Tag archive: advice

In search of a scratchpad, part two

As I discussed in the first part of this series, I often come across information while at work that I want to save or act on later while on my own time (or vice versa). In an attempt to address this need, I set up a personal scratchpad using Together. Sadly, though Together offered some fantastic advantages, its incredibly spotty synchronization with MobileMe eventually convinced me to abandon it in favor of something a bit more involved.

VoodooPadThe second solution I turned to, and the one that I have been using and fine-tuning for the last eight months, was VoodooPad. Despite some unique drawbacks of its own, VoodooPad offers near-perfect synchronization, a daily log that far surpasses Together’s in usefulness, and the ability to append text to practically anything. The only downside is that VoodooPad is less flexible about what it can store (and how you can retrieve that info later) because everything is text-based whereas in Together you can toss whatever you want into your scratchpad, be it a PDF, image, bookmark, etc. [read more...]

In search of a scratchpad, part one

One of the key problems I face every day is that I have two computers, one brain, and a tendency to forget things. Perhaps while at work I’ll see a link on Twitter that I’d like to read on my lunch break but which skips my mind once lunch rolls around. Or maybe I forget to fill out my timesheet details and the next day have trouble remembering what exactly I did all day. Sometimes I’ll be off work and see a program that I definitely want to remember to install on my work computer only to start work the next day oblivious. How do I track such minor details without wasting time or brain space? The answer, I’ve decided, is that I need a scratchpad: somewhere that I can quickly toss ideas, URLs, and thoughts that will be synchronized between my computers and contains some simple organizational scheme to allow me to easily identify what needs attention.

TogetherFor the past few weeks I have been investigating software that might serve me as a scratchpad. Although I have not yet developed the perfect solution, I would like to share my first, somewhat flawed solution using Together from Reinvented Software. Together gets almost everything exactly right, but falls short for me thanks to the buggy and error-prone synchronization of MobileMe. Despite the shortcomings of its synchronization, however, setting up a scratchpad in Together is extremely easy and for people who don’t rely on synchronization (or perhaps just have better luck with MobileMe sync services than I) Together is an excellent choice for a scratchpad. [read more...]

Looking backwards

When I first started using Things to organize my daily tasks, I sat down and took the time to carefully craft a list of tags that I wanted to use. I knew what what kinds of tasks I’d be tagging, so I was able with some creativity to come up with a list that was succinct yet exhaustive. Having worked with that list of tags for a few months, I’ve only added one or two tags.

This tells me my system was a good one. Aside from not needing to expand the tag cloud, most tasks I only need to assign 1-2 tags per task, and and tasks inherit one more based on which project I stick them into. My tag filter bar is clean, and small enough to be useful even in lists with lots of tasks. When I posted the list in the Things wiki I got some very positive feedback. But having used the list religiously for a couple months, I have realized something: about 80% of my tags are completely useless. [read more...]

Comparing GTD task managers

Which Getting Things Done application to use has been on my mind lately, thanks in large part to the public release of OmniFocus which was closely followed by the iGTD 2 previews and my own Things screencast. With so many good-looking options either available or soon to be available, I’m sure that more people than I have been wondering which app will be right for them. Since I’ve had a chance to use almost all of them, I figured it would be nice to offer a quick general comparison of the available (and pending) options.

There are some similar aspects to all GTD task managers, but I think one of the primary deciding factors whether or not a particular piece of software will work for you is how much structure you need or desire. With that in mind, here’s the GTD software for Mac OS X, ordered from most structured to least: Midnight Inbox, OmniFocus, iGTD, TaskPaper, iGTD 2 (early development), and Things (approaching public preview). If you’re like me and agonize over task managers, then this is a pretty daunting list (and if you count some of the less polished options, it’s nowhere near complete). However, with an eye to structure, I don’t think it is all that difficult to narrow the list down to a couple of applications that you should try. [read more...]

Tagging files with file libraries

Tags for every situation

  1. Tagging for productivity
  2. File library vs. file system
  3. File system tagging
  4. Tagging files with file libraries

I know it’s hardly standard practice to publish things on major holidays, but I wanted to give my U.S. readers something to do while they’re recovering from eating too much turkey, and I can hardly think of a better distraction than an article that I’ve been meaning to write for months, continuing my series of tagging software recommendations. This time the topic is file libraries, and unlike file system tagging solutions, there’s a lot of good options out there.

To recap, a file library is an application that collects, searches, and browses your files outside of the standard Finder and Spotlight interface. File libraries contain some of the best examples of tagging interfaces currently available on the Mac, and thanks to the limitations Spotlight has with regards to tagging often provide streamlined and useful tagging for a variety of file types. [read more...]

Leopard’s Spotlight: actually useful

Matt Neuburg has posted an excellent article called Spotlight Strikes Back about the primary differences in Spotlight from 10.4 to 10.5, including some tips and tricks on using the new boolean operators and so forth under 10.5. Although I’m not a particular fan of Matt’s NotLight (preferring FileSpot), his observations and advice are right on target.

Definitely a useful article to read if you use Spotlight much (for finding tagged files, for instance), although it doesn’t have anything to do with tagging specifically. (Thanks to Daring Fireball for the link.)

My own 35 essential Mac (freelancing) apps

A little while ago, Freelance Switch posted a list of 35 essential Mac apps. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the list. Aside from its complete lack of any meaningful organization (except its implied ranking from “most essential” to “less essential”), it included software that hasn’t been released yet while excluding a lot of really great software that’s been out for a while. Sure, Things looks pretty cool, but since no one can use it, how can it be “essential”?

I’ve finally finished writing up my own list of 35 essential Mac apps, posted over on Beckism.com. There’s some overlap with Freelance Switch, and some of the really good stuff from Freelance Switch didn’t make it on because I personally don’t find it particularly essential, so you’ll probably want to check out both lists. Of course, it doesn’t have much to do with tagging (I haven’t needed tagging software for my freelance work, so there isn’t much tagging software on the list), but I figured you’d be interested nonetheless. Enjoy!

43 Folders exclusive

Merlin Mann over at 43 Folders asked me to share some of my tagging feng shui with him and his readers. The result is a little how-to article on building a consistent tagging system called Becoming a tagging kung-fu master. It’s a rather good read, if I do say so myself, with similar ideas to The what and a couple other articles in the “Tagging guidelines” series.

For visitors from 43 Folders exploring Tagamac for the first time, welcome! you might want to check out Tagging best practices (the site’s most popular article to date), Easy choices (a short counterpoint to some of the thoughts from the 43 Folders article and my previous “The what” article), or the software reviews. There is also a list of the most popular articles in the archives.

Easy choices

I like to think about things. I especially like thinking about things logically, piece-by-piece. Tagamac itself is a great example of this; it seems to me that most blogs get started because someone thinks to themselves, “I wanna blog about Spam!” (or whatever random topic) and sits down and does it. I thought to myself, “Gee, tagging is swell!” and then sat down and methodically listed out the things that I would write about. Seriously; I’ve got the OmniOutliner documents to prove it.

This tendency also translates into my advice on tagging. When I came up with the idea of “the what“, it was because I had sat down and tried to think of the most efficient way to tag. The article didn’t come from a system; the system came from the article. But mine is not the only way. [read more...]

File system tagging

The fact is that people usually want to tag their files, but unfortunately file system tagging is still one of the most difficult and onerous tagging activities. Although there are a number of different tools now to choose from, if you want to use tags in your file system you will likely need to roll your own solution to some extent.

There are two main categories of file system tagging software: software intended to help you tag your files, and software that you can use to roll your own solution. Keep in mind that the focus of this series of articles is on helping you find software; coming up with a workflow will still be up to you (although I’ll be publishing some workflow advice down the road). [read more...]

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