Quick Tips: Using Index Tabs

Two weeks ago, one of my friends mentioned some cool toys she got while perusing her local OfficeMax mecca. She found some really nifty index tabs for binders and was looking for advice on how to use them in her latest project. So, I put on my enabler hat and gave her some advice and suggestions on how I use my index tabs. With a little planning, mixing and matching of your favorite styles, you can create fun and useful binders that keep all your subjects together. Apparently we weren't the only ones wondering how to use tabs creatively or efficiently. Turns out that many of you were discussing similar ideas and new tab products in the forums recently as well.

Review: A Tinderbox Full of Notes

Tinderbox Sample NoteOur review today is a little different, but the application seems to warrant it. Tinderbox (disclaimer: its maker, Eastgate, is a sponsor) is in many ways an unusual program. Refusing to be pinned into any one category, it's almost the tinker, tailor, soldier and spy of personal content management systems. Infinitely tweakable, and extraordinarily powerful, its capabilities can take a long time to explore. So it was only fair to bring both Jaymi (a beginner) and Doug (an intermediate user) into this review. Thus, a little discussion, which went as follows....

JE: Tinderbox bills itself as "a tool for making and analyzing notes." And we agree. However, it's very intimidating to a new user at first and it takes a long while to get over the "wow... omg.... what am I gonna do with this" feeling. When Doug asked me to help him review this package I was hesitant at first. I had no idea how to use this system, or what benefits I could gain from using such a robust note-taking system. Even after a few days of using it, I'm still not sure I've tapped into the full power of the application, for which I'm grateful that Doug is here to help explain, since he's a long-time user.

Planning for Video, Part 1: The Seed

Sony HDR FX1EAs a multimedia producer, I've been planning and delivering video projects in various forms for nearly fifteen years now. Back in the early days, it was hard to find learning materials, the technology was complicated and bulky, and I'm sure I made more mistakes than not. Today, however, it's far easier (and less expensive) for prospective producers to jump into the fray and create near-professional videos and films without dealing with the hassles of even a decade ago. The key to it all is not luck nor technical aptitude (although those can help): it's planning.

This is the first of a series of articles about planning for a top-notch video project, from the initial seed through pre-production, shooting, editing and distribution. It's meant chiefly for beginners, but I invite more advanced producers and videographers to jump in with their own advice. I'll also be releasing new video production D*I*Y Planner forms as they become relevant. If you've ever had an inclination to produce a video, now's your chance to follow along and get started.

Review: Wreck This Journal

Greetings everyone! Welcome to summer. Yay for summer. Summer means getting out and playing in the sun, hiking and lots of reading. You heard me, it's time to break out the books and get busy with your summer reading. My reading table already seems to be overflowing with books on creativity, writing, fiction by Neil Gaiman and others. However, I wanted to mention a book that will change how you feel about journaling and treating your books.

A few months ago, a friend from my account alerted me that Keri Smith of Living Out Loud fame was working on her latest follow up. Entitled Wreck This Journal, it promised to help artists and journalers break through blocks and inhibitions to get into truly personalized and FUN journaling. Of course, I immediately added it to my wish list as this is a hot topic for me. Then, something magical happened... last month, I was given an advanced copy of this book and it blew away all of the expectations I had.

Small Drawing, Big Changes

I've been a homeowner for seven years now. In that time, I've had numerous failed attempts at creating my dream backyard. I have this vision in my head of a hybrid Japanese zen garden and small scale English garden. I envisioned a multi-level garden with large Japanese maples, huge hostas, and a wide variety of shade and sun flowers sprinkling along the ground up to the concrete patio. I wanted hiding spots for the neighborhood wildlife, and sweet smelling plants to attract birds and butterflies. However, in all the years of trial and error, I've learned that there are some things in this world I cannot do. Gardening and maintaining my backyard... being one of them.

Earlier this year, we (meaning my husband and I) discussed what we really wanted in a backyard. We decided that in order to get to where we wanted, we needed to bring in the professionals. So, after months of calling around, we hired a landscaper. The first thing they do, is come out and get a feel for the yard, what it looks like; they listen to what you say and what you envision it becoming. And I learned, that if you have images of plants or even a rough mock up of what you want... you can help them come up with ideas that fit your budget.

Portable Muse: Never Run Out of Ideas Again

Last year I wrote about how using prompts can help you spark ideas for those days when you can't think of anything "good" to write about in your journal. I showed you many sites and books that you could use for resources. Just think, wouldn't it be cool if you could take all those sites and all those books I've suggested with you, where ever you go? Of course, you can take all the websites with you as long as you got wireless connectivity AND a laptop. But it's not very cost effective. As for all those books, you could use Steve's EXTREME planner idea and always carry your personal library on you at all times.

While it's not efficient to carry your laptop with a library of books at your side all the time, you can carry a stack of cards printed with prompts and writing ideas. I'm going to show you how you can create and use your own personal, portable oblique idea generator that can be easily tossed in any bag. This Portable Muse is a small bound notebook filled with images and quotes and questions that will never allow you to go without a quick jolt of inspiration. Never will you run out of ideas again.

The Trial

Admittedly, it was a much younger me who wearily toted a heavy little case up the seven flights of steps to his apartment in France, finally balancing it on his knee while fumbling for the key and then the lock in the darkness. The door opened to a well-lit and ill-furnished set of rooms consisting entirely of a twin bed, a card table, three hard wooden chairs, a little kitchen table, and a fridge and stove.

I carefully laid the slightly moldy case upon the card table, clicked two snaps, a spring-hingled lid flipped open, and there it was: a children's typewriter.

Mind you, the keys were shuffled about in different places. The French use AZERTY, not QWERTY, and the previous decade of using English computer keyboards would prove to be a difficult habit to break. And then there was the ribbon. Apparently, no one expects a child to write very much. The ribbon had to be rewound every half page, and the fingernail of my pinkie finger was just barely small enough to twist the spool.

Not one to be easily discouraged by a few technical issues, I lifted the machine out of the case and set up my little writing space. A touch of hammer cleaning, a few squirts of machine oil, and my first sheet of A4 paper was wound up around and facing me, the sum of all my terrors: complete and utter blankness. Like my mind.

Going on Safari... A Journal Safari

This weekend marks the first in a series of long weekends for us Americans. I'll be heading out tomorrow to the "Great Outdoors" with camp gear in toe for some serious camping. I'm excited! I love camping. Of course, I'll be bringing my trusty Moleskine journal with me and a few extra supplies to record thoughts and maybe some sketches of gorgeous Mt. Hood. So, this week, I'll leave you all with a little homework assignment. Don't groan, it'll be fun and you don't need to escape your home for the wilds of the Great Outdoors. You're going on safari!

First, you'll need to grab a few friends. Or not. But going on a safari is definitely more fun when you got a few friends to pal around. Discuss where you want to go, what to see and what themes to write or sketch about in your journals. If you like, make it more than one location throughout the day. The change in venue helps spark creativity and helps you to make multiple entries. Or go to your local museum and spend various days entering information about the various rooms your museum has. Point is, gathering friends up means you'll be making the commitment to attempt this fun outing and that you follow through with it.

Retro-Tech: the Newton eMate 300 for Writers Today

eMate 300I'm constantly looking for new ways to write. Sometimes, of course, paper is my first and most effective resource, but there are other times when I just want to pound away at a keyboard with a digital end in mind. I do have a nice shiny MacBook Pro, but between its bottom searing the flesh of my lap, its bevy of powerful applications, and the network access chiming the arrival of my email and luring me into the world wide abyss, well... focus becomes an issue. I've thought for years about getting an Alphasmart Neo or Dana, but I'm not sure the usage will warrant the cost.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about my new(-to-me) Apple Newton, and how I've recently become smitten by this ten-year-old technology. Since then, I've received a near-mint Apple eMate 300 Newton for roughly $10, and have decided to use it as a writing platform. In fact, this post is entirely written with its built-in word processor. Consider it a little experiment.