survey Results and Analysis
- A Few Good Accounting Packages
PC Magazine reviews the best free software: "157 software tools. No fees. No expiration dates. No problems. Sometimes even no downloads. No kidding ... If you bought popular apps instead of trying their gratis counter-parts, at the manufacturers' list prices you'd be out $5,183 and change!" -M
I spent about 20 minutes playing with the recently launched Google Sites (fka JotSpot) this morning. Like most Google Apps, the interface is intuitive and there's lots of flexibility. It was easy to integrate into our organization's domain (we use Google's non-profit/education edition for email) and allows you to add calendars, presentations, attachments, etc. to a dashboard as well as create file directories and custom pages. You can also share it for viewing or editing with a defined group, your organization, or publicly. Overall, I like it better than many other online collaboration tools that I've used, both for the ease of integration with other Google Apps and its simple access and interface controls. -M