Nov 22 2016

OneNote and Office Lens – hidden gem or does everyone know?


This is one of those blog posts that I’ve thought about for a while, but worried that I was stating the bleeding obvious and so have put it off. I’ve used Office Lens and OneNote for so long now that I figure others must know about it and be using it? But if not then there are folks missing out on a really useful tool for anyone who needs to collate information from various sources (whiteboard write ups, projector screens, hand written notes on paper, printed documents, business cards etc). Given that law firms are mainly users of Microsoft Office and are now generally on smartphone platforms it’s a great combination for the lawyers.

So here we go.

Office Lens: This is a smartphone app for iPhone, Android and Windows 10 Mobile. Its purpose is to allow you to quickly take notes using the phones camera.

The app allows simple selection of some defaults (whiteboard, document etc) to set things up and then attempts to auto crop the content (and does a good job for most things). You can then fine tune this before accepting the photo, where the app then flattens and straightens up the image (so if you’ve taken the photo at an angle what you end up with is a nice flat image).


You can then email the document or import quickly into one of the key Microsoft Office apps, the most useful I have found being One Note. It’s a really quick way to collate notes together in a OneNote notebook. For scanned images where the text is machine readable OneNote then OCR’s the content and makes it searchable in the notebook. For business cards you can of course simply photo the card and immediately add the information directly as digital contact to mobile address books – there’s an article here on how to do this.

Best of all it’s totally free.


Oct 31 2016

Cool shortcuts in Outlook using Office Apps in Office 2013 and beyond


I’ve been using Office 365 for a while at home and recently it updated to the 2016 equivalent version. It was then I started to notice some nice shortcuts in the email message that will be a real bonus within law firms. The two I noticed were “Suggested Meetings” and “Action Items”, they appear just above the message body.

emailBasically each one appears if they notice things within the email, first up in this case it has noticed some text “catch up ….. this Sunday 11th Sept” which it is using to suggest a meeting for me.

schedule-meeting-2Now in this case the date has passed but from here I can quickly click “Edit Details” and it fills in as much as it can in a calendar appointment, shortcutting the process of scheduling meetings (it even used the email addresses to schedule other recipients for the meeting).

Here’s an example of one that is in the future.

schedule-meetingIn this case I can just add the location if required and click the schedule event button and it’s done!

The “Action Items” option just pulls out from an email the key actions it thinks are required. Basically giving you a quick summary of what’s required from you in a long email.

actionsIn this case a request to see the attachment and a reminder not to communicate further just yet. I can flag for follow up from here.

There is also a Bing maps add-in that recognises addresses from the email and can quickly show you a map of the location within the email body. Since finding these I’ve also found a Wunderlist app add-in that lets me quickly add information from an email into my wunderlist task list.

And the best bit is you don’t need to worry about these adding to the long list of COM add-ins within Outlook that slow down your startup time, these are all of the new Office 365 add-in type that eventually should work across all Office 365 platforms (web, desktop, tablet etc).

I just wonder how emails stored in iManage Work behave? Anyone with iManage and Office 2013 or above care to comment below?


Apr 8 2016

Technology for the future lawyer


To kick off 2016 (where have the first three months gone!!) I thought I’d put up a post based on my recent talk at the British Legal Technology Forum in London. The talk was titled as this post and looked at some of the key challenges Legal IT have for the core technology lawyers use in their day to day work.

I started by using consumer technology to show how a simple tool can become really complicated.

Old style simple TV of the Eighties! Multiple TV channels, Multiple platforms

We started with a simple concept of a handful of TV channels.

Then we introduced digital television through satellite and multi-channel offerings, which was great initially as we had choice. But then came the competing sports channels, meaning if I want to watch all football competitions, the cricket and the boxing I needed to pay for multiple extra channel packages.

Then came the multiple delivery platforms, so I no longer can watch everything with just Sky I need Sky, Netflix, Amazon etc.

So before you knew it something simple had become a complex range of services and channel packages to watch all the TV you wanted. Posing the question:

So are we better off?

If we then play through a similar story in Legal IT we see the same complexities.

Whether it’s the choice of mobile device, do I go iPhone or Blackberry? The choice of device to work on, is the future Surface type hybrid devices or iPad Pros? Then even in the software delivery things get complicated, so do I download Outlook from the Appstore or use the desktop app or maybe I use the web app?

It’s enough to drive a lawyer mad!

Stress. Woman stressed is going crazy pulling her hair in frustration. Close-up of young businesswoman on white.

So what does the future hold?

In the talk I took a journey through the key areas for a lawyer to see how things could become simpler. How do we go from the existing, at times still very Windows XP type world, to a simpler future?


Documents are key to a lawyer and in this space Microsoft are already moving into a much simpler Office model with Office365. The ability to edit documents on different devices or on the web. Bringing mobility and allowing you access, through OneDrive, to your documents wherever you are. And the big DMS (Document Management System) providers get this, talking to the new HP  free iManage you get the feeling they understand this new world and have real plans for the direction Microsoft are going. In the shorter term they are already releasing versions of their mobility app on iOS that allows easy editing within mobile versions of Office.

NetDocuments are also aware of this and have plans for 365, they’re also in the cloud already so document access anywhere is easy.

Finally I touched on some discussions I’d had with Microsoft and their move to look at allowing document mark up using their pen technology that they have with the Surface. Imagine being able to mark up the documents with a pen and then manage them inside the .docx using track changes/comments in document review.


Here I briefly talked about the IntApp/Rekoop merger and the indication that there is a real understanding of the mobile news of lawyers, moving their technology very much into the cloud and mobile space.


Finally I talked about communications and how in the consumer world it’s simple enough for grandparents to set up and use video calls, but that also we need to be aware that there is a new wave of people entering the workplace where using a phone to talk is quite alien! A lot of law firms are using Skype for Business, some enlightened ones are actually replacing handsets off desks and really making calls and IM truly mobile.

Skyping the Grandparents

What do you mean talk?


The final section of the talk took a look at mobility, looking at the different ways two software giants are taking. Focusing on mobile as the device or looking more at the mobile person.

The mobile lawyer


The Citrix strategy seems more about making your desktop or your application available on many devices, so in the talk I showed the concept of running your firms desktop on an iPhone or iPad using Citrix Receiver (and XenApp or XenDesktop in your datacentre). I also showed a cool device that Citrix have launched called the X1 Mouse, this talks to Citrix Receiver on the iOS device and allows you to use a mouse with an iPad! So when paired with a Bluetooth keyboard aswell gives a very mobile desktop experience.

Citrix Receiver and the X1 mouse in action 1Citrix Receiver and the X1 mouse in action 2

Citrix Receiver and the X1 mouse in action 3Citrix Receiver and the X1 mouse in action 4



Then I looked at Microsoft’s strategy, which is more about developing the apps as universal apps. This allows them to run on any device size, but change the behaviour based on that size. It also has the advantage of not needing a large datacentre implementations to facilitate it. Plug it into a full screen and it just works like a desktop app. So as you can see from the images below you plug the phone into a dock (which has USB ports for peripherals, e.g. mouse and keyboard but also USB drives etc) and it behaves like a Windows 10 desktop with start menu etc. Clearly Windows Phone (or Windows 10 Mobile) hasn’t a huge market share, but I think Microsoft’s play is to bring in a new kind of smaller computing device to work on rather than go after a smartphone consumer. It is a concept much as the first Surface RT was, one that will iterate a couple of times until we all go “Oh Yeah, now I get it!”

Microsoft continuum in action 1Microsoft continuum in action 2

Microsoft continuum in action 3Microsoft continuum in action 4


I finished off summarising things by saying what lawyers really want for their future world are two simple things:

  1. Get the basis right – make the documents, finance, communications apps quick, simple and easy to use without all the complexity.
  2. Mobility – prepare for a world that makes it possible for a lawyer to do their work wherever they are on whatever they want. This is the mobile lawyer, not the mobile phone.

I did have a few slides at the end on Artificial Intelligence, but this was really as it was mentioned in my early synopsis and I needed to at least touch on why I hadn’t covered it in detail!

You can listen to the talk in full and see a copy of the slides to follow on the British Legal Technology Forum website.


Sep 22 2015

Outlook groups in Office365 – this could put the nail in the coffin for emails sent to all and sundry


I came across a small article on news site for Windows Phone (yes, yes, small readership) about a new beta app from Microsoft called Outlook Groups. This is a feature I hadn’t heard much about, but that has apparently been introduced to Online Outlook in Office365. Anyway long story short, this could very well be one of the best additions to Outlook in a long time. A way to finally kill all those “All-<insert distribution list here>” emails that clog up exchange email systems of law firms. Basically it’s a collaboration space built around groups.

Say you have a distribution list for “Project Work Related”, rather than create a traditional list of email addresses under the distribution list you create an Outlook Group. People are then added to the group.

Outlook Online Page

You can then email this “distribution list”, the emails are collated though in the Group view as shown above, I can reply to the conversation in this view. I can also start new threads. So rather than having to find emails and threads in my Inbox where I lose context of the particular project in amongst all the other junk email I see all the communication in one place.

Outlook Groups AppAs well as using Online Outlook to view and collaborate with the group I can continue the conversation using the mobile app.

The emails I send and receive also appear in my Inbox, this to me is both a pro and a con. Pro: I can continue to use a familiar tool (Desktop Outlook) and therefore don’t have to go to yet another product to use groups. Con: It’s not quite getting rid of my email clutter, though I know I can delete the emails quickly if they are emailed to the group. Maybe Office 2016 will integrate groups much better than the Office 2013 client shown below?



But the great thing about the groups concept is that it isn’t limited to just email, it hooks in the whole Office365 ecosystem. So as soon as I create the group I get a shared calendar (events are displayed in the group and I can simply click or tap a link to add to my own calendar).

Calendar Event

I get a OneNote notebook, where the group can share notes amongst its members.


And finally I get a OneDrive space for my documents. So for example I can add and use documents using either the outlook group page or outlook group app above. However I can also go into my Onedrive and get access to the documents there.


Now at the moment it looks like the functionality isn’t integrated into the OneNote apps, nor directly in the Onedrive apps. So I can’t go into the Onedrive app on my iPad or Windows Phone and get the documents (even though I have my Onedrive for Business account set up). But I really can’t see why this functionality won’t be extended into these apps, when it does it will mean direct from within the Office Apps (Word, Excel etc) on the iPad I have access to create and edit documents within my group space.

For me this is the really exciting part for law firms. Having all the shared emails, documents, notes all in one place and that one place not being your personal inbox is fantastic. It will be interesting to see when the Office 2016 announcements soon, whether the groups functionality is brought into the desktop applications as well. Imagine if this collaboration space was surfaced through Outlook 2016 on the desktop, through the Outlook apps on your phone and online. That the documents could be edited directly from Word 2016 or Work on your iPad. And that notes made on the train on your iPhone would appear in the same notebook as your colleagues OneNote on their desktop in the office.

The question for Legal IT vendors, particularly in the document management and collaboration space, is how they will react. Surely the time is coming again to stop the proliferation of point solutions and hook up to the Microsoft 365 bandwagon. This has got to be the future for document and email dominated industries like law firms surely!

For a more in depth look at the features of groups have a look at this WindowsITPro article

Legend of the Boy and the dyke