Get Your Financial House in Order Now

thFor the last few years I’ve shared an
annual tradition with you: getting financial records organized for year-end.

This entails gathering up receipts, identifying deductible expenses, updating your accounts, running reports, and possibly pre-paying some 2017 bills.  Whew!

Fight the Urge to Procrastinate

With all the responsibilities that vie for our attention this time of year, it’s easy to push aside the task of gathering, organizing, and updating financial records.  Don’t succumb!

Getting organized for year-end is an absolute necessity – especially for the sole practitioner.

Step 1: Get Started

If needed, begin with a little background reading from the experts:

General Tips on Tax Preparation

Tax Deductions FOR SOLOS AND HOME-BASED LAW PRACTICES

Step 2: Learn How to Organize Tax Records

Step 3:  Begin the Process by Chipping Away at Organization and Prep

I don’t recommend a marathon session of tax organization and prep.  The only time it makes sense to do this is if you’ve procrastinated and you’re up against a filing deadline. The point here is to avoid that.  It’s too stressful!  And as we all know: when you’re up against a deadline the odds of making a mistake rise exponentially.  Let’s not go there.

Instead, open your calendar and schedule some dates to start gathering and organizing records.  30 or 60 minute appointments will allow you to chip away and make progress:

First appointment

Assuming your accounts are reasonably up to date (income and expense entries are current), do a quick check. Does it make sense to pre-pay 2017 expenses [bar dues, professional liability coverage, rent] or contribute to your IRA/retirement fund? Make this assessment early to take advantage of 2016 deductions.

Second appointment

Prepare to organize your records.  Physically gather receipts.  If necessary, schedule follow-up appointments to finish the process.  If your records are digital, use this time to pull all receipts into one 2016 expense folder.  If you have unscanned receipts, catch up on your scanning.

Third appointment

If you are paper-based, label a manila envelope “Personal Expenses.” Start sorting your paper receipts.  For now, anything that is a personal expense goes into the “Personal Expenses” envelope to be dealt with later.  If your records are digital, create a file folder labeled “2016 Personal Expenses” and segregate personal receipts.  Once you’ve achieved this basic separation, start organizing your business expenses.  This can be done a variety of ways – see the reading above.  While date order is good, it is preferable to sort by expense category first, then by date.  If necessary, schedule follow-up appointments to finish the process.

Future appointments

You get the drift. Even the most robust procrastinator can generally commit to increments of 30 or 60 minute appointments.  Keep moving.  Anything you do helps advance the cause.

Step 4: Jumping Ahead to the CPA

If you already work with a CPA, hallelujah!  If your CPA is like mine, he or she will automatically send you a tax organization packet, which will go a long way toward helping with the steps above.

You Do your own taxes?

I know some of you are stubbornly independent, as I once was, and you prepare your own taxes, as I once did.  Please: at least contact a CPA for a ballpark estimate of what it would cost to delegate this task.  What can it hurt?  You can still prepare your own taxes if you prefer.

But my taxes are simple!

Kudos! Guess what?  The cost to prepare your return will be nominal.  If your taxes are complex, anything you pay a CPA will be well worth it.

I have used CPAs for business, personal, and trust-related tax preparation and have never been sorry I did.  The prep work is enough for me!  Try it at least once and see what you think.  I’ll bet you free admission to one of my future CLEs that you won’t go back to doing your own tax returns.  Select the Contact page on the menu above to take me up on this offer.

A Quick Thought About Apps

The tech-savvy among may you may be curious about apps, so here are two suggestions: 7 of the Best Apps to Scan, Track, & Manage Receipts and Best Free Finance Apps for the iPhone and iPad.  (The latter is my list of favorites.)

Parting Thoughts

Get started now by scheduling those appointments on your calendar!  I promise you that doing a bit here and there makes the process less overwhelming.  Good luck!

All Rights Reserved – Beverly Michaelis [2016]

Editing Scanned PDFs in Acrobat XI or DC

There are two options for editing scanned PDFs in Acrobat.  Selecting an approach will depend on the extent of your edits.

Using Acrobat for Small Edits

If your edits are minimal – correcting a word here or there – Acrobat’s built-in content editing will do the job.

The first step is to make a copy of the document you want to edit.  This will protect the original, and if anything goes awry, you can start over.

Directions for Acrobat XI

  • Open the copy of your document in Acrobat.
  • Select Tools (top, right corner of the program).
  • This exposes the tools pane:

Tools pane

  • Choose ► Content Editing.
  • Select Edit Text & Images.

edit text and images

  • Select the text you want to edit.
  • Edit the text by doing one of the following:
    • Select a font, font size, or other formatting options under Format in the right hand pane.
    • You can also use the advanced format options, such as line spacing, character spacing, horizontal scaling, stroke width, and color.

font box dc

  • Click outside the selection to deselect it and start over.
  • When done editing, resave the file with your changes.

Directions for Acrobat DC

  • Open the copy of your document in Acrobat.
  • Choose Tools > Edit PDF > Edit.

Edit box

  • Select the text you want to edit.
  • Edit the text by doing one of the following:
    • Select a font, font size, or other formatting options under Format in the right hand pane.
    • You can also use the advanced format options, such as line spacing, character spacing, horizontal scaling, stroke width, and color.

font box dc

  • Click outside the selection to deselect it and start over.
  • When done editing, resave the file with your changes.

Looking at Your PDF in Content Editing Mode

When you are editing a PDF in Acrobat, your text will look like the image below – Acrobat surrounds each segment (headings, subheadings, paragraphs, numbers, and footer) with a text box.  Each text box must be edited separately.

page

Problems You Might Encounter Using Acrobat’s Content Editor

Making small edits with Acrobat works well because document formatting is rarely affected.  Making extensive edits can be a nightmare.  Here are some of the problems you might run into trying to edit a PDF in Acrobat:

  • Inserted text doesn’t match the font style in the document.  If the document font isn’t in your system there is nothing you can do about the mismatch.  However, before you give up, check the list of available fonts in Acrobat. Matching the document font may be as easy as changing the default font style and size in Acrobat’s Content Editing box.
  • Edits cause the text boxes to shrink or grow in undesirable ways, affecting formatting.  [Tips on how to fix this appear below.]
  • PDF can’t be edited/error messages appear. This occurs when your PDF does not have “recognizable” or “renderable” text – meaning it hasn’t been OCR’d yet.  When a PDF is created directly from a software application [like Word, WordPerfect, or another program], the resulting PDF file automatically has “recognizable” or “renderable” text.  This attribute makes the PDF searchable and editable.  If a PDF is created by scanning, it must be OCR’d before editing so the text is “recognizable.” To OCR a PDF using Acrobat XI, see this tutorial.  To OCR a PDF using Acrobat DC, follow this link. Running text recognition (OCRing) a scanned PDF isn’t a big deal, but it is one more step in the process of using Acrobat as a content editor.

Addressing Text Box Issues

You can fix issues with text boxes by understanding how they work.

When you click inside a text box, Acrobat places handles around the box.  The handles look like solid squares: ■  Here is an example:

example of a text box

You can grab any handle (solid square) by clicking it with your mouse.  Grabbing one of the handles allows you to make the box taller, shorter, wider, or narrower.   I can shrink the text box in the last example and make it narrower and taller like this:

shrunken text box

This is important, because as I said, if you delete or insert too much text, the formatting of your document will be affected.  Therefore, you need to master the skill of manipulating text boxes or your text edits won’t look right.

Using Word’s Editing Power for PDFs

If you have more than a few edits, consider saving the PDF as a Word document.  You’ll have more control over the editing, and will likely save yourself some frustration.

Saving a PDF as a Word Document in Acrobat XI

  • Open the document in Acrobat.
  • Select File, Save as Other … ►.
  • Choose Microsoft Word, then select “Word Document” if you have Word 2007 or later or “Word 97-2003” if you have an earlier version of Word.
  • Give the document a name.
  • Browse to a location where you want to save the document.
  • Select Save.
  • Open the document in Word and start editing.

Saving a PDF as a Word Document in Acrobat DC

  • Open the document in Acrobat.
  • Choose File > Export To > Microsoft Word, then select “Word Document” if you have Word 2007 later or “Word 97-2003” if you have an earlier version of Word.
  • Click Export. The Export dialog box is displayed.
  • In the Export dialog box, give the document a name and browse to the location where you want to save the file.
  • Click Save to export the PDF.
  • Open the document in Word and start editing.

Converting Your Edited Word Document Back to PDF

To save a PDF of the edited Word document:

  • Click on the Microsoft Office Button.
  • Choose Print ► Print.
  • In the printer list, click the down arrow and choose the “Adobe PDF” printer:

pdf printer

  • Click OK.

Alternatively, you can save a PDF of the edited Word document using File, Save As:

  • Click on the Microsoft Office Button, choose Save As ►and select PDF or XPS.
  • Give the document a name.
  • Browse to the location where you want to save the document.
  • Select Save.

Conclusion

Changing a word or two?  Use Content Editing in Acrobat.  To revise entire sentences or paragraphs, convert the PDF to Word first (or obtain a copy of the document in its native application).  For a video demo of how text editing is done in Acrobat, watch this tutorial.

All Rights Reserved 2016. Beverly Michaelis

The Best of TECHSHOW – Tablet and Smartphone Apps

This is another post from my “best of” ABA TECHSHOW series.  Today  – supercool apps for tablets and smartphones.

Build a Visual Timeline

BeeDocs  – This app turns a dull timeline into an engaging 3D/multimedia presentation.  Chart dates, times, amounts, distances, prices, quantities – just about anything – in a visually appealing format to help clients (or jurors) better understand historical events.  Publish to the Web, create presentations, or add a visual timeline to a PDF.

Settlement Apps

Picture It Settled – Helps parties evaluate cases with probabilistic scenarios.  Draws on historically successful negotiating rounds to help users plot successful negotiation moves.  Uses the Settlement Prophet™ application to project when the parties are likely to settle and the amount of the settlement.

Scanning on the Go

Genius Scan, Scanner Pro, Text Grabber – Scan, crop, straighten, organize, and share images or documents quickly and easily by e-mail or through cloud services like Dropbox and Evernote.

158_iPhone_img3World Card – Capture business cards and sort them automatically by name, company, position, address, phone number, e-mail address and other fields.  Exports to address book – no more entering information manually.

Office Suite Productivity

OfficeSuite Pro 7 (Android only) and QuickOfficePro (Android and iOS) – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF for mobile users.

CloudOn – The full power of applications like Microsoft Office®, the convenience of cloud storage and more—all in your very own workspace in the cloud. Best mobile app for redlining/tracked changes.

iPadObjectTimekeeping

iTimeKeep – Enter time from anywhere, securely access matters back at the office, apply billing codes to time entries, run spell check.  Free trial version available from the App store.

Presentation Apps

Haiku Deck and SlideShark – Solid choices for presentation apps. Haiku Deck impresses with amazing images.  SlideShark is ideal for conversion of PowerPoint slides created on your desktop.

PDF and File Management Appsgr-icon-96

PDF Expert – Simple PDF conversion and markup. Integrates with Dropbox.  Easy to use signature feature, compatible with fillable forms.  Goodreader – The “Swiss Army Knife” of PDF readers with the ability to replicate desktop file management and structures.

Notetaking on the Fly

OneNote Mobile (free for up to 500 notes), Notability (syncs with Dropbox), Penultimate (syncs with Evernote), and Noteshelf (file notes into different books, download templates and themes including planners, grid paper, stationery, and more.)

Security Apps

1PasswordPro – 1Password will securely store your important information and automatically log you in to Web sites with a single tap.  No need to remember your username, password, or even the Web site address.

Lookout – Virus protection, backup, and location of your missing device.

Thanks to

Tom Mighell, James Province, Jeffrey Taylor, Ben Schorr, Dan Pinnington, and
Mark I. Unger for all the great apps!

All Rights Reserved – Beverly Michaelis – 2013

The Best of TECHSHOW – Tips and Tricks

Every year the ABA TECHSHOW brings together some of the best legal technology minds our profession has to offer.  This year was no exception.  Over the next few posts I’ll share what I learned at this year’s conference.  Today: the best of 60 Tips in 60 Minutes.

Microsoft Office

Office Ribbon getting in the way? 

Use Ctrl F1 to toggle it off (and on).

View recently opened documents in Word with a quick right click

Want to see the most recently opened items in Word?  Right click on the Word icon on your desktop.  A list of recently opened items appears (whether Word is launched or not.)

Recover unsaved Word 2010/2013 documents or Excel 2010/2013 Workbooks

If your computer crashes and you haven’t saved your document or spreadsheet, act fast to recover your document. In Word or Excel 2010/2013, select File > Info > Manage Versions to recover your unsaved documents.

Print a blank Outlook calendar

A blank Outlook calendar can be handy for coordinating with others, but how can you print one that doesn’t show scheduled court dates, client appointments, or other events?  Easy!  The steps vary according to your version of Outlook.  Here are links to the instructions: Outlook 2007, Outlook 2010, Outlook 2013.

imagesReveal a sender’s full e-mail address

Sometimes e-mail messages only show the sender’s name.  If you want to see the full e-mail address, follow these steps:  In the blue message header, mouse over the name, right click, choose properties > show full e-mail address.

Need a system to follow-up on sent e-mails? 

Here are two approaches.

Option 1 – Create a “Waiting For” folder in Outlook

Drag e-mails that require a follow-up to this destination. If desired, add a “code” to the body of your message like “wff” (Waiting For Folder).  Create an Outlook rule that looks for this code and auto-files the messages that contain it in the Waiting For Folder.

Option 2 – The cc: method

Set up a “Delegated Mail” folder in Outlook.  Copy yourself on all e-mails that require a follow-up.  Create an Outlook rule that checks messages when they arrive, looks for your name as the sender and for your name in the cc: box.  Direct the rule to file messages that meet this criteria in a “Delegated Mail” folder.

Eliminate long, redundant e-mail threads

In Outlook 2010/2013, delete redundant e-mail strings by using “Clean Up a Conversation.”  The clean up function removes the prior e-mails and keeps only the most recent message – which has the entire thread.

How about a handy shortcut to an e-mail address? 

Create one right on your desktop.  Right click, select New > Shortcut.  In the “Create Shortcut” dialog box, type mailto: and the desired e-mail address. For example: mailto:joesmith@gmail.com (leave no spaces between the colon and the e-mail address). Click Finish.  You can now send an e-mail to Joe directly from your desktop without launching Outlook.

Never forget an attachment again

Download CodeTwo and never forget an e-mail attachment again.  This free download looks for keywords in the body of your e-mail like “enclosed” and “attached” and reminds you to add an attachment before your e-mail is sent.

Bloated e-mail inbox?

Clean it up with Outlook’s cleanup tools.  Choose File > Info > Cleanup Tools.  Choose Mailbox Cleanup… to manage the size of your mailbox with advanced tools, empty deleted items permanently, or move old items to an archive folder.

Disabling “reply to all” or “forwarding”

To prevent clients from forwarding e-mails or using “reply to all” inappropriately use this workaround to disable the functionality.  Yes, a persistent user can still “copy and paste” the body of your e-mail into a new message, but disabling forwarding or “reply to all” tends to stop 99% of perpetrators.

Work with clients or collaborate with colleagues in a different time zone?

Follow these easy steps to add a second time zone to your calendar in Outlook.

Open Your Mail and Calendar in Separate Windows

It can be annoying to toggle back and forth between your mail and other components of Outlook.  From anywhere in Outlook’s Navigation pane (Inbox, Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, Notes) right click on the second Outlook item you wish to view and choose “Open in new window.”

Security and Privacy

Looking for a secure flash drive?

Here are three good options: Imation Defender F200 Biometric, Aegis Secure Key, CMS Secure Vault FIPS.

Computer Screen Privacy

Keep prying eyes off your computer screen with PrivateEye from Oculis. Using facial recognition, the software instantly blurs your monitor if you leave your desk or turn away.

Wish you could monitor your servers remotely?

lockYou can with PC Monitor.  Compatible with iPad, iPhone, iPod. Free for non-commercial use.

Secure external hard drives

Just as flash drives should be encrypted or protected with biometrics, lawyers should take similar precautions to secure external hard drives.  Here are three choices:   Lenovo ThinkPad USB 3.0 Secure Hard Drive, Aegis Padlock, CMS Secure Disk Vault.

That Pesky Facebook

If you love connecting with friends and family on Facebook, but are worried about who might have access to your data, check out MyPermissions. Sign up to receive alerts when a Facebook app gains access to your personal information.

Productivity

Addicted to multiple monitors and wish you had one for the road?

You can with the portable Lenovo ThinkVision LT1421 14″ widescreen LED travel monitor.  Available on Amazon for under $200.

Looking for a fast, simple solution for installing apps on your new computer?

Try Ninite – directly download the most commonly used Web apps with no muss, no fuss.

proMeet the new scanner on the block

Everyone knows about the Fujitsu Scansnap s1500, but meet the new and improved kid on the block:  the Fujitsu Scansnap iX500. Bundled with Adobe Acrobat Standard, supports scanning to iOS and Android devices, improved resolution, and improved paper handling.  A work horse for under $500.  Ideal for most solos or as a supplementary scanner deployed at workstations throughout your office.

Stop carpal tunnel in its tracks

To avoid carpal tunnel, your keyboard must be appropriately positioned for your use. 3M offers quality keyboard trays that do the trick for around $160.

Why is your fillable form blank?

To “lock in” the contents of a fillable form, you must flatten the PDF.  Here’s how in Acrobat 9.  In Acrobat X or later, use an action.

Tip Grab Bag

Shopping for the best cloud service to backup your data?imagesCAVCNTYX

Visit Backup Review or follow the site on Twitter @backupreview – new reviews daily.

Splash happens.  Want to waterproof your iPhone?

Not a bad idea since water damage voids the warranty.  Try Liquipel.

Are you on LinkedIn

Did you know that you can reposition the components of your LinkedIn profile to feature preferred content? By default, Experience, Skills & Expertise, and Education appear “below the fold” after Activity and Background.  If you prefer a different sort order, simply drag and drop.

Many thanks to the 60 Tips in 60 Minutes presenters for all these great ideas

All Rights Reserved – Beverly Michaelis – 2013