Suzie Boss on the use of Twitter

Suzie Boss, journalist and Edutopia.org contributor does an excellent job of describing her use of and how educators can benefit from Twitter.

Read in peace with Clearly browser extension

The Evernote Clearly browser extension for Firefox and Chrome sweeps away the distractions of reading on the web. My video compares the implementation of the Clearly browser extension in Firefox and Chrome, with Safari’s “Reader” mode.

iPad Mini: It’s What I Need in a Tablet

Image Courtesy Apple Inc.

Image Courtesy Apple Inc.

Apple recently entered the “mini” tablet space with it’s new iPad Mini. Sharing many of the same technical specs as the iPad 2, the iPad mini is “every inch an iPad” as Phil Schiller described it. Fitting the experience of an iPad in my palms is what I’ve been after for a while. Though I love my iPad, I turn to my MacBook Air to really get work done. Notice I refer to getting “work done” as opposed to getting “things” done. To get my work done such as creating interactive content for etextbooks, app development, research on technology enhanced learning, I’m much more productive on the Air. I need the functionality that Mac OS offers, especially having content in two or more on-screen windows to work from. I can certainly get “things” done on my iPad, e.g., personal productivity, check and respond to email, web research, and of course, entertainment. For me, the iPad is a wonderful consumption device and at this point a light-duty work device. During the work day I use it for keeping track of to dos, project tracking, note taking, reading eBooks and pdfs, and scheduling. I’ve found I don’t need a full-size iPad to complete these activities. The iPad mini better fits my work flow and content consumption. It will also make my mobile office lighter and more portable. I rarely take my iPad “on the go”, it’s the MacBook Air that nearly always is in my portable office. The new iPad mini changes all of that.

I’m locked into Apple’s ecosystem by choice. Like other Apple devices, the iPad mini can access my documents in iCloud. With the release of OSX Mountain Lion and an update to the iWork suite of applications, Apple implemented their vision of working in the cloud. Rather than using an app in the cloud like Google Docs, the app is on my device. Documents produced by iCloud-compatible apps are stored locally and synced to other devices via iCloud. Moving the document handling to the app makes so much sense, though you’re not locked into iCloud for document storage. Applications offer a choice to open from iCloud or your local drive. Rather than drilling through the Finder, your document is right there in the iCloud Document library. I’m thrilled at the offline editing and automated saving that iWork does. Living in a smaller community there are times when I have no Internet access but need to get things done. Having local copies of important documents accessible whenever and where ever allows me to do my work, Internet access or not. In fact, a portion of this post was written on my plane trip to a conference using my iPad. All of my work was instantly updated after I logged back in making it available to my MacBook Air once I arrived at my hotel. I’ll be able to do the same thing on an iPad mini.

With the new iPad Mini, my tablet returns to my portable office. Combined with iCloud it lightens my load as I can dispense with my external drive. All currently active projects and files for courses are in the cloud and also available to be used offline thanks to iCloud and Dropbox. Shrinking size without losing the features that help me do my work and enjoy my leisure time, is what I’m looking for in the iPad mini.

Disclosure: I’ll be honest … the above was pitch to my wife for why I needed one … and it was under the  Christmas tree this year. I love that lady.  :-)

How to Use Evernote for Everything

Evernote is my “go to” app for archiving notes, saving web resources, and drafting articles in the cloud. Check out Steve Dotto’s way of “How to Use Evernote for Everything”

Giving the Chrome Browser Another Look

Image courtesy Chrome Plugins http://www.chromeplugins.org/

Finding the right web browser has been quite frustrating for me over the years. I have yet to find one that fits my workflow needs. I generally bounce between Safari and Firefox, and only  minimally with Chrome among others. I’ve recently given the Chrome browser another try as my work-related browser. The same or similar extensions used in my Safari and Firefox browsers are now appearing in Chrome enabling me to do what I could, for the most part, with them. So to see how well the Chrome browser performed, I decided to make it my default browser for a week.

I share a lot of material on Twitter and have been a dedicated Echofon user. Echofon is well-integrated with Safari with the “Current Safari Page” option to copy the title and URL into the update field automatically. Recently I recently started using the HootSuite “Hootlet” on my browser tool bar. I’ve found using the Hootlet is slightly more efficient than using Echofon as I don’t leave the browser to Tweet a page.

Twitter browser extensions were lacking in functionality for my use across multiple Twitter accounts before I returned to Chrome. Hootsuite’s Hootlet has eliminated my  Twitter issues when working in Chrome. The Evernote extension allows me to simultaneously search my Evernote collection when doing a Google search. This feature indicates if I have a resource among the thousands of articles saved in Evernote. The extension does a cleaner job of clipping an article and suggests tags, a real time saver. Several other extensions for launching Google apps, archiving links, and clutter-free reading ala “Clearly” has benefitted my work flow. The only thing that I really miss is the cloud-based note syncing Firefox implementation of Yoono.

I’m nearly a week into using Chrome exclusively. So far, I’m hooked.

Office Porn – no, not that kind

According to my New Oxford American Dictionary, porn is defined as “television programs, books, etc., regarded as catering to a voyeuristic or obsessive interest in a specified subject”. Office porn is then a  voyeuristic or obsessive interest in offices. For some of us who work from a personal home office, the search (longing?) for the optimal space for getting things done seems to be never ending. The right configuration, environment, lighting, clutter-free surfaces, is a delight to showcase and aspire to. Personal office spaces reflect a person’s occupation, identity, and personality. The main portion of my home office is shown to the right and a panorama showing the rest is here. I’ve outfitted mine with:

  • 27″iMac
  • Wacom tablet
  • Toshiba 350 GB portable drive – part of my portable office.
  • iPad (a first generation, 3rd generation will soon be delivered).
  • iPad keyboard
  • Apple Magic Track Pad
  • Wireless mouse and keyboard
  • Canon scanner
  • A bank of external drives for back-up under the scanner.
  • Not shown is my iPhone 4s (used to take the pictures for this post).

Shown in the panorama is:

  • 11″ MacBook Air
  • Airport Extreme
  • Logitech iPod audio player
  • Lexmark combo printer/scanner/fax
  • STM bags - part of my portable office.

I only have one file cabinet for paper files, the rest of my archived documents are (mostly) stored in Evernote or Papers for Mac. Yes, behind my main desk is my older 24″ iMac currently acting as a media server and TV using EyeTV. Click on the image of my office for a better view.

I enjoy visiting these two Flickr groups to get ideas on how to reconfigure my work space for optimal use and efficiency:

Mike Smith over at My Ink Blog found “100 Amazing Office Work Spaces” on Flickr.  I have to agree, some of these are amazing and a few are shared below. Maybe you’ll want to share yours on Flickr.

My Home Office III

Home office Nov 2010

Home office reorg "after" shot

How Twitter is impacting my productivity

I generally have my Twitter feed running, even while I’m writing. At times it can be distracting, but with a 27″ monitor, it can sit in my peripheral vision, barely intruding. Today I noticed a tweet from Geographical Magazine (@GeographicalMag) alerting followers to their new iPhone and iPad app. Without hesitation I clicked on the link to the iTunes preview page. I rarely turn down free apps related to geoscience and so it was with this one. I retweeted @GeographicalMag‘s original tweet while installing and making an in-app purchase. Everything went so smoothly that I began writing a review of the app. Geographical Magazine thanked me for the retweet. I tweeted them of getting the app, the desire to write a review, and need for permission to use  screen caps. Approval came a few minutes later.

The app review will hopefully be up in the next day or so. My experience today shows how social media, and especially Twitter, is impacting the way some of us do our work.  I’m thankful for tools like Twitter that can initiate a conversation between publishers and end users so easily (especially between London, England and Stevens Point, WI) to get their work done.

Evernote 3.0, helping you get things done

Not sure what I’d do without my iPhone and Evernote. There’s no better time to own an iPhone or iPod Touch for increasing your productivity and getting things done, especially with the new Evernote 3.0. See video below.

For more details see the Evernote Blog posting.

Visit the Evernote site to get Evernote for the desktop, handheld held device, and on the Web.

Apps To Help Get Things Done

gtdI’m always looking for apps that keep my online work organized and efficient because I work from a variety of locations and on a number of different computers. Here’s a couple that have been a big help.

Foxmarks

I use multiple browsers for my online work as each has different qualities that appeal to me. Doing so has caused the unfortunate problem of not having the same bookmarks available to each browser.  Though most can import bookmark files from other browsers, their implementation is often cumbersome and much editing has to be done upon uploading.  For the last few years I’ve used a program called “Foxmarks” to sync bookmarks across the Firefox browser installed on my home office and workplace desktops and laptop.  A new version of Foxmarks now syncs across Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer (if you unfortunately have to use it). Foxmarks has worked flawlessly for me and I highly recommend it. Check out the video below

Firefox Wired-Marker Extension

I’m a big fan of the Firefox browser largely because you can customize it to suit your needs. A number of browser add-ons or “extensions” have been created to do all sorts of things. One that I like is the “Wired-Marker” extension that lets you highlight text on a web page like you do in a print textbook and permanetly stored. Watch the video below to see how it can work with your online reading.

The downside is your highlights are stored on the computer that you make the highlights on. The highlighted web page text is not available if you move to a different computer. One way to get around this is to use the portable version of Firefox that can be installed on a flash drive. Students can take the USB drive to class with their laptop, fire up Portable Firefox, then highlight and annotate online lecture notes. No matter where they are at, their highlighted lecture notes are available on the USB flash drive.

Working in the Cloud – Part 2

evernoteThis is the second installment of my “adventures” in working in the cloud.

For the last few years I’ve been an avid user of Google Notebook, a wonderful little online note taking and web clipping application. Its underlying beauty, from my perspective, was its simple interface and browser extension that made clipping and organizing notes on the fly very easy. But alas, Google has decided to stop development and eventually shutter the service at some point. As a result I was faced with finding a new application as well as saving the notes I had stored in my Google Notebooks. I really hadn’t expected Google Notebook to disappear given the Google’s resources and its commitment to cloud computing. But disappearing online applications is always a potential issue when working in the cloud.

Enter Evernote.

Though there are many web clipping and note taking applications available, Evernote has evolved into the most usable one for my needs, and I’d venture to guess for most of you too.  There is an Evernote client for Macs, Windows, smartphones, and web browsers. It can capture nearly any kind of content that you want access to. You can even take a picture of a document and Evernote’s OCR capability will allow you to search through it for needed information There’s no need to detail its functionality here as they have an excellent site that does that already. Here’s a short video introduction to Evernote’s capabilities:

I have Evernote installed on my home  iMac and Macbook, iPhone, and office iMac. All my notes are synced via “the cloud” and accessible whenever and from whatever device I’m working from. And now the best part.

In the opening of this post I was faced with migrating hundreds of notes from Google Notebook to a new application. Initially, I was opening each Google Notebook, going to the original source of the note, then clipping it into Evernote …. quite tedious. Now, Evernote has a new import page that does all this in a flash. One needs only to export each of your Google Notebooks as an Atom-formatted xml file. Once you have all your notebooks exported, head to the Google Notebook import page where you upload the exported files into Evernote. Your notebooks’ creation dates, URLs, images, and other metadata are maintained, while labels and sections are converted to tags.

So far, Evernote has exceeded my expectations for synching notes via the web and getting things done. I encourage you to give it a try.

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