As a litigator, I read a lot of depositions, and I love the ability to review them on my iPad. In the past, I have typically created a searchable PDF version of the deposition transcript and then read the transcripts in the GoodReader app, using the standard PDF highlight feature to mark significant text. I'd store all of the depositions in a folder in GoodReader so I could pull them up in the future. However, Lit Software LLC has just introduced a new $50 iPad app called TranscriptPad, an app dedicated to the task of reviewing depositions. This is the same company that created TrialPad, a powerful trial presentation app for the iPad. The developer, Ian O'Flaherty, sent me a free copy of the app to review, and so far I am very impressed. The app offers many powerful features, and I think that this will be the tool I will use going forward for reviewing depositions.
To get a deposition into TranscriptPad, simply find an e-mail with a text version of the deposition (presumably an e-mail from your court reporter), tap and hold on the attachment, and select TranscriptPad. (If you don't see TranscriptPad in the list, read my post from earlier this month about missing apps in the Open In menu.) Or if you have the .txt deposition in your Dropbox, TranscriptPad also includes an option to import from Dropbox.
TranscriptPad will then ask you which case the deposition pertains to, or gives you the option to create a new case. The app then scans the deposition and automatically determines the name of the deponent and the date of the deposition, although you also have the option to modify those if you wish.
Now you are ready to start reading your deposition. You can do so in either portrait or landscape view, and if you are like me, you'll do most of your viewing in portrait mode. A bar along the right makes it easy to jump to a particular page of the deposition, or you can just swipe up and down to go from page to page. Or if you want, you can even use the "Play" button at the bottom to have the deposition scroll automatically (you can adjust the speed), much like a teleprompter.
There are a few settings for changing the way that a transcript is displayed. You can select one of four fonts. Also, you can have the app display questions in bold, which can make it easier to distinguish questions and answers when reading a transcript.
The key feature of this app is the ability to designate text that is significant. To do so, simply tap the line number at the beginning of the passage and tap the line number at the end of the passage. You can then associate an issue code (created by you) with that passage, perhaps something general like "damages" or perhaps some specific issue in your case. You can associate each issue code with any of six colors. (You can use the colors more than once, so perhaps you want to use green for all of the issues good for yoru side, red for the issues bad for your side, etc.) This creates a line to the left of the transcript text in the appropriate color.
You can associate more than one issue code with a block of text; you'll just see more than one colorful line to the left of the text. If you want to designate something as important, you can also apply a flag.
Issue codes that you create work for all depositions in a case, so after you review your first deposition it is easy to use those same codes in other depositions. On the other hand, when you are working with depositions from a different case, TranscriptPad lets you create a different set of codes appropriate for that case.
It is easy to see the passages that you have designated. If you are in landscape view, there is a running list on the left, and you can easily tap to jump to specific pages and lines that you marked. If you are in portrait view, just tap the Index button to see a pop-up list of the issue codes and designated passages, and tap to jump to a selection.
Once you are finished designating a deposition, it is easy to export a report of what has been designated. There are several ways to do so. First, you can create an e-mail with all of your designations, organized by issue code, with just the designated lines shown. Any lines not designated are omitted.
Second, you can create a report, either in text or PDF format, with just the page and line number designations, organized by issue code. Third, you can create a report, text or PDF format, with the full text of all of the designations in a table format. I see that this table format is not in page number order; I think each item is listed in the order that you designated it, which seems strange. [UPDATE 1/26/12: As the developer notes in a comment to this post, this is fixed in version 1.09 of the app.]
In addition to e-mailing a report, you can also print it to a printer associated with your iPad. I haven't tested that feature.
It is also easy to search for words in a deposition. Just enter a word or a phrase, and every instance of the word is highlighted in the document, with a list of page and line numbers on the left.
Unfortunately, the search is simple — just a word or a phrase and no proximity search. For example, you can't search for one word in the same paragraph as another word. On the other hand, I love that you can search for a term across all of the depositions in your case. The app shows you how many instances there are in each deposition.
The app also gives you the ability to store exhibits, but it is a limited feature. There is simply a folder called "Imported Exhibits" and any PDF file that you send to the app is located in that folder. You cannot highlight or annotate the exhibits, although I suppose you could do so in another app such as GoodReader and then send the annotated PDF file to TranscriptPad.
This app is new, and it is still missing a lot of features that you find in more sophisticated transcript management software on a computer. For example, as noted above you cannot do a proximity search. Also, there is currently no way to share files with someone else, so if you want another attorney or paralegal to make a first pass at reviewing a deposition and designating key text, you're going to have to lend them your iPad. (The developer tells me that collaboration is a feature that he is working on now, both for this app and the TrialPad app.)
But even when that collaboration feature is added, I also would like to see a way to export a full copy of the deposition, perhaps in PDF format, with all of the colorful lines to the side to show passages that you designated. This way, you could review a deposition on your iPad, and then share an annotated version with another attorney who doesn't even use an iPad. (And it would be useful to create that PDF file as either a full page transcript or with four pages per page.) The developer told me that he is thinking about adding a full transcript export option, but with only six designation colors, it can get complicated to indicate why a passage was designated. Even so, I think that this is a major omission from the current version of the app.
Other limitations: as noted above, the exhibit handling is very simple, and there is no way to associate specific exhibits with specific depositions. [UPDATE: The developer of TranscriptPad posted a comment to this post noting that you can work around this by simply creating your own folders. Makes sense.] The reports, although useful, are still rather simple, although I like that you can create a text report that you can then easily modify using a word processor on a computer. I wish there was a way to export all lines, in order, regardless of the issue code; that way you could add plaintiff and defendant designations in different colors but then create one continuous designated transcript to be read at trial. And I'd love it if this app worked with real time transcript feeds, although perhaps that is too much to expect out of an iPad app.
That is a long list of missing features, but I am still very impressed with this app. There are always missing features in the 1.0 version of any software, and the developer promises free updates. And this 1.0 version does include tons of features that I love, especially the following:
- Reading a transcript works great, and it is easy to flip pages and jump to other pages.
- Selecting text is easy and fast. In other apps you can highlight text by holding down at the start of a selection then dragging to the end of the selection. It is much faster to select text in TranscriptPad because you just need two taps, one at the start and one at the end.
- Creating and applying issue codes is easy and fast.
- Searching across multiple depositions is easy and fast. In the past, the only way I could do this on an iPad was to create a large text or PDF file containing multiple transcripts merged together into a single file. And then when I received a new transcript I'd have to manually add that transcript to the single large file.
- You can select text and then, instead of designating the text, choose to e-mail just that snippet of text. This creates an e-mail listing the starting page and line, the end page and line, and then the full text on those pages and lines. Very clean, very useful.
I suppose it is worth mentioning that this app costs $50 whereas most iPad apps cost $10 or less, but that is still a lot cheaper than similar software for your computer, and I'd much rather use an iPad than a computer to review a deposition. I prefer sitting back in a chair and reviewing the transcript on my iPad, plus I love having all of my deposition transcripts with me at all times on my iPad. And considering that this software has appeal only to a niche audience — litigators — versus general PDF and text reading apps that are useful to millions of iPad owners, it is only natural that the app will be more expensive. I think it is worth $50.
The TranscriptPad website is worth checking out if you use this app because it has a User Guide with helpful videos and a FAQ.
With TranscriptPad on my iPad, I'm actually looking forward to the next time I have to review a bunch of depositions, and I don't believe I've ever said that before. This 1.0 version is full of great features, and I love that the developer already has useful additions, such as collaboration, in the pipeline for future updates. If you are a litigator with an iPad who works with deposition transcripts, I think you will really like TranscriptPad.
[UPDATE: TranscriptPad now includes even more features, as noted in this updated posts, but costs more.]