[The following is the third of a three-part series of columns about Web 2.0 for lawyers originally published almost a year ago in the August, September and October 2006 issues of Law Technology News. Because I receive so many requests for this series, I am republishing it here. I originally intended it to be two parts, but expanded it to three because there was so much to cover.
Important note: I have not updated these since writing them nearly a year ago. Most of the sites remain as described, but some have changed. All information was current as of the date of original publication.]
What started out in this column as a two-part tour of Web 2.0 products and services of interest to the legal profession easily turned into three parts. In fact, our tour could easily continue for several more columns, given the abundance and assortment of useful Web 2.0 sites. Fear not, through, the tour stops here.
As noted in part one, the Web 2.0 name refers to a broad range of Web-based tools that focus on functionality and often bear a close resemblance to desktop applications. In part one, we reviewed common office tools, including word processors, spreadsheets and calendars. Part two looked at more advanced tools for file sharing, bookmarking, project management, graphing and
more. This time, we look at virtual meeting sites, online databases, presentation tools and more.
Any number of services now make it possible to conduct meetings and presentations online. Webex may be the best known. But these services are not cheap. On a pay-per-use basis, Webex charges a per-person rate of 33 cents a minute plus another 20 cents a minute for
A Web 2.0 alternative is WebHuddle, which is free, at least for now, and built on an open-source platform that you can download and install on your own network. Use it to conduct meetings with your current teleconferencing service or using its VoIP option. It allows text chat, use of PowerPoint presentations, application sharing and polling, all in a secure environment.
Unlike Web conferencing services such as Webex, you need not install and special software. WebHuddle runs in any Java-enabled browser in any operating system. You can record presentations for later playback. It can even be used over a dial-up connection, although a faster connection is recommended.
The advantage of building a database online is that you can access it anywhere and share it with anyone. One of the best of the Web 2.0 database tools is Dabble DB. It draws on the most-useful features of spreadsheets, databases and intranets to offer a unique data-management tool.
Among the features of Dabble DB are strong searching and sorting, support for multiple users, data exporting in various formats, customized reports, simple data-field management and change tracking. Besides exporting data, you can publish it into HMTL or PDF and create RSS feeds for tracking.
Other Web 2.0 database tools include:
- MyOwnDB. Like Dabble, it uses a simple, browser-based interface that can be shared by multiple users. It is easy to upload and enter data and data can be exported into the CSV format that can be read by desktop spreadsheet programs.
- Baseportal. A simple, customizable interface for creating and managing databases. A nice feature enables users to integrate their data into Web pages dynamically.
How did lawyers ever practice law or put on seminars before the advent of presentation programs such as the ubiquitous Microsoft PowerPoint? So lawyers may appreciate Thumbstacks, a free tool that enables you to create presentations, such as slideshows and outlines, within your Web browser.
A nice feature of Thumbstacks is that it makes it easy to publish your presentation on the Web. Hit “publish” and you get a link to the presentation that you can share by e-mail, through a blog or on a Web page. It uses WYSIWYG editing and offers various themes and styles. It does not have all the bells and whistles of desktop presentation software – you cannot add sounds or animations, for example. It does have a remote-meeting service for using your presentations in conference calls or via Skype.
Graphing and charts
Several Web 2.0 applications make it easy to create charts, diagrams and graphs. Jacuba Charts, for example, takes the data from within a table on a Web page and automatically generates full-color charts. You can edit the charts, allow them to be viewed online by anyone and print them. If you revise the data from which you created the chart, the chart changes automatically to reflect the revisions.
Another tool for creating charts and diagrams is Gliffy. Use this free tool to draw flowcharts, floorplans, network diagrams, Web site maps, seating charts and the like. Publish finished Gliffy drawings to your Web site or blog or export them into the open-source SVG format, which allows you to open them in most illustration programs. You can invite others to collaborate with you on a drawing simply by entering their e-mail addresses.
When Google Page Creator, first launched, the response was so overwhelming that it temporarily had to shut off new registrations. This free tool lets users create and publish Web pages from within a browser and it requires no knowledge of HTML. It is of limited use to professionals because it will not publish pages to your proprietary domain. Your pages are hosted at the URL “http://yourgmailusername.googlepages.com.”
But another free Web publishing tool, SiteKreator, does allow you to publish using your own domain (but not to your own server). It offers a free personal edition and a paid business edition. The business edition has more features and flexibility, but the personal edition offers 50 predesigned templates, unlimited pages and a sufficiently rich array of features for a solo or small firm to create a professional-looking site. Either version includes tools for creating blogs and mailing lists and adding interactive Web forms.
For a completely different kind of Web page, try Squidoo. It enables users to build a single Web page – which it calls a “lens” – devoted to a particular topic. Page creators call themselves “lensmasters,” and together their pages form a unique community of information and resources on a unique range of topics. Search “law” on Squidoo, and you will find pages devoted to legal marketing, elder law, international law and law firm management, to name just a few.
Finding More Web 2.0 Sites
Even over the course of three columns, we are able to cover only a sampling of the sites that fall under the Web 2.0 rubric, not to mention the many new sites coming along every day. Here are several index pages that will help you further explore the world of Web 2.0:
- Best Web 2.0 Software of 2005. A best-of list from Dion Hinchcliffe, editor of Web 2.0 Journal.
- Categoriz. An extensive”sitemap” to
Web 2.0 products and services.
- eConsultant Web 2.0 Directory. Says it has 1,200 sites in 50 categories.
- Emily Chang eHub. Regular updates on Web 2.0 applications.
- Office 2.0 Directory. Well-organized collection of Web 2.0 sites.
- Shambles. Good Web2.0 collection from a site that supports international schools in Southeast Asia.
- Web 2.0 Awards. More than 300 sites in 38 categories.