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 Office

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?

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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