Blog Archives

TaskCollector for Cultured Code Things 2.5: DevonThink and Finder editions

Last week I published on this blog an AppleScript code for collecting tasks from text files (meeting notes, conferences notes and so on) stored in or taken directly in DevonThink Pro / Pro Office. Here is the latest version of the code. It also contains a Finder version that will let you pick a file anywhere on your computer (e.g. you are not a DevonThink users) and perform a similar task.

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Automating collection of To Dos from meeting notes using DevonThink, AppleScript and Things

For sometimes now, I went fully digital when attending meetings (one on one, research, scientific congress or even committee meetings). I adopted the iPad for that task just a few month after it came out on the market. There are multiple choices of apps out there for note taking. Apple Notes actually is probably the most simple, and quite efficient, one. Since I bring all of my meeting documents with me in DevonThink To Go or DTTG (see my e-office series to see how I make this work), I now take almost all of my meeting notes directly in DTTG. DTTG sync with DevonThink Pro Office (DTPO) edition on my Mac. I am looking forward for the new sync features of DTTG 2.0 but for now this works really fine.

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DevonThink Pro Office + BusyContacts = an efficient CRM solution for academia?

What does a Customer Relationship Management have anything to do with Academia? The blog Academic Workflow on a Mac makes a very good case for it…and I agree!

 

Today, I realized that you can copy DevonThink unique link of a group or an element within its database not just to Calendar/BusyCal or Things/OmniFocus but also to BusyContacts.

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New academic templates for DevonThink Pro

I have been a user of DevonThink Pro Office for a number of years now and made it a central part of my digital workflow. Over time, I naturally my organization toward a project-based hierarchy, trying to self contains all key information regarding a particular project into a DTPO group and sub-group structure. So I keep what I call an Ongoing database, which have all of my ongoing projects: manuscripts and other documents being written, financed research projects and contracts as principal investigators, other research projects as co-applicants or collaborators, courses that I teach and so on. If it’s completed, it’s archived and thus pull put of the Ongoing database.

Capture d’écran 2014-05-10 à 12.43.15

I have created a few standard templates containing a main folder (group) and sub-folders structure for a few key academic activities:

  • Research Grant
  • Research Contracts
  • General Research Project (not corresponding directly to the above two; can be personal!)
  • New Student
  • New manuscript
  • Conference (Attending/Presenting)

The following file (Projects) is a zip of a folder named Projects that contains these templates. Clicking the previous link  should already produced an unzip folder on your standard download folder. Simply drop the folder into ~/Library/Application Support/DEVONthink Pro 2/Templates.noindex. It will become available in the New from Template sub-menu of the Data menu.

I am quite interested in hearing if this is useful, if the structure of these templates are appropriate for your workflow and knowing about your own structure.

Getting your Inbox to zero quickly and easily with MailHub, an “AI” add-on to Apple Mail!

There are numerous tools and recipes to help you get your e-mail Inbox to zero. One popular choice is indev MailTag and MailActOn. The nice things about indev software is that they plugged right in Apple Mail. Mail Act On is very powerful but requires you to build and maintain all the rules or act on “actions” you create. Also like its use for files, tagging does have limits, in particular when you have a large number of them: it simply does not scale easily. Finally using the combination of MailTag and MailActOn to deal with and file e-mails is not highly efficient when compared the way I am filing my load of weekly digital documents using DevonThink built-in Artificial Intelligence (AI).

One option would be to throw all of your e-mails in DevonThink but Devon is not a Mail program. I also like having e-mails from all of my on-going projects live on the corporate (University) server: accessible everywhere and backup for me!

Here comes Dervish Software MailHub to the rescue. MailHub is a plug-in to Apple Mail that adds intelligent “DevonThink like” filing capability to all of your mailboxes. When I say all mailboxes I really means for all that you asked MailHub to index: Work computer, Exchange/IMAP mailboxes, local mailboxes (I do have over 20 years of e-mail archives of the projects I completed over the years), iCloud and GMAIL. No time spent to create rules or actions, no upkeep “cost”. To be fair it does more than that but the intelligent filing with either a single keyboard shortcut or a single click (you have the choice and the keyboard shortcut is user configurable) is what sold me.

Mailhub1

Figure 1 and 2: MailHub addition to Apple Mail preference pane (above) and its options (below)

MailHub2

According to the website, here is a list of what is possible to do:

  • Organise your email simply and easily using MailHub’s auto-suggest intelligent technology which suggests where to file your mail based on your previous email activity
  • File or delete emails individually, by thread or by sender in one simple process
  • Auto-file sent email to its parent mailbox
  • Create new mailboxes simply and organically when new filing categories arise
  • Set reminders for email related actions at the touch of a button
  • Preview changes before making them / undo changes as required

I will not go through MailHub option tabs as shown in the previous figure. Once you have MailHub install you will notice that Apple Mail now have a new toolbar. I set mine to blue (it is one of the appearance option) in the figure below so you can clearly see it. The most used button is indicated by the black circle. Clicking on it will automatically filed the current e-mail in the mailbox indicated by the black rectangle. Again that mailbox can be local or on a remote server depending on your indexing option. I set MailHub so that all mailboxes, local and server-based, are indexed.

MailHub3

Figure 3: New toolbar to Apple Mail.

If you do not like the filling option (mailbox choice) provided to you by MailHub (black rectangle in the above figure), you can 1) click on the pull down menu to get other choices. This is similar to DevonThink that provides you with its best guest on the top and other choices below it. 2) You can also type in a few letters of a mailbox name in the search bar that will appear at the top of the pull down menu to bring a mailbox to the top. 3) You can also create a new mailbox using the + button shown in the back rectangle region of the above figure. Notice also the arrow, it allows you to automatically jump to the selected mailbox and the home button (green circle) get you back to your Inbox.

Now you probably have picked up that the filling button, indicated by the black circle, also has a pull down menu. This is because you can file the current e-mail, file the entire e-mail thread or all e-mail sent by this specific sender. The delete button beside it (between the black and the red circles) have the same options i.e. selected, thread or sender.

In the red circle, the little clock icon represent reminder options to be set on the selected e-mail. The available options are given in the figure below. It works with Reminder and iCal to set reminders at specific dates and times. An interesting feature is that the complete e-mail content is copied in the reminder  as a note. I set it so that the reminder is capture automatically by Things. It works flawlessly. The only major shortcoming to this is that a link back to the e-mail is not provided.I hope that this option is added by Dervish Software in a future release. As such, for now I much prefer using Things keyboard shortcut to create a quick entry in Things that does contain the link back to the e-mailing question.

MailHub4

Figure 4: MailHub reminder options, including setting flags, action and iCal/Reminder.

You will also notice a new toolbar addition when you write a new e-mail or reply to an existing one. This time you have three “send” mail options, the regular one (original top left icon = third button from the left on the new toolbar – Figure below) and two new options: 1) send e-mail and file the sent message (you get to set which mailbox using the pull down menu (“none set” in the image below) or 2) send e-mail and deleted the sent message. I really like the “send and file” option. For many e-mail threads I like to keep copy of my sent messages. This option allow you to skip CCing myself and then file that message: saving further e-mail processing (or taking manually the sent messages and file them, which would also take extra e-mail processing time). You will also notice the clock icon for setting reminder related to the e-mail you are about to send. This gives you the exact same options as explained before.

MailHub5 NewMail add on

Figure 5: New post/reply to existing post MailHub toolbar add-ons.

You can download and use MailHub free (full feature sets) for 30 days. I was sold after two days but mileage will vary. Conclusion, 19$ very well spent and, at least for me, much more efficient and cheaper that the combination MailTag and MailActOn. Getting my Inbox to zero has never been so quick and easy, especially when combined with SaneBox (that automatically sort close to 40% of my incoming e-mails out of my Inbox without any action on my part!).

Happy New Year!

Why not give (productivity) software this year!

pro·duc·tiv·i·ty  (prdk-tv-t, prdk-)

n.

1. The quality of being productive.
2. Economics The rate at which goods or services are produced especially output per unit of labor.
3. Ecology The rate at which radiant energy is used by producers to form organic substances as food for consumers.

Why not give yourself or a love one access to well design software? With the new years usually comes the time to take resolution(s). And like most they are forgotten a few weeks later.  This is because, we human being, get our attention so easily put elsewhere, diverted by what surround us, in particular the consumption media. So, we tend to get into an unproductive state by putting off what must or should be done. Simply stated procrastinating.

pro·cras·ti·nate  (pr-krst-nt, pr-)

v. pro·cras·ti·nat·edpro·cras·ti·nat·ingpro·cras·ti·nates
v.intr.

To put off doing something, especially out of habitual carelessness or laziness.

v.tr.

To postpone or delay needlessly.
It turns out that having tools that you like to use because of its physical design (an iMac, a Mac Book air or even the new Mac Pro!), the feeling it provide when touching it (like a well-made pen or paper notebook) and well design software all help in getting things done. There are many reasons why certain tools, hardware or software give use incentive to be productive over others or make us more productive. The important point is that you have to use them, use them everyday and actually like to do it.
The first rule in being productive is to actually do something. The second rule is for that something to actually be part of a whole that get your projects moving forward. This implicitly means that you can track your projects, the tasks associated with them and the necessary documents (files, e-mail, …). If you hate the software and hardware your are using to do this or they get in the way because they are not well conceive, you will loose interest, loose track of the important stuff and suddenly the not so important stuff become at the forefront of what you are doing.
Here are a few well design software you might want to invest into (some are actually free) and that are available to OSX and iOS:
  • Professional digital document management: DevonThink Pro Office and DevonThink To Go. On the Mac, you have indexing and AI doing automatic filing for you. No need for Tags. Tagging is a good concept but it does not scale and its efficiency certainly breaks down once you have tens of thousands of files.
  • Note taking app: Evernote (free) or NoteBook. I also find Apple Notes useful since it is always with me on my Mac, iPhone and iPad.
  • Task manager: Wunderlist (free – perfect for student and much better than Apple Reminder) or professional grade Cultured Code Things and OmniFocus.
  • MindMapping software: XMind (free) and iThoughts (Nice interface, intuitive to use, my favorite).
  • Project management (for large projects): Merlin and OmniPlan.
  • PDF management and citation software: Papers 2 (stay away from the “new” Papers 3), Sente or Zetero (free).

Some software should also allow you to get stuff done so you do not have to. In that category, I could not live in the digital world without:

  • 1Password: Strong passwords for all for all of your accounts, safely stored using the best encryption scheme. Never loose time again with passwords.
  • SaneBox: Made me realize that over 40% of my incoming e-mails are non actionable. SaneBox get them out of the way automatically for me. I never thought I would say this (I work with e-mail since 1991!!!), but 5$/month well spent. Work with IMAP, Exchange, iCloud, GMAIL.
  • MacUpdate Desktop: Unless you get all of your software from the Apple Store on OSX, you need to track your software and keep them up to date. MacUpdate does this for you very efficiently. Run it once a month, no sweat.
  • Alfred: Spotlight on steroid!
Merry Xmas!

Digital Office Part V: making it work!

So far, posts in this digital office series this blog have tackled the hardware selection and components, OSX and iOS software, and finally the inputs or “Inboxes”. In this post, I will try to illustrate how all the pieces come together and making it all work.

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Digital Office II: Mac Software

For those who might not have read the first post in this series about the hardware side of things, please have a look: Digital Office I

Here is a list of the main software that I used regularly on the Mac as part of my digital workflow, including links to the most important one:

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