apps on my desktop

Strangely, for a fan of all things paper-and-pen/cil, I’ve been thinking a lot about my digital tools recently. I’ve been fiddling with which music player is best for me, what task manager can get me off the panic precipice as well as all the other digital tools I need to stay organized and productive like text input, calendar management and getting all this stuff to synchronize together.

I can’t be the only one who worries about the best way to stay on top of everything, can I? The to-do lists, grocery lists, ideas for blog posts, things to read now, things to share, things to read later, work projects, events in my life and everything else?

A lot of this fussing has come as a result of upgrading to Yosemite (OS X 10.10). Many of my standby tools required upgrading and some fell by the wayside. Other issues had never been thoroughly dealt with in the past so I used the growing pains of Yosemite as my chance to re-evaluate my whole digital tool library.

The first aspect to my organization is that I work on Mac and Apple products exclusively. I have an iMac 27″ at work (behind a big SERIOUS firewall), a personal 13″ MacBook Pro, an iPad Mini (the original incarnation, no retina, no data) and an iPhone 4s (seriously needing to be updated). As a result of my office firewall and absence of wi-fi for my iPad at work, I need most of my tools to be accessible without installing an app or feature a browser-accessible interface.

Music Player:

Luckily, most music players and streaming music tools are now accessible via web interface so I’ve been able to test and play with Spotify, Rdio and Pandora. The first one I ever tried was Rdio and I’ve built a lot of playlists on it. I abandoned it when everyone went to Spotify and played with that for awhile and finally went to Pandora for the ability to say, “I like English Beat. Play stuff like that,” without having to build all the playlists myself. But in the end, there was just as much work involved in grooming Pandora to my tastes that I might as well have built my own playlist.

So, I’ve come full circle and gone back to Rdio. The web interface is vastly improved over the last few years and includes a free streaming option (with ads) as well as paid subscriptions that allows users to download content to a mobile device. If you don’t pay for the premium subscription, the only mobile option is a “radio” option. The radio option let’s you select a song and the app builds a playlist based on it. I think Spotify free works the same way.

Podcast App:

Overcast has become my go-to for podcast listening. For me, the web interface means I can tether myself to my desk at work and access my podcasts without using up my mobile phone data plan. Sure, I don’t get the benefits of some of the iPhone app features (like speeding up the podcast or skipping pausese) but I can easily bounce back and forth from my phone at home to the browser at work and stay current.

Task Manager:

I’ve tried to keep daily lists on paper using a modification of the Bullet Journal system which is fine for personal projects and home stuff but work projects needed a digital option that would allow me to copy and paste text and rearrange and update a lot. I tried both Todoist and Wunderlist and have bounced back and forth, depending on the types of projects I’ve been working on. This week, I decided I needed to embrace ONE and make it work. So I chose Wunderlist because the Todoist site locked up on me and I could not use the web interface. Wunderlist provides web interface through a browser and a mac desktop app as well as iPad and iPhone versions. In other words, I can have all my lists wherever I am. I can add sub-lists and images to each “task” which, in my case, is a card collection or individual card design. I can snap a pic of the sketch to store with the task item. I don’t know why I didn’t figure this system out ages ago. Now I wish I could copy multiple sub-tasks from one task to the other because every card I do has to pass through the same series of tasks. Sometimes there’s additional task but it would be so helpful.

Photo Editing and Management:

I was one of those suckers who bought Aperture as my go-to photo editing and cataloging. So, with Apple’s announcement that they’ll no longer be supporting the app, I had to switch to Adobe Lightroom CC. Its been a slow process. It took about 8 hours to migrate my Aperture library to Lightroom. I can see why it is the preferred application. Even after just an hour using it, I think my photos look better and the interface is intuitively Adobe.

If photos need more manipulation, I use Adobe Photoshop CC. The weekly Fashionable Friday is built entirely in Photoshop and I design logos, icons and the like in Illustrator CC.

Text Input:

I still use paper for most list-making and taking notes in meetings. I need some excuse to use up all those notebooks and inks I buy. When I have to write on the computer, either to prepare blog posts, work documentation or brain musings, I still have a gap.

I’ve heard lots of recommendations for DayOne as a place to dump ideas but I’m not sure how easy it is to access individual pieces and how much formatting it allows.

I’m taking recommendations now!

Calendar Management:

I still use iCal (or whatever Apple is calling it these days). I use Fanstastical on my iPhone which makes adding events on the go super easy. Wunderlist automatically adds tasks to a special calendar on iCal and provide alerts to keep me on task as well so that all my calendar activites sync. Sadly, my work calendar is the cheese that stand alone. My company uses Outlook and the calendar cannot be linked or synced to my iCal for whatever reason. So I have to manually add events. If anyone has a workaround for syncing Outlook to iCal let me know.

Other tools:

I use 1Password to keep all my passwords sorted. I use Suitcase Fusion to keep my massive font collection together. I build some of my photo collages with PicFrame (like the one at the top of this post). I live and die at the hands of Alfred who helps me find my apps, my files, helps me add, spell and even defines words for me in a pinch. I use Firefox almost exclusively for web browsing and have plugins for some of my favorite utilities like Pinterest, Evernote, Twitbin, 1Password and Wunderlist. Most of my email is now managed by Gmail.

Do you use any of these tools to keep organized? Have any recommendations for me?

3 Comments on What’s on my Desk(top)?

  1. On the mobile side, I like Drafts as a very basic text-entry app that can then shuttle what you’ve written off to any number of other services. (I also prefer writing that stuff by hand, but it’s not always feasible—If I’m getting Thai takeout, the last think I want to say is “Hold on while I find my fountain pen.”) On the computer, I mainly use Evernote, which I’ve been comically underutilizing for years now. Alternatively I go with plain old TextEdit.

    Instapaper is the one other app I can’t live without. I’ve always got a wealth of articles and short fiction (in its own folder, of course) for subway rides or sleepless nights.

  2. This sounds crazy but I’d never considered any list / note taking app for work tasks. You’ve got me thinking and I’ll definately be looking at Wunderlist to keep track of work items. Really enjoyed this post!

  3. Thanks for the discussion on Wunderlist. I like that it interfaces with the iCal so I’ll give it a try. I still like the Bullet Journal as my go-to pen and paper option but it would be nice to have the tasks in digital form as well.

    For reading internet articles, Pocket (get pocket dot com) has been an amazing addition to my tools. Pocket works on desktop and mobile devices, syncing your reading list across all of them. It also has plugins for all formats that allow you to send the link to your reading list without leaving the current page. I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to keep track of online readings list.

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