Thanks to Ed Walters at Fastcase for letting us actually install their new iPad application while it is awaiting final authority from Steve Jobs to be released through the Apps Store. I’ve been playing with it for the past hour or so and have taken a lot of screenshots from the iPad, and so far, it has been pretty easy to use and takes advantage of the iPad’s larger screen format. Most of all, this is another marketing coup for Fastcase (just do a Google search for Fastcase and iPad and see the number of blogs, press releases and news articles from yesterday and today announcing the launch!!)
When Fastcase released the iPhone app, I gave it a luke-warm reception because the iPhone app seemed to be more of a novelty than something that someone would actually use. The iPad app, however, is something that people would use to conduct legal research, as it has a bigger screen, and is much easier to use than the smaller iPhone format. You still can’t print (not a Fastcase app issue, but rather an iPad issue), but you can save documents, and if you know what you’re doing, you can email documents to yourself and print them out at your PC or Mac.
Here are some ‘real’ screenshots that I took (not those canned ones you’ve been seeing on all the other blogs!!) along with some comments I have on the usability of the app.
This appears for a few seconds while the app launches.
Start Screen (Select what you want to search)
Select the database you want to search (you cannot search both cases and statutes at the same time). You can also browse statutes (any statutes that are not in the Fastcase databank, such as Colorado, will give you an option to launch the iPad browser to go to the official state statute site.)
“Search Caselaw” Screen
Seems to be basic Boolean searching or you can look up by citation.
The Conducting Search Screen (AKA “Hey, why don’t you upgrade to our full version” Screen)
If ‘free’ is nice, the premium version must be better, right??
The searches I conducted took anywhere from three seconds to about fifteen seconds… depending upon the databases selected and the search terms used.
Caselaw Search Result Screen
You can set the display options in the “settings” area. This shows the top results by relevance and gives you the name of the case, decision date, and the number of times this case has been cited.
Caselaw Reading Pane View
The reading pane is nice and clean. You can also ‘swipe’ to the next result by swiping left, and the previous page by swiping right. This was actually backward from how most other iPad apps work, but I adjusted quickly to the way it works here.
Authority Check Report Page
Although it is not quite a KeyCite or Shepards’ results page, it is helpful to have the ability to see cases that have cited this case. It would be even better if Fastcase did this for statutes and other primary law material as well.
Statute Search Results Page
Here’s the results page for a statute search with the short name and citation to the statute listed.
Statute Reading Pane
Reading pane for statutes is similar to the caselaw reading screen.
Increase Font Size Option
There is a slider bar that allows you to increase the size of the font. In the next version, it would be nice to allow you to adjust the font through the ‘pinching’ or ‘expanding’ the screen by using two fingers.
Save Document Option
You can save documents to read later.
Saved Document Screen
The saved document screen will display all of the documents you’ve saved. A nice addition to this would be to allow the user to add folders so that documents could be saved to specific research projects.
Recent Searches Page
Past few (default is 10, but you can increase in the settings page) searches are displayed and can be re-run from here.
Adjust the look and feel of the results, display and storage of the app.
The Upgrade to Full Fastcase Version Page
Again… if free is good, premium is better!!
Option for Getting Around the iPad’s Printing Issue
Step 1: Press and hold your finger at the top of the screen (somewhere with “white space”) until the blue “copy” highlight covers the entire text.
Step 2: Press Copy
Step 3: Open your email program and paste the document into the body of the email. You could also push the text to something like Evernote if you use that.
Step 4: Print the email from your PC or Mac when you get back to your office.
Until Steve Jobs seems to think it is okay for you to print directly from your iPad, this type of work around will have to do.
I’ve had no problems navigating or searching around the iPad version of Fastcase. It is pretty straight forward and easy to use. It doesn’t take advantage of all of the bells and whistles that the iPad offers, but I’m sure that over time it will. I’m looking forward to showing this around to my peers at the AALL conference this weekend (since I know that most won’t even have an iPad… and none will have the Fastcase iPad App!!)