Setting Contexts

Backpack 2007

Posted in 37signals, Backpack, Online Productivity, Packrat by jquig99 on July 26, 2007

37Signals has released their new version of Backpack, their simple organization system.

New features (from the website):
1. Move anything anywhere on a page
Now you can order the elements on your page anyway you’d like. You can have a note on top of a list or three files then a photo then a note then a list. They’re your pages to organize the way you want.
2. Move stuff to other pages
Moving stuff on a page is hot, but now you can also move stuff to other pages. One page getting cluttered? Go on, just drag it to another page. You can even create a brand new page by dragging the item to the “Make a new page” button.
3. Search!
You can now search all your Backpack pages from any page. The search field is right under the “Make a new page” button.
4. Page dividers
Page dividers let you compartmentalize your pages to keep your stuff even better organized. You can label the dividers anything you’d like.
5. New toolbar
We’ve cleaned up the toolbar and put it at the top of the page instead of under the page title. This keeps your pages nice and clean. Everything under the toolbar is yours.
6. Multiple photo galleries per page
You can now group photos in galleries and add as many galleries to a page as you’d like. You can also move the photos around inside a gallery!
7. Better titles for lists, notes, and pictures
Now every list gets a title (it defaults to “List” but you can rename it anything you’d like). Note titles are optional. Picture galleries can be titled now as well.
8. Page feeds for shared pages
Every shared Backpack page now has an RSS feed. This helps you stay up to date when someone else changes the page. You can also subscribe to all your pages at once on the “My Pages” screen.

I’ve started using it again after about a six-month layoff and am really liking the changes (especially the drag/drop and the dividers). Packrat, the invaluable Backpack desktop app, is reportedly working on an update to utilize all the new features (It’s now updated!). This app easily integrates Backpack use into any established GTD system (or your own non-specific…).

My Backpack compatriot is surely going to write one of his detailed posts on this update (He’s a big Backpack fan!). I’ll point to his post as soon as it’s up Update – it’s here!).

Relevant Links:
37Signals announcement


Widget Watch: Avalanche – A free Basecamp client for Yahoo! Widgets – The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW)

Posted in 37signals, Basecamp, Online Productivity by jquig99 on July 20, 2007

Widget Watch: Avalanche – A free Basecamp client for Yahoo! Widgets – The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW): “Basecamp is a popular and powerful web-based project collaboration and management service from 37signals, makers of other TUAW favorites like Backpack and Highrise.”

I’ve not used my Basecamp account for a while (new job, new system!), but this would have been handy when I did. Except I’m not really a Yahoo!Widget-kind of girl…but I applaud the functionality.

(Via The Unoffice Apple Weblog – TUAW.)

UPDATE: The 37Signals Product Blog has a new post on Avalanche (more detailed!) with comments by one of the developers.

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Posted in Beta, GTD, OmniFocus, OmniGroup, Online Productivity, productivity, Software by jquig99 on May 15, 2007

Last night I was one of the lucky few sent my username and password for the initial look at OmniFocus. I had a quick email exchange with Ken Case (CEO of the OmniGroup), who said he doesn’t mind me blogging about my experience as long as I strongly reiterate that this is a WORK IN PROGRESS!!!

So, in the coming days (and weeks), I’ll be putting my experiences and impressions (screenshots, etc) here. I’m really starting to dig into this app, so I expect a bit of adaption time. And will it really cause me to leave Actiontastic completely (which I intend to still use during this beta period).

I’ll post initial thoughts this evening.

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More on Mail Integration w/Actiontastic

Posted in Actiontastic, GTD, Mail Act-On, MailTags, Online Productivity by jquig99 on March 28, 2007

A little more about how I work with and Actiontastic

Once I download my email I quickly go through and, using MailTags, quickly tag my email by Project and Keywords. I can then assign the email as a ToDo or an Event. If it’s a ToDo, I assign it to the @Inbox calendar (which syncs to iCal on the first Actiontastic sync).

MailTags - 2.0b8(Beta)

After I’ve tagged each email, I use Mail Act-On to sort them quickly into folders (using rules that I’ve set up) with 2 keystrokes each.

Mail Act-On

Once finished, I sync with Actiontastic, which puts anything that’s in the @Inbox calendar into the Inbox. The URL of each message is part of the message so that it can be recalled if needed.

For more information, click this link.

My GTD System (March 2007) – Daily Process

I decided that it was time that I actually put down my current GTD system, with all of the individual tools/applications that I’m currently using (on my MacBook Pro). This includes my daily, weekly and monthly routine. I labeled this with the current month because I am always tweaking my process and looking to test and apply better tools to help me be more productive.

My primary tool for the collection process is a 12-month Daily 2007 Moleskine diary. I had used a general lined Moleskine notebook for the last year and wasn’t sure that the Diary would have enough room. What it has done is keep me focused in what I write – I don’t use it to keep my schedule, just my notes, thoughts and actions.

Everything is then put into Actiontastic. I’ve posted about this application before, and I have really adopted it as my GTD application of choice. As soon as I get to work, I open Actiontastic and put everything into the Inbox function from my Moleskine.

I use (mostly) Actiontastic’s integration with Quicksilver to get things into the Inbox. I’ll go into how I use Quicksilver (my favorite Mac app) in a separate post, but I use the Quicksilver=>Actiontastic Inbox throughout the day.

I then open and using Mail Act-On, MailTags and an Applescript (“toiCalInbox” set up to run as part of my Mail Act-On rules) included with the Actiontastic download. In I also have folders set up for review (@Action, @Hold, @Respond, @Wait On, @Someday). Once I sort things into my folders, I run my “toiCalInbox” script which sends actionable email to iCal, then I hit the sync button on Actiontastic which brings it all into the Inbox. Sounds like a long process – in actuality only a few minutes.

Once everything I need is in the Inbox – and while I do send things throughout the day, I only process first thing in the morning, after lunch and before I leave for the day (this is flexible as needed) – I hit the Process Inbox button (looks like a “Play” button). In Actiontastic I’ve set up my Projects and my Contexts (@calls, @emails, @errands, @mac, @meetings, @shopping, @waiting for, @web, @work) which also sync to iCal. Each item is processed to the appropriate Project and Context, which sets up the Next Actions and ToDos (as well as what’s Done). The new “Anti-Drawer” feature sets up the Start, Due dates (which also has a Paused flag), URL (messages, etc) and Notes.

Inbox processing

Once I’ve processed my Inbox (again – this happens in minutes!), I hit the sync button so that everything is brought back to iCal (each context is a separate calendar). Which is great to then sync to my Blackberry 7100g (via Mark/Space’s new Missing Sync for Blackberry). I’m then free to actually work without having to really focusing on process. As each item gets done, I can tick it off and then during my Inbox processing times throughout the day everything continues to sync so that it’s all up to date.



I’m adding the screenshots that I’ve posted before to illustrate the process. In my next post, I’ll focus on my weekly and monthly review process and the different applications that I use for those purposes.

Highrise – Update

Posted in 37signals, GTD, Highrise, Online Productivity by jquig99 on March 22, 2007

One of the things that I love about 37Signals is how responsive they are to their users. “Case” in point – When Highrise launched, the Cases feature was only available on the Plus, Premium and Max plans and there was a lively discussion on the forums. Everyone wanted the Cases feature!

Today 37signals announced that all plans will include Cases:
> Plus, Premium, and Max continue to include unlimited Cases
> The new Solo plan (explained below) includes unlimited Cases
> Basic includes 5 Cases
> Personal includes 3 Cases
> Free includes 1 Case
> These numbers mean OPEN Cases – you can have other Cases that are Closed

There’s also a new plan added – the Solo Plan. It’s just like the Plus plan (which is what I’m on), except it’s for the single user – someone who doesn’t need to share their Highrise with anyone outside.

They have also increased disk space:
> Max moves up to to 50 gigs (was 20 gigs)
> Premium moves up to to 10 gigs (was 3 gigs)
> Plus moves up to 3 gigs (was 1 gig)
> Basic moves up to 500 megs (was 400 megs)
> Personal moves up to 250 megs (was 200 megs)

I’m on the perfect plan for me (and now it’s even better!) but I love that 37signals not only listened to what their early adopters were saying – but that they responded in a pretty robust manner. This is a company that enables better communication between people and have proven that they practice what they preach.

37Signals – Highrise is released!

Posted in 37signals, Actiontastic, Basecamp, CMS, GTD, Highrise, Online Productivity by jquig99 on March 20, 2007

I’ve been playing with 37Signals new Highrise application for the last 24 hours and think that it’s a great Contact Management resource (CMS). There’s a great tour that walks you through the entire application and all of it’s many features.

Since I’ve been using Basecamp (another 37Signals app) for over 2 years, many of these features are familiar to me. There’s a 30-day free trial (although you do have to give them a credit card) and I decided that I wanted to test the Plus plan ($49/month). The Plus plan includes up to 15 users, 1GB of file storage, Cases (a really interesting feature), SSl and 20,000 contacts. There are six levels in the Highrise pricing plan and I wanted to experience the whole application – especially the “cases“.

After I signed-up, I immediately imported my contacts into my account by exporting my iCal contacts as a group vCard. You can manually add contacts, upload vCards and also import from Basecamp accounts (We use Basecamp as an internal project management tool that we don’t share with clients, so that didn’t work for me!). After importing contacts, I set up my first case. What’s great about cases is that I can share them with the people directly involved with these projects. I had originally thought that “Cases” might be able to be adapted as a GTD system, but while it has some great features – Actiontastic is still my GTD app of choice. Highrise may work for some people for a GTD app, just not for me right now.

> Contacts – each contact has a page that includes a photo, contact info, tags, notes, files, tasks and more
> Tasks – Can be assigned to yourself or others. Action categories can be added (Call, Email, Etc.) and reminders can be sent by email or cell phone.
> Permissions – specify who can see whatever.
> Users and Groups – You can invite people to join your account and set the permissions for people, notes and cases.
> Cases – Keeps everything all together. Great to organize projects with its notes, tasks, files, images, people and more.
> Email friendly – Forward email to the Highrise dropbox and it will automatically be attached to the specific contacts page.

Highrise also has a FAQs and an active Forum. The 37Signals crew heavily participate in the forum on all topics – even those that may be less than a constructive critique.

The Twitter Debate

Posted in Online Productivity, Social Networking, Twitter by jquig99 on March 19, 2007

I’ve been on Twitter for a few months now and am really enjoying it. It’s a different kind of social networking app that has you answering (and texting, posting, etc.) the answer to the question “What are you doing right now?”. I have found it a great resource in finding like-minded people in the Apple and GTD set. A lot of people find it a great waste of time.

Earlier this week, Mat Balez wrote a post predicting Twitter’s “imminent supernova-like implosion”. I think that that’s a bit premature. Twitter’s had a HUGE growth spurt in the last few months and I feel it will continue as it penetrates past the early-adopter stage.

I’m also looking for ways to apply Twitter to my professional life. This post, from Web Worker Daily is a great start.

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Actiontastic goes Free!

Posted in GTD, Online Productivity by jquig99 on March 18, 2007

One of the big GTD stories this week is the news that Actiontastic will be free (as, Jon says, “free beer”) and open source. With all of the competition in the GTD application space (like Ghost Action for one), this places Actiontastic on a different level with an entire open source community behind it.

This announcement was in start contrast to the debate over Spanning Sync’s initial pricing announcement. I’ve been testing the Spanning Sync service and have found it invaluable, and I believe that developers should be compensated. In that light, Jon’s act is unbelievably generous.

As I’ve posted, I love this app and am excited about what the development community will bring to it. A new non-expiring beta is out (0.9.3) which fixes some small bugs.

There’s a new Actiontastic FAQ – although it just might be that I missed it before.

I am hoping that Jon adds a “Donate” button soon – his work should be rewarded somehow.

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37signals – Highrise: A New GTD app?

Posted in 37signals, GTD, Highrise, Online Productivity by jquig99 on March 17, 2007

After reading the last Signal and Noise (37Signals) update on their new Highrise application, I’m really hoping to get a peek at it soon. It sounds like it has significant GTD applications. And I’m a big 37signals fan.

According to the new preview, Highrise will “play nice” with email – by that it means it has a “dropbox” that can be sent, bcc or forwarded emailed to. Those emails can then be attached to the pertinent page (the original sender) and notes attached so that records of all interaction (even phone calls!) can be kept. New pages can even be added on the fly if someone isn’t in your system already.

My favorite piece of this new system is the Email/Task functionality. There’s 5 different identifiers (+Today, +Tomorrow, +ThisWeek, +NextWeek, +Later) which can be appended to the dropbox (like my existing @action, @hold, @respond, etc? mailboxes). Highrise then turns this email in to a task.

37signals has begun issuing “Golden Tickets” – I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I “find” one soon.

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