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4 Random Tips to Get More Done with Your PC

4 Random Tips to Get More Done with Your PC

Get More Done with Your PC

    I’ve had several challenges in the last couple weeks, some of which required some creative solutions. Since some of you might find yourself facing the same challenges at some point, I thought I’d share this motley collection of tips with you.

    Jott to Evernote

    If you read Joel’s post, 7 Ways to Use Evernote last month, you already know how useful the new version of Evernote can be. Although it’s still in closed beta (email me if you need an invite; 1st 12 people only! All gone!), Evernote is well on its way to become the premiere note-taking and web-clipping app, synchronizing across your computer, your mobile devices, and the Web.

    But what if you want to add a note when you can’t login and type something up? Maybe you’re dribing, you don’t have web access on your phone, or the thought of keying in a note on your phone’s 10-key keypad fills you with dread.

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    Turns out, you can Jott it.

    Jott is a messaging service with voice recognition – you all the Jott number from your mobile phone, leave a message, and Jott transcribes it to text and forwards it to your desired recipient. I’ve written before about the many ways you can use Jott, but at the time I had some trouble using it’s Jott-to-email functions to interface with other services.

    Well, I tried again last night, and it worked. Here’s what you do:

    1. Login to Evernote’s website, click “Settings”, and copy your Evernote email address.
    2. Login to Jott and click “Add Contacts” on the right-hand side.
    3. In the “Quick Add” screen, put “Evernote” as the First Name (or whatever you’ll want to call your Evernote account – try “Spanky the Elephant” if you feel like it) and paste your Evernote email address under the “Email” column.
    4. Click “Add”.

    Easy. When you call Jott, it will ask “Who do you want to Jott”, you’ll say “Evernote”, recite your message, and it will show up in Evernote a few minutes later.

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    But wait! Jott to Google Docs, too!

    As long as you’re adding contacts in Jott, you might want to add your Google Docs email address as well. Maybe you don’t like Evernote or tend to work a lot out of Google Docs. Or maybe you feel like sending an idea for a project you already have in Google Docs.

    Get your Google Docs email address by logging into Google Docs and clicking “Import”. Scroll down and you’ll see a monster email address in big, bold letters. Again, cut and paste it as a contact in Jott, add a name you’ll remember and Jott is liikely to recognize easily, and you’re good. Now you can send ideas straight into your word processor, wherever you have cellphone service.

    Export Audio from PowerPoint

    Who doesn’t love PowerPoint?

    OK, OK, put your hands down. Anyway, PowerPoint (PPT) has a neat feature where you can record a narration while you click through the slides, and you can save the timings so that PPT will advance from slide to slide automatically.

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    Unfortunately, PPT’s narration is saved in WAV format – uncompressed audio. The 30-minute presentation I recorded recently was 110 MB! If you’ve ever tried to send a 110 MB file to someone, you already see the problem. Can’t be done – and while there are some good services like drop.io for sending large files, it’s still a bit of a pain.

    I didn’t want to email it to anyone, I wanted to upload it to SlideRocket (still in beta; no invites) so I could embed it into a web page.

    So what I needed to do was extract the audio, compress it to MP3, upload it and the new MP3s, and re-embed the audio from within SlideRocket.

    Turns out, getting the audio out was a piece of cake. All you have to do is “Save As” HTML. The slides will be worthless after you do this (unless they’re really basic) but you’ll get a folder of support files, including your narration broken into an individual WAV file for each slide.

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    I used RazorLame, a free front-end to the equally free LAME mp3 encoder, to convert the files to MP3s at 32 kbps – good enough for voice narration – which reduced the overall size to just under 11 MB.

    If I had been planning to email the presentation to someone, I could have simply replaced the existing audio on each slide with the new MP3. Instead, I uploaded everything to SlideRocket and did that on the site. Published to the Web, cut and paste my embed link, and my presentation was successfully embedded in a web page.

    Spellcheck and Word Count Everywhere

    Finally, here’s a neat little application I discovered recently that’s proven to be a big help. Enso Words provides system-wide spellcheck and word count for Windows XP and Vista systems. The program runs in the background and is called up with a simple keystroke combo to spellcheck or count the words in whatever text you have selected on the screen, in any program.

    By default, Enso Words takes over your Caps Lock key; Caps Lock+s will bring up the spellchecker, Caps Lock+w will bring up a word count. On some systems, mine included, Enso doesn’t interact well with the keyboard driver and the Caps Lock function will be activated and can’t be turned off. If this happens to you, just change the default to another key — I use the left-hand Windows key instead of Caps Lock, and that works fine.

    I use Enso Words several times a day, since I use a wide variety of programs to compile blog posts, academic work, ad copy, and other material, and I’d rather have a single interface for all of them. Enso Words is the little sibling of Enso Launcher, a system-wide app launcher that uses the same Caps Lock+shortcut approach to launch files, programs, and webpages. The two programs work well side-by-side; I find that I don’t use Launcher’s features much, so I just have Enso Words installed.

    Got a Random Tip?

    Have you found a handy application or useful way to do something recently? Tell me and the other readers about it in the comments!

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    Last Updated on November 5, 2019

    How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive

    How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive

    Assuming the public school system didn’t crush your soul, learning is a great activity. It expands your viewpoint. It gives you new knowledge you can use to improve your life. It is important for your personal growth. Even if you discount the worldly benefits, the act of learning can be a source of enjoyment.

    “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” — Mark Twain

    But in a busy world, it can often be hard to fit in time to learn anything that isn’t essential. The only things learned are those that need to be. Everything beyond that is considered frivolous. Even those who do appreciate the practice of lifelong learning, can find it difficult to make the effort.

    Here are some tips for installing the habit of continuous learning:

    1. Always Have a Book

    It doesn’t matter if it takes you a year or a week to read a book. Always strive to have a book that you are reading through, and take it with you so you can read it when you have time.

    Just by shaving off a few minutes in-between activities in my day I can read about a book per week. That’s at least fifty each year.

    2. Keep a “To-Learn” List

    We all have to-do lists. These are the tasks we need to accomplish. Try to also have a “to-learn” list. On it you can write ideas for new areas of study.

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    Maybe you would like to take up a new language, learn a skill or read the collective works of Shakespeare. Whatever motivates you, write it down.

    3. Get More Intellectual Friends

    Start spending more time with people who think. Not just people who are smart, but people who actually invest much of their time in learning new skills. Their habits will rub off on you.

    Even better, they will probably share some of their knowledge with you.

    4. Guided Thinking

    Albert Einstein once said,

    “Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.”

    Simply studying the wisdom of others isn’t enough, you have to think through ideas yourself. Spend time journaling, meditating or contemplating over ideas you have learned.

    5. Put it Into Practice

    Skill based learning is useless if it isn’t applied. Reading a book on C++ isn’t the same thing as writing a program. Studying painting isn’t the same as picking up a brush.

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    If your knowledge can be applied, put it into practice.

    In this information age, we’re all exposed to a lot of information, it’s important to re-learn how to learn so as to put the knowledge into practice.

    6. Teach Others

    You learn what you teach. If you have an outlet of communicating ideas to others, you are more likely to solidify that learning.

    Start a blog, mentor someone or even discuss ideas with a friend.

    7. Clean Your Input

    Some forms of learning are easy to digest, but often lack substance.

    I make a point of regularly cleaning out my feed reader for blogs I subscribe to. Great blogs can be a powerful source of new ideas. But every few months, I realize I’m collecting posts from blogs that I am simply skimming.

    Every few months, purify your input to save time and focus on what counts.

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    8. Learn in Groups

    Lifelong learning doesn’t mean condemning yourself to a stack of dusty textbooks. Join organizations that teach skills.

    Workshops and group learning events can make educating yourself a fun, social experience.

    9. Unlearn Assumptions

    You can’t add water to a full cup. I always try to maintain a distance away from any idea. Too many convictions simply mean too few paths for new ideas.

    Actively seek out information that contradicts your worldview.

    Our minds can’t be trusted, but this is what we can do about it to be wiser.

    10. Find Jobs that Encourage Learning

    Pick a career that encourages continual learning. If you are in a job that doesn’t have much intellectual freedom, consider switching to one that does.

    Don’t spend forty hours of your week in a job that doesn’t challenge you.

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    11. Start a Project

    Set out to do something you don’t know how. Forced learning in this way can be fun and challenging.

    If you don’t know anything about computers, try building one. If you consider yourself a horrible artist, try a painting.

    12. Follow Your Intuition

    Lifelong learning is like wandering through the wilderness. You can’t be sure what to expect and there isn’t always an end goal in mind.

    Letting your intuition guide you can make self-education more enjoyable. Most of our lives have been broken down to completely logical decisions, that making choices on a whim has been stamped out.

    13. The Morning Fifteen

    Productive people always wake up early. Use the first fifteen minutes of your morning as a period for education.

    If you find yourself too groggy, you might want to wait a short time. Just don’t put it off later in the day where urgent activities will push it out of the way.

    14. Reap the Rewards

    Learn information you can use. Understanding the basics of programming allows me to handle projects that other people would require outside help. Meeting a situation that makes use of your educational efforts can be a source of pride.

    15. Make Learning a Priority

    Few external forces are going to persuade you to learn. The desire has to come from within. Once you decide you want to make lifelong learning a habit, it is up to you to make it a priority in your life.

    More About Continuous Learning

    Featured photo credit: Paul Schafer via unsplash.com

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