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.


Microsoft to boldly go where Apple is already going...eventually

Microsoft changes tune on selling DRM-free songs

Exciting news on the digital music front. Microsoft plans to follow Apple's plan to sell DRM-free tracks from EMI to its extant army of Zune enthusiasts. Welcome to the social:

"The EMI announcement on Monday was not exclusive to Apple," said Katy Asher, a Microsoft spokeswoman on the Zune team, in an e-mail to the IDG News Service today. She said Microsoft has been talking with EMI and other record labels "for some time now" about offering unprotected music on its Zune players in an effort to meet the needs of its customers.

Way to innovate, Redmond. Once the period of EMI's exclusive deal with Apple has ended, this should make both Zune owners very happy.

[via: Boing Boing: Microsoft dropping DRM from Zune Music Store]

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?

Textmate: Recent enhancements

TextMate: The Missing Editor for OS X

It's been a while since I've checked in on Textmate--my steady date this last year for most text editing work.

The updates have been coming fast and furious lately, and have included tons of tiny features I love. In the last couple days, we've gotten a cool little menu bar that lets you change code highlighting language or run bundle-based commands, macros, and snippets (how I love you, snippets).

The lack of polish that a lot of people ragged in the app's early days keeps being corrected with smart, good-looking little tweaks. It's still a lean and mean geek app, but I like where it's headed. Might be worth having another look at if it's been a while for you.

(Also, here's the appcasting RSS feed of the changelog. Yes, thanks, I am a huge dork.)

Eno on the Microsoft Sound: 'Here's a specific problem -- solve it.'

Q and A With Brian Eno

Brian Eno, from 1996, speaking on the creation of “The Microsoft Sound” (the gentle little tune that plays when you boot your Windows PC).

I thought you’d enjoy it as an example of how a novel bit of work and some limitations can re-align your perspective and even help you get unstuck about unrelated projects.

(Thanks, Mike)

read more »

Quicksilver: AppleScript to quickly add Entourage Tasks

Entourage - Fast Task.scpt

A hacker who wishes to remain anonymous has answered my prayers by creating a modest one-line AppleScript that lets you pipe input from Quicksilver into a new Entourage Task with zero cruft—no Category, no Project, no date, and no reminder. Perfect for fast capture any place, and something I’ve craved for over a year.

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More on gluing stuff together in Entourage

The main reason I stick with Entourage for all my calendar, TODO list, and—to a certain extent—archival email needs, comes down to one word: glue.

As annoying as Entourage is in so many ways, I love that I can basically associate anything with anything via the “Link” functionality. This provides a handy little landing pad for any task, note, event, email, or contact onto which you can drop any other Entourage object as well as virtually any item from the Finder (for some reason it doesn’t easily handle URLs, which seems kind of dumb: use .weblocs as a workaround). Entourage then perpetually remembers that association in both the linking and linked items. Got it? Group like with like, and then get to anything from anything (Steal this idea, Apple; use Spotlight).

So, I can associate an email message with a TODO, attach a text file to a calendar event (see my article in June’s MacWorld), and even, apparently, attach Applications and folder paths to any Entourage object. Why is this last one so freaking handy? Lemme show you.

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Entourage & txt: In which the farmer and the cowman become friends

I love that Entourage lets you link  files to any item (task, contact, appointment, etc.). I use this feature all the time to point to text files on my Mac.

Why bother? Why not just use the built-in notes capability of Entourage? Ah, if you were a fan of text files you wouldn’t need to ask that, and if you were a fan of Quicksilver, the gears would already be clicking.

Among many features—as we all know by now—Quicksilver lets you append or prepend to any arbitrary text file without changing out of your current app. Once learned and ingrained, this will become one of your favorite things to do on the Mac, bar none; but Entourage doesn't currently support it. Still, this tip helps you get around it in a satisfying way—letting Entourage handle all the busy work, while your beloved text files do all the heavy lifting.

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Using Categories & Tasks in Entourage

Snapshot of a few categories in Entourage 2004 Categories are a powerful tool for organizing any of the information you store in Entourage 2004—whether it’s email, contacts, appointments, or notes—but I think they really shine as a way to provide context for your task list. I use Categories almost synonymously with the idea of "contexts" that David Allen discusses in Getting Things Done—as a way to identify the location, conditions, tools, or focus needed to work on a given item. As I said the other day, I try to use my Categories to provide ready answers to the "How," "Where," and "When" of a given task as clearly and uniquely as is reasonable. You want to be analyzing and thinking about this stuff when you’re planning it, so you won’t have to process it again when it’s time to actually do it.

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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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Merlin used to crank. He’s not cranking any more.

This is an essay about family, priorities, and Shakey’s Pizza, and it’s probably the best thing he’s written. »

Scared Shitless

Merlin’s scared. You’re scared. Everybody is scared.

This is the video of Merlin’s keynote at Webstock 2011. The one where he cried. You should watch it. »