Advertising
Advertising

What Google Needs

What Google Needs

    Google has some insanely useful applications, the top of their field in many cases — and by mastering these tools, you can become a productivity ninja. But these apps — Gmail, Gcal, Google Reader, Google Docs, et al — they aren’t perfect.

    Don’t get me wrong — I love these apps. They are awesome, and I couldn’t bring myself to use anything else. But although they’ve come out with some minor upgrades recently, Google has been a little slow in upgrading their great apps with much-needed features. Perhaps they just need a little nudge.

    Advertising

    Well here it is. Google, here are just a few of the features you need to add, pronto.

    Gmail

    Advertising

    1. Sort features. You should be able to sort your inbox (or any folder/label) by date, sender, etc.
    2. Two panes. When you open an email, you shouldn’t have to leave the inbox view if you don’t want to.
    3. Dragging. You should be able to drag emails if you want, to re-arrange them, pop them in a label.
    4. Drag-n-drop and batch uploads. Why should we have to manually select each individual file attachment? Allow us to select a bunch of files, and drag them into an email.
    5. Progress bar. Speaking of uploads, if you’ve got some big files attached, and it takes awhile for Gmail to upload, Gmail should show you a progress bar so you know it’s working.
    6. Better integration with Gcal. This has been improving, but as of right now, you need to add third-party extensions to allow you to schedule stuff from an email into your Google Calendar, or to see your agenda for the day in Gmail. With two great tools like this, integration really should be complete.
    7. Unthread. I love the threaded conversations. It’s ingenius. It took me a couple of days to get used to this, back when Gmail first came out, but now it’s indispensable. Except when you don’t want emails to be threaded (if you email something to 50 people, for example). Give us a choice.
    8. Notification. I’m actually not a big fan of email notification, as they’re horribly distracting. But I know that others want it. You could use a third-party extension for this, but you shouldn’t need to.
    9. Open emails in new tab. Self explanatory. Firefox made me addicted to tabs. Why can’t I use them in Gmail?
    10. Read receipt. I wouldn’t use this much, but I think a lot of people find it useful.
    11. Message size. I should be able to see how big a message is, and sort by size. Would make deleting emails easier.
    12. Off-line reading. I love Gmail being online all the time, but what if my Internet connection is down, or I’m away from a wi-fi spot? How will I get my Gmail fix?

    Gcal

    Gcal
      1. To-do list. C’mon. This is pretty basic.
      2. Pop-up notifications. Yes, they have this already, except when Gcal isn’t open. I’d like to be notified at all times.
      3. Quick-add. There’s an extension for this, but it should be built in. Do a simple key combination, and enter an event. Voila.
      4. Off-line usage. Same complaint as Gmail — you should be able to save stuff and view your calendar even when you’re not connected to the Internet. I’m sure this is coming, but it should come sooner.
      5. Drag an event to another week. I love being able to drag an event to another day when I’m in “week” view … but what if it’s next week, or the next month? What then, Google?
      6. Icons. OK, this isn’t that necessary. But darn it, I’d like a little birthday cake next to the birthdays, and a little Christmas tree …

      Google Reader

      Advertising

      1. Nothing much. This feed reader is pretty much perfect.
      2. Except. Off-line reading.
      3. And search! How is it that the king of search companies doesn’t have search in Reader?
      4. Also: someday/maybe list. If I unsubscribe to a feed, I might want to save it on a list to check out at a later date.

      Google Docs & Spreadsheets

      Google Docs
      1. Sharing with non-Google users. As far as I know, if you want to share a Google doc with someone, they’ll need to log in with a Google account to access it. Well, they shouldn’t have to.
      2. Drag-n-drop. When I’m looking at my list of docs, I should be able to re-sort them, put them into folders, drag them to my desktop, and drag documents from the desktop to Google Docs.
      3. Selecting text. I should be able to use the keyboard to select a paragraph of text, like you can in other word processors. Control-Shift-Up Arrow. It’s frustrating not to be able to do that.
      4. Spreadsheets. This app needs a lot of work. It’s so behind other spreadsheet programs it’s almost not usable. I can make some very basic spreadsheets, but it’s a lot more time consuming. Simple things, like being able to quickly do a Sum formula without having to click on the Formulas tab first. Keyboard shortcuts. Things like that.
      5. Off-line working. Same as above. This would be killer.

      Other apps Google needs

      Advertising

      1. Glist. Instead of just adding a to-do list into Gcal, Google should come up with a really cool to-do list program, with multiple lists, project view, drag-n-drop, reminders, etc. Basically a Google GTD program, integrated tightly with Gmail, Gcal, and Google Docs & Spreadsheets.
      2. GMoney. There are a lot of personal finance programs out there, but Google needs one, integrated with its other features. I’m sure it will do this one day.
      3. GDrive. This has been discussed, but really, Google should put your hard drive online. Drag and drop files, sort them, put them in folders.
      4. GContacts. I like how Gmail automatically adds email address to your contact list. I barely even think about my contacts anymore. Until I want to look up a phone number. Then I have to go to Contacts, do a search, click on the contact … using the contact manager is one of the worst features in Gmail. Google should have a separate Contact manager, integrated with Gmail and Gcal. And make it really cool, kay?

      What features or apps would you like to see Google add? Let us know in the comments.

      More by this author

      Leo Babauta

      Founder of Zen Habits and expert in habits building and goals achieving.

      How to Find Your Passion and Live a Fulfilling Life What to Do in Free Time? 20 Productive Ways to Use the Time The Gentle Art of Saying No Simple Productivity: 10 Ways to Do More by Focusing on the Essentials How to Pare Your To-do List Down to the Essentials

      Trending in Featured

      1 How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques 2 How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators 3 How to Master the Art of Prioritization 4 How to Find Your Passion and Live a Fulfilling Life 5 What to Do in Free Time? 20 Productive Ways to Use the Time

      Read Next

      Advertising
      Advertising
      Advertising

      Last Updated on September 18, 2019

      How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

      How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

      Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

      I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

      One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

      Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

      The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

      And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

      What to Write Down

      Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

      Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

      Advertising

      Dates of Events

      Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

      For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

      Names of People

      Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

      Theories or Frameworks

      Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

      Definitions

      Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

      Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

      Arguments and Debates

      Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

      This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

      Advertising

      Images

      Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

      Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

      Other Stuff

      Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

      I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

      Your Own Questions

      Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

      3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

      You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

      1. Outlining

      Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

      Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

      Advertising

      For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

      2. Mind-Mapping

      For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

      Here’s the idea:

      In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

      The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

      If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

      You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

      3. The Cornell System

      The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

      Advertising

      About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

      You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

      In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

      You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

      The Bottom Line

      I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

      I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

      More About Note-Taking

      Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

      Read Next