Productivity Software

In the year 2,000, I replaced pocket sized, hardcover notebooks, a tabbed address book, scraps of paper with todo lists and spiral bound yearly appointment books with a Palm Pilot.  Later this migrated to a Palm/Treo cellphone.  For a while, I loved this consolidated system.  In time, errors started to occur almost every time I synced my phone with my Mac.  Even with third party products and emails to developers the errors continued.  The system that was supposed to save time took more time to repair than it saved.  Over a few years I experimented with various replacements for the applications I had used on my Palm Pilot.  The applications I found have numerous advantages but since they all have different user interfaces, they must be learned individually.  This page is to review those individual applications.

Evernote:

Evernote is powerful, cloud based digital note-taking software.   Notes can consist of text, photos, scanned/photographed documents and audio recordings.  Notes can consist of different types of media.  For example, a PDF, typed text and a photo can be inserted in a single document.  Text in documents and photos, even handwritten text, is searchable.   So, if you see a plaque or sign you want to take note of, you can photograph it and later find it by typing a word from the sign into the search box.  Notes can be put into folders and tagged.  Besides searching an entire document, searches can be limited to just searching notes with a certain tag or within a certain notebook.  Once it is setup, notes are automatically synced across multiple devices, including PC's, Macs, iOS devices, Android Devices, etc.  A client can be downloaded onto these devices or it can be accessed via Evernote's website.  Also, numerous plugins are available from Evernote to make clipping notes easier.

Evernote has a few weaknesses.  Evernote notebooks cannot be nested, although they can be arranged one level deep under a header that looks like a notebook.  The header itself cannot contain any notes.  Most modern filing systems use tags because a single note can only be in one folder, unless it is duplicated (which leads to other problems), whereas it can have multiple tags.*  However, there are some good reasons to have some information organized in nested folders (or a branching tree) and with Evernote this is not really possible.

Another limitation of Evernote is its inability to display MS Office documents from within a note.  There is a function called "Quick Look" but in my experience it doesn't work consistently and it opens the document in a separate window from the rest of the note.  It can display PDF's embedded in a note though and with OSX, from the print dialog window in any program, a PDF can be printed.  So, if it is important to have an Office document embedded directly in the context of a note, then make it into a PDF.

In my search for a good note-taking application, I tried Circus Ponies Notebook, Pear Notes and Apple's OSX Notes.  Evernote was much better than any of these.

Overall, Evernote is a well designed, functional note-taking application.  Best of all, the developers are constantly making it better.

Google Contacts:

Google Contacts is an extension of Gmail.  It works well, has numerous ways to organize addresses including using labels, syncs with multiple devices and Apple's/iOS' address book and can be searched thoroughly.   In OSX CoBooks can be used to quickly access and add to Google Contacts through the Menu Bar.

Google Tasks:

Google Tasks is a simple to do list.  It works as an extension of gmail.  It can be used on numerous devices.  Notes can be nested.  I use GeeTasks for the iOS.  The weaknesses are that the only easy way to use it on a computer is through gmail and it will currently will not sync with other task list applications.  

Google Calendar:

Google's calendar can be shared and synced to multiple devices.  The OSX menubar application Fantastical makes it easy to input events and see a schedule.



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