November 20, 2014

Andrew Williams

The Grand Reorganisation

I've been an Evernote user for a few years now, and its really changed how I keep track of "stuff" I need to keep stored for the future, be it scanned copies of my rental contract for my house or that 5 line how-to guide I found to fix an annoying issue I have. I don't think I could last a week without checking in with the reference i've built up over time.

I'm by no means a heavy user, my Evernote store consists of around 350 well curaited notes, most of which have a large PDF scan or image attached. My notebook collection has evolved nautrally with my usage and its ended up with around 50 notebooks for my very meager number of notes, so it was time to simplify.

The last day or so i've been reading a few blog posts from various Evernote users, from the heavy hitters down to the people who use it as a scratch pad for ideas. What I found is that a lot of people seemed to share the same consistent view; split down the important bits into notebooks, the rest can live in one "filing cabinet" size notebook as long as they're well tagged. Jamie Rubin documented his notebook reorganisation and his method really made sense to me. Afer around of poking around I had the following layout:

  • Personal
    • Medical
    • Banking
    • Documents
  • Professional
    • Certifications
    • HR
    • Job 1
    • Freelance
    • Payslips
    • P60s
  • Reference
    • Contracts
    • Receipts & Warranties
    • Repairs & Service
    • Filing Cabinet
  • Travel
    • Europe
    • North Ameria
  • Shared
    • Public Notes

I still have some crossover between the notebooks, but its a lot better than the previous 50, i'll have to let this bed in for the next few weeks to see how this works, but i'm already experiencing the advantages of having a single "Filing Cabinet" notebook with all my miscellaneous clippings in. I'm sure in the near future i'll have to start mass tagging items instead of depending on flicking through the list of notes, but thats for another post...

by Andrew Williams at November 20, 2014 09:32 PM

November 17, 2014

Larry Cafiero

I’m baaaaaaaaaaack!

OK, so here’s the deal:

Job: Check. Got a great gig editing financial books and presentations for a financial publisher here in town. That’s as boring as it sounds, but it pays the bills. I’m still looking for other freelance work going forward, but this is going to keep me going for quite some time.

Hardware: At home I’ve been using primarily CrunchBang and Korora, though I confess that for the last several months I’ve had the latter on the Road Warrior ThinkPad T60 while using CrunchBang on desktops in the home lab. I’m mostly using the laptop, but the T60 has been showing its age with the Fedora-based distro on it. So I made the switch back and now it’s running like new.

So now I’m back, patrolling the forums — welcome news to some, and a warning to others — and tweaking the current version while waiting for Janice.

So, did you miss me? :-)

Creative Commons License
Larry the CrunchBang Guy and all other blogs by Larry Cafiero are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Filed under: CrunchBang, Debian, Openbox Tagged: CrunchBang, CrunchBang GNU/Linux, CrunchBang Linux, Debian, Openbox

by Larry at November 17, 2014 11:29 PM

November 02, 2014

Richard Querin

Getting my Work Calendar to Sync Properly on my Phone

This is a quick post about how I solved the problem of implementing my work calendar (shared via a calDAV server) into the calendar app on my phone (a Nexus 5) right alongside my Google Calendar.

At work we use KerioConnect to manage our mail, calendars and contacts. I use their webmail client to do my email and calendar on my desktop at work. It’s remarkably good. It’s fast and well-designed.

I wanted any events I added to my work calendar through its webmail interface to show up on my phone’s calendar app. And I also wanted to be able to add and edit calendar events on my phone whenever I wanted, and have those changes sync properly.

My first attempt at this was to try and import my calendar into Google Calendar by adding it as an additional calendar on the GCal website. I could never get my work calendar to show up here. I’m not 100% sure why. Maybe it was finicky about the CalDav address. I’m also not sure that if it did work, would I be able to add and edit calendar entries or would it be read-only? Anyway, not being able to get them to show up made that point moot.

So here’s what I ended up getting to work:

I used the CalDAV-Sync tool available on the Play Store. This is a paid app (cost me $2.89CAD). I tried a few of the free CalDAV sync tools available on the store, but couldn’t get them to work properly. Your mileage may vary, so for sure you should try to get a free one to work. In my case I couldn’t (or more likely, gave up too early). Anyway, this app (and others like it) will let you add an account that will then show up under the accounts settings on your phone. So you can then try multiple calendar apps and this ‘work’ account will be available as a calendar to work with just as your Google Calendar is.

There are lots of nicely designed calendar apps out there on the play store. I’ve tried and used a few different ones like Sunrise Calendar, DigiCal, and aCalendar in the past, but my current tool of choice is Today Calendar. There is a free 30-day trial version, but I opted for the slightly pricey pro version after a week or two. It’s 7 bucks on the store, but it worked so well for me, and I like it so much over the others that I figure a few coffees worth of money is fair play. It is very similar to Google Calendar in it’s look, but has a few features that are better implemented. It’s in very active development, and the developer is very responsive and is on Google+ as well. I recommend the trial version to see if it’s up your alley and has the features you want.

The things I like best about it are:

  • useful month view on a phone that gives at least some indication of the items on a given day
  • pinch and zoom on the week view
  • a nice agenda view
  • a nice agenda widget

Here are some screenshots. The last one just shows the CalDav account added under settings:

Screenshot_2014-11-02-07-49-30

Screenshot_2014-11-02-07-50-00

Screenshot_2014-11-02-07-50-39

 

Screenshot_2014-11-02-07-52-02

by rfquerin at November 02, 2014 01:40 PM

November 01, 2014

Richard Querin

Workflowy, I Could Kiss You

I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time over the years trying to find some sort of system of staying organized at work. I’ve tried everything from the simplicity of paper lists to complex tools like Asana to barebones solutions like todo.txt and about two dozen different to-do apps. And while I’ve had varying degrees of success with all of them, none of them have really stuck.

And then along came Workflowy.

I’ve been using Workflowy for a couple of months now, and I have to say it’s the stickiest of the lot.

What is Workflowy?

At the risk of over-simplifying, Workflowy is a straightforward, extremely flexible web-based outliner.

You need to sign up to use it. It’s free for up to 250 list items per month. This is not the total number of items, but how many you can add per month. A pro account gives you unlimited lists and more features for $4.99 a month or $49 per year. I’m currently using the free version and haven’t found myself near the limit, but I could easily see myself giving them my money.

I mainly use the web app, there is a chrome app (which I also use) and there are mobile apps for it on both Android and IOS.

This post is not a tutorial or an attempt to review all of the features of Workflowy. It’s just a brief description of what it is, and how I’m currently using it.

When you sign in you’re greeted with a blank document. From there you simply build your lists or outline, no preparation needed. Just start typing.

Navigation

If you’re at all familiar with outliners, the typical navigation will make you feel at home. Tab for indenting, shift-Tab for outdenting.

While there is a plethora of keyboard shortcuts, I also find the clicking and dragging aspects of the web app to be remarkably useful. They seem to have really concentrated on making mousing super-effective. You can drag items up and down the list and the great visual feedback makes dragging items into different levels of your outline easy and intuitive. You can even highlight groups of items and move them around as a unit or do group indents and outdents with the tab and shift-tab keys when a group is highlighted. There are also palettes that pop up when you hover your mouse on item bullets giving you options to do things like Complete, Share, Export, Duplicate, Delete, or Add a note to an item.

There is a search box at the top, a button to make completed items visible or hide them, a help menu, save status indicator and settings dropdown. Not much fluff. Lean and mean. Indicative of how well thought out it seems to be.

Tags and Things

Simply adding a piece of text with a # prefix makes that text a tag. Think of it as a flexible filter tool. There are plenty of blog posts out there showing some creative use of tags and such. Currently I use them very sparingly, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Entering a web address (no http prefix required) will automagically make that a clickable link. Entering an email address will turn it into a mailto link. I don’t use these very often, but they’re definitely worth noting.

A Useful Palette

Hovering your mouse over a bullet will bring up a small palette of options which will act on the current item and its child items. You can complete an item (which will grey out the item and mark it with strikethrough). You can export the item in plain text, formatted and OPML formats. You can also share an item which will give you a link that you can send to people to view the item (and its subitems) without them having to have a Workflowy account.

How I’m Using Workflowy

I’m a structural engineer managing many active projects. Some of them are large, some small. But all of them require some amount of management. My use of Workflowy is dead simple. Lots of people out there have much more well developed and robust systems, but simple is what works for me – at least right now.

I use Workflowy for keeping track of to-do items, fleshing out planning, making notes and holding miscellaneous bits of information. It’s always either open in a tab in Chrome or I have the Chrome app open in a separate window. I use the Android app, but mostly for reviewing things and not usually for editing or adding items, but you can do that with the app, and from time to time I have.

Here is what I see when my Workflowy list is almost fully collapsed:

 

 

overall_screenshot

Clean. Empty. Nice.
Here’s a closer view:

closer-up

Under the Work list, you can see I have a few sub items. The key one for me, the one that gets the most love (or hate) is the Active Projects list. I have an item for each project I’m working on. We use project numbers so that is what you’re seeing in the list below.

active projects

Then inside each project I have to-do items, along with other nodes in my outline that may hold project notes, meeting notes, or whatever else is important to me. You can visually tell that nodes are holding more sub-nodes by the fact that they’re shaded (notice the ‘notes about soils report’ node in the screenshot below). It’s flexible – which I love. I don’t need to know what’s going to go in there. I just add things as necessary.

whats in there

Priorities

Some people swear by priorities and ranking things. I’ve tried it. I hate it. For me, it always devolves into me having a list of 200 high priority items. So instead, what I’m currently doing is far more manual.

Each morning I’m reviewing my items and picking the 3 or 4 that I want or need to get done today. I’m not picking ten items. Just 3 or 4 (or even 2 if they’re tough). And for each one, I’m simply adding a #today tag to the end of them. That’s it.

Back in that first screenshot, you might have noticed I had a top level item simply titled #today. Clicking this item will bring up a list of every item that has a “#today” tag. It’s a quick way for me to filter the items I need to focus on between the 20 phone calls and 90 incoming emails that threaten to steal my workday from me.

When I click that tag, it actually just puts #today into the search box, so when you want out of that list view and back to all your items, you need to clear that tag from the search box.

So I bring that #today list up in front of me and try my best to get those things done. When I get one of them done, I mark it completed.

And here’s the key. At the end of the day, I remove those #today tags from the uncompleted items unless I absolutely KNOW I can get them done early the next morning. Otherwise, I’m into the same boat of an evergrowing high priority item list. What I want is a clear simple list of the two or three things that I need to do to make progress. This method seems to be getting me that.

As far as completing projects, once they’re done (the building is built or our scope of work is complete, inspected and signed off) I simply drag them up and into the completed project list.

So there you go. It’s a dead simple system, but with enough power and flexibility to be useful and time-saving.

Kudos to Workflowy. They’ve built something really nice here.

 

by rfquerin at November 01, 2014 05:11 AM