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Reading Things With Instaper

Added on by Chris Campbell.
One of my favourite ways to read things is with Instapaper on my iPhone. Marco's program is simple and easy to use and it makes me think that I would like it even more on an iPad. Instapaper is one of those apps that you may think that you don't need until you start using it and then it becomes part of what you do.

The key to a compelling app is that it needs to disappear. Any good tool enables you do to things. If you think about it too much, it's not working. Instapaper really effectively gets out of the way. It helps you read things later and it does that smoothly and efficiently. I started using Instapaper with my iPod Touch since you can't always depend on reliable WiFi access everywhere. So as long as I kept it synced there would always be something to read when I had some time.

Reading in an RSS feed reader or a web browser can be a good experience, but the nature of reading on a laptop means that you can be distracted by other things. Jumping around between different things isn't conducive to long-form reading, so changing modes to an iPhone or iPad can make a big difference. Switching modes makes it more fun and more casual. It's closer to the mode of a book or a magazine. What you're reading is the only thing on the screen so it allows you to disappear into the writing and that's a very good thing.

Instapaper also plays very well with others. The basic sharing functions are usually mailing something to someone, but within Instapaper there are many possibilities for all sorts of workflows. Wherever I see something online now if it's longer or if I don't have time to read it, I'll Instapaper it. (If something becomes a verb it's a very good sign.) It's easy to get things into it and it's really easy to get things out of it as well. There are buttons for sharing in ways that I use often. The basic method is to email something, but that only scratches the surface. I can select a few sentences and post them as a quote to my tumblelog on Tumblr (or send it to the Tumblr app). I can send it out to Twitter with Twitterrific or Birdhouse. I can bookmark it on Pinboard (or have it automatically added to Pinboard) or I can add something as an OmniFocus task.

Now most of my online reading happens through Instapaper or through things saved there. It's powerful, subtle and essential for me. It's like a customized version of the web that always provides interesting things to read.

 

Essential Apps for Time and Money

Added on by Chris Campbell.
Sometimes when you grow accustomed to certain applications they disappear as they're always there and you use them all the time. In compiling a list of apps that I use every day, I forgot about the ones that are so completely integrated that I don't really think about them as I just constantly use them. Oddly they are all related to money and time.

I get things done and (frequently) stay within a budget with the following apps for my iPod Touch: OmniFocus, Spend, and Grocery Gadget. Interestingly they all use lists and two of them use the cloud to synchronize the data that they use.

The Beauty of Simple Apps

Added on by Chris Campbell.
iPods, Almost TouchingOver the past few months I've been relying on my 2nd generation iPod Touch more and more for connecting to the online world. On a recent 3 day trip I didn't even take my MacBook pro with me and I didn't miss it at all. All of my reading and email and even posting things online all stayed up-to-date all with the tiny little powerful computer in my pocket. While an iPhone would allow me to be connected all of the time, there were enough wifi hotspots to keep me connected for most of the day every day.

Another realization that I made is that the applications that I rely upon to stay connected are simple and powerful. The five apps I use throughout every day are Twitterrific, Tumblr, Simplenote, Reeder, and Instapaper. Simplicity is the key and if a choice needs to be made between something that is simple and works most of the time and something that may have a lot more possibilities, it's obvious that simple is the way to go.

The other aspect of the five apps that I use every day to connect and share things with the world is that all of them rely on APIs to get and share the information that they use. That means that it doesn't all just stay on my iPod Touch, but that everything is synchronized so I can check things out on my MacBook Pro or even another computer on the web and I don't have to worry about losing something. Now I start and end every day in bed with my iPod Touch doing a little bit of reading and catching up using my favourite apps.

Getting Things Done With OmniFocus

Added on by Chris Campbell.
Hipster PDA With NotesImplementing David Allen's Getting Things Done system has been a goal of mine for a while, but I've always seemed to fall a bit short of reaching it for various reasons. I started with the book and then using things like the Hipster PDA and notebooks and file folders and it would start ok, but I would fall behind after a while and then just drop it as more and more fell through the cracks. Merlin Mann's 43 Folders always provided great tips to help with things, but I never completely dove in. Then I beta tested earlier versions of the Omni Group's OmniFocus, which worked quite well, but I didn't really commit to it, but I always kept it at the back of mind.

The closest I came to implementing a system that I continued with was 37signals' Basecamp, which I still use to keep track of the broad outlines of courses that I'm teaching with the milestones for deadlines and Writeboards to write and revise assignments. But the key to the GTD system is ubiquitous capture, which is getting things down before you get them done. With my Moleskine notebooks I do take notes and keep track of things, but I wouldn't review them enough to extract what I've captured to put in appropriate contexts and arrange within projects.

But now I have an iPod Touch, and the iPod version of OmniFocus looked very sharp, so I started with the desktop version to start to put things into it and for some reason it clicked a lot more this time. So I bought it and then bought the app for my iPod Touch and synced them both through MobileMe and I'm loving it and actually getting a lot more done (and it may just make me renew my MobileMe account). The key for me is the way that I can use it both with my MacBook Pro and the iPod touch, so I'll be able to add things or cross them off my list just about any time.

It's a comprehensive and solid system that is changing how I actually do things. I'm not even using all of the features of it and I would love to be able to use the (mainly iPhone-based) location services that will show you what is possible to do nearby. So when you're near the hardware store, the things that you can do there will be at the top of the list of what your next action can be.

It's been less than a week since I started using and purchased the two versions of OmniFocus and it's already an important part of my routine as I can rely on it. As my very busy week went on I was able to stay on top of things and kept crossing things off and adding things to my list. The best part is that I feel comfortable and secure with what I'm capturing and what I'm being reminded of. It's great to have well-designed applications in support of a well-designed system.