Law is not the only profession to adapt the iPad to its unique needs. Professional athletes are using the iPad for many purposes. In the NFL, several teams are using iPads as replacements for traditional paper play books.
For lawyers, the iPad with its wide array of general and legal specific productivity apps, can perform a majority of our tech tasks. But there are times when only a traditional Windows or Mac computer will do. Mobile lawyers have learned that they can use their iPad to remotely access their office and home computers and run software installed on those computers that is not available for the iPad. As good as some of the remote access apps and services (LogMeIn, GoToMyPC, etc.) are, translating a traditional mouse-driven Windows or Mac app to the iPad's touch screen, is hit and miss. The user experience can be clunky and frustrating.
A new app and service for the iPad called Parallels Accesschanges all of that. It is among the most useful iPad app for lawyers. You have likely heard of Parallels. They are the market leaders in virtualization for the Mac. Their best-known product, Parallels Desktop, lets you run Windows on your Mac or Macbook. Until recently, being able to run Windows was essential to using a Mac in a law office because so many mission-critical applications were Windows-only. Today, so much can be done using Cloud-based applications and services, that the choice of operating system for lawyers is become less important. If you have a browser, such as Safari or Chrome on a Mac running OS X, you can do almost everything you need to do to run a law practice.
But back to the new Parallels Access app. It is nothing short of magical. All other remote access apps for the iPad, including my previous favorite, LogMeIn Ignition, can only give you a view of your remote Windows or Mac computer's screen (or screens in multiple-monitor setups). You still have the problem of trying to manipulate applications on your Windows or Mac desktop with your finger or a stylus on the surface of the iPad's screen. It is not easy since everything on your remote computer's desktop is scaled down in size to fit the 9.7 inch iPad screen. Yes, you can zoom the view, but that is an extra step that can be awkward.
Parallels Access actually converts your remote computer's applications to full-screen iPad apps that respond very well to finger or stylus touch commands. I installed the app on my iPad, registered my account with Parallels, and then received an email with a link to download and install the companion Windows host application on my Lenovo ThinkPad X220, which is my primary Windows computer connected via a docking station to 25 inch and 24 inch widescreen LCD monitors. Once everything was installed and I connected from my Wi-Fi only iPad 2 to my ThinkPad via Parallel's access. I watched a brief but informative "how to" video while Parallel's Access did its configuration magic to give me a home screen view on my iPad with icons for many of the applications installed on my Thinkpad, such as Google Chrome, MS Word, and others. There is a simple "+" button at the top right to add other icons for other installed applications, so I quickly added Adobe Acrobat Pro X and PCLaw to the home screen. I remoted created several time entries in PCLaw from the iPad and it was very easy to use. I opened Word and was able to remotely edit documents using my own customized installation of Word from the iPad's screen exactly as it appears on my ThinkPad. Simply amazing! The process of signing in and navigating is summarized nicely in this videofrom the Parallels web site.
I've had Parallels Access installed only a few days. But I am looking forward to my next road trip where I can really put Parallels Access through its paces. So far, it is the most useful iPad app/service I have used for remote access and perhaps the most useful app for lawyers, period. And because the Windows version is still in beta, there is a free 90 day trial. After that, the service costs $79 per computer per year. The Mac version has a 14 day free trial. I think the $79 annual cost is more than fair for the remarkable user interface that makes remote access and control so intuitive.
- Scott Bassett, Esq., Senior Editor, Affinity Publications