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It can be hard to convey your intentions online. Without the context of a face to look at or voice to hear, the plain words of a text, tweet or email can easily be interpreted, and misinterpreted, in many different ways.

While the Internet has stubbornly refused to adopt context clues like the interrobang or irony punctuation, tools like emojis and emoticons can help visual express the intent behind words. But not always.

There's no question that Microsoft Word is the standard when it comes to computer word processing. The program, which was first released over 32 years ago, is installed on over 1 billion machines and used for just about all non-specialized word processing needs. But it's starting to see its dominance challenged, as consumers move to online word processors and tablets, where Word's reign is much less established.

If you're looking to break free from Bill Gates or simply want to explore other options for your firm, there are alternatives out there. Here's five quality alternatives to MS Word that are functional, affordable and, most importantly, compatible with the Microsoft documents everyone else still uses.

As BigLaw firms fall, "boutique" firms rise in their place. "Boutique" is just a fancy name for a small law firm that emphasizes a few practice areas. It's not just the increased cost of BigLaw firms that has enabled boutiques to become popular, though.

As Bloomberg reports, it's technology that has allowed the little guys to finally catch up to the big guys.

LinkedIn endorsements aren't the hardest kinds of endorsements to get. Your mother, your neighbor, even total strangers can endorse you for all sorts of skills, from complex civil litigation to organizing company softball teams.

While colleagues can provide detailed recommendations, also featured prominently on your LinkedIn profile, endorsements are a simple thumbs up -- a sign that someone stands behind your skills. But, do they matter?

Love it or hate it, Microsoft Outlook is here for the long haul. Like cockroaches, Twinkies, and the leather jacket, it was here before we got here and it will keep going long after we're gone.

Rather than rage, rage against the Outlook, embrace it. Sure, it's part of a somewhat clunky suite of giant enterprise-level software, but you can bend it to your productivity will -- with the right tools, of course.

You've earned that vacation -- or stubborn head cold -- so let the world know about it. Or at least let them know that you won't be around to check your messages.

When you're out of the office for an extended period, make sure you've turned on your out-of-office auto-reply. You should also switch your office voicemail message if no one else will be handling your calls, but much more common is the use of an automated email message.

Since everyone who emails will be getting it, make sure you do it right. To that end, here are a few tips, and warnings, for crafting your out of office message:

When does a tweet of 140 characters or less require a disclaimer? More often than you might think. While a solid social media policy is a good way to avoid online complications and potential ethics breaches, if you're a lawyer who tweets, a cautious disclaimer every now and then can save you headaches later.

Whether it's notifying your readers that they're not getting legal advice, distancing your views from that of your firm, or ending each tweet with #imnotyourlawyer, Twitter disclaimers can give you an added layer of protection.

Big Orange is the winner! Earlier this month, The National Law Journal published its fourth annual readers' best of rankings. Westlaw, one of our sister companies under the Thomson Reuters umbrella, took home the top "Legal Research Provider" designation, while FindLaw earned honors for "social media consultancy for law firms."

That's not all, though: Several products in the TR family also won awards.

Many attorneys frequent Internet message boards (like FindLaw Answers) to answer legal questions from anonymous strangers. It can actually be useful to drum up business, provided you post using your real name and contact information.

Even though it's the Internet, which is the untamed frontier of communications, there are still rules lawyers need to follow. Here are just some of the things you need to keep in mind when answering questions online.

Back in law school, we did a cursory class or two -- by which I mean, we spent a day or two of class -- on using paper research materials. You know the ones: federal reporters, state reporters, and those West key reporter things.

These days, all those books are relegated to propping up the short leg of your desk or appearing as props on lawyer TV shows (why would someone have a single copy of the U.S. reports on his desk? Was that his favorite year?). Even with the march of technology, are there still times when you need to research on paper?