43 Folders

Back to Work

Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

Join us via RSS, iTunes, or at 5by5.tv.

”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

MacWorld '07: Merlin's MacBreak Expo coverage

MacBreak Logo

If all the stars line up (and my lack of proper press credentials doesn't get me thrown out on my ear), next Tuesday, a tenacious Pixelcorps camera person and I will be out covering MacWorld's Expo floor on behalf of the mighty TWiT Network's MacBreak video podcast.

I'll be focusing on OS X productivity applications -- with, I suspect, side visits to some companies I adore -- but I'm interested in hearing about anything you think MacBreak shouldn't miss.

Got a 43 Folders-esque product that you'll be showing off at MacWorld? Are you fun to talk to and comfortable appearing onscreen with America's dorkiest Mac productivity guy? Then you may already be a winner! Tell me who you are, what you got, and why the kids should be flocking to your amazingly costly booth. (Extra credit if you're in one of those teeny kiosks that get stuck back in the corner.) If you're bashful, you can also just email me

Task List: Handy student app for tracking assignments

Funkware - Task List

Task List is a promising looking new app for students who want to track the tasks associated with homework and other assignments.

As a former dysfunctional student, I like the way you can filter work by class, gauge progress on assigments, set priorities, and then track the results, such as the grade you received, etc. It also has support for "Classcasts," syncs with .Mac, and seems to work nicely with iCal.

As with many tricked-out task apps, there's plenty of room for bogging down in the sort of fiddly meta-work that's more fun than, say, actually reading Bleak House, but this app is far from the worst attractive nuisance I've seen in that regard. Based on my 20 minutes of running through it yesterday, it looks like a useful application for managing the rat's nest of tasks standing between you and your sheepskin.

Task List is the simple way to manage your homework. After all, it's bad enough that you have to do homework in the first place - why should keeping track of it be difficult too? Task List 5 builds on the many features of Task List 4, and offers you even more ways to keep track of what you need to do. Even better, it makes it easy to actually do something about your homework, with features such as multiple file attachments for each task, a built-in tabbed notes editor, and convenient reference information and links, just like your composition notebook. Best of all, Task List 5's new interface makes it easy to view your information in as simple or complex a manner as you wish.

What are you organized Mac students out there using to keep it all together?

Vox Pop: Sell me on manual email filing

tow.com » MsgFiler

Lots of the kids are excited about the arrival of MsgFiler, which is a neat litte app for helping you file away your messages in Mail.app:

MsgFiler is a plug-in for Apple Mail which quickly files emails into existing mailbox folders. MsgFiler’s fast searching means you just have to type a few characters to find the right mailbox. Move selected messages with a click or open a mailbox without having to navigate the mailbox folder pane. MsgFiler is optimized for keyboard-only usage, perfect for Apple Mail power users.


But I'll just play devil's advocate on this one: if you find yourself inordinately excited about the arrival of this (admittedly clever) application, there's an excellent chance that your email archiving system is unnecessarily complex and, in fact, is in need of a major streamlining. Discuss.

read more »

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?

read more »

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?

read more »

Open Thread: Doodle & your favorite simple web tools

Doodle: Scheduling meetings

This has been mentioned here before (just in comments, I think), but I have to repeat: I can't say enough good things about Doodle. It takes the idiotically over-complicated problem of figuring out when all of n people are available to do something, and in the simplest way conceivable, polls all the participants to find the optimal time and date.

I'm always thrilled when colleagues send a meeting invite in the form of a Doodle email; it requires zero fiddling on my part and pleasantly skirts the need for the endless email threads that most people rely on to get a group of people extant in one time-space unit.

I'm risking the indignity of a double-post on an "old" link for a good reason: with all the foam and fuss over "Web 2.0," and the ever higher (Ever! Higher!) technology we shovel to solve stupid human problems, it's refreshing to see adoption of a tool that ends up being no more complicated than a white board with electrical-tape columns.

I wish stuff like Doodle would inspire more developers to start with the Simplest Thing That Could Possibly Work. No Arial Rounded, no whizzy AJAX, and no angel-round-attracting gradients. Just a modest solution to a single dumb problem. That is a life hack, defined.

What's your favorite idiotically simple web tool right now?

Open Thread: The '43 Folders' of money management sites?

You tell me. What are your favorite sites about managing your money? Any places out there you think might especially appeal to 43 Folders readers? Feel free to toss in your favorite books on the matter, too.

read more »

LifeClever: Dot Mac needs more than a paint job

Apple finally revamps .Mac webmail, but does anyone care? » LifeClever

I have to admit, I'm solidly in LifeClever's corner on this one. They write:

The hatred for .Mac is not new in the [sic] amongst the Mac community. For me, .Mac is slowly becoming less and less valuable -- certainly less interesting -- as free services from Google, Flickr, and Delicious duplicate or nullify many of .Mac’s offerings. Of course, some things to like include .Mac’s ability to sync certain system preferences between computers. Still, it doesn’t seem quite worth the hundred bucks a year.

A few years ago, things like WebDAV were a novelty that was awesome but hard to find and setup, even on most shared server accounts -- I have four, and only one currently supports it out of the box -- but it's certainly not enough goods for the average user, even when you look at the other pieces of the .Mac offering. Not for that kind of dough.

read more »

Open Thread: Mac Mind Mapping, and how you use it

I've recently revived my interest in doing mind mapping as a way to capture ideas and plan out projects.

Back in the day, I'd use Inspiration (which registration regrettably died a few years ago), and in more recent times I've played with free apps like My Mind and FreeMind, as well as tested more costly apps like NovaMind and MindManager.

If you also like to mind map, I'm curious to hear which of these you and your Mac are using, how you're using it, and what made you choose one app over another. Got a preference? Prefer regular old paper and markers? Using lots of images in your mind maps? Which pay app is most worth the dough, and why?

And for folks who are new to mind mapping, here's a few links to get you started:

read more »

Finding "Getting Things Done Fast"

You could argue that the holy grail in GTD media these days is the woefully out-of-print “Getting Things Done FAST” CD set that DavidCo put out a few years ago. It’s eight (8) CDs of audio material covering the popular multi-day seminar that David did a few years back.

read more »



An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


Subscribe with Google Reader

Subscribe on Netvibes

Add to Technorati Favorites

Subscribe on Pageflakes

Add RSS feed

The Podcast Feed


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. »