Category Archives: TechTips

ideas for using the web and/or technology to make your life and work easier and more fun.

iPad apps for Profs…Guinea pigs! Send me your "must have" app suggestions.

I finally got a tablet and it is an iPad2. I am mostly smitten.* The iPad does seem friendlier than a laptop … It doesn’t serve as a physical barrier to the face (I really noticed the difference in one of my classes last year) and the apps do offer neat opportunities for sharing. The IFLS blog looks, i think, stunning on an iPad.

Now, I know that the iPad has some gender relations problems, see here.  And certainly there are some “where are the women” moments in iPad chatter land, see here (helpful post on academics using iPads).  And it’s a consumerist nightmare in many ways – expensive, inaccessible, and all those Bad Apple issues.  I’m setting those latter very real concerns to the side for the moment.

This post is the start of an effort to survey law profs, informally, about apps that work.  The post is getting longer and longer, so I’m going to cut if off now and see whether you find it helpful. If you just want the apps I discuss, a list of links/names is at the bottom.  Please, if you have any “can’t miss” apps, let me know and i’ll update.

First, I asked my colleagues about apps they love:



My colleague Kate Sutherland (perhaps known to you from her blogging at law.arts.culture or from her twitter feed, @lawandlit) has some recommendations:

Top recommendation, Reeder: “for keeping up with RSS feeds, and posting links straight from those feeds to Twitter, Facebook, Instapaper (a read later app) individual friends via email etc. It has made that part of my day much more pleasurable and efficient.”

eReaders: Kate says “I prefer iBooks [comes preloaded] for its lack of distracting bells & whistles (by contrast, for example, some of Kobo’s community stuff is incredibly infantilizing and annoying ie congratulating you on how many pages you’ve read & awarding you badges for reading accomplishments).

But, it’s worth having more than one e-reading app as different apps direct you to different sources of public domain material.

Stanza has a particularly broad and interesting range.

Also in the realm of books, the must have free app is the British Library 19th Century Collection. NYPL Biblion is also fun.

Images: PS Express (photoshop) & Jotnot (scanning) have proved useful. Both have enhanced paid versions, but the free ones have been sufficient for me so far.”


My current office neighbour , James Stribopoulos (although we move back to our renovated building next week – the only bad thing about this move is losing James as a neighbour.  I am gaining the Faculty Lounge as a neighbour) uses Iannotate for PDF’s and docstogo for word files.


James got many of the recommendations he offered from our new colleague, Ben Berger, who has a long list. Here are a few:

I don’t think anything beats iAnnotate for the functionality and little features like a horizontal scroll lock, which means that you can expand the text and then scroll vertically without it shaking left and right.  …..  I used it to read grad student work and mark it up, then sending it straight back by e-mail.  I also edit proofs, highlight articles, etc.   Good reader is a nice alternative as well and has improved its annotation functions but I still find iAnnotate the best

The two best apps in my view are DocsToGo (premium) and QuickOffice Pro HD.  You must get the high end app of each but they are worth it.  The advantage that Docs to Go has over QuickOffice is that one can read footnotes and other hyperlinked info in a docx or doc file, whereas all of the other readers strip these out just now.   QuickOffice, on the other hand, is nice because it gives you natural page breaks, so if you’re just reading text (not footnotes) that’s kind of nice. it also has the best file management utility, which lets you drag and drop among programs, whatever the file format.  most importantly, though, it has a very good print to PDF feature that means that you can flip a word document into PDF and use iAnnotate!

If you use a stylus for writing by hand, NoteTaker HD is far and away the best note taking app I’ve used, allowing you to simply write and save, and then e-mail or print to pdf.  It also lets you insert photos, diagrams, etc.  …. the stylus can be really hit and miss.  The key, I found, was to get one with a soft rubber end, not a foam end.  The foam is not nearly as responsive and breaks down rapidly.  [Ben doesn’t know what brand of stylus he has, but he did send me a picture of it]

The other great thing about NoteTaker HD is that you can sign a pdf and e-mail it right back… so if you find yourself needing to sign things this on the road or at home, this lets you avoid printing and dispenses with the need for a fax.

For taking notes through typing Notability is an amazing little app that lets you record audio and tag it with typing as you go.  You can then simply tap the words that you typed and it will bring you back to that point in the recording.

Evernote is the best that I have used for simply typing out notes or taking a photo as a note and it lets you have folders for organization.  Evernote also has iPhone and desktop versions with which it automatically syncs.

Keynote is the best for overhead presentations from powerpoints.  It’s not great for editing (Docs to Go helps on that) but is excellent for display.  If you have the iPad to VGA dongle [link is to apple store Canada, $35, but there are other places, obviously, to buy it], you can simply hook up directly into the projector – swiping your finger across advances slides.  Holding your finger gives a laser pointer effect.  I used this all the time in class.


Then, I went to the ‘net (actually, I went there first, let’s be honest, but it was overwhelming, so I turned to friends and armed with that info, went back to the web).

First, I tried Reeder, as per Kate’s suggestion, and it is lovely – but then i discovered Flipboard, which I highly encourage people to try.  It will mash together, in one place but categorized neatly, your twitter, facebook (not that you do), google reader, and any number of other sites like the Guardian. And it does it in a way that is beautiful. AND, it will display your twitter feed in a way which shows you a preview of whatever was linked.  Brilliant.  Like reading a great personal magazine. I am a big fan.

The Instructional Technology Blog at Albany has a nice post, Law Professors: There’s an app for that with a number of interesting things including an app for randomly calling on people, which MUST be of interest to feminists (clearly can’t solve all the problems, but at least unconcious gendered selection bias?).  The randomization app is called PikMe.  Here is a review (i’d say it gives a 3/5 or so) from the ProfHacker column/blog in the Chronical of Higher Ed of that app,  and a link to an app called Attendance.  PikMe has some major limitations (you have to add the class “by hand”!).

The Albany link also has a variety of other useful suggestions, I think, some very well known (ikeynote, for presentations, dropbox, for syncing) and others less so.  The blog also has posts covering the content at the CALI [Computer Assisted Legal Instruction?] conference, which i found helpful, since the CALI site only has, ugh, long videos. I  need text, people! You all talk too slowly!

Here’s a set of “apps i can’t live without” from ProfHacker (check the comments for more suggestions), and here is a neat post on “paperless at conferences“.

Here’s one thing that was hard to find – Zotero on the iPad. For a variety of Bad Apple reasons, this is much more complex than it should be, but Prof Hacker offers one possibility. This I find quite exciting, although please note the drawbacks listed in the link (to ProfHacker again).

In the past (filed under techtips) I’ve suggested using scheduling programs like doodle (ipad app here) and meeting wizard, as I think they are wonderful.


*[thing that I don’t love about iPad functionality….] the way that the keyboard layout means I keep putting question marks instead of periods at the end of my sentences like some demented uptalk transcription? Doesn’t the iPad know that uptalk is a gendered phenomenon that seems to be a strategy for conforming to gender norms by being unsure and non threatening rather than confident and dominant? I’m probably wrong but i thought the textual equivalent of uptalk is not a question mark but ellipsis…. I think…..

Apps only, no talk

Published Material




British Library 19th Century Collection.

NYPL Biblion



PS Express (photoshop)

Jotnot (scanning)


Iannotate for PDF’s and docstogo for word files ($)

DocsToGo (premium)  and / or QuickOffice Pro HD.  ($)

If you use a stylus for writing by hand, NoteTaker HD ($)Notability


Keynote for presentations ($)

Hardware iPad to VGA dongle




List of apps from profhacker

paperless at conferences

And the iPad does offer some very cool possibilities for kids (look at this book for kids (shaking the iPad changes the parents from two women to two men or one of each) – the creator explains it in this post/video).

Should IFLS be on FB? FB pages for legal/feminists

You can show your love (or, “like”) for the UBC Law Centre for Feminist Legal Studies on FB, here.  They have an FB page, and so does LEAF National, Egale Canada, and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. Smart!  Should the IFLS get a facebook page? Or is this, like mountain vistas and ocean air, something that just won’t fly here…. The FB page would probably duplicate the twitter feed, but if it’s a more convenient way for some of you to follow what we’re up to, I’d do it. And what of Google+? Ach. I can’t keep up.

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Third Thursdays: Tech Tool Tips

Really, why not? Feminists need all kinds of tools for our work. Here are three.  Send me yours (in the comments) and I’ll post a roundup of other good ones next time. These are not things for experts, so those of you who tweet and have your ipod make you a cappuccino when it detects that you’re not quite alert- you can just skip this post.  These are for people who want to know how to do more with what they’ve got, who don’t love technology but aren’t -phobes either.


Meeting Wizard: Feminists are busy.  Busy having meetings.  How to find free time for more meetings with other busy feminists?  Use meeting wizard.  You pick a few possible dates on the MW site. You send these to your proposed participants.  They note which they could attend, you get a handy chart which shows you in a blink which meeting time works best – or if you have to go back to the drawing board.  You can export your address book to MW, and you can make Groups for all the different groups of people you have to wrangle.  Like many tech tools, the true worth of this thing becomes more clear each time you use it.   There is even a way that the organizer can fill it out for those people who are just refusing to budge from 1994.  You know who you are. And you’re not reading this blog.


Xmarks or some other bookmark sync tool: If you don’t have one, get one. Sign up on all your computers and [presto]- have all your bookmarks sync’d on all your computers.  Your life is instantly better.  I use Xmarks, but it’s been threatening to close lately, so here’s the link to firefox sync (please, if you are using internet explorer, stop and switch to firefox or google chrome).


Google Reader: Just a way to follow sites that you like, collect all the posts for when you have time to read. Lots of you probably already use this. If not, I’ve posted on this before, so here’s a link.  And if you get google reader, then please follow the IFLS!  You can use other tools to follow RSS feeds as well.  The IFLS blog includes an option to have the posts emailed to you – that’s through feedburner, although you don’t need to know that to get the posts.

Slaw+ a few changes

My former colleague Simon Fodden noticed this blog and said nice things about it on “his”amazing super-blog, – click here for the post mentioning the IFLS blog.

I followed up with Simon to thank him and ask him a few questions.

Result: a twitter feed for posts if you’d like to follow us that way; navigation that I hope is slightly less confusing; and dates on every post.   Thanks Simon, and here’s my mini post on Slaw which was in queue for next week, really! is quite an excellent weblog, almost certainly the premier Canadian law site.  Simon was a visionary on many of these law+web things, since he also started up another favourite of mine, Osgoode’s    Initially, I loved that SLAW was all law librarians blogging.  Recently it’s evolved to have a broader mandate (although I still sort of think the librarians provide the best posts: did you know that October is National Library Month?).

In their own words:

Slaw is a Canadian co-operative weblog about any and all things legal.

We began in 2005 with a focus on legal information and research, but we now consider any aspect of law our meat and drink. Our audience is primarily lawyers, law librarians, and others working in or studying law. As ever, our aim is to share knowledge, offer advice and instruction, and occasionally provoke. But please note: we do not offer legal advice, even in the most vague terms

No legal advice, but they’ll tell you how to fix your web presence!