Review: ExhibitView for iPad

Reprinted with permission from the Jan.11, 2012 issue of Law Technology News. ©2011 ALM Media Properties, LLC.

Author’s Note: I’veadded some additional screen shots and info to this blog version.

I’ve had many people ask, “When will TrialDirector have an iPad app?” The last time I discussed itwith InData, they had looked into the idea but felt that it may not be worththe investment to develop an iPad app. They were, however, exploring remotecontrol possibilities, using an app such as LogMeIn Ignition to control thefull-featured PC version of TrialDirector over a Wi-Fi network.

William Roach, developer of PC-based ExhibitView software,decided it was worth his time to develop an iPad app for ExhibitView. By addingExhibitView iPad to their productline, the company has become the first trial presentation software company tooffer a software application for both the PC and the iPad. Roach says, “Specificallywe wanted to be in the iPad space because of all the excitement. We reallythought about how we could enhance the value of our PC brand and not circumventits sales. With the majority of law firms still having PC’s and everyonegetting iPads, we felt it was a very deliberate strategic move.”

ExhibitView is  alsodeveloping a version of its trial presentation software for the Google Androidand Apple Mac operating system. This aggressive development strategy is encouraging to gadget-mindedlitigators. Although I don’t have an Android tablet, I would love to compare ExhibitViewon Android  with the iPad version once itis released. For now, I will settle on a standalone review of the ExhibitViewon the iPad.

After several years of battling for market-share with thelikes of TrialDirector and Sanction, ExhibitView iPad joins the ranks of TrialPad,Evidence, and ExhibitA in the iPad apps for trial presentation space. For the purpose of thisarticle, I will not review the PC version of ExhibitView, although I will saythat users of the software will find themselves at home with ExhibitView iPad, whichhas  a similar look and feel to the PCapplication. In fact, the PC version of ExhibitView has just added a newfeature, “Save as iPad,” which exports an entire case in ExhibitView on the PC toa file that can be imported without modification into the iPad app.

At the current introductory price of $29.99 (regularly$69.00, or free with purchase of ExhbitView PC version),  ExhibitView falls in the mid-range for trialpresentation apps. In the “Wild West” iPad app development game, price does notnecessarily indicate value. It seems that setting a price point for an app is (orat least was) something of an experiment, which Roach and ExhibitViewbenefitted from by coming to the table, or iPad,  late.

Opening ExhibitView iPad brings up a screen which features aDropbox link icon. One of the first things you’ll need to do is set up a Dropbox account, because that is theonly way to get exhibits and files onto the iPad and into the app. But don’tfret, Dropbox still has free accounts with a maximum of 2 gigabytes of diskspace allocation. Once you establish an account and link it to the app, you’llhave full access to all of your exhibits stored in Dropbox.

From Dropbox, you may choose individual files or entirefolders to download to the iPad. This can make it very quick and easy to importan entire case file into the app, which you’ve assembled on your PC (or via theSave as iPad feature in ExhibitView). Although file transfer via iTunes is notsupported, connecting via cable to your laptop every time you need to updateexhibits in a case is not a very practical method during a trial.

Another nice feature on the home screen is the Help button.The help file does a nice job at covering the basics, although you couldprobably just jump right in and start using the app by creating a new case,adding exhibits, and trying out all of the tools and features.

Although ExhbitView iPad works in either landscape orportrait mode, which allows for 360 degree iPad rotation, I would recommendusing landscape mode because of the added real estate available to see andselect files listed on the left-hand side of the iPad.

The app handles several file types, but I encourage you towork with PDF files. I tested PDF, Microsoft Word, and PowerPoint files;  JPEG and PNG images;  and MP4 video. Other than graphic layersgetting a bit whacked in PowerPoint (I’ve seen formatting issues in other apps,and would generally recommend converting exhibits to PDF anyway), it all workednicely, including the Word document. I did, however, notice an issue indisplaying the proper (full screen) image with native PowerPoint and Word. Although.pptx and text files showed up in the file list, they are not supported, anddid not display. In a trial presentation app, it would certainly be helpful tohandle a text file, with options to work with transcripts.

A nice feature I like about ExhibitView’s “database” view isthat there are tabs which will automatically filter and sort exhibits by filetype for you: Documents, Images, A/V Media, and All (to show everything in yourevidence collection).

Connecting the external monitor when the app is runningautomatically connects the iPad, displaying the ExhibitView logo, howeveryou’ll still need to hit the “On-Off” button to begin sending images. Note thatthis button indicates the current state: not what will happen when you tap it.In other words, if you tap the red “Off” button, it turns the presentation on,and then the button turns green, and reads “On.” Maybe it’s just me, but thisseemed a bit counter-intuitive for what appears to be an active buttonsoliciting a state change. Once I tapped “On,”  the screen goes to a blank (no logo) dark graycolor, ready to display an exhibit.

The presentation features are nice and the app handles thetwo most important features nicely – Callout Zoom and Highlight, with highlightsappearing a natural, transparent yellow. Although you can only have one activecallout, you can move the callout around and even leave it in place when youscroll to another page of your exhibit.

You can use a pinch-zoom gesture to zoom in on an exhibit andadd a Callout on top of the pinch-zoom, and even highlight the Callout. You canrotate the image (probably should have done that ahead of time anyway) and use astraight-line or free-drawing pen, which you may set to a desired color andthickness. I noticed that the free-draw pen formed a series of short, straightlines (rather than actual curved lines) when attempting to draw a circle. Thereare Undo and Redo annotations buttons, an Eraser to remove part of anannotation, and a Print (Adobe AirPrint) button.

There is also a nice “Screen Lock” feature, which disablesall of the file access options and allows you to  hand the iPad to a witness to use like a “John Madden” Telestratordevice (yup, just realized, there’s an app for that, football fans). When your witness is donemarking up the document, you can use the snapshot button to capture the imagein .png format. The flexibility of the iPad would permit you to do this “live”in front of the jury, by keeping it plugged into the system, or you couldeasily disconnect, save the work, and then reconnect to show the completedwork. This could even be a valuable feature when used in conjunction with othertrial presentation software. At least (in my opinion), it beats the heck out ofthose clunky touch-screen monitors.

In addition to all of the annotation and presentationfeatures, you can display two exhibits side-by-side, and annotate or zoom in oneach one.

Many of the differences between ExhibitView PC andExhibitView iPad are actually a result of the limited functionality of the iPaditself. You simply cannot build and manage a complex database on an iPad – atleast not in a practical manner. Also, you’ll enjoy a far greater degree ofspeed and accuracy when using a mouse and keyboard (compared to a finger, oreven a stylus), as well as the ability to handle most common file types, asopposed to just a few. I’ll always agree that doing almost anything on an iPadlooks cool, but that’s really not all that important in most trials.

I would be comfortable using the ExhibitView app in asmaller matter, but only after thoroughly testing and checking it with all ofmy exhibits. I would look forward to the opportunity to have a witness use theExhibitView iPad app to mark up an exhibit. This could also be a nice tool touse in depositions. I feel that ExhibitView is a real contender in the trialpresentation app space, and if you’re interested now would be the time to getit for just $30. I will close by stating that phenomenalsuccess stories notwithstanding, I still prefer to use my laptops insteadof an iPad for trial presentation.

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