March 11, 2007

I run a pretty tight email ship… it’s one area I’m on top of.

I practice Inbox Zero, I completely got that once David Allen pointed out the simple fact that an Inbox is where things arrive and not where they should live.

When an email lands, I use Mail Act-on to deal with it;
        - if I need to do anything that requires some time and effort, I have an Act-On short cut (Ctrl-K) via Mail2kgtd to add the relevant email to my kGTD file in OmniOutliner Pro.
        - I also have a short cut (Ctrl-A) to send the email to my Actionable Emails folder in Mail.
        - The rest I either dash off a quick response and file in the appropriate project folder, each of which have an Act-On shortcut key.
        - In any case emails only go to the relevant project folder in Mail when they’re done.

The above means I have:
        - An empty inbox,
        - A folder called Actionable that has any emails I have to deal with.
        - My general list of stuff I’m working on has those actionable emails referenced as well.
        - Any emails relevant to projects that I need to be able to refer to at a later point are all sitting in their project folders.

I do like having my email To-dos itemised in my full GTD list, they are no longer a island on their own. Mail2kgtd sends the full copy of the email to the Kinkless GTD file, it stores it in the notes section. This also means that the full email is listed in the notes section in iCal if I refer to the item there. It was spooky the first time, the key data being available in my email program, my GTD program and my calendar…

Each year I run an archive on the email of the year previous to the last one, so I only carry about one years emails around on my laptop. I own MailSteward Lite for archiving, it’s simple and fully searchable, and plays nice with Spotlight. But I’m considering using DevonThink Pro Office, an program whose application grows each time I use it, it may have more interesting options for analysing archived mail.

So far so fine. So what about Spam?

I have an excellent piece of software called SpamSieve which does a good job of filtering spam. But it’s not perfect, it’s okay 99% of the time. But that 1% bugs me. Today’s 1% included an email from my EU domain registrar indicating that three domains I registered were due to expire, and a response to an email I’d sent to Red Sweater software about MarsEdit. But more worryingly, there was also an expression of interest in our current feature from a US distributor.

It looks like I’ll have to add “Review my Spam folder“ to my ever-increasing list of buckets to sort through when it comes to my weekly review. Given that eight spam messages arrived in the time it took to write this entry…. That looks set to take over all of Friday afternoons…

Blogging and thoughts on software…

February 26, 2007

I’ve been considering buying software for writing this blog. I’m in two minds now… specifically Mars Edit versus MacJournal.

MarsEdit has a beautiful and simple clean interface and it’s cheaper… does the job, in fact does it well and pleasurably.

MacJournal is serious. It’s really well made and has lots of heavy functionality built in. Including a Full Screen mode which I’m using now. It’s a fine thing, a mature and well developed piece of software. And it costs more…

MacJournal is a piece of software that’s hung around me for quite some time. Back when the now quiet (but then raucous…) As the Apple Turns was in my everyday browsing, I came across it. The site author, Jack, loved it. I downloaded it but given that I wasn’t blogging, found only a small use for it. But I’ve tried it quite regularly over the years, liking the capabilities but not really having a use. So now that I’m blogging I should have a use… right?

Or is there a reason we never dated… Perhaps the simple approach of MarsEdit will ultimately be the better choice. I’ve been enjoying less heavily laden software lately, preferring a melange of programs each of which focus on doing one thing well.

I encountered this most recently when I was asked to give an introduction to the Mac experience by a local body who had acquired a number of Macs. I enquired a little deeper and it transpired that they had set up a network, including a server which had common files on it, and were just running Office. I visited one of them and all of her questions were about Entourage.

Once the initial wave of depression that washed over me, I sat back and thought a little. This was a familiar setup for all of them, they had essentially re-created their old Wintel network, just this time they were using a bunch of Macs. She seemed pleased that everything seemed ‘easy to work out’ and she was probably glad of the virus issue being put aside, they had been plagued by them.

She said they had decided to use Entourage because “ Apple’s Mail wasn’t very good.” As she did this she pointed at the dizzying array of buttons in Entourage and her mouse ran over long and nested menus…. It looked deep, it looked like you could do lots of things you’d rarely choose to do and would struggle to find the things you wanted to do.

And really that’s all she was looking for from me: How Do I Find The Things In Entourage I Want To Do.

She thought that was reasonable, I guess she was used to the struggle.

I have to say, I was a reluctant Apple Mail user, even though I love it now, I love the ubiquitous nature of it and the other core apps, Address Book and iCal. That trio of products won me gradually over and away from initially Palm Desktop and then Entourage.

One of their principal benefits is their level of integration in the system and the ease with which other developers can call upon them. Not only that, there’s a lot of plugins I use every day which have expanded it’s functionality and kept it current.

I can’t imagine using Entourage and hiding there safe inside the Microsoft box.

I think the idea of having a pot pourri of smaller simpler programs which work together might require a more innocent mindset, a sense of openness, a willingness to take that risk. That it’ll be okay, a sense that it will all work as opposed to a fear that it’ll probably all go wrong…


November 23, 2006

I really like 1Passwd.

A simple utility that integrates with any browser, including my favourite, Omniweb, to provide strong and secure passwords online. The .Mac integration is also important for me.

Passwords are a constant problem for my students who use very obvious or easily guessable ones, (you’d be amazed at the amount of ones who use the word ‘google’) or come up with tortuous names that they forget a month later.

I usually recommend to them that they think of two passwords and use one or the other when online. I get them to think of something only they will remember, their first schoolteacher, or their grandfather’s home, and to combine that with a date they will not forget.

1Password has made hopping around the web much simpler to do, logging in and out of different sites is simply a matter of choosing the relevant id and password from the pop up menu which is site appropriate. It can generate secure unguessable passwords, the ones that look like gobbledygook, which you don’t have to remember, they’re available in your browser bar.

The one drawback is using a different computer to access those sites, when 1Password won’t be available to you. It’s solid and secure and so easy to use, this is a minor drawback for me.