Westlaw Case Notebook Portable E-Transcript – or “What’s a .PTX file and how do I open it on my iPad?”

Westlaw Case Notebook Portable E-Transcript – or “What’s a .PTX file and how do I open it on my iPad?”

Download Westlaw Case Notebook Portable E-Transcript (Free!!)

Today’s app is Westlaw Case Notebook Portable E-Transcript from legal powerhouse Thomson Reuters. It’s a completely FREE universal app available for both the iPhone and iPad.

If you’ve ever received transcripts from a court reporter you’re probably familiar with the “e-transcript” format.

The default format for sending transcripts is plain-vanilla text, with an extension of .TXT, sometimes called ASCII text referring to an ancient standard developed in the telegraph age. This is a “lowest common denominator” file format since just about any computer or device can read it.

Once upon a time there was a company called RealLegal that developed an enhanced format for delivering transcripts called “e-transcript.” An e-transcript included the text of a transcript along with a “word index.” You could also search the text and export a cute “mini” transcript (4 pages to one printed page).

To create an e-transcript, court reporters had to purchase software that would take the text, create the word index, and bundle it all into an e-transcript.

To view an e-transcript, lawyers had to use the E-Transcript Viewer, which RealLegal wisely gave away for free.

The e-transcript was originally delivered by e-mail to lawyers as a “.exe” executable file so that all the lawyer had to do was double-click the .exe and it launched the Viewer with the transcript bundled inside.

But as many viruses started to be delivered by .exe files, RealLegal advised court reporters to ONLY send the transcript as a .PTX file and required lawyers to go and download the free E-Transcript Viewer on their own.

In 2005, RealLegal was acquired by LiveNote and a year later, Thomson Reuters acquired LiveNote.

In the fall of 2012, Thomson Reuters released the “Westlaw Case Notebook Portable E-Transcript” app, which may have one of the longest names for any app.

But the reason for such a convoluted name is that the app was specifically designed to work with the (NON-free) Westlaw Case Notebook software from Thomson Reuters … an excellent litigation case management software that I originally reviewed for TechnoLawyer back in 2011.

But you do NOT have to use Westlaw Case Notebook software on your computer to use the FREE iPad e-transcript app. They can work independently. It’s just if you DO invest in the Case Notebook software, you’ll be able to share info and annotations between your iPad and computer.

A court reporter usually sends a .PTX / e-transcript file as an e-mail attachment. Simply tap and hold on the attachment and use the “Open In” option to select “Westlaw Case Notebook Portable E-Transcript” (which is mercifully shortened to just “E-Transcript” in the list). You can also use the “Open In” option from Dropbox or another file storage app.

The Portable E-Transcript app looks ancient by today’s standards. Sadly, the app hasn’t been updated since October 2013. I reached out to my contacts at Thomson Reuters but couldn’t get anyone to reply to my questions about the future plans for the app.

On the plus side, the font is Courier New, which will warm the heart of any lawyer that remembers using an IBM Selectric typewriter.

I do appreciate that the questions of the transcript are in bold, and the answers are non-bolded, which is a convenient visual cue.

You can search the transcript by tapping the magnifying glass in the far right corner; which also reveals the immensely useful Word Index. Each word is listed in alphabetical order along with number of times it appears in the transcript. Tap a word to see the page and line number of each instance and tap one of those to jump directly there.

To highlight text and/or add a note, first select the text by holding your finger, then use the tiny blue dots to select more text. The secondary menu pops up to let you copy the text (which can then be pasted into an e-mail message or a Word document), highlight and add a note.

All of your highlights are accessible from an annotation list and you can jump straight to that highlighted passage by tapping a selection, or read the text of a note that you added.

The highlights and notes are wonderful … IF you either 1) ONLY plan to use the iPad or 2) want to transfer them to the Westlaw Case Notebook software on your computer. There is no other option for exporting the highlights and notes from the app … which makes a fairly compelling case to force you to purchase the Case Notebook software, wouldn’t you say?

Tapping the Export button gives you two options: Share WITH Notes, and Share WITHOUT Notes.

Both options create a new e-mail message. The first option (WITH Notes) generates an XML file that can only be fully parsed in the Westlaw Case Notebook software (the body of the e-mail explains this).

The second option (WITHOUT Notes) simply attaches the original .PTX file with instructions to your recipient to go download the free E-Transcript Viewer.

So do you need the “Westlaw Case Notebook Portable E-Transcript” app?

The answer is an unequivocal YES if you receive .PTX files from court reporters. It’s the ONLY app that will open a .PTX file on an iPhone or iPad. And the notes and highlights are fantastic if you want to access them on your iPad, or export them to the Case Notebook Windows software.

Honestly, if the court reporter offers you a choice, I strongly recommend you request a .TXT / ASCII text file and use the phenomenal TranscriptPad app (my review coming soon).

Download Westlaw Case Notebook Portable E-Transcript (Free!!)