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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.


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...

read more »

Open Thread: What's your killer app?

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?

GMail + GTD = GTDGmail

GTDGmail - The Firefox Extension that Combines Gmail with Getting Things Done - home

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:

Gmail has long been identified (see Bryan Murdaugh's Whitepaper) as a very good tool for GTD. It has a simple interface, plentiful storage, effective label system a basic approach to storage (just Inbox and Archive). The 'Conversation' concept is perfect for efficiently linking tasks and other data - again promoting simplicity and personal effectiveness.

Finally, email needs GTD as much as any other part of your life, so it makes sense to embed GTD into an email client.

GTDGmail requires Firefox -- as in vanilla Firefox; it didn't work on my (preferred) Mozilla browser, Flock, but I'm open to accounts of pilot error if I'm missing anything.

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.

Download Squad: Windows GTD apps

Getting Things Done Software Systems (Part 1 of 2) - Download Squad

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 »

Board thread: Quicksilver podcast questions

Open Thread: Quicksilver podcast questions - 43 Folders Board

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:

New GTD resources page

52 Reviews » Getting Things Done, Resource Edition

52 Reviews has a handy reference page on popular GTD implementation tools. Although, personally, it looks incomplete to me without Kinkless GTD on there :) .

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 »

iCommit: PHP app for doing GTD

Getting Things Done [iCommit.eu]

iCommit Home View

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 »

Ejector: One-click ejects all mounted media

freshmeat.net: Project details for Ejector

Ejector in action

I love little Mac apps that just do one thing and do it well, and I'd definitely put Ejector in that camp.

read more »

Universal Binaries: MIA, catching up, and sometimes hackable

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.

I like Witch okay as a LiteSwitch substitute, but I haven't really gotten into it with the same enthusiasm as LS (please update soon, Proteron!).

If you've never seen it before, AutoPairs is a very swell PreferencePane that automatically helps "complete" punctuation for you:

AutoPairs modifies the behavior of certain keystrokes, to help you keep paired characters such as parentheses properly matched. For instance, when you type a left parenthesis, AutoPairs will type the right parenthesis and a left arrow for you, so that you are ready to type what goes between the parentheses. This and other pair macros can be turned on and off individually, and configured differently for specific applications.

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 /Applications/System Preferences.app, and you can just plop it on your Intel Desktop, rename it, and then fire it up to have access to AutoPair's per-application genius.

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.

Widescreen Mail.app plug-in

Widescreen Mail.app plug-in
Originally uploaded by merlinmann.

Widescreen Mail.app plugin

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.

This Mail.app plugin rearranges the interface into three vertical columns -- so the message pane is to the right, rather than below, the message list.

On a widescreen Mac, this gives the email a more pleasing paper-like shape. You'll probably need at least 1280 and perhaps 1440 pixels across for this arrangement to work for you.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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