Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Create a Chromebook-like experience on your Mac

I've tried Chromebooks multiple times during the last several years. I love their simplicity, ease of use, and headache-less experience. But at the end of the day, a Chromebook doesn't meet my professional needs.

If you're not familiar with the Chrome App Launcher, it might be just what you're looking for.

Introducing the Chrome App Launcher

This, essentially, gives Mac users a Chromebook-like experience. The App Launcher appears in your menu bar. As you add Chrome apps, you can quickly locate them through the Launcher. If the app is a Packaged App, then you will also be able to find it using the native Mac LaunchPad feature.

How to Download the Chrome App Launcher

  1. Visit the Chrome Web Store.
  2. Click on "For Your Desktop" in the left-hand column.
  3. Add one app from this section. 
  4. Look for the Chrome App Launcher icon in your Doc.

How You Benefit from Adding This Feature

  1. Everything syncs across Chrome on all your devices.
  2. You only have to add the Chrome App once. As you add or delete Chrome Apps on one device, they appear everywhere.
  3. All App updates are automatic and function in the background. They just work!

Have you tried the Chrome App Launcher? Is this helpful to you in your normal workflows?

Monday, August 18, 2014

How to auto-create tasks in Todoist with Siri like Omnifocus

Like many, I’ve made the migration from Omnifocus to Todoist and haven’t looked back. One of the features I do miss is the ability to auto-import tasks from iOS Reminders into Omnifocus. I assumed this was only possible because Omnifocus was deeply integrated into and solely focused on Mac OS and iOS platforms.

I was wrong.

I was searching for another recipe on IFTTT when it occurred to me that I could connect two channels that could recreate the auto-import feature.

Here’s how:
  1. Add the “iOS Reminders” channel.
  2. Add the “Gmail” channel.
  3. Create the receipe: “If any new reminder, then send an email from [your email address].”
Note: When you create the recipe, you’ll need to enter the specific Todoist Inbox email so IFTTT knows where to send the email that will be prompted by the recipe itself. Not sure how to find that specific email address? Read how.

Here’s how it works in real time:
  1. Prompt Siri to remind you about a specific task, event, etc.
  2. The IFTTT recipe goes to work on your behalf in the background.
  3. Find the task Siri added to iOS reminders in your Todoist Inbox.

This isn’t perfect.

This option is “almost perfect.” There are two things that you need to know:
  1. The iOS Reminder will remain in Reminders even after it is emailed into your Todoist inbox. This is unlike the feature in Omnifocus where it deletes the reminder upon import.
  2. Any date or time associate with the task does not translate to Todoist.
Omnifocus is a fantastic program. But when you need something that is cross-platform and can be used for collaboration with other people, Todoist is a viable alternative that feels very comfortable to Omnifocus users.

While combining IFTTT and Todoist does provide a path for auto-import from iOS Reminders, I hope that Todoist will consider adding this functionality through the native iOS app soon.

What tips and tricks do you have for using Todoist?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Todoist is a cloud-based alternative to Omnifocus

I'm a fan of to-do lists. If I'm honest, I'm a fan of any kind of list. (Just for fun, I sometimes make lists of lists. That's just me.)

I was a HUGE Omnifocus proponent. As a follower of David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD) method, I found Omnifocus to be the perfect compliment to my work.

It allowed me to create contexts, projects, utilize start dates in lieu of completion dates among a variety of things. The only problem is that I don't work alone. I'm almost always working in a group with at least one or two other people.

Then I realized it was Apple only. Bummer.

The other glaring reality is that The Omni Group is one hundred percent focused on the Apple community. To be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It just becomes problematic in a world where not EVERYONE uses Apple products.

This lead me to search for another solution. I was slow to move away from my beloved Omnifocus because I really didn't believe anything could replace it.

I tried just about everything:, Google Tasks, etc. Inspired by Bono and U2, I continued my search because ... yes ... I still hadn't found what I was looking for.

Along came Todoist

I don't remember exactly how I landed on, but I did. It immediately caught my attention because it reminded me of Omnifocus. It was as if it was created by the same group but targeted to a cloud-based OCD, to-do list maker like me.

I started checking off my list. (See! I told you I couldn't help myself.)

My top requirements:
  • Inbox centered 
  • Flexible scheduling options 
  • Projects organization
  • Contexts 
  • Cloud-based 
  • Collaboration on projects with others 
  • Cross-platform 
  • Mobile apps

In addition, it has:

Todoist just keeps getting better

Some of the collaboration aspects I have come to depend upon:
  • Upload files right from Cloud storage (e.g. Drive)
  • Make notes that shared project participants see
  • Quickly assign tasks within projects to each team member

It was a no-brainer to sign up for the premium options which gave me:
  • Location-based reminders 
  • Text message reminders 
  • Add tasks via email 
  • Color-code projects 
  • And a variety of other really cool stuff

If you're looking for a To-do app or mid-level project management tool, then give a try. Seriously. You'll love it.

Are you a fan of Todoist? What's your favorite feature?

Image Credit:

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Google Keep is becoming my note-taking app of choice

I used to be a power user of Evernote. I was an evangelist for them for years. But I became disillusioned after a series of stumbles (personal experiences) that made the service seem less reliable. I also didn't like the fact that I had created a database silo that was separate and in addition to most of my work within Google Apps for Business.

The search for a viable alternative

I started using OneNote and have really enjoyed the service. (Read a quick outline of why I started to shift toward OneNote and what I initially liked about it.) It feels much more like a notebook to me, and it seemed more intuitive. It solved one problem by offering a viable alternative to Evernote, but it still created yet another database silo that was disconnected and separate from my Google activities.

When Google Keep was introduced, I had high expectations. My first impression was that this was not a tool that would really benefit me. It really wasn't a power-user's tool. Nevertheless, I continued to come back to it time and again.

Getting comfortable with Keep

I'm now using Google Keep more than ever, and I've discovered how to "access" some of those power-user's features that I like. It also helps that I've crossed the great divide from iOS to Android as my daily driver. Having Keep on my lock screen and with quick access through Google Now makes it much easier for this tool to be deeply integrated into my normal personal and business workflows.

Now that Keep is available as a packaged app that can function offline, it is my go to option when I need to take notes. (Note: I usually disconnect from wireless internet when in a meeting. It makes it much easier to concentrate.)

Here are some examples of how I use Google Keep:

  • I collect my thoughts for standing meetings. That way when it comes time to create a formal agenda, I don't have to spend time trying to remember what I was thinking about.
  • I capture context for meetings, projects, and tasks. This helps me transition from one thing to the next faster.
  • I date every note and assign a title that is specific to a task, project, person, or team. This will make it easier to discover when I search for specific notes.
  • I religiously use reminders and coordinate them with my calendar to ensure the note is right in front of me the moment I need it. (I do wish I could set up recurring reminders.)
  • I try not to go crazy with color coding. I use the red color for urgent needs and the yellow for quick reminders. I'm probably not as consistent as I need to be. And, truthfully, sometimes I throw a little color in there just to avoid a bunch of white notes.
  • I take a picture of the hotel room number I'm staying in and the rental car I'm driving. It helps me avoid any awkward moments when I'm traveling.
  • I also use it to capture tracking data for special packages. Since I use Google Apps for Business, Google Now doesn't scan my gmail account in the same way as it does for free accounts. 

Here the devices where I use Google Keep:
  • Macbook Pro
  • MotoX

If Google were to ask me what features and functionality I'd like to see, here is what I would tell them:
  • I'd really like recurring reminders.
  • I'd like to sync my notes with reminders automatically to Google Calendar.
  • I'd like to easily translate my note into a Google Doc much like the "share" feature works on Android.
  • I'd like to organize my notes into projects. (I realize "nested folders" are a passing reality. I suppose I'm mourning a changing paradaigm. Perhaps this extension can help for now, but I haven't tried it yet.)
  • I'd really like a web clipper feature.

What's been your experience with Keep? Has it changed your habits?

Photo Credit: Google Play Store

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How Motorola Connect makes owning a Moto X just that much sweeter

I love my Moto X for a variety of reasons.

  • It fits perfectly in my hands.
  • I designed it myself through MotoMaker.
  • Motorola Assist makes my phone smarter than most.
  • The battery life is crazy long. (I have yet to get less than 12 hours on any given day.)

One important reason I love my Moto X is the enhanced experience I get with Motorola Connect. This is a Chrome extension that allows me to:

  1. Send and receive text messages just like I would on my phone.
  2. View recent calls.
  3. Quickly view battery life and cellular signal strength.

My hands never have to leave my keyboard! That means I can stay focus on being productive.

I know you can accomplish similar functionality with AirDroid or Pushbullet. But I prefer the interface of Motorola Connect over Pushbullet. And I use AirDroid for reasons well beyond text messages.

Sometimes simplicity and focus is what makes an extension even that more attractive, useful, and relevant.

Are you a Moto X user? Do you use Motorola Connect? What's been your experience?

Image Credit:

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Verge reviews a variety of Chromebooks

I'm a huge Chromebook fan. I even started a blog about them about a year ago. 

As more and more Chromebooks come to market, it can be paralyzing to decide which one is right for you. The Verge does a great job of walking you through what's important about a variety of options available for purchase today. They even offer their own recommendation on which one is the best Chromebook purchase today.

My wife and I helped purchase these for our son's first grade class. They worked beautifully. I've used them on and off myself. (They are almost a laptop replacement for me. Every new improvement gets them one step closer.)

Have you tried Chromebooks? What's been your experience?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Pocket your internet reading (and watching) for later

My favorite “read it later” service is Pocket

I skim when I’m reading online. Whether it’s a social feed, blog reader, or even email, I typically don’t have the time or luxury to read what I find interesting in the moment.

Pocket has a …

Another option to get information into Pocket is to send it via email to your specific, private email address you will get when you sign up for the service.

Don’t think Pocket is only for the written copy. It can store videos, too. (I typically just use the “Watch it Later” feature in Youtube, but you can centralize if it helps streamline your review process.)

Once information is in Pocket, you can …
  • Tag it for each search.
  • Archive it for reference.
  • Share it via social networks.
  • Delete it.

Pocket did introduce a premium option recently if you so desire. I, personally, don’t use it.

The real trick to making Pocket usable rather than just a digital hoarder’s habit is to only put things in Pocket that you intend to read. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a pile of stuff that you’ll never end up going through which defeats the purpose entirely.

One final note, Pocket has done a good job of integrating it into many apps. So be sure and check your favorite RSS aggregator or social feed apps to see if Pocket is already integrated into its functionality.

How do you manage all the content you browse across the web?