Reviews

Review: Renaissance Art's Moleskine and Index Card Cover

Leather products these days are a sign of upper class and longevity. Who doesn't like the fresh smell of leather and its cool, slick feel? I know that when I want to show off my elegant and classier sides with my productivity toys (whether at work or at home) I turn to leather to give my journals a facelift. Enter Renaissance Art. This small company, based in New Mexico, builds hand-made leather products. They produce a wide variety of handmade journals, bags and cases.

Recently, Renaissance Art added a few new products to their line. Products that a lot of us on D*I*Y Planner have been drooling about. I'm here to tell you about my experience with just one of these new products, the Moleskine Cover with Single 3x5 Card Case for a pocket-sized Moleskine. Bottom line, I think this little product is worth adding a touch of protection, class and usability to your Moleskine.

I purchased a two-tone Moleskine Cover with Single 3x5 card case from Renaissance Art a few months ago. This little gem is the perfect cover and companion to any small pocket-sized journal. It's made of rugged leather so has that worn in and well loved look. This little case combines my two passions into one location: index cards and journalling. Opening the case exposes a slide in area for index cards on the left side and easy access to journal on the right.

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 DIYPlanner.com 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.

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 del.icio.us 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.

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.

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.

An Epica Review

Three Epica journals

I have just finished writing a brief thank you for one of the nicest books I have ever handled. Just before Easter a card arrived from the post office; a package had arrived, could I collect it? Being Easter and not realising its significance I left it languishing at the sorting office until Tuesday. When I arrived, the parcel, carefully wrapped in brown paper, was placed on the counter while I showed my identification. Looking at it lying there I realised it was too small for paperwork and the wrong shape for an Easter egg. So what could it possibly be? I carefully slid the blade of my Swiss army knife down the tape and removed the paper. Inside there was a cardboard box, not unlike the type seen in the old tobacconists. The name EPICA was printed in sepia and underneath "World Class Italian Leather & Paper Products"....

Mind Mapping Resources and Wrap-up

Two weeks ago, we kicked this series off with an introduction to mind mapping. There we learned what mind maps are and how to make a simple one. Last week, I took the series one step further and showed you how you could apply mind maps to various aspects of a single project from brainstorming phase to project wrap up. Today, I'm going to get to the fun part that I'm sure all of you have been waiting for. The books and applications (online and desktop) that can help make your mind maps appear polished and professional. I'll give you my thoughts on each item listed here and hopefully help you form an opinion on what techniques you want to try. Of course, you may just want to stick with paper and pen... and that's fine too. I know that depending on where I am at, I sometimes want to use an computer based application for my maps; while others, I want to use my moleskine and pen set.

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.

"Getting Things Done: My Experiences with Using GTD"

Hi, my name is Sara, and I am an Internet addict. (Shocked?) Some days I have no idea what I’m looking for or where I will find it. I know there is some site out there that will be a valuable resource. The exploring is half the fun. The other half is discovering a website that hits the spot. At first glance, this little website lacks the pizzazz of a major discovery. However, I assure you that this gem should not be overlooked. The usefulness of gtd.marvelz.com may not be evident at first. After all, another blog is just another blog, right? Wrong.

Having recently finished reading through David Allen’s Getting Things Done, I can relate to much of what this blog discusses. The author writes “…[I]t has changed my life in small and big ways. This blog is my attempt to share some of my experiences concerning GTD with you.” The entries began in January of 2007. My initial visit consisted of reading through the author’s blog entries. It was reassuring to discover that my beginnings with GTD were not dissimilar.