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Trial Notebook by TabLit is a trial organization app for the iPad. While there are some issues, overall I was pleasantly surprised to find it is a solid app that does a good job. If you are accustomed to working with a paper based trial notebook, you should give Trial Notebook a try. I tested it out on a recent deposition road trip and found that it is certainly worth using.
Trial Notebook starts by having you set up a—surprise—Notebook for each case. That process is helped along by the aptly named “wizard” function, that walks you through the basic questions needed to set up the Notebook.
Once in the Notebook for your case, you are presented with 3 default sections: Case Document, Master Checklist, and Case Contact. You can add additional sections, which I will discuss below.
This is where you store your relevant case documents: pleadings, discovery, documents, basically anything you will need in trial. You have the option to download files from the web, import pictures from the Photo app or record audio. However, the most likely way you will import material is the way I did: by connecting to a cloud service. Trial Notebook gives you the option of connecting to Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive, SugarSync or Box. I used Dropbox and the process was flawless. I linked to the entire file for my case, so it downloaded everything. My entire digital file was in Trial Notebook. In most cases, that is probably a good thing. My only suggestion here is that there doesn’t appear to be a way to download selected portions of a file. Basically, you have to chose one file as your “case document.” The glitch for me came in the form of a large number of radiology files that, while it downloaded them, were a complete waste of space because I could not link to an app to view them.
The name is self explanatory. This is the tab where you will store all your contact information: opposing counsel, client, witnesses, judge, etc. It links to your iPad’s Contacts application, so there is no need to re-enter information. Very nicely done and usable.
The Master Checklist Section contains all the checklists and evidence sections you have added to the notebook. Basically it is a summary overview with direct access to the following, if you have created them:
On creation of a Notebook section, you are given an option to Title the Section, title the Tab and select whether the content will be a Checklist or an Outline. When you go through the process of creating the section, it will appear in the main case list, along with the Case Document, Master Checklist and Case Contact sections. When you tap on the section, the tabs you’ve created show up on the right half of your screen.
These allow you to create checklists. You create or modify the possible “value” which you can modify. By default, it is set up to track evidence (with “admitted” or “excluded” options) and motions in limine (with “granted”, “denied”, and “reserved” options). You can add your own checklist options.
This section appears to be intended to use to create the many types of outlines you would use in a typical trial: witness testimony, opening, closing, voir dire and others. Also included is what I would refer to as the “notes” section of the outline.This is a section off to the right of the screen where you can enter notes separate from the outline itself. I find that this is a really useful feature that would allow you to make notes during trial or deposition. Very useful indeed!
All together, I think TabLit has put together a solid app in Trial Notebook. It gives you what you would expect from an app of that name. It doesn’t have a long learning curve.
My suggestions/complaints are actually few in number.
Especially in the initial stages of working with the app, I found myself wishing for an easily accessible “undo” button. It may be there somewhere, but I didn’t find it. I think this is a must.
In a similar vein, I think you need an easy way to easily edit the tab names. Particularly when you are first setting up a notebook, you may not know what you want to call a tab. And trial prep is a dynamic process. Your thought process and focus will change as you refine your case, and you need to be able to make those changes.
Two Way Dropbox Integration
As it stands now, anything you download from Dropbox isn’t linked back. So once it’s there, any changes you make in other applications won’t be saved in Trial Notebook. It appears that TabLit is in the process of adding this feature. An absolute must.
I also question the lack of basic PDF annotation features, however, after giving it some thought, I think adding these in might just make for feature bloat. PDF annotations are notoriously quirky. Annotations you make in one app may not show up when viewed with another app. And since Trial Notebook is not a trial presentation app, I doubt I’d want to use annotations that I couldn’t present.
Trial Notebook is a good trial organization app. While I’m sure upcoming updates will address minor issues and add features, it is a good app as it stands. It’s pricey at $69.99, but only in the context of iPad applications. We have gotten so accustomed to the 99 cent app, that anything over $9.99 we instantly view as expensive. But in context, think about the long term value. For years (before I went paperless) I swore by Bindertek binders for case files and trial prep. I bought them in bulk because I knew they were well crafted and I could use the over and over again. At about $14 each, they weren’t cheap, but they were worth the money. Trial Notebook is the cost of just a few good binders. Easier to carry too!
Reviewed by Todd Hendrickson on .
Summary: Trial Notebook from TabLit is an excellent iPad app to organize trial materials, giving you a portable, iPad version of the venerable trial notebook.
Overall score: 4.5 (out of 5)