First Review: TrialDirector 6

First Review: TrialDirector 6
By Ted Brooks

If you’ve never before used trial presentation software in your practice, now is the time to consider it. If you’ve used previous versions of TrialDirector or other trial presentation software, now is the time to consider springing for the upgrade.

Note: Since this remains a popular article, I will add that TrialDirector  6.2, build 900 is the current version, released 12/16/2010, and that several things have been upgraded and even some great new features have been added. I also anticipate another release within a few days to fix a PDF issue. With such a major overhaul of the program required to work with Windows 7, these past few months have allowed the folks at inData time to get the "real world" feedback necessary to make sure that it continues to maintain its reputation as the "Gold Standard" in trial presentation software. It is comforting to know that they are driven to continue developing and improving the program by listening to those who actually use it daily. Hope you enjoy the review.

Four years in the making (version 5 was released on 5/1/2006), TrialDirector 6 brings together all of best features from previous versions, and includes many feature requests by current users. This shows they are listening. 

I have been running version 6 for several months now (going through Alpha and a few Beta versions), and unlike many new software releases I’ve worked with, this one is now stable and ready for prime-time. As a disclaimer, I will say that I have used TrialDirector for many years and have a close working relationship with inData, the makers of TrialDirector. I have not been compensated by inData for this or any other reviews or mention of their products, nor have I submitted this article to them for their review, approval, editing or modification. I have also used other trial presentation software with good results. Competitive products such as Visionary and Sanction are also excellent platforms for trial presentation. That stated, while I may admittedly be a bit partial, I will do my best to offer an objective analysis of TrialDirector 6 in this brief review. For purposes of this review, I will not attempt to cover every feature of the software, nor those features which were already in version 5. For more info on version 5 (and some features in common with version 6), please refer to my review (, or to the inData website ( for additional product information, including a very helpful new set of online tutorials.

At First Glance

Upon launching the program for the first time, everything looks familiar. The Case Library view looks like version 5.

From here, we will take a look at a few of the major changes – the first being something I have been asking inData to implement over the past 4 years – the return of the Grid View. The Document Manager tab now brings back the fully functional, editable and sortable database view, reminiscent of version 3 and 4. For the occasional user, this may not be a big deal, but for those who must build and manage large databases, and many of them at one time, this is a critical feature. It simply allows another perspective (albeit somewhat geeky), that enables quick editing of any column. So, instead of having to right-click on a document in the Case Library to display properties, or use the F2 shortcut to get a one-line editable row, you can now see all of them at once.

This is not actually a “new” feature, but rather an improved version of something dating back to version 4 that simply makes sense to those who use it. Not everyone will appreciate this feature, but for those who will use it, it’s one of the best parts of version 6. Sometimes, older is better. Also, the Coding tab at the bottom is essentially the same database as in previous versions. There is nothing monumental to report here in the way of updates. It works great, and does everything a basic coding database should do.

Transcript Manager

The Transcript Manager also looks familiar when you click the tab on the bottom – but it has been totally revamped. Being a long-time user of TrialDirector, I had become accustomed to creating clips by selecting the desired text and then listening to “edit,” or trim the beginning and ending of the excerpt.

Can you simply input the page:line designation start and end to create a clip? Yes.
Can you select the desired text to create a clip? Yes.
Can you use the clip wizard to assemble clips? Yes.
Can you use the segment editor to create and assemble clips? Yes.

Can you still edit clips by selecting text and then listening to make your adjustments as in version 3-5? No, not really.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t been a real fan of “visually” creating clips, even though it has been out for several years in version 5. There was just something missing for me, be it accuracy, the speed in which I could get the clips created and edited, or who knows what. In TrialDirector 6, you will need to decide which of these methods works for you. Some will like the option to just type in the page and line numbers. Others, like me, will likely develop their own “hybrid” method. I find that it is fastest for me to select the text manually, and then go to the visual and audio display to trim the excerpt. One reason this works for me is that by selecting the text, I automatically assign it an ID, based on my desired settings, found in “View,” “Options.”

So, instead of having to manually name the clip, it is already named and sorted for me. You can also choose something like “Clip 1,” “Clip 2,” etc., but then you don’t bring any descriptive information into the database. This method also enables me to view the text, making sure it makes sense, and isn’t starting or ending in the middle of a question or answer.

Frankly, I was amazed at the accuracy of the clips when dealing with the visual display waveform editor. Maybe my sync was dead-on accurate, but the start points were almost always perfect – something that would rarely happen when using only the audio (tape deck or VCR-inspired controls) for editing – regardless of sync accuracy. As a result, clip creation and editing speed are now much faster and more precise.

It’s All About Presentation

Perhaps the most important thing TrialDirector or any trial presentation software can do is present evidence to a jury and/or judge. Of course, without a proper system and method of data management, it wouldn’t be much better than PowerPoint. That stated, if you’re looking for bells and whistles and/or cool new features, there are plenty to be found in the presentation and what I will refer to as the “pre-presentation” areas.

When in dual screen mode (one showing the database, the other the trial presentation), there is a new “Mirror Mode” feature which allows the user to zoom, highlight and/or otherwise work with a document in the “Preview” screen and have the results displayed “live” on the presentation screen. So, rather than display the cursor or other annotation tools in front of the jury, you can simply have your work “appear” on the presentation, while you are working in the preview screen. A real benefit of all of this is that although you are able to display only the results, you are still able to view and work in the database, and if you need to move the cursor over to the presentation to point something out, you still can do that. So, you now have the option of setting something up in Preview and then presenting it, or doing the whole thing “live,” in addition the typing in an exhibit number, using barcodes, or the improved document explorer in the Presentation screen.

The toolbar has a nice “auto-hide” option, in addition to improved settings which may be saved. The presentation also offers some very flashy (read: glitzy) display options, such as a mirror and backlight effect, which are probably a bit over the top for actual trial presentation. They can be used for other types of presentations, however, as in a recent matter in which I provided a recap of the trial in a PowerPoint presentation. For that, I was able to take advantage of some of these effects.

The Bottom Line
If you already own TrialDirector, I would say the decision to upgrade is a no-brainer. If you are current with your TrialDirector 5 annual maintenance, the price of the upgrade is offered at a 50% discount. If you are purchasing without a qualified upgrade, the list price is $695 for the software, plus $139 for annual maintenance, keeping it in line with other competitive programs.

The upgrade from version 3 to 4 was dramatic, 4 to 5 introduced many new features, and now TrialDirector 6 has really brought it all together. In my opinion, inData’s TrialDirector has once again raised the bar, which will likely help it remain the market leader in trial presentation software.

Additional resources:
Court and Trial Technology Blog
LinkedIn Trial Technology Group
Trial Technology Yahoo Group
LinkedIn: Ted Brooks
Twitter: litigationtech

Ted Brooks, President
Litigation-Tech LLC
"Enhancing the Art of Communication" Member, American Society of Trial Consultants
Certified inData TrialDirector Trainer
415-291-9900  San Francisco
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