Wednesday, October 27, 2010

iPad and GTD


Ok, so I bought an iPad yesterday.  I spent the day adding and removing apps in order to make the thing usable in my GTD set up. 

My Calendar and Contact list sync’s through iTunes, which is always running on my PC.  Of course there is no native task app that will sync with Outlook so a little set up was required to get things up and running.

A quick web search led me to Daniel B. Curran Jr.’s blog, in specific to this page, where he details how to sync Outlook tasks with an iPhone using Toodledo. What I found to be the real PITA remover for me was the link to Chromatic Dragon’s Toodledo Sync application.  Awesome application for what I want it to do.  The application translates Outlook’s categories into contexts automatically.  Almost no set up required, well maybe a little, but Daniel covers it so well, that I will not repeat his work.  Go read his blog, and then come back.  I will wait.

Back? Good.  Wasn’t that easy?

The only thing I changed was to set the Mappings tab in Toodledo Outlook Sync to look like this:



I then added the Toodledo app onto my iPad rather then use the mobile site that Daniel recommends.  I am still exploring all the in and outs of the application, so as I become more fluent in it’s use I will report back.

I have now, however, found myself back in a similar situation as I had with my Blackberry, no automatic sync.  I will try out this system for a while and see if that lack will be a deal breaker in my iPad use in a business setting.  I also may be going back to Evernote if I continue to use the iPad, as the interface is really well done. 

My only complaint , so far, about the iPad is that it will not charge very well while plugged into my PC.  This apparently is due to the power usage of the iPad which is a fair bit more than what a current usb port will provide.  The new Macs can do it but the older ones and most Windows or Linux based PCs need to have the iPad in standby mode without the screen on in order to be able to charge it up.  Most powered usb hubs do not have the power requirements yet either, but I am sure that will change soon.

So there it is.  Drop me a note in the comments if you have any favourite apps.  I have have a feeling the iPad will be used mainly as a media consumption device, but am open to any other uses you may come up with.  Let me know.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mind mapping


As of my last post, I had decided to keep using OneNote for three things; mobile capture on my Windows Mobile phone, reference material filing system for digital media, and project planning. My reasoning was to that by using tools that interacted seamlessly, I could avoid the friction in the system that had caused me to lose track of things a little bit.  However, I was not at all impressed with the outlining features in OneNote, not that they didn’t work, but just that planning in that linear of a style was not how I approached problem solving,or any kind of planning for that matter. 

Enter mind mapping.  If you have spent any time on the web looking for an Uber-GTD system you probably know about the wealth of information surrounding mind mapping and it’s use in planning.  There are a multitude of free programs like FreeMind, Personal Brain, and Compendium, as well as paid versions like MindManager, and MindView. Being that this was for personal use, and I had a hard time justifying another $350.00 for software to my wife, I restricted myself to trying freeware versions only for now.  And really, after all is said and done, I am just learning how to mind map projects, so I don’t need a lot of bells and whistles…. yet. 

Almost every mind mapping software and web offering out there has a lot going for it.  And to be fair, many of the reasons why I abandoned certain platforms in favour of another, probably have more to do with my learning curve than any weakness on the part of the program.  But that said, I returned to the first software I tried, and I believe that I have found the product that fits my needs very well, Xmind.  You can find a review of the software here that explains many of the benefits and features.  My favourite is the drill down feature, which allows you to view only the downstream portion of the mind map from wherever you have chosen. 

In addition, because OneNote will allow you to copy hyperlinks to a note or a section, and you can paste those links into Xmind, you can easily move between your planning software and your reference software. (Note the small Globe to the right of the XMind task, and the corresponding page in OneNote.)




However , one major drawback to XMind, and most of the mapping software that I tried was the inability to print a text version of the mind map.  I initially thought that I would be able to map out a project, view it in an outline view, export the text to OneNote and Flag the tasks from there.  In fact this was one thing that I thought was going to be a deal breaker in my use of XMind, and I kept trying one software product after the other, almost to the point of distraction.  I would use a new one only to find either a similar issue or some other that would add to the friction in my set up.

It’s funny, as soon as you quit working so hard at figuring things out, not giving up mind you, but to just stop beating your head against the wall, solutions to things usually present themselves.   As it turned out I was so focused on what I perceived to be the solution, I was ignoring XMind itself and whether or not it could integrate with Outlook.  When I started looking at that, I found an  plug in called XMindLook.  This $50.00 plug in will sync XMind’s tasks to Outlook’s tasks, eliminating the need to print or transfer anything to OneNote.  In fact the plug in appears to have been designed with GTD in mind.

My thirty day trial comes to an end soon, and I think I will be purchasing the software.  As the software was not, however, designed to be used with the macros I employ in Outlook, I will have to make a few more adjustments. 

More to come…….