[The following is the second 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.]
Last month, we promised a two-part tour of Web 2.0 products and services of interest to the legal profession. We lied. Given the abundance of sites and the limit on our word count, we continue the tour in a third installment next month.
As noted in part one, some hail Web 2.0 as the Internet’s second coming. The name refers to a broad range of Web-based tools that focus on functionality and often bear a close resemblance to desktop applications.
Last month’s installment reviewed common office tools, including word processors, spreadsheets and calendars. This time we look at more advanced tools for bookmarking, project management and task management.
Bookmarking and Sharing
Whatever Web browser you use, its built-in bookmarking tool is woefully clumsy and inadequate, quickly becoming bloated and difficult to search. Web bookmarking tools overcome these deficiencies, with added features no browser could dream of.
One of the most popular is Del.icio.us. Bookmarks are stored online, which means that you can retrieve them from any computer. This is nice, but the popularity of Del.icio.us is driven more by its social-bookmarking tools. Del.icio.us allows you to add “tags” to your bookmarks – one-word descriptors of the pages. Tags help you organize your own bookmarks, and, because del.icio.us allows sharing of tags, it creates a communal repository of related links. You can also create feeds to make your bookmarks available on your blog or though RSS syndication.
Other bookmarking sites include:
- Furl.net. For every bookmark you add, Furl archives a copy of the Web page and makes it fully searchable. This makes it easier to find saved pages and also preserves the page as you first saw it. Like del.icio.us, Furl allows you to create RSS feeds or even create a daily e-mail newsletter of your links. As you use Furl, it recommends new Web pages that may be of interest to you based on pages you have saved.
- Spurl.net. Spurl also allows you to save copies of Web pages and makes them fully searchable. Add notes and search those as well. As with other services, it enables you to create RSS feeds for your bookmarks and explore those of other users.
- Blinklist.com. Each user gets a Web page that is home to his or her links. Here you can see your most recent, most popular and favorite links, or view a tag “cloud” showing your tags and their popularity. You can also see who else has saved the same page and read their comments about it.
- Stumbleupon.com. It adds a button to your browser toolbar. Clicking it takes you to the relevant Web sites that are highest rated by other users and that best match your own browsing preferences. The idea is to use the collaborative power of the Web to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.
Projects fail not from a lack of charts or reports, but from a lack of communication and collaboration. This is the premise of Basecamp. It provides key project-management tools such as task lists, scheduling, time tracking, whiteboards, file sharing and messaging. A basic version is free. From there, prices range from $12 to $149 a month, depending on numbers of projects, storage space and features. Higher-end plans include data encryption.
A similar tool is Central Desktop, which describes itself as a place to “create online workspaces for business teams.” Use it to share documents and files, track and search “conversations,” coordinate and schedule tasks, and plan milestones. Stored documents are searchable and protected through encryption. A free version allows two workspaces with up to five members each and storage up to 25 megabytes. Advanced versions range from $25 to $249 a month and allow for up to 50 workspaces with as many as 100 members each.
Never again forget the milk. That is the idea behind Remember the Milk, a site for managing all those nagging little tasks. This free site makes it easy to add and tag to-do items. Better yet, it will send you reminders via e-mail, text messaging and instant messaging. Add tasks the same way – by e-mail or from your cell phone. Share tasks with selected contacts or with the world. Create RSS feeds for tasks or view them in online calendars such as Google Calendar.
Other task managers include:
- Ta-da Lists. From the folks who bring you Basecamp comes this free task manager. Use it to track tasks and make lists (holiday shopping, calls to make, etc.). Create RSS feeds for lists and share them with friends or the public.
- voo2do.com. voo2do has features that allow you to track priorities, due dates and time estimates for each task. Rather than use lists, voo2do lets you group tasks by projects. Like the others, it is free.
Next, the Web 2.0 tour continues with virtual meeting sites, online databases, presentation tools and more.