The field of court reporting, like all professions, is constantly evolving. How technology has changed since my first days out of reporting school! At that time, one’s arsenal of supplies consisted of a writer, typewriter, and an extensive library stocked with dictionaries, Roget’s Thesaurus, medical phrase books, maps, telephone books, and much more.
Of course, today we have the luxury of the Internet and Google to aid us in our quest for proper and correct spellings of the most specialized and technical jargon from any profession and specialty! The Internet is far more than a PC-based resource. Smartphones and tablets are surging in the marketplace and giving reporters and legal professionals more flexible options for obtaining and receiving their information on the go.
According to Nielsen’s projections last year, it was predicted that one in two Americans would own a smartphone by Christmas 2011. While no one really knows how many total phones are sold, the reality is that a huge number of people will experience the Internet and other tools/apps on a mobile device. People are constantly striving to get important content easily at their fingertips and the ability to access information virtually everywhere.
A smartphone is defined as a high-end mobile phone that combines the functions of a PDA plus a mobile phone and has more advanced computing ability and connectivity. Some popular examples include the BlackBerry, Android devices, and the iPhone.
The smartphone has become an essential tool for every court reporter and ultimately eliminates the need for other gadgets one used to traditionally rely on in completing certain functions/tasks to get your transcript out the door. My smartphone of choice has revolutionized the way I do business and increases my efficiency and productivity immeasurably. Utilizing one intuitive device is the preferable and superior choice over multiple devices. In addition, the size of a mobile device conveniently and effortlessly fits into a pocket or a handbag.
There are almost limitless application options available for the different operating systems of any smartphone. Listed below are just a few of my favorite apps and tools I use to help me keep up with the daily tasks of running a court reporting firm. Researching apps for your specific smartphone is only a click away!
Email – I set up my different email accounts as IMAP accounts, which means I look at my messages once, decide on its fate re: whether to delete or keep. If a message is deleted, I don’t have to look at that message again on my other devices (computer, iPad, smartphone). It’s an efficient way to handle email so you can move on to other daily tasks.
Calendar – I use Google Calendar in my firm. This is a free app with some easy tools to customize and share your calendars with coworkers. Some features that I use all the time are: color-coded calendars for each reporter, sharing options available, add a document and/or notice to each event, set email and/or alert reminders for an event, set up recurring events, access the calendar on any electronic device (cloud-based).
Square – Start accepting credit card payments today! A free credit card reader will be sent to you when you sign up with Square for use on iPhones, iPads, and Android. 2.75 % per swipe for all major credits.
Dropbox – Dropbox is a great example of working in the cloud and may be accessed via several electronic devices. This is a reliable and effective collaborative tool for court reporters. It’s a great way to send those large .wav files to your scopist, share a large file with a client, share word lists with fellow reporters, etc.
Tethering with my iPhone – I offer free Wi-FI to my clients when requested as a value-added service. A few situations where I’ve offered this service: in the courtroom, a hotel deposition where there’s a fee for Wi-Fi, in a law firm when the associate lawyer did not know the password for their network.
ScannerPro – I use this app to snap a picture of a copy of the notice, an exhibit where the attorney is retaining custody, a physical exhibit that is retained by the witness. Once you take a picture of the object, you may use this app to square off the corners and create a PDF document.
Contact List – All my contacts, personal and business, are available on my iPhone. My contacts are synched in the cloud, so all I need to do is update my list on one device, which means it updates automatically to every other device I use, including my smartphone.
Calculator – An essential tool for when your client wants an estimate of a transcript.
Browser – Smartphones use 3G technology and/or Wi-Fi connection to connect to the Internet. This means you may use your smartphone the same way as your computer to browse the web, play games, and watch videos on YouTube, to name a few.
iBooks/ReaddleDocs – These two apps are great book readers and PDF readers. For those reporters who like to proofread transcripts on screen, this is a good way to go “green.” You will always have a book with you when commuting or traveling, which saves space. You may also purchase books right from your phone.
iAnnotate – For those reporters who like to proofread on screen, this app allows you to mark and flag those spots that need correction to the final transcript. I also use this app for a Transcript Order Form. Attorneys have the ability to sign directly on the smartphone screen acknowledging his/her transcript order. A stylus may be purchased or simply use your finger to affix a signature. Once the document is signed, simply email a copy to your client and never encounter confusion regarding a transcript order again.
Camera – While your smartphone camera will never take the place of your Nikon, camera-phone technology has come a long way. This is great for the casual and Facebook pics. Ease of uploading pics to Facebook via my smartphone is extraordinary.
Music – For the music lover, your tunes are with you everywhere you go.
Evernote – This is a free app, and there are also paid versions. Evernote turns the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad into an extension of your brain, helping you remember anything and everything that happens in your life. From notes to ideas to snapshots to recordings, put it all into Evernote and watch as it instantly synchronizes from your iPhone to your Mac or Windows desktop.
ScanLife – I use this app to help me scan a barcode to get more information about a product, other vendors to purchase an item, and prices of competitors. This is also a good option to scan QR codes.
Navigon – Never get lost or be late to your job again! This does have a cost associated with it, but well worth the price. It gives turn-by-turn directions, alerts you to traffic updates (car accidents, traffic jams, etc). It also has a Google search option within the app to locate a specific address of a restaurant, for example. Google Maps is a good free option.
Starbucks – This free app will locate the nearest Starbucks store wherever you are and give directions to the nearest Starbucks location, too, for that much-needed caffeine pick-me-up.
Hipmunk – Hipmunk is a remarkable travel search site that aims to take the agony out of travel planning. The site is to help people who are overwhelmed with pages of irrelevant search results. Flight results are presented in a visual “timeline” that allows people to select the best flight for them at a glance. Hotel results are shown on a map so that people can view where in a destination they will be staying and the landmarks near them.
TCRA – Our state association has a mobile website, so I have bookmarked it for easy-to-navigate access to member-only content, online seminars, updates posted by our board, and much more!
Alarm Clock – I have ditched my alarm clock in favor of my smartphone. While an alarm clock doesn’t break the bank, it’s just one less gadget to have around the house or when traveling.
While I couldn’t imagine performing my job without my writer, CAT software, and computer for the production of our craft, I also could not imagine running my business and personal life without my iPhone and iPad. There are so many more options available to be productive and efficient with a smartphone from what I enumerated above. I would love to hear about your personal experiences with the use of your smartphone.