My perfect computer

Few weeks ago I posted a link to Michael’s blog post about his perfect setup.

I’ve been thinking about  this topic little further and realized that many of us would have two or more computers to consider in their setup. It’s often the case, that the setup is very different between each of the machine. One computer would be in the office, second is a home desktop or a laptop as it is in my case.
The former is a device managed by company’s IT team subject to various policies and restrictions. It has custom build applications and a predefined set of programs that can be used. If you want something new that is not on a company approved software list you have to go through a lengthy process. Most likely ending with "no go" response. They have their reasons.  Getting this machine to the state of being perfect is difficult. The scope is very limited and you need to learn all the tricks possible to make the most of this setup.
On the opposing end there is a home machine which, with a little tweaking and good and simple software lets you get job done, the way you want. But it’s not only about the job being done. What’s also important is the style, easy of use, friendliness and all encompassing cool factor of the application you’ve selected.

Freedom to  hack, experiment is the best way to find this perfect mix of various tool and utilities which make your computer life easier. There is no single list of ideal apps different people, different jobs will require something different. For me, at this moment the perfect computer looks like this.

Web browsing

Firefox/Chrome – Firefox remains my main browser due to a set of extensions I’m accustomed to it. I also use Chrome to check email and for other tasks where I use Google services.

Writing

Evernote – Evernote is my Swiss army knife. It’s a primary tool for writing, storing ideas, managing projects and reference information.

UV Outliner/Freeplane – Non-linear thinking gets done in Freeplane, which is an excellent mind mapping tool. For more structured outlining and thinking I’m using UV Outliner which is often called OmniOutliner for Windows PC.

WriteMonkey – I use it when I need a so called "distraction free" writing environment or simply black screen and white text. The beauty of WriteMonkey is its versatility, you can use the bare bone elements to just write or take advantage of all the different options available like bookmarking, versioning, referencing, multi-markdown.

Time Management

Remember the Milk  – I’ve settled on Remember the Milk as primary task management tool almost 3 years ago. It’s been serving me well. Although there are certain limitations, versatility and ubiquity of this app are it’s best features.

Google Calendar – gives me access to appointments everywhere I need. There is hardly a better calendaring solution.

Other essentials

Dropbox – for syncing and keeping backup of current work, for sharing files with family and friends.

PhraseExpress – this a fantastic piece of software that allows me to automate a lot of my typing. I have text snippets for almost anything from email addresses, mail addresses to numbers, tags, keyword combination and even few paragraphs. If you type a lot and prefer keyboard as main tool this program is definitely worth trying out.

Thunderbird – email client from Mozilla, I’m using it to keep a backup of all my email.Run it once a week or so and all emails will be pulled for storing on my laptop. This gives me access to my email on and offline.

Lastpass/Keepass – password management becomes critical, using easy memorable words is no longer an option so best way to solve this is to resort to an application that can store this information securely and generate passwords for you. Keepass is an standalone open source application whereas Lastpass is web app with Firefox and Chrome extensions that lets you sync passwords on all your computers. I’m using two programs solely for backup and security purposes, having two encrypted copies gives me a safety net and ability use my data regardless of the situation.     

Notepad++  – This is very powerful text editing application with syntax highlighting, making coding a great experience. Although I don’t use it very often it’s indispensable at times when I need to update WordPress theme files or edit a piece of CSS code.

So this is my current setup and as I’ve been finalising this post I realised that almost all of the above tool have been in my arsenal for a good while. I take it as an indication that majority of my computer needs are now solved. Although it’s more than likely I will be looking at other tools and introduce new tweaks the skeleton  of my perfect setup is here.

Weekly Links for 21st of November

A weekly collection of posts and articles about productivity, time management, tools and technology.

  1. How do you get wise? The story of Mindfire « Scott Berkun
  2. how i kicked my time management habit and became exceedingly more productive, profitable and thrilled | White Hot Truth: because self-realization rocks.
  3. The Creative Problem Solving Process – Sources of Insight
  4. Why we crave creativity but reject creative ideas
  5. When to Evernote and When to Ever-Not | MichaelSchechter.Me

If you have any interesting articles please share them in the comments section.

Evernote a book of your life

As you’ve probably noticed I’m a big fan of Evernote. Just recently I’ve been listened to a Mac Power Users podcast about Evernote and how to make the most of it.

David Sparks and Katie Floyd host of the show invited Brett Kelly, author of “Evernote Essentials The Definitive Getting Started Guide for Evernote” to talk about how he uses Evernote.

In the course of the talk it becomes apparent that Brett is using it for everything from filing pdfs, jotting down ideas and memos to archiving pictures and children drawings.

Brett’s goal is to create a giant archive of his life.

If you’re looking to extend the use of Evernote in your life, head over to 5by5 network site and grab the episode 60. You could also check out earlier episode 16 about information managers (note: Mac software only) both well worth listening.

Projects, Evernote and Remember The Milk

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As many of you may know RTM is not the best project management solution it’s great web app for managing tasks and actions but connecting projects and creating nested solutions is not it’s strength. Sure you can try to hack it in many different ways but none would appear to be too intuitive or straight forward.

Evernote is great for taking notes of ideas, plans, sketches. When working on a project you can gather all backup and supporting documentation in it. Evernote is so versitile application

that its possibilities go way beyond that but I wanted to focus on the implication for projects.

In recent weeks team behind Evernote added new feature called note links. This allows you to create a link to your note which you can share in many various ways. Send by email, tweet include in other application.

My project list and many other action lists live in RTM. I prefer to keep it their so I have a single point of reference. RTM is good for tasks but not very good a project support solution. This is where Evernote comes handy.

When I launch a new project I create a new entry in RTM project list. Then I move to Evernote where I create a note for that project.

Next step is to create a list of next actions that allow me to complete the project. If I want or need I can supplement that with any thoughts, possible ideas, alternative solutions. All this gets saved into my note.

Last element is connect the information collected in Evernote with RTM project list.

This approach lets me do three things.

  1. I have quick access to project support material straight from my task application.
  2. When I decide to work on a project than I can either schedule it in calendar or RTM and simply press the link to focus on those project related tasks.
  3. Having a list of actions ready I can import them to RTM and by adding a proper syntax for tags, due dates, priorities. This is especially useful for project that may have a large number of moving parts and dependencies . So rather than refer to Evernote I can do what’s needed based on the RTM task list.

You can’t call it a deep integration like the one offered by folks behind Zendoe app yet the existing options allow me for creating quite nice and simple workflow.

Big thanks to Dan Gold for highlighting the usefulness of note links in his post.

Weekly Links for 7th of November

 

A weekly collection of posts and articles about productivity, time management, tools and technology.

If you have any interesting articles please share them in the comments section.