How to use Adobe Acrobat as a typewriter to fill in forms

I suspect many law firms have typewriters squirreled away somewhere just to fill in forms.

Ross Kodner, computer guru extraordinaire, has an article about how Acrobat Standard, Professional or Professional Extended editions can be used as a typewriter to fill in those forms. He gives very detailed step-by-step instructions about how to save the forms as pdfs and then how to fill them in.

He has his own blog,, and this and some of his other articles are also published in the Small Law blog at

There is no charge to subscribe to either Ross’ blog or the mailings. Subscribing to both is highly recommended.

Out-of-the-box uses for Dragon NaturallySpeaking

 All of us – or at least most of us – have heard of Dragon NaturallySpeaking and its use as voice recognition software in law offices.

 But there are many more uses for Nuance Corporation’s Dragon!!

 Uses outside of a law office

I read a while back about how a husband whose wife was deaf was using Dragon to communicate with his wife while they were driving. Even though she could read his lips, she couldn’t use that facility in the car because she couldn’t see his lips while her husband was looking straight ahead while he was driving. What to do?

Solution: her husband put their laptop in the car, and, while they were driving, he would speak into a microphone – perhaps a lapel mike – and his wife could read what he was saying on the laptop screen. She could then orally answer and he could respond using Dragon. It changed their lives.

I just did a Google search, and found a variety of uses for Dragon on Nuance’s U.K. site. One of the user stories described in detail how a daughter communicated with her deaf mother using Dragon and a wireless mike.

Nuance has a page that categorizes user stories of how Dragon was used to improve the users’ creativity, their work, and their life.

One of the unusual stories detailing how life was improved was a story by a student who was paralyzed from the shoulders down. He used Dragon to complete his 107-page master’s thesis, and he noted that he could even use Dragon while laying down. He added: “It has truly been a new lease on life.”

Other stories include ones by a psychologist with chronic fibromyalgia, a multiple sclerosis patient, and someone with severe dyslexia. There are others, for a total of 9 pages of stories.

An out-of-the-box use in a law office

In addition to non-law office uses, I have come across an unusual use of Dragon in a law office. One time I was speaking with a secretary about Dragon, and she told me about the out-of-the-box way her office was using it. She told me that an attorney she worked for would often handwrite his papers and presentations. Rather than her typing them, as would be normal, she, as his secretary, was saving time by using the speech recognition software to herself dictate what the attorney had handwritten.

I’ve heard for a long time how attorneys have been using dictation software, but that was the first time I had ever heard about a secretary using it.

The Nuance U.S. site also includes a number of stories of how others with physical challenges have changed their lives and have become able to work in law and other offices.  It also includes stories of how one lawyer has used Dragon and has eliminated his need for a full-time secretary .

See a review and demo videos

You can see David Pogue’s New York Times review of Dragon version 10 here. You can also see his video review here.

You can also see video demos in English  or, if you want, a humorous version in Geman, an older version (9) in Italian,  and a current demo in Spanish. You can even see a demo of someone transcribing from an MP3 recorder to Dragon.

Please comment on other uses

It would be interesting to hear stories of how law and other offices use Dragon to communicate with clients, witnesses, or office personnel. Please add a comment that might help others if you have any such stories.

You can insert videos and sound into PDF documents!!!

I was reading Ross Kodner’s blog and he described a CLE presentation he had seen where David Ferrell, an attorney, had shown a sample PDF demand letter that had video included in it. Here’s Ross’s accolade:

In a demand letter related to personal injuries suffered by a Chinese melamine-laced formula poison infant, the video that popped up was devastating – showing the powerful concept conveyance capabilities of video images v. mere words or even static pictures. While obviously not likely admissible, the effect on a claims adjuster could be significant.

I went to the lawyer’s site and he had a sample letter that had embedded in it a sound video of the plaintiffs’ baby crying as well as two very brief mp3 files.

This ability to insert a number of different file types was news to me, and I could see a variety of ways that this ability could be valuable.

You do need Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro to create the documents and the reader/viewer/listener will need to at least have downloaded the free Adobe 9 viewer.

For details from Adobe, take a look at Adobe’s “step-by-step guide” for “Inserting rich Media into PDF files.”

With a Google search of: pdf “insert video” (with the quotation marks) I also found a video demo of how to insert flash content into a PDF document.

Here’s a general caveat, however, regarding Acrobat:

Adobe has reported: “A critical vulnerability has been identified in Adobe Reader 9 and Acrobat 9 and earlier versions. This vulnerability would cause the application to crash and could potentially allow an attacker to take control of the affected system. There are reports that this issue is being exploited.”

For more information of the vulnerability, click here. The writer of this article reports another source that recommends that people disable javascript in Reader.

A friend of mine sent me the following about a detailed ABA posting about Acrobat training. (The posting was in ABA’s blog Site-tation, which if from ABA’s Legal Technology Resource Center.) Here’s what he sent:

Training Alert!  Free Acrobat Legal Training Movies
You can get Adobe Acrobat training relevant to attorneys at no cost or travel–just visit the Acrolaw Blog to access links to free Acrobat Legal Training Movies. There are at least 25 short films and 2 hour-long e-seminars with more being added regularly. Topics include creating PDFs, combining PDF, working with PDFs, OCR, securing PDFs and using legal-specific features such as redaction and Bates numbering. You can download the slide presentations to watch offline. 

The Acrobat blog, Acrolaw Blog, is more fully described as “Acrobat for Legal Professionals” and is authored by Rick Borstein, who is “a Business Development Manager specializing in the Acrobat-Legal Market for Adobe Systems Incorporated.”

Please leave a comment if you or others have used video and other rich media in PDF files.

How to automatically update “See page ____” cross-references in your briefs and memos

Continuing readers of legal blogs such as this one probably know how to create cross-references in their briefs and memos. With that knowledge, they don’t have to manually update their cross-references when they add or delete pages in their briefs and memos, thus changing the cross-referenced pages. Therefore, for most of you, the following is a time-saving posting for you to share with your fellow attorneys and their secretaries:

How many times have you written a brief and you’re on page 10 and you want to refer to something above that’s on page 5. So, you write “See page 5, supra.” But later you put some new material before page 5, and page 5 becomes page 7. Now your reference is no longer accurate. Then, unless you forget, you manually change 5 to 7. However, that can be tedious if you have four or five or more cross-references. And, even if you only have one, you might forget to make the change.

There’s a way in both WordPerfect and Microsoft Word to make your life easier. It’s called “cross-referencing.” It’s a little complicated at first, but once you or your secretary learn the technique, it’s easy.

Essentially, for instance in WordPerfect 8 (other versions of WordPerfect may be somewhat different), click consecutively on Tools, then Reference, and then Cross-Reference. Reference Type is almost always “Page.” Give the reference a name in the “Select Target” box (for instance “negligence”), and press “Mark Reference” ~n and that’s now the “reference.” Then, go to the location you are referring to, such as page 5, and press “Mark Target” using the identical name you used when you named the reference. You now have marked both the Target and the Reference. Now, you can press “Generate” and, shazam, the “See p. ___” on page 10 now refers to page 5. If you add pages in front of page 5 and page 5 becomes page 8 (or becomes page 4 because you deleted material), all you need to do is “re-generate” the reference (Tools, Reference, Cross-Reference, and Generate), and page 10 now refers to page 8 ~n or page 4 ~n or whatever.

For instructions in WordPerfect itself on how to do the cross-referencing, you can go to “Help” in the toolbar at the top of the page, then click on “Ask the Perfect Expert,” then enter “cross-reference” (without the quotes), and follow the instructions. (Again, there may be variations in finding the instructions, depending on which version of WordPerfect you are using.)

Smart Computing magazine, which has very practical articles “In Plain English,” as it says, has an article on WordPerfect version 6.1′s cross-references at one on cross-referencing on WordPerfect’s version 10 at Again, although your version of WordPerfect may be different, the techniques and the principles of marking and generating will probably be similar. (The links to these articles will be open only until April 5, 2007. You can also search Smart Computing for these and other computer articles with a free Smart Computing trial subscription.)

Microsoft Word also permits cross-referencing, although the technique is different. There is a detailed article on Word 2003-2004 at (No time limit is imposed for that article.)


The same technique can be used if you want to cross reference to footnote numbers and counters that you create. Instead of selecting page in Cross Reference, just select Footnote number (or counter or “Paragraph/Outline”).

In addition, you can automatically increment Exhibit numbers so that you can move the exhibits around or delete or add exhibits and have the numbers automatically change to the correct new number. To learn about that tool, in WordPerfect 8 (other programs and versions may be slightly different), go to Help and, in the Index tab, type list, numbered. You’ll see detailed instruction on how to use the time-saving technique.