I’ve had a couple of demos and conversations recently that have pointed out to me what cool technologies, especially software, are available once you step outside the large firm environment. I don’t necesarily disagree that there must be a degree of standardization and lock-down in a large firm, but it sure keeps you from trying a lot of cool stuff.
For the first example, I’m rocking with a new Sony Vaio PCG-Z1A notebook with the Centrino chip. That means wireless, baby. I was at my local St. Louis Bread Company restaurant the other day using the wireless broadband to download the 29 or so critical updates it takes to bring Windows XP up to speed. It worked just like it was supposed to on the first try. Pretty cool. Wireless is one of those things that you really don’t get until you experience it in action, then, wham, you’re sold. I love that commercial that imitates the PBS Antiques Road Show where the guy brings in an old phone and the expert explains that in the olden days people were tethered to a wall with a wire, as they shake their heads. The Vaio notebook is a beautiful machine, something I rarely say about computers.
I finally have gotten the chance to go back to Worldox as a document management tool. I so much prefer it to what I was using over the last few years. It’s largely a matter of personal preference, but that means that my life is easier and it’s my preference that takes priority, not the preference of a committee. As a teaser on Worldox, you can incorporate your email into the doc management system, moving you away from the frustratingly rudimentary search and management functionality of Outlook.
I also got to be trained on CaseMap 4.5 over the phone by Danielle Carwell of CaseSoft. I’m not a litigator and have no interest in being one, but CaseMap is the only thing that’s ever made me even think about being a litigator. Every time I experiment with CaseMap I have a flood of ideas of how it might be used and I’m about to try some in a non-litigation context. I remember someone saying to me that “if you are not using Casemap, you’re not really litigating.” I still can’t imagination how anyone would hire attorneys in a litigation matter who didn’t use CaseMap.
Here’s another one: Enfish. Can’t find anything on your drives? Aren’t using Worldox? Can’t find old email? Enfish is kind of like a Google for your hard drive. It’s much more, of course, but you get the idea. Some people are good at scrupulously managing files and folders so they can always find things. I’m not one of them and I doubt you are either because I haven’t met many.
Finally, I had a great phone call and GoToMyPC demo of ActiveWords from Buzz Bruggeman. We speak the same language, it seems. ActiveWords in simplest terms is a universal macromaker, but that description doesn’t do it justice. Longtime Windows users have their own lists of common tasks where a graphical interface is a pain in the butt because it takes a lot of steps. Enter ActiveWords and you can automate that. I’m just scratching the surface with the program by using it to open programs quickly by typing a few letters, but it’s a godsend for making common tasks really easy. Like all good programs, it gives you room to explore doing things that you want and makes you think about ways it can help you.
By way of comparison, I was talking with a friend of mine at one of the top 100 firms who was lamenting using Office 97 programs. I got a cool new Lexar Jump Drive (the floppy may indeed be dead) and wondered what approval process might be required in some large firms. I just got to pop it in and go. It reminded me of the time I waited over a year for approval to have a $79 color inkjet purchased and installed on my office computer. You know what, I never did get that printer.
If you’re doing something cool with tech that fits into to the solo space (or not), I’m always willing to hear more about it.