Scanning Documents for eCourt

mouseIn my last two posts, I discussed the 10 steps all practitioners should take to get ready for eCourt and how to manage the anxiety and stress of transitioning to the eCourt system.

This week the focus is on two essential eCourt tools: PDF and OCR software. 

Efficiency with a 2 in 1 Solution

There is no doubt in my mind that a two-in-one solution is best: PDF conversion software with OCR capability built-in. 

Most practitioners know immediately what a PDF document is, but not everyone is familiar with the acronym OCR

OCR refers to “optical character recognition,” and OCR software does exactly that.  It takes a scanned image – like your printed pleading document – and uses software to recognize the text on the page, making your scanned document searchable.  This is a necessity for eFiling under the Uniform Trial Court Rules. 

Software that can perform these two functions simultaneously is a great time saver. 

Assuming you have a working scanner that meets your needs and is compatible with your operating system (Mac OS or Windows 7/8), the next step is to get your hands on two-in-one PDF and OCR software.  If you don’t already have a scanner, see last week’s post for suggestions

Top Three Choices for PDF/OCR Software

  1. For me, the number one choice for PDF/OCR software is Acrobat XI.  As I said last week: get the “Pro” version for the redaction features. Adobe is running a 20% off sale on monthly subscriptions for two more days (the sale expires December 3).  See last week’s post to learn more.
  2. Nuance Power PDF Advanced would be my second choice.  Over the years, Nuance has expanded product features to compete against Acrobat – to the consumer’s benefit. 
  3. Coming in last is PrimoPDF.  I admit this is my personal bias, however, I don’t feel it is as robust as the other two choices. 

All three of these programs convert to PDF and all three have OCR software built-in to make your scanned documents text searchable. 

Setting Acrobat XI Pro to OCR Automatically

By default, Acrobat XI Pro should be set to OCR automatically if you initiate document scanning by using the program.  To verify that Acrobat XI Pro is set to OCR automatically, follow these steps:

  1. Start Acrobat XI Pro 
  2. Select Create
  3. Choose “PDF from Scanner”
  4. Move your cursor to the bottom right of the pop-up menu and select “Configure Presets…”
  5. Toward the bottom of the “Configure Presets…” box, verify that “Optimize Scanned PDFs” and “Make Searchable (Run OCR)” are selected
  6. Click Save then Close

Acrobat XI Pro will retain these settings.  As long as you initiate a scan from within Acrobat XI Pro, your documents will automatically be OCRed.  Follow these five simple steps to scan a document using Acrobat XI Pro:

  1. Load the document(s) in your scanner
  2. Start Acrobat XI Pro 
  3. Select Create
  4. Choose “PDF from Scanner”
  5. Select Black & White Document

and you’re done! 

Prove to Yourself that Your Scanned Document is Text Searchable

To prove that your PDF is searchable, type <ctrl> F if you are a Windows user; <command> F if you are a Mac user.  The “Find” box pops up:

find box

Enter a search term you know is contained within your document, such as your client’s name.  Click Next.  In a text searchable PDF, Acrobat XI Pro will jump to the first instance where the search term is found.

[All Rights Reserved – 2014 – Beverly Michaelis]

 

 

 

 

Learn by Doing: Acrobat Tips and Tricks

Mandatory eCourt in Oregon is just around the corner. By court rule, all documents submitted through the eFiling system must be in PDF or PDF/A format and practitioners need to get up to speed now.

How can you become a power user of Acrobat, the powerful PDF authoring software?  By connecting to resources like the Adobe Acrobat Users Community and Acrolaw, the Acrobat for Legal Professionals blog.  Consider the usefulness of these shares and posts:

Subscribing to Acrolaw Posts

To follow the posts on Acrolaw [Acrobat for Legal Professionals] visit the home page, scroll down, and in the right navigation pane, choose the ACROLAW RSS FEED or under the BLOGROLL heading, select the third option “Sign up to get my Blog via email.”  Under BLOGROLL you can also follow the author, Rick Borstein, on Twitter or link to his training movies.

Accessing the Acrobat Users Community

Anyone can access the Adobe Acrobat Users Community. Visit the Web page for tutorials, quick tips, resources, and to submit questions.  If you prefer, the users community is active in social media.  Consider following the community on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, or LinkedIn. You can also sign up for the AUC [Adobe Acrobat Users Community] Newsletter.

Buying Acrobat at a Discount

If you don’t already own Acrobat XI Pro – the latest version with all the bells and whistles – Adobe is offering a special deal through December 3: $14.99 per month if you commit for a year; $29.99 per month if you don’t.  [$29.99 per month is the regular rate.] Read more about Acrobat XI Pro here.

All Rights Reserved [2014] Beverly Michaelis

 

Word to WordPerfect Conversion: How to Strip Formatting

If you’re a Corel WordPerfect aficionado, chances are you’ve been frustrated by the “hidden” codes in Microsoft Word documents.

While there are various ways to see Word’s “hidden” formatting, sometimes it’s just easier to strip the formatting out.  Here’s how:

  • Start WordPad*
  • Select File, Open…
  • If you are converting a .doc file – change All WordPad Documents (*.rtf, *.docx, *.odt, *.txt) to All Documents (*.*).  If you are converting a .docx file, there is no need to change this setting.
  • Browse to locate the Word file.  Double-click to open it.
  • Select File, Save as.  Choose Plain Text Document.
  • This warning appears:2014-09-11_15-12-38
  • Click Yes.
  • Close WordPad.
  • Open the file in WordPerfect.  If you receive a prompt to convert file format, click OK.  Format your document as desired in WordPerfect.

*WordPad is a free text editor/basic word processor that ships with Windows.  Find it quickly by using Search all programs and files.

[All Rights Reserved 2014 Beverly Michaelis]

Opening or Converting Old Forms – Tips for Mac Users

As Mac users know, not all legal forms are Mac-friendly (especially older forms).  For untitledexample, what if a colleague sends you a document created in Microsoft Word 97/Windows?

If you have Pages, you should be able to open a Word 97 document without a file converter. Try these steps.

If you have Microsoft Office for Mac, you can search the Download Center for a file converter, but the only one I could spot was the Microsoft Word 97, 98, and 2000 Converter for the Macintosh.  Office for Mac 2011 users report there is no converter for newer versions of office and old files created on the Windows platform do not open.  If you’re an Office user, what should you do?

  • Open the old form in Pages first, then resave it.
  • Try the Insert > File or Insert > Object > Text from File… command.  Launch Word, select Insert > File or Insert > Object > Text from File… browse and find the old form, click Insert.  Inserting a text file into a blank document in Word strips out formatting.  It often works better than using File > Open to access a document created in a non-compatible word processing program.
  • Ask the colleague who provided the form if he or she can resave it for you.  Options include: a newer version of Word for Windows, Word for the Mac, Rich text format (.rtf file), or PDF.  If a PDF is created electronically or scanned then OCRd, you should be able to copy and paste text from the body of the PDF into Word 2011 for the Mac or Pages.  You can also save a PDF as a Word document in Acrobat.
  • Try an online file converter, such as ZamzarOnline-ConvertCloud Convert, or Convert Files.

Final Words of Wisdom

Old forms may be “old” and not converted to a newer platform or software version for a reason – they are old and shouldn’t be used.  Before going to all this effort, be certain this is a form worth converting, meaning it is valid and still legally viable.

All Rights Reserved [2014] Beverly Michaelis

 

 

Cyber Security and Data Breach Response

lock“Cyber threat is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation.”  Barack Obama, President of the United States

The Identity Theft Resource Center has documented over 500 data breaches in 2014 through early September.  This represents a 26.2% increase over the same time period last year. The news isn’t any better for the legal profession.

The latest ABA Legal Technology Survey Report notes that “Nearly half of law firms were infected with viruses, spyware or malware last year.”  Fourteen percent of law firms “experienced a security breach last year in the form of a lost or stolen computer or smartphone, a hacker, a break-in or a website exploit.”

Where to Start

With such staggering numbers, it is easy to become overwhelmed.  If you are concerned about cyber security but don’t know where to start, begin here at the ABA Web site. If you are a prolific user of mobile devices, be sure to check out the ABA’s suggestions for Security on the Go.  To understand the state of security in US law firms, read this post by Bob Ambrogi.

Make Encryption Your Best Friend

Encryption is a powerful way to protect sensitive data belonging to you and your clients. The ABA post Playing it Safe provides a good overview.  Since TrueCyrpt is no longer available, check out the following reviews of encryption software: LIfehacker, GFI, PC World, and Gizmo.

You’ve Heard it Before: Use Strong Passwords

It seems we are reminding lawyers every other day about the importance of using strong passwords unique to each account or Web site.  See these recent posts on the ABA Law Technology Today blog:

Firewalls, Anti-Spam, Anti-Virus, Malware Protection

The best protection is comprehensive.  This excerpt from The 2014 Solo and Small Firm Technology Guide provides guidance.  Don’t be afraid to hire an IT expert to help.

Purchase Cyber Liability and Data Breach Coverage

The Professional Liability Fund (PLF) Excess Claims Made Plan automatically includes a cyber liability and data breach response endorsement with these features:

  • Forensic and legal assistance to determine compliance with applicable law
  • Notifications to individuals as required by law
  • 12 months credit monitoring to each notified client
  • Loss mitigation resources for law firms

If you aren’t eligible or don’t wish to purchase excess coverage through the PLF, contact a commercial carrier.

Protect Yourself Against Scams

The security measures outlined above are a good start toward protecting your firm and your clients from scams.  For more complete protection, get educated.  Order the free PLF CLE: “Protecting Your Firm and Your Client from Scams, Fraud, and Financial Loss,” and talk to your bank about fraud protection services.

[All Rights Reserved – 2014 – Beverly Michaelis]

 

 

The State of Law Firm Security

Viruses are More Common at Law Firms than Encryption, ABA Survey Shows

Firms-with-virus

“Nearly half of law firms were infected with viruses, spyware or malware last year, according to the latest ABA Legal Technology Survey Report. At the same time, only a quarter of law firms had any kind of email encryption available for their lawyers to use, the survey found.

Also, 14% of law firms experienced a security breach last year in the form of a lost or stolen computer or smartphone, a hacker, a break-in or a website exploit.”

Bob Ambrogi

Read the full post here.

Taming AutoCorrect in Microsoft Office

14526236790_b44b8d57ba_zIs AutoCorrect in Microsoft Office driving you batty?  Don’t despair.  Like most features in Office, the settings are completely within your control.

By choosing File > Options in Microsoft Office, you can:

Changes made to AutoCorrect in any Office program are global.  For example, if you delete the AutoCorrect entry in Outlook which converts tm to the superscript ™ trademark symbol, this change will apply in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.  acNOTE:  This does not mean the trademark symbol is forever lost, only that Office will stop autocorrecting tm when typed with parentheses.  You can still insert the superscript version at will by choosing Insert > Symbol.

To add, delete, modify, or rename AutoCorrect entries in Office 2010 or 2013, follow these steps.  In Office 2007, launch Word, select the Office Button > Word Options > Proofing > AutoCorrect Options:

ac optionsAs noted above, changes made to AutoCorrect options in Word will apply throughout Office.  It isn’t necessary to open each program individually to modify AutoCorrect entries.

All Rights Reserved [2014] Beverly Michaelis

 

Getting the Most Out of MS Office for iPad

So you’ve download Office for iPad, now what?  Learn how to get the most out of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint by watching the tutorials available from InvestinTech.  If you are new to Office for iPad, start with the General Tips.  Some of the more popular InvestinTech topics are:

Each tutorial includes screen shots and easy-to-follow instructions.

InvestinTech is primarily known as PDF solution provider.  While on the site, check out their line of PDF products.  If you’re not in the market to buy, InvestinTech also offers some nifty FREE tools:

  • Slim PDF Reader
  • Docx to Doc Online
  • PDF to HTML Online
  • HTML CSS Templates
  • PowerPoint Templates
  • Able2Extract Mobile Apps – Allows you to convert PDFs into editable Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files, and create PDFs on your mobile device.

Share your favorite Office for iPad tips by commenting below.  Enjoy!

Beverly Michaelis [2014] All Rights Reserved.

Email Filing Assistants for the Mac

Are you tired of dragging messages to Inbox folders?  Try using an email filing assistant to speed up the process!

How do Email Filing Assistants (EFAs) Work?

Email filing assistants help “automate” filing of email into folders by using algorithms to learn and adapt to your email filing habits.  After you “train” the assistant for a time, filing email in the correct folder is a simple process.

Whether you are sending a message or replying to a message, the filing assistant “guesses” which folder the message belongs in.  (Accuracy rates are 80-90%).  There are no configuration wizards, no set-up, and no rules to maintain.

EFAs for Mac Users

I’ve written before about electronic filing assistants for PC/Outlook users, but what about Mac?

Option One – EFA Lite 2 or EFA 3 from Schulz

The first contender is the Email Filing Assistant from Schulz Software. The company offers a free versionEFA Lite 2 and a pro version for $6.99 – EFA 3.  Both are compatible with Apple Mail and require Mac OS X or later.  This chart explains the differences between the two versions.  EFA Lite 2 is unrated in the App Store.  EFA 3 (the pro version) has a three-star rating from 8 reviewers.

If you are tempted by EFA’s free version, check out this post from Addictive TipsEFA does not offer support or documentation, although there is an FAQ page. A few testimonials are available here.

Option Two – Msg Filer

A second option is MsgFiler.  From the outset, MsgFiler seems to be a more tried and true brand – touting a rating of 4.5 mice from Macworld and 4.5 stars from 130 reviewers on the App Store.  The testimonials are numerous.  Support appears to be more robust than EFA and the documentation section of the MsgFiler site has helpful screenshots and detailed how-tos.  The app is $9.99 in the Mac App Store, and from all appearances is well worth it.

All Rights Reserved – Beverly Michaelis [2014]

 

 

 

Case Numbers are Not Unique – Oregon eCourt Week

This is the final post in my week-long series on Oregon eCourt. Today we take note of a small, but potentially important detail: case numbers are not unique in the eCourt system.

After logging on, eCourt users have an option to search case records, court calendars, or find judgments with money awards. If you elect to search Civil, Family and Probate Case Records, the following search screen appears:

search screenThe first option is to search by Case Number. Here is an actual search result that generated three listings in three different jurisdictions for the identical Case Number. Identifying information has been redacted for privacy reasons:

case numbers

Identical case numbers across judicial districts do not pose a problem so long as you are aware of the possibility.

Other Options when Searching Case Records

Searching by Case Number is the first option presented when searching case records. Users may also search by Party, Attorney, or Date Filed.

other search criteria

All Rights Reserved [2014] Beverly Michaelis.