Guy Kawasaki wrote a great article on 14 great ways to make your life easier by using Evernote. There is a desktop client for Evernote on Windows & Mac Computers, as well as iPhone & Blackberry clients, so that you can capture and recall information where ever you happen to be. I’ve narrowed Guy’s list down to the 9 that I think are most helpful:
Cost: Free or $25 per year - URL: http://reqall.com
For only $25 per year (about $2 per month) you can record 30 second messages that are then transcribed and then sent to your e-mail or other application of your choice. The most simple way to use ReQall is to record messages that are sent to your email address. If you want to get a bit more sophisticated in your use of ReQall, you can setup a link to Outlook, then you can send transcribed messages to Evernote, Google Calendar, Outlook Appointments, or Outlook Tasks. All you need to do is install a small ReQall application on your computer to interface with ReQall.
The quality of the transcription is quite good, and in my experience is typically only inaccurate when I do not speak clearly, or if the word is not commonly used (like some legal vocabulary may be). The service uses real people to transcribe the notes, so that you have a better chance of getting the message transcribed correctly than most computer based voice to text programs are.
Need to remember a list of things to do back at the office: You’re having lunch on campus and as you’re eating you remember a number of things that you should do before the end of the day. You don’t want to forget them, you you launch ReQall on your iPhone and tell it what you need to remember. Within one minute your to do list is sitting in your email inbox ready for you to return to your desk.
One other feature that ReQall touts, which I have not used extensively, is it’s ability to be locationally aware. So if you are your local grocery store, it will use the iPhone’s GPS capabilities, to recognize where you are, and remind you that you need to pick up milk and bread. This is a very cool feature indeed. I’ll do some testing to see if it works as advertised.
ReQall will actually work on any Cell phone (not just an iPhone), but it does have an iPhone application that makes it easy to look at the transcribed messages. To use ReQall on a regular cell phone, all you do is call ReQall’s 1-800 number and you can give jot your message to transcribe, and tell it where you want it to go. Very cool indeed!
Cost: Free - Website: http://evernote.com
Evernote allows you to clip web pages, images, PDF file, word documents, etc, on your computer, and then access them on your iPhone! Evernote makes all of the files full text search-able on your desktop and your iPhone.
On the iPhone itself, Evernote can be a wonderful tool for capturing thoughts and images while you’re away from your office, or accessing things on your cell phone that you’ve captured on your desktop computer. In my office, the easiest way for me to record things it by typing, or better yet, copying and pasting. Away from my office, typing anything of length on the iPhone can be painful. Thankfully Evernote gives you options. First, you can type in, or edit notes already in Evernote. So if my itinerary that I’ve put in Evernote changes, I can go in and edit the text to reflect the change, just like I can in the desktop version of Evernote.
Accessing Clipped Articles in the Library: You’re in the library and need find the reference in an online article that you clipped so you can do further research in the musty stacks. Take our your iPhone, launch Evernote, do a key word search for the note you’re looking for, and in seconds you have the full article in front of you.
I also have the option of making a audio note. The note is recorded on the iPhone, and then synced with my Evernote account so that it will be downloaded to my computer(s) next time I log on. I can then do what ever I need to with the information in the audio note. An interesting feature that I have not needed, but could be useful, is that the iPhone tags each audio or text note with the GPS coordinates where the note was taken.
Lastly you can take pictures of things you want to remember in store them in Evernote. An example of how you could use this is that you can take a picture of a sign, and Evernote will make the text in the picture full text search-able for you. One way that I use this feature personally is to put all of my favourite Dilbert and Calvin & Hobbes cartoons into Evernote so that I can search the cartoons’ text for key words. It is not perfect (as it depends on the clarity of the words), but it’s pretty good.
Searching for Text in Photos and Drawings: You’re looking for the Calvin & Hobbes cartoon that you clipped last year, as it fits in perfectly to the lecture on “Risk Analysis” you’re about to give. Simply open Evernote on your iPhone or desktop computer and do a key word search for text in the cartoon. If the text is relatively clear, you’ll have the cartoon in front of you in seconds.
One specific application that I love is using Evernote for traveling. I add my itinerary, my car rental, hotel and conference information into Evernote so that I can access it anywhere.
For the non iPhone users, Evernote has BlackBerry and Windows Mobile versions of their software, as well as Windows and Mac client software. If Evernote is not installed on a computer you are using, or if you are using a public computer, you can always use the web based version of Evernote, which is quite capable.
It may be a case of more style over substance, but for people switching from Microsoft Office to Google Docs, the change to the editing tool bar will help smooth the transition. No major new features have been added in the update (at least none that I’ve noticed), but the new tool bar does feel more comfortable, and brings the task of editing text in Google Documents closer to what I’m used to when editing blog posts, and posting on modern bulletin boards.
This follows an update last week that allows you to crate a form to fill out to enter data into a spread sheet rather than entering it in field by field. Google has a long way to go to match the feature set that Microsoft Office offers, but they are slowly adding the features that most people use. It won’t belong before average people will be able to move to Google Docs and not miss much of anything… and gain collaboration features that you don’t get with Office, unless you have an enterprise IT department behind you.
I found a great article by Merlin Mann of 43 Folders on how to keep your e-mail inbox under control. There are a few people at the Law School I work at that have enormous inboxes… One individual has over 20,000 messages in his inbox. One day I got a call from him because his e-mail program (Outlook) was crashing on him. It turns out that Outlook does have an upper limit on the number of message it can hold in an inbox.
Here are the highlights from the article:
The basic idea is to firewall processing as a discrete phase you go through no more than every hour or two at the most. For God’s sake, don’t live in your Inbox if there’s any way you can avoid it.
Processing determines as quickly as possible what, if anything, to do with each piece (in ascending order of urgency and importance):
- delete it
- archive it
- defer it for later response
- generate an action from it
- respond to it immediately (if it—literally—will take less than 2 minutes or is so Earth-shattering that it just can’t wait)
Then as often as time allows, I return to the response and action folders and crank through as many replies and complete (or generate) as many todos as I can—usually in 5-email sprints.
The critical point, as ever, is to focus on action and not on the administration and housekeeping. If the action is just a response, respond. If it requires more than a return email, either do it or get it in your “next actions” and keep moving.
As I said in the Google Group post, “you have to remember you’re in the business of making sandwiches—not deciding the prettiest way to stack the customers’ orders.”
Zen slap: An email auto-check set for every minute means 60 potential distractions every hour, or almost 500 per day. Look back at a week of your emails and ask yourself: how many distractions was that really worth? How much crucial, instantly actionable email did I receive to make it worth shifting my attention over 2000 times?
Well, I can tell you that’s sage advice. It’s great when people make contributions in the form of ideas and proposals, but it’s even better when they’re written for busy people. Here are some examples:
- Making important points up front
- Clear taxonomy of headings, and lots of them
- Writing clearly and succinctly
- No long, unbroken paragraphs or tracts of text.
- Preferring bulleted lists with clear points to paragraphs.
- Use of emphasis in formatting to make important things clear
These days, I find I don’t have a lot of time to read everything carefully, so the better structured a document is, the more I get out of it. I frequently find I miss entire subsections or points of documents, even when there’s relatively little text, because of incomplete organization. My eyes definitely glaze over when i see a large block of unbroken text with few headings. At the very least, it’d be very helpful if folk would structure their thoughts into: "Problem" and "Proposed Solution".
Before you post, stop and think if you’ve written something in a way that’ll allow others to get the most out of it. Communicating your ideas effectively means you may get a clearer and quicker response from other people.
I’ve been using my free download of Google Desktop for about a month now, and have been very impressed with how quickly I’ve been able to find documents I’ve needed. Instead of searching around all the files in my "My Documents" folder and sub folders, I’ve just quickly typed in a key word, and in seconds have the information I need. It has been WONDERFUL! I’ve saved myself a lot of time needlessly searching for information that should be at my finger tips.
Currently the Google Desktop will search for key words in the following documents and programs:
A fairly complete list of applications and file types. This got me thinking… for an individual or small office, why pay thousands, or tens of thousands of dollars for a Knowledge Management system, when you will probably be using it primarily for key word searches to find documents? Google Desktop will do 90% of what you need it to do for your knowledge management needs. So unless that 10% is really important you can save yourself a lot of cash.
I highly recommend Google Desktop. Now we just need to see the linux version of Google Desktop and I’ll be really happy!