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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.


Vox Populi: Best practices for file naming

If it wasn't apparent from my pathetic cry for help the other day, even I -- one of your more theoretically productive persons in North America -- struggle with what to call things.

Tags, files, and -- dear Lord -- the innumerable assets associated with making web sites, graphics, audio, and video projects; it's all a hopeless jumble unless you have some kind of mature system in place for what you call your stuff and its various iterations. Of course, if you're like me -- and I hope that you are not -- you still have lots of things on your desktop with names like "thing-2 finalFinal! v3 (with new changes) 05b.psd".

For prior art, I still treasure this Jurassic thread on What Do I Know where people share their thoughts on this age-old problem, but, frankly I haven't seen many good resources out there on best practices for naming.

Anyhow, during a recent MacBreak shoot, I noticed that Alex and his team seem to have a pretty fly system for naming the video files that eventually get turned into their big-time IPTV shows. Thus, I turned to Pixel Corps' Research Division Lead, Ben Durbin (co-star of Phone Guy #5) for insight and sane help. And, brother, did he ever give it to me (see below the cut for Ben's detailed awesomeness).

But, just so I don't lose you, do give me your best tips in comments: What are your favorite current conventions for naming files? How does your team show iterations and versions? Do you rely more on Folder organization than file names in your work? How have Spotlight, Quicksilver, and the like changed the way you think about this stuff?

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Vox Populi: How are you using Mail Tags?

I open the floor to all of you on a question of particular personal interest to me: How are you using Mail Tags?

While my uses of it to date have been helpful, I keep getting the feeling I'm not getting all that I can out of it -- especially since the ability to associate Projects, Priorities, etc. to a message could make for some really enticing Smart Folders.

I wonder if my question is ultimately more taxonomic in nature -- ultimately more about Spotlight in general or Tags in very very general: When tagging items on your Mac, what kind '-onomy' are using? How strictly do you enforce your vocabulary? What are the best practices for someone who's new to this?

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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."

Favorite Windows email tricks and plugins

I'm working on an article about email tricks for one of your finer magazines, and -- as you might imagine -- when it comes to the inevitable Windows stuff, I'm a bit light in the useful tips department. So, I turn to you Redmond-using smarties for help.

Do you have a favorite application, plugin, trick, or hack for bending Windows email to your will? Double-credit for Outlook add-ons that garden-variety users can install without fancy root-style access. Whence comes your magic Windows fu?

Open Thread: How are you using Excel?

Yesterday, I mentioned I'd been talking with someone who's looking at interesting things people are doing with Microsoft Excel. I talked to her again yesterday, and with her official okey-dokey, I'll virtually introduce Tralee Pearce (*waves*), a reporter from Toronto's Globe & Mail whom you might remember from a very swell article about the Hipster PDA.

So, by request -- and to help Tralee with fleshing out her fun-sounding article -- I hope you all will jump in here: What kind of cool, novel, and non-obvious stuff are you doing with Excel? What's the wildest, most obsessive, most nerdy thing you ever saw someone do with our favorite spreadsheet program?

Samsung A-920 as a Bluetooth Mac modem

noDRM.com » Blog Archive » How To: Use Sprint/Samsung A920 as an EVDO Bluetooth Modem with Mac

Earlier this year, like many of my siblings in the minor web dorkerati, your author was made a “Sprint Ambassador.” This is actually not nearly as fancy as it sounds — you still have to pay parking tickets and can’t necessarily have rude waiters whacked with impunity. Plus you get this really weird (Kansas? Missouri?) area code that makes all your friends think you’re a telemarketer or a Republican pollster.

Anyhow, the deal is that Sprint sends you their multimedia Samsung A-920 to use for free for a few months in exchange for offline comments (and, one speculates, the chance that their little blue unit might make an appearance in, say, a blog post along the lines of the one you're reading).

The phone’s okay, I guess — although why it takes 8 mother-scratching clicks to send a photo to Flickr from this purportedly high-end “multimedia phone” is just really hard for me to understand. Plus, until the other night, I’d never been able to use the EVDO modem functionality that’s one of the phone’s marquee features. The idea of internet access from any place that gets a phone signal made me salivate in the early days of my Ambassador tenure, but, as with so many of these things, I quickly made my peace with the usual excuse; unsupported on Macs. WANH-wahn. Still gotta drive to Starbucks to check my email on vacation. Oh, well.

Turns out I was wrong, and, boy, do I love being wrong about this.

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Tricks for remembering names

Following up on the earlier post about becoming a better listener, I get the feeling I'm not the only one with problems remembering peoples' names. So how about a few quick tips via Google for remembering names:

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HOWTO: Flag "penciled-in" events in iCal

As I've mentioned before I like using iCal's invitations to share appointments with people -- especially since this lets them easily respond to let me know whether they 1) will attend, 2) won't attend, or 3) are just "tentative." Unfortunately, there's no analogous tentative flag for the (seemingly endless) number of appointments and event I want to just pencil-in -- you know, those times when you want to make sure to block out time for a call or lunch, but are waiting on confirmation from folks who don't use iCal (or for whom it makes no sense to pester with an invitation). My workaround -- yes, like many of these things -- is really simple.

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Three cool tricks in Kinkless GTD

Herewith for your approval, a few handy tricks I've been discovering for getting the most out of the peerless Omni Outliner Pro/kGTD combo.

And don't forget -- as noted last week -- through the end of this month, when you buy any OmniOutliner product from the OmniGroup site, you can use the checkout code 43FOLDERS to get 25% off your order. Disco!

1. "Hiding" fallow projects

In last Thursday's podcast, "Fallow Projects and the Bread Crumb Trail", I mentioned how I like to move stalled or clinically-dead projects off my immediate radar screen; it makes it so much easier to focus when only actionable stuff is being tracked actively. Anyhow, lots of people asked for more details on that, so here you go.

In kGTD, you want to create a holding pen for these sick animals by generating a new top-level Project and calling it, say, "Fallow Projects #" (or whatever you prefer, but do include the "pound") then scooting all those moribund projects thereunder. Cool enough, but, here comes the nifty.

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43F Podcast: Fallow Projects & The Bread Crumb Trail

The 43 Folders Podcast

Fallow Projects & The Bread Crumb Trail

Little tricks for juggling your projects, plus a few words from our readers. (5:32)

More at Odeo.com, or just listen from here:

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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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