Tag Archives: productivity

On The Hunt for Productivity



ProductivityRemember the netbook “fad” from a few years ago? According to Wikipedia, “netbook” as a generic term came into widespread use in 2007. By 2011, manufacturers such as Dell exited the netbook market due to declining sales.

Were netbooks really a fad, or was there something more to it?

Before proceeding, let’s get one thing out of the way. Netbooks were cute little notebooks with small price tags that helped to turn them into impulse buys. That cuteness also helped them grab shelf attention in the stores.

Cuteness alone could not explain their popularity. Let us not forget that netbooks actually disrupted the existing larger notebook sales.

It might be helpful at this point to take a look at overall computer sales and how markets have evolved over time. At one time, desktop machines dominated the sales figures. Then, full-sized laptops disrupted the dominance of the desktop PC sales. Netbooks disrupted laptop sales. Next, tablets and smartphones disrupted the netbook sales.

I believe that netbooks inadvertently dangled the carrot of a small, lightweight machine that happened to be a full PC, where real productivity could happen. Of course, the reality did not quite match up to the promise. Most netbooks were sorely underpowered. The worst aspect of the netbook was the smaller keyboard. Typing on the average netbook-sized keyboard is not an enjoyable experience.

Whether we realize it or not, many of us are always looking for productivity devices. With every computing device I’ve ever purchased, in the end I’m always looking for ways of putting the device to work. How useful it is ends up determining if it is one of my most-used devices, or if it ends up given away, or forgotten on a shelf or in a closet somewhere. Once the novelty and the emotional hype of having the new device is stripped away, the question is always what can this device do in terms of productivity?

So rather than being seen as just a fad, the relatively brief popularity of the netbook should serve as a lesson. We are on the hunt for productivity devices. The more portable the better, but without sacrificing usability or performance.


Barriers To Productivity



logosIt’s been just a few days since purchasing a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 256 gigabyte tablet with the type cover. I am finding that I really enjoy the experience. Microsoft really has struck a chord I find myself responding to.

I believe this is the computing experience I have been seeking for a while now. Over the years I’ve had multiple desktop and laptop machines, both Mac and Windows. Certainly over the years I’ve had my fair share of problems with Windows, and to be honest fewer problems with Macs. I’ve also gone through the modern capacitive touchscreen experience with both iPads and Android tablets. The iPad media consumption experience is superior, but newer Android devices have mostly caught up and offer tremendous value for money when compared to over-priced iPads.

As I’ve noted in prior articles, over time I hoped to somehow transform the tablet experience from being perhaps the best media consumption devices developed to date into genuine productivity devices. The sheer portability of a tablet is dramatic when compared to laptops, the necessary bulky laptop bags, and the sheer weight of their accumulated accessories.

After trying three separate Bluetooth keyboards on two different iPad models, I found typing on an undersized netbook-sized keyboard was a notably unpleasant experience. Posting articles to the web from a tablet can be done but it’s not the most pleasant experience without the aid of a mouse.

Laptop computers have shrunk in size in recent years, but a laptop is still a laptop and does not offer the same portability and overall ease of use of a modern tablet. The non-touch, laptops I still bring with me have ended up not being used nearly as much as they once did.

Now that I’ve experienced the sheer portability and convenience of a tablet with a real keyboard and touchpad, I find myself being a lot more productive.

I believe there has been a subtle psychological barrier that has developed over the past few years that has limited my overall computing productivity. The sheer ease of use of touchscreen phones and tablets contrasted with the much more clunky experience of non-touch conventional laptop computing ended up making it easy for me to justify in my own mind being less productive. I would have ideas for articles to write or videos or other media to compile that would necessitate me digging a laptop out of its bag, plugging it in so I wouldn’t run down the battery, booting it up, etc. and this psychological inertia made it easier to just procrastinate instead.

My Windows 10 experience so far has been exemplary. It takes the Surface Pro 3 less than 5 seconds to boot up completely from a cold state. That encourages me to simply turn it off when I’m not using it. I can turn it on and immediately start using it. That’s a far cry from machines of old running off of hard drives. I find it amazing that I have a full, powerful PC that can run real productivity software in a tablet form factor.

The Surface line of computers running the Intel version of Windows is a genuine game changer. I can already hear the howls and catcalls from some quarters, but the combination of Windows 10 and the surface has brought me back actively to the Windows platform.

 


30/30 Productivity App Review



30/30 If you have seen the movie Up you know that the dogs that are in it are well-disciplined except when they see a squirrel. Unfortunately like a lot of people I have a lot of squirrels in my life: email, Facebook, and Twitter just to name some. I have been trying to become more disciplined and more productive by ignoring the squirrels. One of the applications that I have been using lately to help me in this effort is the 30/30 app by Binary Hammer. If you are familiar with the Pomodoro Technique the 30/30 app is built around this technique.

The 30/30 is a very nicely designed application. There is a time indicator at the top and then below a list of task for the day. Once you finish with a task, there is a sound and then the next task begins. You can schedule your whole day, even when it is time for coffee breaks, social media and email. Each Task is divided into 30 minute sections by default, however you can go into the settings and change the time period for any task. You can also adjust the alert sound and change the icon for each task. You can also set up more than one schedule if you need to. You can also have it show you the duration of each task and the time of day. The 30/30 app also sync with iCloud.

I like the 30/30 app, however I think it works best in conjunction with other apps or methods, like full screen mode. I am also still trying to figure out how to stop it from looping automatically back to the start. The biggest problem with an app like 30/30 is that you must have the discipline to use it. I think that a lot of people download it with good intentions, use it for a short period of time and then stop. If you are disciplined and use it I think that the 30/30 app can boost a person’s productivity. It is a free and available in the iTunes store.


PopClip A Productivity Tool for the Mac



PopClip If you use a Mac and want to increase your productivity one of the applications I recommend taking a look at is PopClip. PopClip is like cut and paste on steroid. PopClip is available in the Mac app store and on-line. Once you download and install the application it will appear in your menu bar as a black and white rectangle. Now when you highlight a piece of  text a small menu bar will pop up above the selected text. By default it shows copy or paste, correct spelling on misspelled words, and define selected words. PopClip will also detect links and email addresses and let you open or copy them, and can start a web search for anything you’ve selected.

In default mode PopClip isn’t that exciting its real power are the extensions that are available for it. Some of the extensions that are available are add a note various application including Evernote, Nvalt or Notepad.  Send tweet to not only thru Twitter but also thru other applications such as Tweetbot or Buffer. You can also use it to the send a piece of text to various getting thing done apps like Omnifocus, Things and the Reminder App. PopClip also has other capabilities you can use it to search for a product on Amazon, find a piece of music in Spotify, or search for a video on YouTube. These are just some of the things that you can do using PopClip, the whole list of extensions are available on the PopClip Extension Page. Normally you use the mouse to activate PopClip however there is an Apple Script  you can install to activate it using a keyboard shortcut. PopClip is available in the Mac App store for $4.99. If you want to try it out there is a free trial version available through the website.


Found and Streaming Sleep Timer: Two Apps That Do One Thing Well



Found Sometimes apps that do simple things, or seemingly simple things to the end-user end up being the ones that are the most useful. This week I discovered two such apps, one for the Mac Found and one for the iPhone the  Streaming Music Timer by Fusion Effects. Both do something that I have been looking for a while

I use several different cloud storage options, including Dropbox and Google Drive. This works great and allows me to store up to 7 GB of files for free. The problem comes when I am trying to find a document and I can’t remember which cloud option I used to store it. This is where Found comes in. Found allows you to search Dropbox, Google Drive, your home folder and Google Mail at the same time. Found lives up in your menu bar, to invoke it you simply hit control twice. Then you put in your search term and it searches all four folders. It works well and has saved me a lot of time.

 

 

The second application is a iPhone application called the Streaming Music Timer. I like to listen to music when I go to sleep, however I often forget to shut it down. I have been looking for a timer that will work not only with iTunes but also with streaming services such as  Spotify or Pandora. There are some that are supposed to work if you lie your iPhone next to you on your bed. The problem with this method in my mind is I keep picturing  the iPhone falling off the bed on to the hardwood floor. Plus I charge my phone at night and the electrical outlet isn’t close to my bed. So I was looking for something that didn’t require me to put the iPhone on the bed next to me. I finally found it with the Streaming Music Timer. To use the Streaming Music Timer you simply start your favorite music app and then click on Music Timer and set how long you want the music to play and hit the next button and then start. So far it has worked perfectly for the last two nights.

Found is free and available through the Mac app store and Streaming Music Timer is .99 cents and available the iTunes app store. The Streaming Music Timer does have ads. The Streaming Music Timer is an iPhone app but works fine on the iPad. I do recommend downloading and trying both these apps.


Alfred for the Mac



Alfred AppOne type of application that can help you increase your productivity are what people call launcher apps. There are several popular ones for the Mac including Quicksilver, Launchbar and Alfred. I have tried all three, but lately I have been using Alfred. Alfred can be download through the Mac App Store or through the Alfred Web site. I recommend doing it through the Web site, it will make it easier later when you want to purchase the PowerPack and you will want to purchase it.

So what can you do with Alfred. You can launch applications, search the web, find, and open files on your local network quickly and generally speed up your Mac productivity. If you purchase the PowerPack you can save clips, control your iTunes library, start an email and even add attachments all through Alfred using a couple of key strokes. If I want to launch the Twitter application I hit command then space bar which activates Alfred. I then start typing Twitter arrow down to Twitter and then hit enter and Twitter launches. Want to search the Internet, activate Alfred type the search engine you use, then your search term. You can also search the database of Web sites like IMDB and Wikipedia. If you have the PowerPack you can create custom searches. Want to find or open a file on your network activate Alfred type find or open then the file name and hit enter. For this to work with network attached drives you have to add them too your Default Results under the Alfred’s Preferences. If you have the PowerPack you can add even more options by using Apple Scripts, Automator Workflows and Shell Scripts. You can write ones yourself or add ones that are already written. My favorite one allows me to quickly add a task to the task manager Things. These are just some of the actions that you can accomplish with Alfred.

I like Alfred, it does what I need it too. Alfred itself is free. The PowerPack is £12.00 or around $19.00 and it is well worth it. I recommend trying Alfred, I did and I was surprised how much it helped to increase my productivity.


MobileMonitor Presents Monitor2Go & Field Monitor Pro With Keypad Portable 15″ USB Monitors



Lawrence Pensack presents two portable 15.4″ inch USB monitors that are designed to extend the desktop real estate of laptop computers. Monitor²Go, which is available in May, is a USB monitor that sells for $279 dollars.

The Field Monitor Pro With Keypad is available now and sells for $289, includes an integrated numeric keypad. Both monitors are DisplayLink Certified.

It is possible to daisy-chain up to 6 of these monitors for maximum high-performance portable screen real estate. Both units fold up into the shape of standard laptop computers to go into standard laptop bags and weigh about 4 pounds. They are powered with their own power adapters.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central.

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