FileThis – Automate Your Bill Downloads

Filethis

I typically don’t gush here about a service that I’ve just tried out for the first time, but I’ll make an exception for FileThis. I just read about it over on Lifehacker, and thought I’d give it a try. FileThis is a service that collects your bills in one place, so that you don’t have to sign into multiple online accounts. I just gave it a try, and this could be one of the biggest timesavers I’ve seen in years.

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Evernote Tags vs. Notebooks: Which Are Better for Organization? [Reader Feedback]

evernote notebooks vs tagsA recent article on Lifehacker has me wondering if I’m using Evernote all wrong. I only have two main notebooks in Evernote: Work, and Personal. There are a few other random ones that are automatically created by apps, such as the notebook that Scanner Pro, an iOS app, creates. I also have an “Inbox” notebook where notes reside until they are moved into one of the other notebooks. But by and large, all of my notes go into my two main notebooks. Am I in the minority with how I use Evernote notebooks? READ MORE

Take Your Digital Filing System With You, and Keep it Secure, With SecretSync

SecretSync encrypted Dropbox sync

Last year I wrote about SecretSync, an app that lets you securely sync files via Dropbox. SecretSync encrypts any file that you drop into your SecretSync folder, and then sends it on to your other computers via Dropbox. If those computers are running SecretSync (and you’ve set up the proper security key), the file will then be decrypted on those machines as well. I covered all that in my previous article, though, so why mention it again? After taking SecretSync for a spin last year, I stopped using it. I’ve just found a great new use, though, that makes SecretSync an integral part of my paperless document management system.

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How to Automate Your Evernote Scanning and Filing System [Mac]

Evernote automated filing system

Last week I wrote about the World’s Most Awesome Paperless Filing System, which lets you drop a document into your scanner and have it automatically renamed and then filed away into the proper folder on your Mac. That system used Hazel, a Mac app, to rename and file documents that appeared in a folder, based on the contents of those documents. As I mentioned in that post, I had chosen that system over previous systems, one of which involved Evernote. If you want to use the automation of Hazel to speed up your paperless system, but still use Evernote, then you’re in luck.

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The World’s Easiest, Most Awesome, Hands Off, Set and Forget, Document Management System (Mac)

Paperless filing system

If you have a paperless filing system, wouldn’t it be nice if you could drop a bill into your scanner, and have it automatically scanned, renamed, and filed in the proper place on your computer, with no effort on your part? And wouldn’t it be nice if you could have access to that document from any computer, with minimal security worries? With a combination of two programs on the Mac, you can do all of that.

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Planning For the Disposition of Your Digital Assets for When You Die

Tombstones

You and I have at least one thing in common. We’re both going to die at some point in the future. Before that happens, remember that digital data can be more important than real world goods. You take steps to arrange for the disposition of your physical possessions in the event of death. How about your email account and other online accounts? If you’re a Gmail user, the Backupify blog recently took a look at what happens to your Gmail account when you die. That article got me thinking beyond just email, to how to best make sure that your digital assets pass to your next of kin when you die.

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How Many Items Do You Have on Your Computer Desktop? [Reader Feedback]

Evan clean desktop

I’ll admit it. Until recently, I was a desktop slob. Despite my best intentions, the desktops on my computers were all jammed full, mostly with junk. If a program placed an icon there during installation, I never bothered to remove it. I typically would use my desktop as the destination for downloads, too. This resulted in an even bigger mess.

Recently, though, I’ve changed. I’m not sure what triggered it, but I’ve been on a tidy desktop kick lately. The desktops on both my work and personal computers are now pristine. Are my a freak now, or was I an oddball when my desktop was a mess? This trivial issue has me curious. How messy is your desktop?

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My Conversion from iCal to Google Calendar

My conversion from iCal to Google Calendar | 40Tech

40Tech is pleased to present a guest post by Michael Carper.

When I began college, I was determined to keep track of all my homework, papers, tests, and scheduled activities. A staple of college scheduling is the syllabus, which lays out the due dates and assigned readings and homework for each class. However, syllabuses are just pieces of paper. I realized that it would be a huge pain to look up daily, from four or five different sources, what the assignments were for that day. I wanted to look at a single source and grasp all the work I had to do for that day, and for that week. More importantly, I wanted to keep in mind upcoming tests and papers several weeks ahead of time, in order to prepare time to work on them.

With this predilection for planning, I looked to my built-in OS calendar, iCal. There were many advantages to using it. I didn’t have to boot up Chrome or worry about web browsing. I could organize by color, assigning one to events, one to assignments, and another to work. I actually put my entire class schedule, as well as ordinary things like “lunch,” into iCal. I put not only due dates, but little reminders when certain benchmarks should be met in prep for those due dates. It was my lifeline.

However, little problems grew to be big annoyances. The most striking was the way iCal handled longer titles. I copied entire reading assignments into iCal. For some single class periods, this could include multiple texts or several page selections. Shorter entries would be completely displayed in the month-long calendar view, which I always used. I didn’t need to see my days broken down in the traditional week-long format, but I did want to see the tests and papers on the horizons. However, in this view, longer entries were simply abridged. There was no indication that an entry was actually much longer than it appeared, since they always stuck to a single line. On several instances, this lack of informative UI actually led to ignored homework assignments, since the entry was actually much longer than appeared and contained more readings than it appeared to. Ironically, in those instances, my calendar made me less prepared.

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Fall of my freshman year

There were other little things, as well. Entry of events was very manual; you had to put all details in only their specific field. Once made, you could not edit an event after clicking on it, but instead had to go to its “edit” page. The tethering of iCal to my Mac turned out to be a disadvantage, since I often ended up with hours to spare, homework to do, and no personal computer at my fingertips. I couldn’t sync it in any way with my iPod Touch, either.

So beginning of my junior, I finally took a look at Google Calendar. Since I had been a loyal Gmail user for many years, it only seemed natural. Immediately I noticed where GCal improved over iCal. The most prominent was the ease of creating events. I no longer had to cycle through different boxes to mark the date and time. Instead, I could simply jot down, “meeting 12-1” as an entry name for a certain day, and there it appeared, from the 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM slot. And if I felt like changing it, I could edit the entry title from the pop-up that appeared when I clicked it the first time, unlike iCal.

It wasn’t just the cleaner, more pleasing UI that won me over. Accessing my calendar outside my room was as simple as accessing my email–just log in to Google. I could access it on my iPod as well, albeit not with an official Google app. School events were always announced via email. I could either copy and paste the location and time details from one tab to another, or I could even click “More” in Gmail and create an event based on the email. If viewing an online calendar, such as the one published by my college, I could even import all the events into mine.

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December of my junior year

Six months later, I still haven’t taken advantage of everything Google Calendar has to offer, like sharing my calendar with others or inviting them to scheduled meetings. Those two functionalities are so amazingly useful, it’s a pity I’ve only encountered them at places I’ve interned. The rest of my fellow students, unfortunately, are still stuck in the Stone Age, with their paper syllabuses and calendar. Some of them may have progressed to iCal, marking their progress into the Bronze Age. They, and everyone else, should wise up and join those of us with our Google Calendars in the Golden Age.

I will add that I’ve tried the Fantastical Calendar app. Fantastical syncs with iCal or Outlook, but not Google Calendar, so I had to export from Google Calendar to iCal and then sync Fantastical with iCal. It’s UI is very nice. The recognition of event details is more intuitive than Google Calendar’s, expanding its recognition to location details and invitees whose address you have in your Contacts as well. You can read more about it in Evan’s review. My judgment is that although it has the best user interface, the ability of Google Calendar to sync with other Google apps, especially through email, is invaluable. Since I always have a web browser opened anyway, leaving a tab for Google Calendar is hardly cumbersome. $20 is a lot for calendar software, but, in my opinion, is something that would be used everyday. So if I spent less time on Google, Fantastical would be my go-to calendar.

Michael is a student at Wabash College and writer for the Reading Glasses Shopper blog. He realizes that actually the Iron Age, not the Golden Age, followed the Bronze Age.

What’s The Deal With Pinterest? Even My Wife Likes (Obsesses Over) It!

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So, Pinterest… It’s received a lot of coverage in the past year — it’s even received in the realm of 37 million in funding — but I had trouble seeing the appeal. I wasn’t sure the world needed another social bookmarking site. I wasn’t sure the world needed another way to share, well… anything. I admit, most of this feeling had nothing to do with Pinterest, per se, it was really more about social media overwhelm. I’ve seen a ton of social sharing services go up and down over the past few years, and, as much as I love Google+, I think it maxed me out. Besides, you can do things similar to Pinterest using tools like Evernote and Springpad, right? Right?

Then my lovely wife — a person who has no real interest in tech, barely any interest in social networking, and who only got a smartphone because it was free and I “was bugging her about it” — was somehow inspired to try it out. No prompting from me, or anyone else — she came to it entirely on her own. Now… she’s obsessed. Seriously. For example, I see her awake at 3AM and think that she’s feeding the baby, or something — but no. What’s she’s doing is maniacally pinning and re-pinning things to her boards, and often giggling like mad as she does it. There is apparently a lot of funny on Pinterest…

Title Image clipped from Pinterest Comic

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Recently, she’s taken to sharing some of that funny with me, and I’ve discovered that a good portion of it is Star Wars based. This confused the hell out of me (though I still shared some of it with you here and here). My wife has no interest in Star Wars. She’s one of the few people who has never even seen the films, and (horrifyingly) will actually say things like “What’s a hansolo?” I still love her, though. She’s that awesome. She’s beginning to make me see value in Pinterest, too. Anything that could inspire my wife to share seriously awesome Star Wars stuffs with me has got to be pretty powerful.

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I checked it out a little more thoroughly. I wanted to know what the deal was. Was there a secret sauce? How did it hook her? What I discovered was four things:

Pinterest is incredibly simple.

Pinterest is to sharing fun and useful images what Evernote is to easy, accessible note-taking. It focuses on that one thing, and makes sure that it is the absolute best at it. It doesn’t overwhelm the user.

 

Pinterest is visual — and good at it.

Everyone loves a good picture and everyone loves a good photo gallery. Funny and beautiful pics have been making the rounds since the internet was able to support them. People like to look at the images they like again and again.  And share them, re-share them, and re-share them again, as well. Pinterest makes this easy, but it also makes it beautiful. The designers have done a fantastic job of taking something that could be overwhelming, both in general and visually, and making it joy to experience.

My Wife's Pinterest Categories

 

Like crafty things? This is your home.

There are a ton of cool things to discover on Pinterest, but it really seems to have taken off with the crafty and DIY crowd. This is what ultimately hooked my wife. She loves to see things that people have made, especially if it involves baking or making something cool out of something else. She knows I like that sort of thing as well, and has not only shared some cool Star Wars crafts with me, but also a lot of DIY upcycling and repurposing projects. It’s how I came across Homestyler, actually, which was the topic of my previous post. There is some very cool stuff on Pinterest, and more is pinned every day.

Some of My Wife’s Pins

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It connects to the real world. It useful.

Pinterest is more than just a place to store and share images. The images link back to the site you found them on — and if we follow the crafty and DIY point from above, you end up with well-organized, very visual bookmarks back to sites that contain information that you might actually use in your real-world life. This makes Pinterest more than just a random bookmarking service, and more than just an image-sharing service. It makes it a tool that is useful to you both on and offline. It helps you to find, share, save and use things that are of interest to you.

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We’ve all heard that “<insert service> makes it easy to collect and organize what interests you on the web.” Pinterest actually does it. My wife is living proof. Anything tech-based that can make her go gaga is definitely worth taking a look at. It’s still in beta, but getting an account happens pretty quickly. I recommend giving Pinterest a try. You’ll probably love it.

What do you think of Pinterest? How do you use it?