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New Tools for the New Year: Technology

New Tools for the New Year: Technology

    There’s nothing like getting ready to start a new year and making sure that all of your ducks are in a row, especially when it comes to the technology tools that you are going to use. We are strong believers here at Lifehack of trying not to follow the “shiny new thing” and stick with tools that we can learn and trust over the long term. Most of the tools that I am recommending for the new year have been around for a while, but it just shows that they are tried and true, and if you haven’t made the switch or started using them in some fashion, then maybe the beginning of the new year is time to do it.

    Productivity apps you need

    There are several productivity apps that you should have ready to go for the coming year. We highly recommend picking a set of tools and sticking to them, but at the bare minimum you will need a way to track projects and create and edit documents (presentations and spreadsheets too), and keep track of notes and information.

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    For project and action managers, we can’t recommend Toodledo, Remember The Milk, OmniFocus, or Asana enough. OmniFocus is the only one that is Mac only (but probably the best on the Mac) while the other are web based and have access via your mobile device (iPhone and Android apps).

    For editing documents, spreadsheets, and presentations you don’t have to go much further than using Google Docs. Google’s awesome set of online tools coupled with about 8GB of free storage is definitely enough to get a lot of your work done, not to mention collaborate with others. If you are in the camp of wanting to create documents locally, then you may want to hunker down and buy a license for Microsoft Office (either for Windows or Mac or both). Yet, if you aren’t willing to pay the hefty fee for Office, then try out OpenOffice.org (for all platforms).

    For taking notes we recommend Evernote. Seriously, if you aren’t using this cross-platform tool for taking notes and storing snippets of information with its suite of apps, then you need to stop reading, get an account now, and start making your life easier by using it. If you are a plain-text-lover (like me and Mike), you can augment Evernote with the use of a ton of plain text apps like:

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    Oh, and start using Markdown.

    Paperless tools

    I told a co-worker who has been working in the insurance field for 20+ years that I was going paperless this year. He reluctantly reminded me that he has heard that one since the 80s. But, I am going to make a concerted effort to get as close as possible to paperless, but not without the proper tools.

    A good paper scanner is important to keep all of your paper out of cabinets and into a digital system. I have to recommend either the ScanSnap S1500 or on the less feature-rich and price side the portable ScanSnap S1300. Both are sheet-fed and duplex scanners that definitely are reliable and get the job done. You could also give a try to the newer Doxie or Doxie Go that offers non-duplex scanning but in a tiny, portable package. The prices for the Doxie is definitely nice starting at $149.99.

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    After you get a good scanner you will need a way to store all of your documents. Our preference is using an Evernote account (possibly updating to Evernote Premium) and using Evernote’s great OCR search, tagging, and sorting capabilities to keep everything organized. Also, if you aren’t comfortable with storing everything in the cloud you could role your own system or use tools such as Microsoft OneNote or DEVONthink for Mac.

    Store and backup

    Dropbox is another app that is so important and useful that if you don’t have it in your arsenal of tools then you need to drop everything and go get an account (kind of like Evernote above). Dropbox has been moved from “just an awesome app that I love to use” to an app that is essential for my work. I keep all my important files in Dropbox, share documents with co-workers, upload/offload pictures and video, share TextExpander snippets, use it for storage for apps like 1Password and others. It’s my portable, digital file system.

    Also, if you aren’t backing up your computer regularly then you are somewhat insane. It’s part of a knowledge worker’s responsibility to keep her data intact and there is no better way I have found this year than doing so with services like Carbonite, Mozy, or even something like SuperDuper! for Mac that makes a clone of your bootable drive so you don’t lose anything important.

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    Conclusion

    Using iron clad technology tools for the new year is the only way to ensure that you are ready to be and stay productive. While there may be new tools and technologies that come and go, we feel that the apps, services, and products recommended above are here for the long term. Learning to utilize a strong set of tools that are reliable will not only help you into 2012, but may last many years down the road.

    (Photo credit: Hand pushing a button via Shutterstock)

    More by this author

    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on May 14, 2019

    8 Replacements for Google Notebook

    8 Replacements for Google Notebook

    Exploring alternatives to Google Notebook? There are more than a few ‘notebooks’ available online these days, although choosing the right one will likely depend on just what you use Google Notebook for.

    1. Zoho Notebook
      If you want to stick with something as close to Google Notebook as possible, Zoho Notebook may just be your best bet. The user interface has some significant changes, but in general, Zoho Notebook has pretty similar features. There is even a Firefox plugin that allows you to highlight content and drop it into your Notebook. You can go a bit further, though, dropping in any spreadsheets or documents you have in Zoho, as well as some applications and all websites — to the point that you can control a desktop remotely if you pare it with something like Zoho Meeting.
    2. Evernote
      The features that Evernote brings to the table are pretty great. In addition to allowing you to capture parts of a website, Evernote has a desktop search tool mobil versions (iPhone and Windows Mobile). It even has an API, if you’ve got any features in mind not currently available. Evernote offers 40 MB for free accounts — if you’ll need more, the premium version is priced at $5 per month or $45 per year. Encryption, size and whether you’ll see ads seem to be the main differences between the free and premium versions.
    3. Net Notes
      If the major allure for Google Notebooks lays in the Firefox extension, Net Notes might be a good alternative. It’s a Firefox extension that allows you to save notes on websites in your bookmarks. You can toggle the Net Notes sidebar and access your notes as you browse. You can also tag websites. Net Notes works with Mozilla Weave if you need to access your notes from multiple computers.
    4. i-Lighter
      You can highlight and save information from any website while you’re browsing with i-Lighter. You can also add notes to your i-Lighted information, as well as email it or send the information to be posted to your blog or Twitter account. Your notes are saved in a notebook on your computer — but they’re also synchronized to the iLighter website. You can log in to the site from any computer.
    5. Clipmarks
      For those browsers interested in sharing what they find with others, Clipmarks provides a tool to select clips of text, images and video and share them with friends. You can easily syndicate your finds to a whole list of sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Digg. You can also easily review your past clips and use them as references through Clipmarks’ website.
    6. UberNote
      If you can think of a way to send notes to UberNote, it can handle it. You can clip material while browsing, email, IM, text message or even visit the UberNote sites to add notes to the information you have saved. You can organize your notes, tag them and even add checkboxes if you want to turn a note into some sort of task list. You can drag and drop information between notes in order to manage them.
    7. iLeonardo
      iLeonardo treats research as a social concern. You can create a notebook on iLeonardo on a particular topic, collecting information online. You can also access other people’s notebooks. It may not necessarily take the place of Google Notebook — I’m pretty sure my notes on some subjects are cryptic — but it’s a pretty cool tool. You can keep notebooks private if you like the interface but don’t want to share a particular project. iLeonardo does allow you to follow fellow notetakers and receive the information they find on a particular topic.
    8. Zotero
      Another Firefox extension, Zotero started life as a citation management tool targeted towards academic researchers. However, it offers notetaking tools, as well as a way to save files to your notebook. If you do a lot of writing in Microsoft Word or Open Office, Zotero might be the tool for you — it’s integrated with both word processing software to allow you to easily move your notes over, as well as several blogging options. Zotero’s interface is also available in more than 30 languages.

    I’ve been relying on Google Notebook as a catch-all for blog post ideas — being able to just highlight information and save it is a great tool for a blogger.

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    In replacing it, though, I’m starting to lean towards Evernote. I’ve found it handles pretty much everything I want, especially with the voice recording feature. I’m planning to keep trying things out for a while yet — I’m sticking with Google Notebook until the Firefox extension quits working — and if you have any recommendations that I missed when I put together this list, I’d love to hear them — just leave a comment!

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