Analog / Digital

My Digital Shoebox: A Review of DEVONthink Pro

Growing up, I used to have this small square trunk with an airbrushed scene of lightly colored swans swimming in some fantasy pond. It matched my room and when I laid my eyes on it, I instantly knew what I was going to use it for. Storing letters. (No comments from the peanut gallery! I guess organization and storage toys *are* a part of my genetics.) When my best friend moved out of state, we started sending each other letters. At first, these letters were kept in a shoe box. But the letters soon outgrew the box and the trunk, was perfect to store the remaining years of letters we sent back and forth. Over 10 years worth of correspondence. We stopped writing when we went to college; our friendship getting lost in the hustle of classes and freedom.

That was 10 years ago. I don't know whether or not the trunk still exists somewhere buried in the basement of my parents' house. However, I've kept to my information hoarding habits and save almost everything I find important on my computer. Smudge (my Macbook) has emails dating back to 1998, all my college essays, random PDF articles from blogs or sites and lots and lots of downloads. I tend to go PDF and download crazy when I get bored at work. So I have quite the collection of PDFs, images and freebie downloads for various design apps I prefer to use. Of course, this doesn't include the things I keep on my home network server or the backups that exist there as well. Most of the time, these files get shucked away in my computer's filing system where searching and remembering what all I have stored there becomes a nightmare.

Honestly, I'm not sure I even know half of what I have digitally now. And it bugs me sometimes. Information is only as good as you're able to use and digest it, and I feel like I'm not using what I have on this system as much as I could be. Because of this, I've been researching digital information manager applications. I'm here to tell you there is a solution. One that threatens to replace a few existing applications on my beloved Macbook. It's called DEVONthink Pro and I'm in love. And it allows me to store, catalog, search and retrieve anything I feed into it.

Dipping Into Digital

Analog/Digital Kit, closedYes, we all love beautiful paper and pens and leather binders and every second item on the shelves of a stationery store. And yes, many of us tend to take notes, write drafts, brainstorm, manage our time, and sketch on paper. But sooner or later, there comes a time when what we write or produce has to wind up in a digital form for sharing with others. For example, my journal and index cards may be the foundation for the articles I write here, but sooner or later I have to put fingers to keys and pound out the words.

But, like most tinkerers attracted to shiny metal objects, it's hard to keep distraction at bay. For example, while I dearly love (though not quite in a carnal sense) my new MacBook Pro, all the bells and whistles conspire to turn my attention from writing. Each bleep of my Google Gmail Notifier, which word or idea or link I want to look up, each Amazon book I want to link to, each photo I need to take and resize and optimise....

What was I saying? Oh, yes... it's hard to keep on topic with so many distractions.

So, the paper angle is covered; I have plenty of focus there. What I need is some way to write without digital distraction.

Steno pad paper classic 2up

My husband (whom I hacked) requested that I make him a notebook in classic size with steno pad-type paper. I fiddled and fiddled with both MSWord and OOo and here is the result. He wanted it so there were no borders on the sides.

Thumbnail: 
Image 1.png
Usage advice: 

Print double-sided and cut down the middle.

Paper size: 
Classic (5.5 x 8.5)
License: 
Creative Commons
Applications required: 
PDF Reader and MSWord
Language: 
NA

Pet Care Records

Classic size form to help keep track of your pet's imporant medical information/history.

Thumbnail: 
pet records.jpg
Usage advice: 

Print out duplex, cut in half, punch, & fill in important information regarding your pet, your pet's immunizations/vaccinations history.

Use a separate page for each pet.

Meant to help pet owners keep track of all this stuff which can get overwhelming at times =^..^=

Paper size: 
Classic (5.5 x 8.5)
License: 
Creative Commons
Applications required: 
PDF Viewer
Language: 
English

Quarter Letter Templates

A fistful of basic templates you can use as a starter. Size 4.25x5.5, or one quarter of a letter page. These are intended to be bound along the long edge, with Circa or Rolla discs.

Thumbnail: 
quarter-letter-side-margin.jpg
Usage advice: 

Hi.

I built these for my own use. As such, you may find you want to doctor them up, which is fine with me. Draw files are included with the PDF so you can edit the forms if you want.

Included forms:

  • a one-page daily schedule 6-10 (6a-10p, but the hours are not marked am/pm). The page title is not shown because I use this as the foundation of a mail merge to preprint my daily pages with their exact DOW and Dates. The DOW blocks on the right hand edge of this page are for cutting daily tabs. I use a ruler and X-acto to remove the tabs that don't apply to the particular page that has been printed. Thus when I have a month's pages in the planner, I can quickly skip from one week to the next using the DOW tabs as a guide.
  • a blank monthly template. Again, I use this one with a mail merge to pre-print the days and the month name.
  • two Annual Events pages. These are intended to be printed back-to-back. You write in the birthdays, anniversaries, etc. so you can transfer them to your daily pages when you print a new month. Just a master list of stuff to remember annually. I've also got license plate renewals and car inspection requirements on my list.
  • two Contacts pages. These are freeform so you can track whatever on the list. No fields are pre-printed because I have different kinds of contact lists. My work contact list looks entirely different from my household list, which is entirely different from my family list. But they all use the same paper pattern. You can either hand-write the stuff in, or use this sheet as a background for a typed list.
  • a plain lined sheet with a blank header bar.
  • a plain checklist with a blank area at the top.
  • a Task Plan sheet. This lists the tasks, priorities, estimated time needed to complete the task, and a column of checkboxes. I use it on the back of my daily schedule pages to show the plan for the day after reviewing my various lists. I find the time estimate valuable in setting my own expectations for the day--helps me keep from overbooking.
  • a Projects and Multi-Step form. This is GTD, basically--a project list. It has a column for which other list is being used for the project (actions or waiting, basically) and the date the task was added to said list, the name of the project, and a reference name or number for the project. Also checkboxes. I have laminated a copy of this page so I can erase items when they're done. I use the 'list' and 'date on' columns to quickly scan which projects I have going, whether it's something I can do or not, and how long it's been waiting either for action or for someone else to do something. Example: The "Laptop" project has been waiting since the first of the year for me to decide a backup strategy. So the 'list' column shows an '@', and the Date On column shows a "1/1". So I can quickly find the oldest, moldiest stuff and target it for special attention and report details to my boss.
  • a Waiting For list. Shows Who owes me the action, the Date Due, the action needed, and a Ref column to tie the task back to the project list. I tend to sort the items on this page--I have two basic categories of stuff at work, so one category is always written at the top of the page, and the other category of stuff is at the bottom of the page. When there aren't any open lines left between them, it's time to start lighting fires.
  • an Actions list. This is my personal to-do list. Shows what needs to be done (Action), a Ref column to tie it back to the project list, and an Age/Due column to put either a date due or give an indication of just how old this item is (someone posted a method where every week they transfer their actions to a new sheet, and every old item moved to the new sheet gets a star to indicate its age. This is a cool method.).
  • and finally, a What/Where/When form. This is a multipurpose form that can be or do anything. It could be a reminder to go to the dentist, or a shopping list for the next time you're at the grocery, or a set of meeting notes. Has three fields at the top to explain what is on the card, a location and/or time if needed. Underneath a column of checkboxes, and a shaded and unshaded column for whatever you want.

Anyway, lots of stuff in here, you can fiddle with it to your heart's content. I won't mind. The margins are set to .25 inch, with an extra .1 inch guide on the left and right to allow Rolla/Circa punching. The pages are set left/right based on my personal preference. You are welcome to use the .odg file to move or eliminate the margins as you please.

Enjoy.
shris
[edited 3/26 to attach the files separately for non-zip folks]

Paper size: 
Other
License: 
Public Domain
Applications required: 
Adobe Acrobat Reader, Open Office.Org (Draw)
Language: 
English

GTD@Work: My Quest Ends


Perhaps you visited my forum post inquiring about online and offline GTD aids. A paper-based system will not suffice for my menagerie of information at work. I set out with a few criteria in mind. I need something quick and easy but capable of keeping the depth of information that I require to stay productive. The easier it is to utilize, the better. Multiple steps to try and alleviate more work fails to make sense. I like the idea of keeping things small and lightweight in terms of file sizes. Lastly, the GTD aid needs to be the right price, free. After much reading and experimentation in the past days, I believe I have found the best solution for me. However, I thought I would share a snippet of information on some different possibilities in case someone else is searching.

The hamster was actually the smart one...

If it keeps up, man will atrophy all his limbs but the push-button finger. --Frank Lloyd Wright

When I was a child of ten, I had a hamster named Pedro. He wasn't of the lazy, obese, hairy persuasion, but instead was about as energetic and lithe as a hamster presumably gets. He enjoyed crawling endlessly through the tubes I constructed all over my bedroom, a bizarre concoction of plumbing and modern architecture, and I would watch, fascinated, at this little creature who was under the impression that he was actually going somewhere. And then he would drop down into his cage from another angle and look around in that peculiar hamsteresque bewildered way, wondering why he was back where he started. He would avoid his wheel, though, since even that little mind could clearly conceive that he wasn't advancing in any direction.

Recently, I feel rather like a hamster.

Recipe Jotter

Simple form with prompts for jotting down a recipe.

nb 12/13/08 - per request I have added the original open office doc that I created this with. Enjoy!

Bill

Thumbnail: 
Recipe.jpg
Usage advice: 

My wife asked me to design her a simple page to fit in her planner so she could jot down recipes when she came across them - this is the result. It is Classic size (8 1/2 x 5 1/2) and set up for 2-up printing - I hope someone else finds this useful

nb 12/13/08 - per request I have added the original open office doc that I created this with. Enjoy!

Bill

Paper size: 
Classic (5.5 x 8.5)
License: 
Creative Commons
Applications required: 
Adobe Acrobat reader; OpenOffice
Language: 
English

The Value of Tagging (part 2)

Last week I introduced you to the concept of tagging things as it relates to getting the bigger picture of your life. Tagging is an old, but recently rediscovered, way of categorizing your thoughts, goals, website links, into organized clusters for ease of retrieval. Many websites now offer tagging as a way to quickly make personal relationships to the things you gather in a computer. And if you think about it, tagging is something you've been doing your whole life-- to make meaning out of those facts and cds and links. Now it's time to give you some tips and suggestions for incorporating tags into your favorite organizational methodology. For those of you interested in rediscovering how tags can help you online and off, here's some tips.