Simplify and Organize Your Online Experience, Part 2

Surfing at the window

(Photo credit: chrisjohnbeckett)

Whether you think it’s a good development or not, Americans are spending an increasing amount of time online and lawyers are no exception. And for lawyers, making use of tools to filter, organize and streamline your online experience is particularly important, since the online world is chock full of useful information that you can use to support your law practice. That’s why last week, I discussed some of my favorite tools for  filtering, aggregating, and locating relevant and interesting online content.

This week, I’m going to discuss additional and very useful web-based tools which will help you to save and organize relevant websites and information, in addition to learning about some of the best tools for securing and improving your online experience.

Save and Organize Content

My favorite way to keep track of websites for later use is Diigo. Using Diigo you can save links to websites of interest and tag them with descriptive keywords so that they can be easily located at a later point in time. Another nice feature is that you can highlight webpages and add sticky notes to them–in other words, mark them up–and save them in that format to your Diigo bookmarks. You can then access your Diigo bookmarks from any computer or by using Diigo’s iPhone app.

One of the reasons that I prefer Diigo to other bookmarking services is that you can actually back up your Diigo bookmarks to another bookmarking site, Delicious. That way, should either one of the bookmarking sites crash, as the now-defunct site Ma.gnolia did back in 2009, you won’t lose your data.

Evernote is another popular way to save websites, but it allows you to do a lot more than that. You can access Evernote from almost any device, including your computer, smart phone or tablet and can capture and save just about any type of file, including notes, web clips, files and images. Because it’s such a versatile tool, Evernote is very popular with lawyers. To learn more about how lawyers use Evernote, you can read Erik Mazzone’s blog post from the North Carolina Bar Association’s website, “Evernote for Lawyers.”

Next up–Springpad, an app that is very similar to Evernote.  Like Evernote, Springpad allows you to collect and organize many different types of files via your computer, smart phone or tablet. But I find that Springpad’s interface is much more user-friendly and thus easier to use. But, like any web app, it really is a matter of personal preference so you should try them both out before deciding which one to use.

A safer, more pleasurable online experience

And, last but certainly not least, let’s explore a few web apps that will make your online experience both enjoyable and more secure.

First, consider adding Adblock (or a similar app) to you web browser as an extension. Once you’ve done so, Adblock will automatically block all advertisements from appearing on the websites that you visit. That’s right, the ads simply won’t appear. And, once you’ve browsed the web in the absence of ads, you’ll wonder how you ever managed beforehand. It’s a lifesaver!

Next, look into using a password manager app. I prefer LastPass, a free multi-platform browser add-on that stores your passwords via encrypted files, automatically populates sites with the correct passwords when you visit them, and also pre-populates forms for you. So instead of having to type in your name, address, etc.,  LastPass automatically fills in the appropriate fields on form for you. LastPass can also generate secure passwords for you and can be accessed from any computer. Another similar program to consider that is very popular with lawyers but isn’t free is 1Password.

Finally, if you travel frequently or often use free public Wi-Fi networks, HotspotShield is just the app for you. As explained in this CNET review of this app, HotspotShield is a multi-platform app that encrypts your web connection when using public Wi-Fi, thus protecting you from prying eyes. For lawyers, this is a must-have app.

So, there you have it–a few of my most favorite online tools. I hope you find them to be as useful as I do!

–Niki Black

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