Evernote Essentials 4

Brett Kelly has just announced the 4th edition of his Evernote Essentials ebook.  

There is a number of updates and enhancements  as well as new formats in which the book is available. One new chapter that I look forward to read is on how Brett uses Evernote. 

I’ve moved a way from Evernote couple months ago but I continue to keep eye on the latest developments there as Evernote becomes more of a platform than simply a note taking application.

 

Evernote Routines

I’m in the midst of reviewing my workflow and updating applications that I rely the most. I will write about that soon. 

I wanted to share a good example of making the most out of Evernote. Bernie Goldbach an American in Ireland shares his routines and some tips on how to leverage Evernote application for that purpose. 

The Essential Evernote Routines 

 

 

Doing Research with Evernote

Evernote is the primary tool which I use to keep my research materials, scraps of ideas and other notes. This post will discuss a three step process of researching any topic and how Evernote can help it make it more effective.

TOOLS I USE

Evernote Corporation created a number of products/applications which are key elements of my research process and come handy at different stages. It’s a very neat power pack allowing you to gather and process different types of media and information.

Evernote desktop client

WebClipper – browser extension

Clearly – browser extension

Skitch – desktop client

THE PROCESS

The process I follow is very simple but having it clarified made it much easier for focus on the specific stages rather than jump back and forth.

1) Find a topic

2) Collect

3) Process

4) Organise

Find a research topic

Ideas come and go. They are spurred by events, things we see, read etc. Yet what often happens, when we seek something todo all of a sudden there are no ideas available. Whenever an idea strikes, I make the point of capturing it and sending it to Evernote. If for example, I have an idea for a new blog post I put “PostIdea” in the title, if it’s a different type I type “IdeaPad”. Then I rely on saved search to bring up either in a single list of notes which I can review. Once a topic is selected I move to next phase.

Collect the information

Depending on a topic there maybe a multitude of sources of information relevant to what I’m researching. If it’s on the web I use a combination of Google and Duckduckgo to search through it. Anything that looks interesting whether it’s a quote, a whole article, image or PDF document gets saved into Evernote through use of WebClipper. Sometimes I’m not sure if I whole article is worth capturing and in such case I would bookmark it into Pinboard and then during processing decide if it’s worth keeping.

If I have other sources of information like email exchanges I can forward them straight into Evernote using my special email address. To see your individual address check your accounts settings.

For documents and files I rely on very neat feature called Folder Pickup. All I need to do is save files into the predefined location, wait couple seconds and check Evernote client. You can check the details of the folder location and the import settings under Tools>Import within desktop client.

Images are either taken straight from the web or through screenshots of pages that I specifically need. All it takes is to press “Win+PrtScr” and select the area to capture. Skitch comes handy for this too but I use it more for processing information.

Process

Once I’m happy with the volume of the information that I have it’s time to look through it in more detail and what’s worth. This allows me to understand what I have, figure out key concepts, note most important points and potentially discover new areas to look at.

When it comes to reading and extracting useful points the most effective tool for that is Clearly. Not only it removes all the unnecessary webpage elements leaving only the main content. It also overlays the page with plain background making the article easier to read. Clearly allows for highlight text you find interesting and send the whole article and highlight into your Evernote account.

Copy and paste is a handy way to gather the material but to better understand the concepts and retain information for longer it’s good to type your own reading notes. If I’m doing that I have one a note in a separate window and the switch between the material I’m reading and the note’s window. Once I’m done I makes sure I have the link to original content saved in the link field of the note. This way I can always refer to it when necessary or at least know where it was published.

What I would sometimes do is simply to grab a bunch of quotes from a single article and let Evernote create a series of notes which I then merge into one. It’s neat approach if you want to grab a large number of items without worrying about manual processing of them.

If I’ve captured any images or graphics that I want to analyse and review I use Skitch. This app has only a handful of features but they are very well designed and thought out. I can Annotate an image with highlights, text and arrows it’s very easy and effective. Since Skitch and Evernote desktop client are well integrated all it take is a single click of a mouse to move between the two. See a sample below.

Organise

Last but not least is organising stage of notes. Although Evernote has excellent search capabilities I personally still prefer to organise information in some form. Evernote allows for assigning tags to notes or creating specific notebooks which are note containers. From what I’ve seen the decision on the approach is very personal matter as some prefer the flexibility of tags, were others like the silo structure of a notebook. I happen to rely on both and use notebooks to store all the notes related to a particular project and then assign tags as way of indicating their status or specific theme they belong to. Once the project is closed, depending on the number of notes that I’ve created I would simply merge them on to one. Alternatively as I prefer to keep the folder structure light I would assign a specific tag to all notes related to particular project and then move them into a project archive folder.

This is how I manage research using various tools provided by Evernote. Do you have a process for managing your research? Do you have any tips for making it better? Please share in the comments section.

Speeding up your digital notetaking

Digital tools for storing information like Evernte,Onenote, Sprigpad or many manay more are great for collecting the information. Everything gets stored in one place and can be easily searched and accessed. But with a move to a digital realm the biggest inhibitor or obstacle for using it efficiently is a keyboard. If you think faster than your type any digital tool no matter how smart will frustrate you and you might be better of with pen and paper.

To me there three ways in which you can improve the situation.

  1. type faster
  2. use keyboard shortcuts
  3. use text expansion software.

I recently came across an excellent post which made superb example of point no 3. It outlined how can you improve note taking by combining Evenote and TextExpander. In short, you can use TextExpander (or PhraseExpress) to turn any form of note-taking that you do on regular basis into a template which you can reuse time and again. When attending a meeting all you need to do to start taking notes is open a new note in Evernote and type the TextExpander key configuration to bring up the template.

I’ve been using text expansion on Windows (PhraseExpress) for few months now and it’s absolutely fantastic way to save time, automate inputs and leverage templates regardless of the application you’re in.

You can read further on this topic over at jamierubin.net: 
Going Paperless: Evernote + TextExpander = Productivity

Evernote with Jamie Todd Rubin

Evernote has been the center of my workflow for good number of months and as I continue to refine it I’m always on the look for people writing about it.

Fairly recently I came across Jamie Todd Rubin a science fiction writer who makes a massive use of Evernote.  

Over the last number of months he’s been sharing his experience with going paperless and leveraging Evernote for that purpose. He’s also Evernote’s Paperless Living Ambassador.

I’ve picked up some nice tips and reconsidered some elements of my workflow after reading some if his post hence I would recommend that you have a look at his blog. I will definitely make a good weekend read. 

You will find all of his Evernote tagged articles by following below link.

Evernote – Jamie Todd Rubin

Evernote for almost everything and workflow update

Note: This is a very long post outlining in detail decision to move to Evernote as primary note taking tool of choice. Plain text still has it’s place as it’s best writing environment that I encoded. Hope it will be useful in your own journey of perfecting workflow.
I went through a little-big internal debate about keeping my notes, capture, reference material etc. I looked at plain text and rich text solutions for storing my data and more specifically whether to continue using ResophNotes or move back to Evernote as primary tool.

The key take away from this post is that the more you use a tool the more you rely on it the more beneficial it is to you. At the same time it becomes more difficult to switch. Read on if you want to know more details and how I approached different things.

Bit of a background

Over the course of last three months I’ve embarked on a plain text journey. It actually started few months ago when I began reading bettermess.com and all the stuff Michael had to say. Many of his posts where about plain text and it’s power. The neat and powerful system that he created was really appealing. At the same time came across other people who heavily relied on plain text David Sparks, Merlin Mann, Shawn Blanc, Patrick Rhone to name just few.

So three months ago I started to look for tools which would help me construct plain text based setup. To my surprise there aren’t that many options available and the end I’ve settled with ResophNotes and WriteMonkey. Why those two? ResophNotes allows me to create, search and browse through all my text files providing fast and convenient way of managing them. WriteMonkey is excellent and powerful plain text editor which I use to write all my stuff. It provides better writing environment than ResophNotes plus it has a lot writing related features that make it super useful. Writing on my Android phone was handled by Epistle app and Dropbox was the gel that bound everything together.

Then two things have happened. I needed to take a screen shot of something I saw on the web, I came across couple interesting tweets that I wanted to save and I was a little bit stuck. The easiest and the most effective way of capturing those things was into Evernote. Few moments after that I realised that I already have a ton of information in Evernote.

What I realised was that I was missing a lot of the information that I’ve accumulated before and that I was not using. It was not just the web clips and other snippets of information that I pick up but also my older notes, book and race notes etc. All this was sitting in Evernote and remained unused. Sure I could always search for it but it would require some additional conscious effort to search two place as opposed to one.

Feature comparison

I took some time to look at Evernote and ResophNote and list all of the available features and functions that each app offered. From the start it was clear that Evernote would win as it’s just more powerful tool. Aside from the sheer number, some features are clearly more valuable that other. Here is the list that I came up with.

Benefits of using Evernote:

  • ubiquitous capture available on each platforms (Windows, Web, Android)
  • ease of getting the data into the application from various sources
  • can be a single place for storing almost all of you data – notes, web clippings, pdfs etc.
  • global hotkeys for capture and search of notes
  • powerful search in notes and uploaded documents like PDF or images (OCR)
  • rich text editing and formating
  • easily captures the source of the information from the websites
  • note links and sharing of notes.
  • easy checklist and table creation
  • Skitch integration

Benefits of using ResophNotes and plain text:

  • no installation required,
  • data synced via Dropbox or can simply be moved to a USB drive
  • fast and easy to create and search notes
  • Markdown support
  • data stored in plain text
  • global hotkeys for note creation and application
  • excellent for focused writing and note creation
  • 99% chances that in post apocalyptic world event the simplest and basic computer will read plain text.

Data worries

When I was reading about benefits of plain text one of the many arguments was that it’s future proof meaning there will be always tools to read and display plain text files. If you use other applications you need to rely on a proprietary file format which makes you depended on the company that created it. In the long run, will you be able to access and review your notes?

I’ve spend some time thinking about this and came to conclusion that being locked into Evernote format is not really a concern for me provided I’m able to do couple things to liberate my data and take it away in a fairly basic format.

As Evernote want us to store more data, they brand themselves as a 100 year company, highlighting the fact that they are there for the long run and that they don’t think about the next quarter. This is refreshing and reassuring approach considering the company is just few years old. Yet they don’t stop just there, you can always export you data and documents and take them away.

Data Export

Data nerds will object but being able to export data from Evernote to HTML would be sufficient enough for most people. Most people would not event think of exporting data or making sure you can access it ten years from now. HTML export is definitely enough for me. At this moment I can see two scenarios where I would move somewhere else – a new better app is build or Evernote goes bust and no longer provides it’s services. Evernote is immensely popular solution with millions of users so should anyone design a better application and want to compete with them will create an import tool to move your notes. If the company would go bankrupt all you lose is the cloud backup the rest stays where it was (i.e. your laptop) and you can decide what to do next. I’m also pretty sure some hackers would come up with clever ways of extracting the data and putting it into a different format.

Back to exporting your notes. I’ve played around with the different options available which includes Evenote’s own xml file or creation of single or multiple HTML files with attachments stored separately. From what I’ve learned individual HTML export it the most effective. Then, should I really need to move elsewhere I can export all my notes and rely on system search to find relevant information. Windows Search or Finder are more than capable of indexing the information in side those files. Because of the way I name my notes and structure them in Evernote I can easily identify those that are particularly important like various reference notes or list and then I can put some effort in creating scripts or batch files which will convert notes into plain text files. Since attachments like pdfs or images get exported too I can resort to picture manager like Picasa and easily scan and this information.

Storing data with other company

One more aspect worth mentioning is that when you use Evernote you store your data with another company and rely on them to keep it secure and intact. Although it’s a valid concern if you keep your files in plain text, in a Dropbox folder you’re really in the same situation. First of all if you want to keep things secure and private don’t put them onto internet or computer at all. This approach is not very practical and even governments store and transmit data using internet. It would seem that there aren’t that many secrets that would be worth the hassle. Obviously everything is a matter of personal choice and perception so it’s good to develop habit of assessing how critical and private the information is and apply appropriate measures. Read EFFs self defense guide if you want to know more.

Back to Evernote and storing your data. When you use the service you have a copy in the cloud and on your computer or tablet if you use paid account, so even if Evernote goes offline you still have the data on your computer to review and decide what to do with it.

Extra layer

As a precaution I make a backup of my database folder on daily basis so should anything happen I have a copy to recover from and I can always export it into different formats. I also keep a recent version of the installer on my laptop so I have double security. All this is backed up to external drive and encrypted storage online.

Lessons Learned

As with any experiment I’ve learned couple interesting lessons that I would like to share hopefully to everyone’s benefit.

The more information you put into a given application the more chances it has to provide you with better results or information that you may have forgotten about. If you keep your notes, snippets of data scattered around it’s first of all inconvenience to search couple locations and secondly you introduce a complexity and choice of where do I put this info. Sticking with one tool that covers all bases removes some of it.

A good naming convention goes a long way

When I was using plain text setup all of my files were in one folder which meant that to keep them organised in some sort of fashion I had to come up with good names. The way I approached it was to put a keyword in front of the name of the note and then add its title. Although this approach is not necessary in Evernote as I can set up notebooks to divide the notes it’s nonetheless very useful way of naming notes. This way I can keep a smaller amount of folders/notebooks and I can easily browse the notes and clearly see what they relate to.

As I mentioned above Evernote can export data into HTML format which is easily searchable by built-in search on Windows making it relatively easy to move away from the application and transfer somewhere else. The export process is very easy and my suggestion would be to export into individual text files.

file duplication and sync issues

When creating new notes with ResophNotes quite often I ended up with duplicated notes or notes with incomplete names. This seemed to be caused by the speed at which a note was synced with Dropbox effectively creating a different notes as I typed the title. This wasn’t a major issue but it was quite annoying when the wrong name was saved. It’s also possible to duplicate note within ResophNotes which would mean that when the duplicate was deleted also the original file would be removed from Dropbox folder. Although it can always be recovered from Drobpox it’s inconvenient and odd annoyance. I haven’t had any issues like that with Evernote.

Final version for now

Evernote now serves me as a single place for notes, ideas, web clippings, images, screeshots etc. Because of it’s unparalled search, capture and ubiquity it serves me as primary tool for archiving of stuff. The fact that I can store so much and so varied content in Evernote makes it even more compelling as it allows me to find not only a specific note that I might remember but also other that contain the same keywords. The more information I will gather in Evernote the more useful it will become in serving me the data I may need. Lastly if I was to recommend anyone a note taking tool I would go for Evernote simply because of the ease of use and capture of different types of information.

So where is plain text you may ask. Writing content. Evernote is excellent archiving/reference tool but for me it’s not good for writing. It has all the bells and whistles but it’s precisely what I don’t want for writing. This where plain text hits the nail the on the head. It provides focused and unobtrusive writing environment. As consequence plain text will be the place where I write everything from blog posts to other material. For this purpose I will continue to use ResophNotes for keeping tabs on all my files, WriteMonkey to do majority of my writing and text editing and Markdown to make it easy to publish on the web.

I realise that nailing down a good workflow and interaction of tools is a process that takes time and evolution where you move from one tool to another or supplement the existing ones with some thing new and the figure out how they work.

Lastly since I’ve effectively moved to Evernote I will be actively exploring how can I make better use of it and I intend to share links and my own thoughts in upcoming posts.

Hope you enjoyed this post and found some useful elements in it. I would be grateful if you could share your own thoughts and thinking process behind your tool and workflow selection.

Organasing files on your computer

We save and store more information on our computers from simple documents to notes, ebooks, bills etc.It’s no wonder that finding a good way of keeping on top all of this is almost never-ending endeavor.
Some people result some give up and keep everything amassed in one folder and rely on search to find relevant information others resort to constructing intricate structures of nested folder up on folders. None of the above is really sustainable in the long run as sometimes you want to look through your files and are faced with giant list that’s not usable. The solution lies somewhere in the middle where you keep a light folder structure that matches most important areas of you life but also rely on search so you don’t have to browse manually.

If you need some ideas on how to approach organisation of files AsianEfficiency has very good overview on how to do that.

Organizing Your Files, Folders and Documents

Simplicitybliss Evernote GTD and reference files

Sven from Simplicityblis has a very insightful post about the intersection of Evernote GTD and reference files. His main point is that Evernote isn’t best at being your task manager although some seems to have done made it work like one (see Daniel Gold’s ebook or The Secret Weapon site. Where Evernote excels is storage of support and reference materials. Search, tags, notebooks, ability to index PDFs, audio and photo storing make it very powerful archive.
I would agree with Sven and this is how I now use Evernote. I Initially used it for content creation, storing ideas, research etc however since I moved to plain text for most content creation needs and list keeping using Evernote became much simpler. Before I blended various types of work and content now I have a nice and clear division between creation tools and storage/archiving.

Sven’s post: On Evernote, GTD, Reference and Support Material

Weekly Links: Evernote templates, short lists, unproductive truths, Tony Schwarz

Evernote template challenge

I’m big fan of Daniel’s work. He’s running an Evernote template contest now and you can win a yearly subscription to a Evernote’s Premium Account. Closing date 30.07.12.

ShortCal

Need to plan few days and send that list to someone? This is a very neat tool just for that purpose.

5 Common Time Management Truths That Can Make You Unproductive

Not every advice works for everyone, very often best productivity tips contradict one another.Timo posts interesting critique of some of the commonly referred productivity concepts.

How to clear your inbox, make decisions and generally get things done

The Washington post has an interview with David Allen about GTD and his work.

Video of Tony Schwartz at the 99% Conference

Excellent video from 99% Conference of Tony Schwarz talking about productivity, work misconceptions and making the most out of your creativity. Really worth 30min of your time.

Evernote -ing

Evernote is a great tool for storing and managing information, unfortunately the potential of this application is so vast that it’s easy to get overwhelmend with the possibilities for slicing and dicing infromatio. Below are some the discussion topic on Evernote forum that I’ve found very useful.Coincidentally I’ve also completely destroyed my tagging system by removing all tags from note hence discussions on organisation become even more relevant.

A list of tips and strategie for Evernote users

Implementing GTD with Evernote

Tips and strategies for organising notes

Better tag list

Building my Evernote world

Strategies for using Evernote

Notebooks vs Tags

How much metadata do you apply to notes?

My favourite tip is to add date in  the YYYY-MM-DD format along with few keywords (not tags) to the title of the note. This provides better search capabilities and reduced the risk of data loss or hassle caused by removing all your tags like I just did today. Also some of the research suggest that we are quite good at remembering when things have happened so having date embedded makes it even easier to find notes.

I do recommend exploring the Evernote forums especially if you are stuck or looking some clever uses or unusual tips trick.

 

Staying productive with Android

Over the last 18 months I’ve been using an android phone to the greater extent than before. Thanks to all the available applications it became a great partner and assistant in managing my productivity and staying organised.There is a certain amount of applications that I find invaluable.  Let me run down through some of the critical applications.

Remember the Milk – Remember the Milk web app forms a core of my task management, it’s a primary place for storing my next actions, project list, waiting fors etc. The Android app provides a great interface to quickly access, today’s task or specific lists or a tag. The input panel supports RTM’s syntax which make inputting tasks a breeze. Also supported are various widgets and shortcuts which make it easier to quickly glance what due. I use it to see how many tasks are there in the inbox and how many are for today.
A very nice feature is offline support which makes the app fully functional even if you’re are not accessing the network (good for traveling abroad).

Evernote – an app that titles itself as your external brain. Truly remarkable tool for capturing any ideas, notes, links, images etc. I use the application almost daily recording anything and everything that captures my attention either on the phone like tweets or links to interesting designs, patterns, notes etc. I later review those items on my deskop application and categorise them in some way.

Dropbox – cross platform and device syncing nirvana. This is where I store my current drafts and support material for open projects. It’s simple, works unattended and always provides me with the latest version of the document I work on. Recommend that you investigate putting additional encryption software before stotring very sensitive passwords or other info into Dropbox.

Pomodroido – a very versatile timer application that lets me get into zone and focus on an task at hand. There are plenty of different options for setting up duration of pomodoros from 15 to 45min. A nice aspect is climbing the levels which makes you use the application even more.

Dolphin Browser Mini – is my default browser. It’s solid alternative to the default Andorid browser. I’m using the mini version only because I have limited amount of space available so need to keep my apps as slim as possible.

Everpaper – is a solid Instapaper reader app that nicely fits into my reading workflow. It provides support for all basic functions of the service as well as an offline storage to save articles for later. I used to use Read It Later on Androind and Firefox but since Instapaper provides excellent conduit to Kindle I decided to switch.

Gmail – stock Android Gmail client for checking my email accounts. Nothing too fancy but works great and lets me deal with email quickly while on the go.

These are the core productivity applications. There is obviously a bunch more that I’m gradually incorporating into my workflow. Here are some of the other applications that I find very useful:

Google Docs – I’m not a big user of Google Docs but I found it to be a great tool for managing my Editorial calendar. I wouldn’t say it best working.

Keep track – is a progress tracker that I use to monitor couple important statistics. The app is very well designed and easy to use. Best feature are the stats screen and a corresponding graph plotting how I performed.

Keepass – is an Android equivalent of open source password manager with the same name. Best thing you can share you password library with your phone and computer over the Dropbox folder. Excellent for having access to passwords on the go.

Ted – is a small text editor, very handy for creating text files and saving them in Dropbox for further use.

Textspansion – totally new app, which I installed just yesterday. It aims to be the TextExpander for Androind. Although the Android security setting prevent applications from “listening” your key strokes this one provides a handy shortcut through use of search key and then selecting desired phrase. Not most elegant solution but works none the less. Definitely something to look at if you’re into automation.

Hope you find this rundown of apps a useful reference point for your own pursuits. Above list is result of months of trial and error and searching for a better app the serve the need.
Despite the heavy reliance on the smartphone I still use paper as a thinking aid. My favorite combination is using a smartphone with a Moleskine notebook, former allows me to see where I’m at and latter lets me think things through via writing, doodling, sketching.

Please share you’re favorite in the comments I’m always interested in news apps. Do you have any favorite apps?

Evernote for projects

This week I wanted to look at using Evernote for projects. This will be short description of how i use Evernote for my projects. While setting up a project you can go wild and try to use every possible technique to breakdown tasks, time lines, resources etc. Although such approach can be useful and very insightful (see one example) I tend to try keep things as simple as possible and limit the amount of overhead.

When I’m starting a new project I use 5 stages of the GTD planning model as a planning guide. I’ve created a template in PhraseExpress (text expansion tool) so when I’m ready to start I hit right key combination and high  level outline of each step appears in the note. Then I start working on a project one stage at a time.

Once I have my stages clarified and different elements sorted I assign relevant tags. At the moment I’m using Evernote as a project support tool. This means I will list relevant actions and steps I need to take to move the project but I will not track individual actions in Evernote. Since I use Remember the Milk for managing actions all project related actions are moved there. But if you are interested in using Evernote only please read excellent Evernote e-book by Daniel Gold.

There are two primary tags which I assign to a project note. First is a !!Project tag second is a @Current or @Closed tags. This way I can track my open or closed project lists with a saved search  instead of to navigating through myriad of notes.

If a project is particularly large, especially if it includes a lot of notes and other supporting documentation, I would create a notebook for that purpose. This way it’s easy to keep all related information in a single location. Once the project is done  I assign a specific project tag to all notes in that folder, move them to Reference notebook and delete the project notebook. I’m trying to limit the amount of notebooks I maintain and if I ever need to refer to some documentation I can always find it using relevant tag and search box.

Additional two features of Evernote that may come handy for anyone managing project are tables and checkboxes. These two can be quite useful for keeping track of progress of the different stages of a project.

Evernote is not a project management solution so trying to fit a large scale commercial project with hundreds of dependencies may not be the best choice. However for many home and small business user it can be exactly what you need.

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.

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.