Tuesday, August 30, 2011

iPad software review for lawyers - Goodreader

I find that my iPad 2 is an invaluable tool for my legal practice. I use it in Court, mediations and conferences to take notes, draft documents and research legislation, cases and commentary. I got most of my tips on how to set it up from Kyle McDonald, another blawging barrister. His site Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? is full of reviews and tips on how to set up an iPad.

I thought I'd have a go at giving a review of Goodreader which is an app that I find to be very valuable for my practice. The review is set out below.

Goodreader is a pdf viewing and annotating application. I mainly use it to view briefs (scanned in pdf format) while in conference or in Court and to download and read cases and authorised legislation while on-the-go or in Court. The program is a powerful pdf annotator, and it allows the user, while viewing a pdf document, to bookmark pages, make notes and search the document.

The start screen of Goodreader is set out below (please note that for confidentiality reasons I have redacted certain folder names).

On the left hand side are folders and files. Folders and files are added into Goodreader by a variety of ways. These ways include the following:
  • Synchronising: I use Dropbox to store the files I work with, and Goodreader can access and sync with Dropbox so that it always has the most up-to-date version of the file or folder that I am dealing with. All you have to do is open the 'connect to servers' menu on the right hand side and, assuming you have put your Dropbox account details into Goodreader, you can access your Dropbox folder and 'sync' any file or folder with your iPad. Once it is downloaded to Goodreader, you press a 'sync' button every time you want to synchronise the file or folder on Goodreader with the file or folder on Dropbox.
  • Downloading: I can download folders and files from my Dropbox as well. The difference between downloading and syncing is that although both download a copy from Dropbox to my iPad, if I select the sync function, it synchronises with my Dropbox as above. Downloading does not allow this.
  • Download from email/Safari: When I view a pdf document in my inbox or Safari, a box opens on the top right hand side of the screen which gives me the option of viewing the file in Goodreader. If I press on the box, it opens Goodreader and automatically downloads and puts a copy into the Goodreader file system.
On the right hand side of the Goodreader screen are different viewing, downloading and managing options. The 'manage files' options are great. Often I download legislation and cases and they download to the root directory in Goodreader with a generic name. I use the 'manage files' function on the right hand side of the screen to rename the files as I want them and move them to the directory that I want. 

Goodreader allows total customisation of the folder structure for ease of organisation and reference. For instance, I set my root directory up so that I have at the root level a folder for each brief, a folder for 'acts and regulations', a folder for 'court and practice rules' and a folder for 'documents of interest' (being random documents such as personal documents, cases for my blog, etc). Within each folder I have sub-folders to further organise my files and matters.

The Victorian Parliament now publishes the authorised versions of Victorian legislation as pdf documents. The site is here at http://www.legislation.vic.gov.au/. The beauty of this fact is that you can download and view the authorised legislation in Safari and transfer it to Goodreader. Once it is in Goodreader, you can bookmark the pages, make notes on the legislation, search the legislation for relevant sections and otherwise search, mark and manipulate the legislation better and faster than the printed version or on AustLII. It's the same for cases downloaded from Thomson online or LexisNexis.

Goodreader has just updated its software so that while viewing a document, a user can switch between tabs of the most recently viewed documents. This is particularly useful when referring to documents in a hearing or conference, so that the user doesn't have to go searching through folders for the desired file.

I have two examples of how useful Goodreader is for on-the-go work:
  • I was in the Practice Court of the Supreme Court of Victoria awaiting a hearing, and a similar matter arose before mine. The Judge referred to a case which was not within my list of authorities, but which he considered to be applicable. I downloaded the case to Goodreader while I was in Court, searched for the relevant sections via the search function, highlighted the relevant sections and was ready to go!
  • I was in the Magistrates Court of Victoria in a contested hearing. The matter was filed before 1 January 2011 and the Civil Procedure Act 2010 (Vic) (the CPA) did not apply to the particular issues being contested. My opponent raised the CPA to support one of his submissions, but I didn't have the CPA with me at the time as it was not applicable and I did not anticipate it being referred to. I downloaded the CPA, searched for the commencement provision, highlighted it and showed it to my opponent while he was making his submission. My opponent withdrew his submission.

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