43 Folders

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Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

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”What’s 43 Folders?”
43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Apple, Macs & OS X

Open Thread: Mac Mind Mapping, and how you use it

I've recently revived my interest in doing mind mapping as a way to capture ideas and plan out projects.

Back in the day, I'd use Inspiration (which registration regrettably died a few years ago), and in more recent times I've played with free apps like My Mind and FreeMind, as well as tested more costly apps like NovaMind and MindManager.

If you also like to mind map, I'm curious to hear which of these you and your Mac are using, how you're using it, and what made you choose one app over another. Got a preference? Prefer regular old paper and markers? Using lots of images in your mind maps? Which pay app is most worth the dough, and why?

And for folks who are new to mind mapping, here's a few links to get you started:

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Process email faster with Mail Act-On

My usage of Mail Act-On, while far from novel, has revolutionized the speed with which I can blow through email processing.

If you've never seen it before, Mail Act-On is a very clever Mail.app plugin that lets you create key commands that execute Rules you've generated in your Preferences. Sounds pretty dull, right? Absolutely. Until you start putting this stuff into action and learn how painfully slow all that draggy mc drag drag business is. Here's how I've set mine up.

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Merlin on MacBreak Weekly: Apple's "Showtime" event

MacBreak Logo

MacBreak Weekly 6: It's Showtime

Hosts: Leo Laporte, Merlin Mann, Chris Breen, Alex Lindsay, and Brett Larson

Complete coverage and analysis of Apple's "It's Showtime" announcements...

As usual, the perspicaciousness of my insight reveals itself in quips like "This is pretty" and "People should buy this" and "Apple seems smart." Is it any wonder the Windows People hate us? No, friends. No, it isn't any wonder at all.

Running time: 58:49

[Download MP3 file]

Ask 43F: Handling notes in scattered places

Shiran Pasternak writes to ask:

I'm overwhelmed by various note-taking tools you've recommended in the past (so it's your fault). I use, fairly arbitrarily, either TextMate, OmniOutliner Professional (purchased for kGTD, of course), and Notational Velocity...

My main problem is how to retrieve the notes, given that they exist in these scattered applications. Should I then migrate all my notes and use just one of these (or another I may have missed)? Or, should I use a combination of the tools? If so, can you offer heuristics for when to use each note-taking application, and also, if possible, some ideas for how and when to retrieve notes?

This is a really good question -- especially given how many people are suffering from the first-world problem of having way too many cool Mac apps to choose from for this kind of work. The short answer is to slim down the number of tools you're frequently using, but to then be sure you also do something smart and repeatable with everything you've captured. The longer explanation...

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Pzizz nap app: On sale today only

Chris Messina points out that Pzizz, our favorite napping helper application, is on sale for today only at MacUpdate.

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43F: Recent MacBreak Podcasts

MacBreak Weekly

MacBreak Logo

Over the past few weeks, I've been having a lot of fun participating in the MacBreak video podcast and its little brother, the MacBreak Weekly audio podcast. Leo, Alex, Scott, and the rest of the MacBreakers do a swell job with these shows, and I've enjoyed getting to nerd out a little with them.

If you haven't caught these already, here's a quick catchup of episodes I've been on in the last month or so (reverse chronologically):

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Dine-O-Matic (and the Dashboard widgets we love)

I finally found a "business case" for Dashboard today with the discovery of the perfectly-delightful Dine-O-Matic, a beautiful little widget from the graphical geniuses at Iconfactory that does precisely one thing: choose a random restaurant for you to eat at.

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TextExpander: Essential Mac shortcut utility

TextExpander just got an update that adds a few features and fixes to this already essential OS X PreferencePane. Via email:

  • Abbreviations with characters requiring the Option key are fixed
  • Named delimiters (space, tab, return, esc) appear in other languages
  • Other minor fixes

I have to say, I just love TextExpander (formerly “Texpander”). Its functionality is not unique — users of, say, TextMate, TypeIt4Me, or Windows’ popular ActiveWords (Hi, Buzz), or for that matter, Vim, will recognize the similarities. But, brother, is it ever easy to setup, modify, and use.

At the heart of it, TE gives you system-wide text shortcuts that, when typed, explode into much longer bits of text or can even, say, paste in an image, like your scanned signature. So, for example, if you’re sick of retyping a new email sig, you can store it in TE and assign “emailsig” as the trigger to paste in the full text for you.

A screenshot of the control panel, courtesy of the Smile on My Mac site:

Screenshot from Smile on my Mac site

There’s just too many uses for TextExpander to try and catalog here, but I'll share a few that I particularly like...

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GTD with a Mac label maker?

multipart/mixed: Turbo-Charging the Dymo LabelWriter

Dymo LabelWriter 330

I love my Brother PT-65, which is regarded by many as the unofficial official label maker of GTD nerds (and which, quizzically, appears to have been discontinued :-().

The PT-65 has easily paid back its modest sticker price with three years of faithful service. Trouble is, I like using it so much that it's gotten to be kind of a pain to pull it out and Blackberry-thumb-type my bajillion labels via its teeny keys. Now, I want something that hooks up to my Mac.

Josh Carter's gotten me interested in the Dymo LabelWriter 330 Turbo via this handy tutorial from late last year, which covers basic setup info, plus a tip on speeding up the creation of a new label with Quicksilver.

Josh has good stuff to say about the 330:

The advantages of the LabelWriter, as I see it:

  • The Dymo software is easy to configure for "power user mode" which eliminates all the extra dialog baggage, and then it's wicked fast to use. (Doubly so with Quicksilver in the mix.)
  • You get to use your computer's nice keyboard. This is especially important for me since I use the Dvorak key layout.
  • The Dymo labels are cheap and look totally pro, even better than a stand-alone label maker.
  • Labels are the same size, so reusing a folder is as simple as sticking a new label over the old one, and it still looks nice.
  • You can use fancy Mac OS X features like printer sharing if needed. (I tried it, it works great.)

Anybody using one of these units or similar? Care to recommend a label maker of any brand that hooks up via USB and works well with Tiger/OS X? I ♥ my little Brother, but I'm ready for Label Maker 2.0!

Glenn Wolsey: 6 email tips

Glenn Wolsey—6 Ways To Organize - Your Mail Application

Glenn Wolsey has a great little post on how he's set up and is using Mail.app. He's got some very smart stuff here, including an intriguing approach to minimalist mailbox management:

Create 3 folders and name them Follow-Up, Interesting & To Do. Then, as you check your emails file them straight into the applicable folder.

Later, when you have time you can go straight to these folders folder and work through them. It will be much quicker to see what needs attending to and you are more likely to might be motivated to spare a few minutes clearing your to-do folder.

The "Interesting" folder is a new one to me, and, although I personally favor a more verb-y approach to my email buckets, that would be a cool way to bubble up stuff you don't want to miss after a big round of processing.

As we covered in Inbox Zero, it's all about liberating the actions out of your mail. Like any of this stuff, if the system makes sense to you and gives you transparent affordances for instantly knowing "where it goes" and "what you need to do about it," then you're on to something.

Nice work, Glenn!




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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