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Acrobat-ic Maneuvers: Get Your Knowledge(Base) On

Purchasing a software product is only step two. Before you buy into any system, you should give it a serious run-through, by virtue of a free trial. Don't be unpleasantly surprised. And, part of your research should involve a thorough review of the program's knowledgebase; because, before you buy a product, you should have some idea about how you're going to figure out how to use it once you have it.

You'll generally find that there are levels of support for every product, available via a number of delivery methods (and in 2011, some companies are choosing to provide customer service exclusively via email), from available tutorials accessible by account holders, to certified consultants charging hourly (or otherwise), to initial set-up services, and etc.

And, while it's great to find diamonds in the rough (really useful products that not everybody has caught onto yet, and that thereby come at an essential discount), there are reasons why people pay for the popular, leading products. One of those reasons is that that those products are often pretty darn good to begin with, probably having a killer feature, or several, just made for increasing popularity; from there, parent companies can use the moneys generated by significant market share to improve and market (although not necessarily in that order) the product. Another one of those reasons is that people tend to write about popular products, because there's nothing so crowded as a runaway bandwagon. So, when you're shelling out for a popular software program, keep in mind that you're generally getting something else of real value, too: lots of free tips and techniques on how to use that program. If you're an open sourcer, that's not always awaiting under your Christmas tree.

For an example of what I mean, consider the case of Adobe Acrobat, now in version X, or 10. As of this writing, a search for "Adobe Acrobat Tips" on Google returns just over six million results. That's a lot of free information; and, if you're even marginally software-handy, that's a lot of money you won't need to pay for support to get your mind wrapped around your new toy. Probably the best Adobe Acrobat resource, by a wide stretch, is Rick Borstein's Acrobat for Legal Professionals blog. Rick is the business development manager for Acrobat in legal, and his blog features lots of useful tips and tricks.  You can also follow Rick at his Twitter account @acrolaw; and, that's another place to get your Acrobat questions answered. In addition to Rick's resources, you can even find books written about Acrobat, including for lawyers, like the ABA's "The Lawyer's Guide to Adobe Acrobat". And, if you're thrifty, you won't buy those books, either; rather, you'll hit up the local library.

So, the next time you're investing in software, consider whether a robust and inexpensive knowledgebase will be available post-purchase, and flatten your learning curve.

Tip courtesy of Jared Correia, Law Practice Management Advisor, Law Office Management Assistance Program.

Published March 10, 2011

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