Favorite productivity computer programs

Yes, productive, really. While much surrounding a computer can become a huge waste of time, there are some programs that are truly productivity enhancers. Here are a few that I rely on every day. Disclaimer: no pecuniary interest, just a happy customer.

Caution: large article. If you see this on Facebook you’ll want to go to my blog to read and see the screen shots better.

Keybreeze:  As their site says, “Perform any task in a second” thus

Start the process from the hotkey

Once you press the hotkey, type entries to …

  • Open files, folders, and websites.
  • Search your computer.
  • Search websites.
  • Perform system tasks.
  • Control windows on your screen.
  • Paste custom text into a text field.
  • Automate actions.
  • Create notes; set reminders.
  • Launch plug-ins.

    Example of the window of commands

and just tap the semicolon twice to insert
a semicolon in a text field.

There is a free version for personal use that is quite good, and for $19.95 you get a commercial license with more features. Right now you get TWO licenses for $20 (as of 2/7/2010 anyway) so that’s a really good deal.

I use it to start up ALL of my programs, common websites, and more.

Ever have problems remembering things? Tired of making notes on your computer screen with a magic marker only to have to use whiteout to make changes?   🙂  Like to jot down or somehow remember stuff, either from a phone call or conversation, or something off of the internet?

Then try Evernote.

Depicting the types of media capable of being stored in Evernote

Again, there is a very adequate free version (Jen says I’m the king of free software) but I’ve opted for the $45/year “Pro” version because it does a lot of things very well. And I believe in supporting good software.  From their website:

Chances are, if you can see it or think of it, Evernote can help you remember it. Type a text note. Clip a web page. Snap a photo. Grab a screenshot. Evernote will keep it all safe.

Everything you capture is automatically processed, indexed, and made searchable. If you like, you can add tags or organize notes into different notebooks.

Search for notes by keywords, titles, and tags. Evernote magically makes printed and handwritten text inside your images searchable, too.

Just a few of the potential uses of Evernote ...

Only your imagination (or lack thereof) will hinder what you can do with Evernote for capturing thoughts and information.

I captured this screen shot using Evernote and it went immediately into a note. I then right-clicked on it in Evernote and saved it as a jpeg file so that I could upload it here.

You can store almost any kind of file or graphic.

And my favorite productivity-machine software is yet to come. It’s not free, but there is a free trial that gives you a great preview. I’ve written about it before, called “The Brain.” It now is not simply “The Brain” but rather “THE” brain, i.e. mine. Proceeding with all due speed I am dumping everything I know into it.  As the website says,

Simply type in your ideas. Drag and drop files and web pages. Any idea can be linked to anything else. Using your digital Brain is like cruising through a Web of your thinking. See new relationships. Discover connections. Go from the big picture of everything to a specific detail in seconds. Accelerate your mind.

Any type of document, a web link or a whole page, photos, free-form text, anything … literally … can be stored in, linked to/from, commented upon, searched, and otherwise used and referenced, very quickly. You have to go to the site to get even a moderate appreciation of the power, but here’s a preview.

One use I make is to document complex cases to keep track of the parties, lawyers, pleadings, deadlines, pending motions, research, and literally everything I want to recall from hearing to hearing. Here is the top level of the hierarchy of a case, actual screen shots from my Brain:

You see typical areas of info for a case.

Everything is organized in a hierarchy (which you choose) of parent (above), child (below) or sibling (side) relationship. Any item can have multiple parents, multiple children and/or multiple siblings.

When an item is selected, it becomes the central item and its parents, children and siblings are arranged around it, thusly:

Here you see something about the parties and lawyers

If you can see it, there is a small icon to the left of the Plaintiffs box, it’s actually a small photograph. Documents create their own identifiable icon (like the Word “W” of the Excel mini-sheet), but you can affix an icon of your choice as well. In this one, here is what I created for it:

Here's how to remember the lawyers not seen often.

I can easily remember all the lawyers. Although my cell phone shot (taken with their permission) is blurry, it serves its purpose.

I really can’t easily articulate in this space how powerful The Brain is. Here is a link to a page that will blow your mind if you’ll just watch the videos.

And be absolutely certain to click on the links in the box to the right and view the recorded webcast. Here is the graphic, click on it to view an amazing process, and some fascinating history lessons to boot:

Click on the graphic and sit back to enjoy ....

This concludes my brief review of but three (of hundreds) of productivity/organizing software that I’ve found to be especially useful and frankly, at least in my way of thinking and doing, important parts of my personal and professional digital life.


New thoughts about computing

For those of you who remember my being labeled as far back as 1997 as “The Electronic Judge” you’ll be shocked at this. But it’s true — I’m thinking about a massive paradigm shift in my own methodology to add a netbook to my life in addition to my high-end notebook and possibly eventually, in lieu of a smartphone. If I go that far, then the idea is this:

  • The notebook becomes more like a desktop machine from the “olden days” yet still is portable.
  • The netbook becomes more like the notebook, especially given the increasing amount of cloud-computing. I would move my Verizon broadband account to the netbook — preferably one with the broadband built in.
  • All of the mobile apps now on the smartphone are migrated to the netbook instead. On the smartphone they’re all a compromise anyway.
  • And the phone is once again, a phone!

I don’t really have the need for getting emails instantly and constantly on my phone. The BlackBerry has been a fun and interesting experiment but I’m not sure it’s done what I thought it might. It seems to me that as long as you don’t need the instant email, having it portably anywhere you sit down for a minute and pop out the netbook is sufficient. And I have a GPS, a small digital camera and a digital SLR so why do I need a GPS or camera in my phone?

Which leads me to ask two questions: One, what’s wrong with that approach?
And two, what machines should I be considering? And I’ve recently seen a Toshiba with a 1″ screen that was not a netbook as such but just a really small notebook — kinda retro from whence notebooks originated! I’m thinking of some particular needs:

  • Windows 7 — XP’s legs will be cut off soon.
  • 250GB drive minimum
  • 2GB memory minimum — aren’t there some with 3 now?
  • Touchpad — no pencil erasers for me!
  • 3 USB ports — my ham radio peripherals have demands!
  • Broadband capable — preferably built-in.
  • g if not n Wi-Fi
  • Decent battery life (5-6 real hours) but don’t necessarily need 10+ but only if it’s a real 5-6 hours with usage.

My desk explained … finally

I am SO glad to have found mention of the following article which was found on the Fresh Mown Hay blog in writing about the FreeMind mind-mapping software:

Malcolm Gladwell, Tipping Point author and general pied piper of intellectuals everywhere, wrote a New Yorker article in 2002 explaining a similar phenomenon: ” why our desks are messy.”  Gladwell writes:

“But why do we pile documents instead of filing them? Because piles represent the process of active, ongoing thinking. The psychologist Alison Kidd […] argues that “knowledge workers” use the physical space of the desktop to hold “ideas which they cannot yet categorize or even decide how they might use.” The messy desk is not necessarily a sign of disorganization. It may be a sign of complexity: those who deal with many unresolved ideas simultaneously cannot sort and file the papers on their desks, because they haven’t yet sorted and filed the ideas in their head. Kidd writes that many of the people she talked to use the papers on their desks as contextual cues to “recover a complex set of threads without difficulty and delay” when they come in on a Monday morning, or after their work has been interrupted by a phone call. What we see when we look at the piles on our desks is, in a sense, the contents of our brains.”

I’m going to have to try FreeMind just on the basis of this interesting article!

(update 2/2/09) I did try FreeMind and still use it on occasion. It’s free, and very interesting in assisting the thought process, for some people. (update 2/16/09) And then along came PersonalBrain. See my several blog pieces on that software.