Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.
Merlin Mann | Sep 5 2006
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 “
A screenshot of the control panel, courtesy of the 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...read more »
Merlin Mann | Aug 21 2006
The other day I was talking with someone about the novel and non-obvious ways that people use Excel in their work and home life. Gotta say, I've personally seen some pretty amazing stuff happen when people take a favorite app, get really good at it, then bend it to their will. (And Excel is perfect for this.)
This tracks to Danny's Life Hack concept by which the alpha geeks were achieving lofty heights of productivity partly by mastering 1-3 "killer apps" -- then using them to solve most of their information and functional problems in fairly novel ways.
So my question for you: What's your killer app? Is there one place where 80% or more of your activity takes place (by choice)? Vim? Excel? Perl? Firefox? Post-it Notes? What's yours and when did you realize you'd become a badass at using it?
Merlin Mann | Aug 21 2006
GTDGmail looks like a promising entry into the increasingly crowded gene pool of web-based productivity software.
The Firefox extension runs on top of your Gmail account, giving you an email-centric approach to implementing Getting Things Done that includes contexts, statuses, a very nifty search feature, and more. This could be just the thing for people who have to live in email, but who don't want to live in an unprocessed inbox.
From the GTDGmail site:
Edit (2006-08-21 07:32:57): Well, that was mean and Michael Arrington of me, wasn’t it? :) I was incorrect in thinking GTDGmailhad gone functionally public (although the project seems pretty well known already). Keep an eye out for the full release (and do forgive me for the unintentional tease).
Edit (2006-08-21 18:01:06): Yay! Looks like it's available now: GTDGmail :: Mozilla Add-ons :: Add Features to Mozilla Software. Thanks, Aaron.
Merlin Mann | Aug 14 2006
Download Squad has posted the first in a two-part series reviewing systems for supporting Getting Things Done. It includes an overview of the GTD basics, plus apps for Windows and PDAs. The next edition will cover "online software."read more »
Merlin Mann | Jul 28 2006
Following up on the (very enthusiastic) response to the MacBreak podcast about Quicksilver, I've opened a new thread on the board where people can ask questions -- and all you Quicksilver ninjas out there (given the time and interest) can maybe me help answer anything not covered in the documentation. I'll answer as many as time allows (my internet access will be spotty for a few days), so anything the QS pros can do to help would be greatly appreciated.
Stop by and get your 'Silver on!
Reminder: Good Quicksilver links:
Merlin Mann | Jul 10 2006
Many of these will be familiar to GTD fans, but there are a few I hadn't seen or that are worthy of a second look:read more »
Merlin Mann | Jun 27 2006
Getting Things Done [iCommit.eu]
Rainer Bernhardt has put together a nifty little PHP app for doing GTD via a web interface. It lets you wrangle projects, next actions, calendar items, ad hoc lists, and all the other tactical building blocks of GTD all via your (non-IE) browser. The interface is pretty good and typical workflow is quite easy to navigate through. It has nice touches like attachments, per-item effort estimates, printable views, plus Rainer says he may soon offer email integration which would "eliminate use of a separate e-mail app" for workflow-related planning. Wow.
Although I haven't spent a great deal of time with it, I'm very intrigued by the baked-in "weekly review" functionality, which walks you through most of what you need to look over each week from one interface. Since review gets short shrift from the many folks (like me) who use GTD primarily for task management, I think an addition like this is a terrific idea.
iCommit is, like so many of my favorite apps these days, a non-commercial, one-man operation, so there are a few rough edges, no documentation (yet! coming soon, says Rainer), and it is very much "first come, first served" in terms of seats he can handle on his personal server setup (I hope we don't cream Rainer's productivity boxen with this). But iCommit is worth a look if you've been craving a cross-platform, low-paper implementation of Getting Things Done.
Screengrabs below the cut -- I feel like Michael Arrington!read more »
Merlin Mann | Jun 19 2006
Merlin Mann | Jun 15 2006
So far, the upgrade to an Intel-based Mac Book Pro has been positively dreamy. Quicksilver -- for the first time in my usage -- is a totally "no-look" app, and even CPU-hungry Path Finder is do-able with my extra cycles.
The real suckage has come from not having Universal Binary versions of the other little tools that I've come to rely on. Some, like fiwt, are not deal killers, since they can be approximated by other apps. But a few, especially LiteSwitch and AutoPairs had become so etched into my muscle memory, that I've spent the last few weeks falling over myself when they're not available.
If you've never seen it before, AutoPairs is a very swell PreferencePane that automatically helps "complete" punctuation for you:
Happily there's a simple little hack for getting AutoPairs to work in Rosetta (the non-Universal Binary way of running Classic apps on your Intel machine). As the author notes, you just need to copy a version of the System Preferences application from a PPC Mac to your new Intel Mac. It's located (on your old machine) at
Great workaround, and it's so swell to have this modest chunk of func working for me again. If, for example, you use lots of operators in Google searches, this really speeds things up. For writing HTML quickly, it's just a lifesaver.
Merlin Mann | Jun 6 2006
As the monitors in my life have gotten wider, I've longed for a Mail.app feature that's baked-in to most other Mac email apps and RSS readers (as well as all the Microsoft email clients I'm aware of): the three-paned, widescreen format.
Prayers apparently have been answered in the affirmative with harnly.net's Widescreen Mail.app plugin. On my 1440x900 MacBook Pro this works great, but it's truly a godsend on my ginormous (and beloved) Dell UltraSharp.
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