State of the System, 2014
I love reading about the tools other people use, so I thought I’d write down a few of the things I’m using these days.
It’s no secret that I like to tweak my “productivity system”. I don’t do it because I think I’ll actually become more productive, but because it’s fun to play with new things. Here are the things I am into now.
I’ve been using Tinderbox every day for many years. I can’t imagine doing anything even remotely complex without it. Tinderbox is where I keep notes about everything. It’s my daybook, project log, CRM tool, call tracker, spark file, concept mapper, darkroom notebook, book log, and general outliner.
Although Tinderbox can be used as a simple outliner, and a damn good one, it excels at growing into whatever I need it to be. Some of it is just crazy complex and capable. I find it astonishing that more people like me (meaning geeky tweakers who love stretching the capabilities of software) don’t use Tinderbox. It’s not only immediately useful, but it’s also damn fun to play with.
I wish the Tinderbox (XML) file format was a standard. I long for a world in which I just pass my Tinderbox documents around.
The fact that I have an app written in Java open on my Mac desktop all day every day is a testament to how much I like The Brain. I’ve tried to quit it, but nothing does a better job of managing everything. I put everything into my “brain”. Every discreet item I can think of is entered and linked to other relevant “thoughts” in The Brain. People, companies, projects, ideas, plans. Everything is linked together in a sensible and useful way. Navigating these links makes me better at finding and remembering just about anything.
If it’s an image, PDF, snippet, or other file that I want to file and find later, it goes into DEVONthink. Every receipt, invoice, or other piece of paper I come across gets scanned and imported. DEVONthink’s AI and classification engine makes quick work of digging though thousands of documents. It’s my records room and my library.
To do lists are easy to manage, yet I spend more time trying task management tools than anything else. My favorite way to keep a todo list is with a notebook and pen. In fact, this is how I manage all of my personal tasks. For work projects, pen and paper aren’t as useful. Currently, I’m back to using Taskwarrior. It’s a very capable command line program for dealing with as many tasks as you can throw at it. I love that it’s simple as it needs to be, but can be used in very complex ways. As much as I try, I never seem to give up on the terminal completely.
As good as Tinderbox is for managing and visualizing notes, nothing beats nvALT for quick and easy find and capture. I use nvALT as my inbox of sorts. It’s also where I keep things I need available in my iPhone or iPad. nvALT syncs nicely via Simplenote. Easy.
Ah BBEdit. The venerable yet still modern text editor. It’s not as hip or sexy as Sublime Text, nor as geeky and efficient as Vim, but I’ve become so accustomed to the way it does things that I always come back.
I use a few other things of course.
- MailMate is a wonderful email client that I re-discovered after Apple Mail was hosed on Mavericks. Love it.
- Pandoc is how I create LaTeX, PDF, and Word documents from Markdown source (using BBEdit)
- Twitterrific is how I both stay distracted and up to date with the universe
- Slack is a fantastic new group chat app that I use to communicate with coworkers.
At some point I should probably write up how all this stuff fits together, but that’s all for now.