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Workflow

Note from Evernote Fangirl

The Evernote Freak that I am, I had to share some of the new exciting things with the new update. Excuse me while I share straight from the horse’s mouth…



  • The all new Evernote 3.5 for Windows Evernote 3.5 for Windows is completely new. We rewrote it from the ground up to make it faster, more reliable, and just plain better than Evernote for Windows has ever been. Our goal was to use everything we’ve learned since our launch to make a great Evernote experience on Windows. If you’re interested in trying Evernote 3.5, install it from our downloads page ( http://s.evernote.com/windows ).
  • There’s a ton more to say, so please read our blog post(s): http://s.evernote.com/win35blog
  • New partnerships and integrations for those of you who have not yet fallen in LOVE with the iPhone.

See all of the products that work with Evernote in one place: http://s.evernote.com/ partnerpage

Most exciting news of all. Get a Klenex to catch the drool…

Apple iPad
We have big plans for Apple’s amazing new device. Read Evernote CEO’s blog post about their history with tablets andplans for the iPad and other devices. Read the post: http://s.evernote.com/ipad

If you have Evernote, but not sure how it can help you, check out these tips by Joshua Zerkel: 6 Ways Evernote Can Boost Your Productivity http://s.evernote.com/ productivitytips

Categories
Parallel Desktops

Keeping those bookmarks synchronized

I’m torn. On one hand I like Firefox because of the incredible array of add-ons, especially for developers building web applications. On the other hand I love the performance I get from Safari and with the release of the version 4 public beta many of the new features. As a result I find myself jumping between the two browsers all the time, often keeping both open (one for browsing, one for my current web development project).

Compound this with the fact that I have two Macs I use frequently—a Mac Pro and a MacBook Pro for meetings and travel—and my bookmarks are all over the place. I even have Firefox running on my Ubuntu workstation and would like my bookmarks there too. Fortunately I found a great solution for this problem: X-Marks.

Though it started out as an add-in for Firefox they recently changed their name from FoxMarks to X-Marks and have started adding more browser support. They now have a Safari add-on and this has solved my little bookmark problem.

X-Marks is backed by a free online service that stores your bookmarks so that you can access them from anywhere. The privacy policy indicates they protect your bookmarks but do aggregate bookmarks anonymously, which is where their business model comes in. They also have settings in the Firefox version that allows you to control their add-on providing recommendations when you view a site:


These settings can add an additional icon to your URL bar that presents a list of alternative sites that match up with the site you are looking at:


Since Safari doesn’t have the built in extensibility that Firefox does the Safari version is handled by a custom application that loads at startup and plants itself in the menu bar, providing the ability to Synchronize on demand:


Working between multiple machines on multiple browsers is much easier with a tool like X-Marks. They also support IE so if you have a Windows machine at the office that’s tied to IE and you have a Mac at home you can keep those bookmarks synched up.

Now if I could find a free/low cost service that would keep my 1Password data securely synchronized between my machines (and not the Mobile Me service thank you very much), I’d be a very happy camper. Got one that you can recommend? Have a better bookmark synchronization tool? Please drop a note in the comments.

 

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Categories
Parallel Desktops

Two tips for Tabbing your way through a Mac

When I switched to Mac from Windows I had an adjustment period. The window model is a bit different, the menu is in a different location, the Dock Bar != the Start menu, etc. Those all took a little adjustment period but I quickly overcame them as obstacles to productivity. By far the longest adjustment period involved the use of the keyboard and more specifically the use of the Tab key.

For all of the keyboard power of a Mac (shortcuts are virtually everywhere) the Tab key seems to be forgotten on most Mac keyboards, yet that is probably the most used navigation key on Windows. Here are a couple of tips for making your Mac keyboard experience leverage the Tab key:

Enabling Tabbing
The first thing you will want to do is to enable tabbing in dialog/pop-up windows. For some reason Apple decided to make that an option you need to manually enable in order to tab your way through all of the controls on a modal dialog. You can change this by going to System Preferences / Keyboard & Mouse / Keyboard Shortcuts and enabling full keyboard access:


This means that when a pop-up dialog is presented you can hit Tab and Shift-Tab to quickly navigate the controls. When a button is highlighted you can hit Space to activate (or click) that button. The alternative is that not every control is a Tab stop.

Safari Tabbing
Again, unlike other applications (Firefox on Mac for example), Apple does not think all of the items on a web page should be a tab stop in Safari. Hyperlinks as an example—which are often used as buttons in some web page designs—are passed right over by default.

You can change that behavior in Safari by going to Preferences / Advanced and checking on the Universal Access setting for the Tab key:


This will allow you to tab through all of the elements on a web page, much like most of the other web browsers out there.

Given the keyboard power that Macs have—something I found quite surprising after I switched—I’m not sure I understand why the Tab key has been relegated to "optional" status by Apple in these cases. For people switching to Mac from Windows it’s a really good idea to make these two setting the default option; it sure would help with the adjustment period.

Got a tip for enhancing the keyboard experience of Mac users? Please drop a note in the comments!

 

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Categories
Parallel Desktops

SharedStatus.com – easy team management

Since starting this blog over a year ago I’ve been sharing my adventures about switching from Windows to Mac and thrown in a couple of stories about starting up a business. When I left the company I founded in late 2007 (after selling it in 2006) my intention was to take a little time off and then plunge into my next business venture, this blog quickly becoming a way for me to escape working 16 hours a day. Now that the new business is ready to go I would like to tell you about SharedStatus.

First Some Background
In virtually every company I have worked in I have had to conduct or contribute to status meetings. The problem with status meetings is that they can be very inefficient. Since most people manage their personal task lists in their own way they often wait until the last minute before the status meeting to quickly slam together what they have been working on.

In setting out to address this problem I discovered that there were other corollary problems that people experienced. Tasks that were assigned to people in some of those very status meetings were sometimes not being done because the person assigned didn’t realize it was being assigned to them. Other times a critical issue would be revealed in a status meeting that could have been more easily addressed earlier but the issue got lost in a tidal wave of e-mails. Collaboration between team members depended on a long thread of e-mails that sometimes didn’t include the very people that needed to be working on the issue.

The more I dug in to business process issues the more I saw that people tried addressing these challenges but that the tools were often not designed to solve such simple challenges. Project Management systems were plentiful but often were far to complex for basic needs. Other systems—like Lotus Notes and Sharepoint—went far down the path to helping solve these problems but required a large IT commitment and huge expense to make it all work.

I felt strongly that there was an opportunity to create a solution that was incredibly easy to use and focused on the core issue: tracking tasks, collaborating with others about those tasks and quickly generating status reports. I wanted to produce a product that was priced in such a way that small businesses could easily afford it and that as it scaled up within a company the costs didn’t get outrageous. Finally, I wanted to handle this as a web-based SaaS product, so it wouldn’t require a big IT involvement in order to get it up and running and anyone with a web browser would be able to use it.


The solution I came up with is called SharedStatus. The primary focus of this tool is to give managers, project leads and team members a simple, lightweight framework for capturing tasks that need to get done, collaborating with others on performing those tasks and quickly generating status reports for team and project meetings.

In SharedStatus most everything revolves around the concept of a task. You can create a task for yourself, view it in your dashboard or in a status report and mark it as complete when you are done. With multiple people in your account you can begin to see the advantage of SharedStatus because you can take any task you create and assign it to another member of your account. That person can either accept or decline the task; once accepted you can view and comment on the task—much like people can view and comment on a blog post—adding information or details that both people (task owner and assignee) can see.

A task can also be associated with a project, which opens other collaboration capabilities. Every member of a project can see all of the tasks that are associated with that project and make comments on them, providing an easy way for project members to help one another with tasks and eliminate the huge threads of e-mail that tend to get generated during the course of a project.

Finally, SharedStatus can optionally support the concept of a supervisor, allowing a manager to quickly see each of their direct reports and the tasks they have assigned to them. Their Dashboard is updated to show each of their direct reports and any critical tasks that they may be working on.

At the heart of SharedStatus is a notification system which each user can customize. They can be notified by e-mail or SMS message when a task they own is changed, accepted, commented on, etc. Users don’t have to keep SharedStatus up and running in a browser all day to have it help them.

Status reports are also a central theme to SharedStatus and can be accessed quickly from a user’s Dashboard, generating a list of the tasks that have been recently completed and a list of tasks that are due in the next time frame.

That in a nutshell is SharedStatus.

If you work in an environment where you need to manage a team of people and would like a simple, light-weight solution for keeping your team on the same page and quickly generating status reports I would appreciate you checking out SharedStatus or letting others in your network know about it. I have priced SharedStatus to be extremely affordable; it is only $2 / month per user ($20 / month minimum) and includes a 2 month unlimited user free trial.

You can get started with SharedStatus right now by going to www.sharedstatus.com.

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Categories
Parallel Desktops

My new favorite free utility: Dropbox

Lately I’ve been playing with Dropbox, a free utility for Macs, Windows and Linux based machines. It’s a pretty simple concept; an internet drive that allows you to sync your files between multiple machines. There is really not too much to using it; a small application is installed that monitors a folder on your hard drive (normally placed in the user’s home directory but you can put it anywhere). Dropbox monitors changes to that folder and if a file is updated it is pushed up to your virtual drive on the interwebs. If you have multiple machines with Dropbox installed and pointing to the same account then they will automatically pick up the changes.

While this sound like something that can just as easily be accomplished with a network share, the nice thing about Dropbox is that the files are automatically copied to the machine’s local drive. In my case I have three physical machines: a Mac Pro, a MacBook Pro and an HP Slimline that serves as an Ubuntu workstation. In addition I usually have a Windows XP instance running on my Mac Pro using VMware Fusion. As I am currently working on some file importing routines for my product I am jumping between machines frequently; now if I make a change to files I need globally I see this little notice pop-up on each machine:

Mac (Growl notification)

Windows XP

Linux (Ubuntu)

So if I make a change anywhere it is auto-reflected wherever I need it. If I then grab my MacBook Pro for a meeting and the place I’m going doesn’t have internet access I still have a locally updated copy of the files that will be updated as soon as I get back to a live connection.

If you are away from your machine and need access to those synchronized files you can log in from anywhere and download the files from your account. You can also place your files into a public folder that will allow you to share them with others, though I haven’t tried that feature yet.

Dropbox comes with 2GB of storage for free; you can upgrade to a 50GB version for $9.99 / month or $99 / year. I’ve had it running on all of my machines for about a week now and have been impressed with how easy it is to use.

Got a great solution for keeping files synchronized on multiple machines? Drop a note in the comments, I’d love to hear about it.

Visit DavidAlison.com

Categories
Parallel Desktops

Reflections on my first Mac

With all the talk of the 25th anniversary of the Mac I started to wax nostalgic about my original Mac experience.

Though my blog got a lot of page views last year because of my switch from Windows to Mac, the reality is the little white MacBook I bought in February of 2008 was not actually my first Mac. From ’83-’84 I worked at a small retail computer chain in Southern California named Sun Computers (not Sun Microsystems). We sold IBMs, Compaqs, DECs and Apples.

When the Mac was introduced Apple provided special training to the authorized dealers and I went off for a day of presentations in early ’84. At the end of the presentation Apple gave us all forms that allowed us to purchase one Mac directly from Apple for a ridiculously low price. We could get a 128K Mac, an Image Writer dot matrix printer and a padded carrying case (for the Mac). To be honest I don’t even remember the price, though it was considerably lower than its $2,500 retail price; so low that I quickly took them up on the offer and bought the machine, maxing out my one and only credit card in the process.

Keep in mind that in today’s dollars the retail price was over $5,000, a princely sum of money for a 20 year old geek to be spending on a computer. Though I had been spending a lot of time around various computers that Mac was a completely different animal. It’s hard to appreciate how much better it was than the DOS based PCs of the day.

It took a while before the machine was actually delivered—a couple of very, very long weeks—but when it finally came I remember spending countless hours playing with MacWrite and MacPaint, the only two programs that I had available. I would happily jam my Mac into the padded carrying case and take it with me the first couple of weeks I had it, though that got old fairly quickly. My girlfriend at the time was unimpressed with the machine, likely because I wasn’t paying attention to her when I was using it.

The lack of software and the paltry 128K of memory meant that my first Mac quickly got less and less use. There were only so many MacWrite documents and MacPaint images I had the energy to do. Software started to trickle in to our store for the Mac over the late spring and early summer but it was expensive and I was already tapped out because of the cost of the Mac. In September of 1984 I landed my first job as a programmer working with DOS based PCs and my Mac quickly became expendable. I ended up selling the machine to buy a PC clone so that I could continue to learn the programming tools I was using during the day.

For the next 24 years I rarely touched a Mac, spending the vast majority of my time on DOS/Windows and later various Linux flavors. When I finally did rediscover the Mac last year it was a great experience; I felt like a kid again, exploring all the new features (well, new to me anyway) and playing with the wide range of software that is now available.

With all the coverage about the 25th anniversary of the Mac’s launch I’ve been looking at original announcement videos and news stories and for just a few minutes I am that 20 year old budding computer geek, carefully removing that original Mac from its white box.

So what about you? If you are a Mac user when did you get your first Mac?

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