TimelineJS

By Carli Spina

Interactive timelines can be eye-catching and educational additions to websites, presentations, and course materials, but they can seem overwhelming to create. Luckily, TimelineJS is a tool that makes it easy to create impressive interactive timelines that can include a wide range of media, such as images, videos, and maps. Your entire timeline is based on content added to a Google Spreadsheet, so the first step is creating a new spreadsheet using the provided template. From there, you can simply replace the existing content with your own text and media. Once you are happy that all of your information is in the spreadsheet, you can publish it to the web and use the resulting link in the timeline generator on the TimelineJS site. When generating your timeline, you have the option to further customize it by selecting a language or font for your project, amongst other options. This feature also includes an option to generate code for use in a WordPress site, which is a nice addition that many other online tools miss.

When you are satisfied with your project, you can preview your timeline and generate the code for it. You will also receive the code necessary to add it to a site via an iFrame (unless you have selected the WordPress-compatible option). This code can be added to any website that accepts iFrames, including LibGuides and many standard content management systems. The entire process is very quick and user-friendly and the result is a dynamic timeline that looks impressive on everything from a mobile phone to a desktop computer. TimelineJS offers options for a range of types of users: you can complete the project from start to finish without ever working with any code or you can get involved with improving the project’s code on GitHub.

If you feel that this doesn’t offer sufficient flexibility for your needs, or if you just enjoy adding all of the bells and whistles to your projects, the new version of TimelineJS, called TimelineJS 3, is currently available in beta. This version of the software offers more features, including integration for Dropbox content and support for even larger timescales. You can see examples of timelines made with this new version on the project’s website.

No matter which version of TimelineJS you pick, you will find that it streamlines the process of creating an interactive timeline. Whether you want to add this to your course materials or integrate a timeline onto your website, TimelineJS will meet your needs. For a great example of this tool in use, check out the timeline Mindy Kent, former LLNE President and Manager of Research Services at Harvard Law School Library, created for our current exhibit, One Text, 16 Manuscripts: Magna Carta at the Harvard Law School Library. You can also see how TimelineJS works in the video below:

Law and Technology: Canva

By Carli Spina

No matter what your exact job title is, you probably find yourself working on design projects from time-to-time. Whether you are creating posters for an upcoming event, adding content to your library’s website or blog, or creating internal documentation for processes and workflows, graphic design is a feature of a huge array of different library projects. If you work on these sorts of projects every day, you probably have your favorite (and likely expensive) graphic design software installed on your computer. But, if you only work on these sorts of projects occasionally, you may find the steep costs and learning curves of this software daunting. Canva is a great tool for anyone in this situation. This web-based graphic design tool is free and quite easy to use and offers you the option to keep costs down by finding your own media to add to your project or to use premium Canva images and templates for a reasonable cost (usually $1 per item).

Canva1
When you first log onto Canva, you are given the option to create a design either based on your own custom dimensions or by using one of the available project types. These run the gamut from the dimensions needed for common types of social media posts to the dimensions needed to create slides for a presentation, so you will frequently find an option that meets your needs. Even if you don’t find the size you need, you can easily specify your own dimensions.

Canva2
Once you select your dimensions, your new project will automatically open and prompt you to select a layout. You can instead opt to create your own custom layout, but it is nice to have the option to use one of the included layouts as a starting point. Though not all of the available layouts are free, any that are not free are marked, as is true of all premium content in Canva. One of the nicest features offered by Canva is its integrated image search. This tool allows you to search for images from within Canva when you need them for your project. Some of the images that are returned will be premium images (most, if not all, of which cost $1 each), but generally you will also find free images this way. If you can’t find the right image for your project, you can also upload your own images, which allows you to maintain complete control over the final product. Canva also offers a number of fonts and logos that can help to give your project a professionally designed appearance.

Canva3

Your project will automatically save as you work on it. Drafts or completed projects can be shared using the unique URL given to each project and you can specify whether you want the shared project to be editable or not. By default, only you are able to edit the project. Canva also has an integrated option to share projects directly to Facebook, Twitter, or email if you want to solicit feedback on your design. You can also download your project as a PDF or PNG file, at which point you will be asked to pay for any of the premium content that you used.

If you are new to graphic design (or have patrons who are), Canva also offers a number of resources to help you get started. Canva users can opt to make their projects public and those projects all end up in the “Design Stream,” which is part gallery and part social network. This can be a great place to look to see what others have done with the tool and to get inspiration. Canva also offers tutorials that are designed to walk even someone who has no design experience through many of the basic principles of graphic design. If you are interested in offering classes to teach your patrons about graphic design, Canva also offers lesson plans that make it easy to integrate Canva into this type of programming. All of this content is free, which makes it a great perk for Canva users. I’ve been using Canva off and on for months and I think it is a great tool for library design projects.

Pacer Pro

By Carli Spina

If you use PACER regularly or teach patrons how to use it, you are probably accustomed to its limited search options and outdated interface. Often, users who expect databases to have more features will be disappointed to discover how difficult PACER can be to navigate. Recently, other services are trying to simplify and streamline the process of finding docket materials. Bloomberg Law, for example, integrates many docket materials into their service with a user-friendly search interface.

More recently, PacerPro has emerged as a tool that focuses exclusively on allowing users to navigate PACER’s materials more easily and efficiently. Currently the service only offers free “basic” accounts which integrate with the user’s existing PACER account.

My Cases

In order to use PacerPro, users do need to provide PACER credentials and normal PACER fees are incurred using the service, but the actual search experience is entirely contained within the PacerPro interface. From here you can search for cases, follow case dockets,  set up notification emails for new filings, and get batch downloads of documents. The search interface (shown below) makes it easy to effectively limit your search in a format that will be familiar to users of other legal databases. It also offers the option to include a client code, which will help firm users to keep track of their matters.

As a user navigates through PacerPro, it also stores both the search history and any cases that the user opts to follow, which decreases the amount of time that is spent redoing searches to find new documents. The option to set up email alerts for new filings further streamlines this process, meaning users won’t even need to sign onto PacerPro in order to find out immediately about new filings. According to the company’s CEO and Founder, Gavin McGrane, PacerPro actually provides access to filings faster than PACER does.

 Search

If you are a frequent PACER user, PacerPro is a nice option for a better user experience. Though the site is currently free, there are plans to start offering premium accounts in the near future, so you may want to check it out now. If you still aren’t sure whether you want to create an account, PacerPro also offers a number of video tutorials that demonstrate how the site works and will give you a better idea of whether it is worth using.

Advanced Search Tutorial

Trial Court LoisLaw Remote Access Ending

The Massachusetts Trial Court Libraries announced that, as of July 1st, they can no longer offer remote access to LoisLaw to trial court members. Wolters Kluwer has declined to renew the remote access agreement. There is a brief survey up at the trial court website. If you, or someone in your firm, used this service, fill it out. The trial courts are going to be using the responses to help them decide on a replacement service.