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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.

Mac OS X

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!

43F Recap: Best of iCal Tips

Wow. It's been over nine months since I quit Entourage in favor of the kGTD/iCal productivity tag-team. In that time, I could have had an infant, finished a school year, or been responsible for a couple failed sitcoms. (I mean: if I had a uterus, was still in college, and were, say, McLean Stevenson)

Yes, friends, I do still spend a lot of my day shaking my hammy fist in impotent rage at iCal's numerous shortcomings, but I've reached a kind of détente with Apple's stock calendaring app, and along the way I've discovered some modest ways to squeeze more drops of Cupertino-y goodness from its moist Jolly Rancher-like pages. Here's a few of my favorites.

  • Getting more out of iCal - "The truth is, iCal works great with kGTD (mostly of course), and once you make your peace with the perplexing stasis of its feature set, there are some not-bad hooks and affordances hiding in its pastel, roundy corners. Here’s a few I like."
  • HOWTO: Flag “penciled-in” events in iCal - "When I create the event, I just put a Spanish-language question mark “¿” (hit: OPTION-SHIFT-?) in front of the event’s title. Like so..."
  • Schedule (and choose) a dash in iCal "If you start the name of the task with the number of minutes in the dash, you have a very easy to way to see items that can be knocked down quickly (hint: sort “To Dos by Title”)."
  • Dr. Contextlove or: “How I stopped worrying and learned to love iCal” - "But why bother with organizing these into meta-groups? Ah, because it makes it so easy to reveal or hide all the tasks that I can work on at a given time, just by ticking the group’s little click box."
  • Kinkless GTD .83: Enhances Quicksilver and iCal integration, much more "I really like to plan in kGTD and then do out of iCal since it reduces the amount of fiddling and meta work temptation. That doesn’t mean, however, that I wouldn’t benefit from a little extra backward integration."

Bokardo: Apple moving deeper into social software?

Bokardo » Apple Making Huge Social Software Push?

Via Andy, here's a thought-provoking post that draws from a mosaic of current and forthcoming features (including Wiki Server, iCal Calendar Sharing and the nifty-sounding Teams) to suggest that Apple's moving toward some interesting directions in social software and enhanced functionality for teams.

Joshua writes:

Notice that all of these features are about enabling communication as much as they are about creating content. It’s about getting the right information to the right person at the right time through interaction with their friends and associates. That’s how we do things out here in meatspace, so that’s how we’ll do things in cyberspace as well.

I think this is good news for Apple. As the proliferation of telephones, cellphones, chat software, blogs, and social networking sites have shown, there seems to be a market for this social software stuff…

Open Thread: Leopard Preview

Apple - Apple - Mac OS X - Leopard Sneak Peek

Like most of you, I'm keeping an eye on today's previewed features of the upcoming "Leopard" (OS X 10.5) release.

Looks like some interesting ideas -- many of which, as usual, seem inspired by existing third-party products.

I think I'm most intrigued so far by the idea of "to-do" functionality from within Mail.app (thanks for the tip, Matt); let's hope that also means I can deep link to a given email from my iCal task list. I also welcome the concept of built-in email templates -- although I'm kind of bummed that they seem more focused on execrable 1999-style HTML emails than on the kind of functional time-savers found in the peerless MailTemplate.

To be honest, on first blush -- and I'm sure there's much more to come by the time of release -- this feels a bit cute and a little light on really revolutionary stuff (the long overdue promise of something like Time Machine notwithstanding). Stuff like (yet. more.) iLife integration is handy enough for the notional Swithcher and Grandpa Joe, but in general I guess I'm hoping for some serious power-user improvements to the core functionality. Maybe that's just me.

What do you think? What's "Yeah!" and what's "Meh?" Anybody else holding out hope for some really deep Finder rewriting and more functional iCal updates?

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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:

Merlin on MacBreak: Intro to Quicksilver

Leo and Alex were kind enough to ask me to drop by MacBreak to talk a little bit about Quicksilver.

Most of what we discussed is probably old hat to the hardcore fans, but if you're looking for a fast intro, this might be a useful link for your friends and cubemates.

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2 OS X timers to watch: Flextime & Meridian

An alarmed timer is one of the most simple external systems you can employ, and many of us distracted geeks have come to rely on them as a way to improve concentration, redirect attention, and bitch-slap procrastination. Why make your brain be the time-keeper and scold when you can just make some little robot do all the heavy lifting for you? Exactly.

Lucky for the Mac-scented timer geeks out there, this is an area of software development that seems to be flourishing lately, with sexy little apps like Minuteur and Dashboard widgets like ProdMe arriving on the scene to ride herd on the wandering mind.

Further, in the past week, I've stumbled across a couple more new apps that look like promising additions for the time-addled brain -- and, I'm happy to note, they look especially useful for fans of the (10+2)*5 dash.

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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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