I want to jot down some stuff about the digital tools I use to get things done. This would be very sketchy at the beginning, and I’ll try to add more as I go along…
As I already said, I was a Linux guy for about 10 years and I just turned to Mac several months ago. While in Linux there is no such thing such as productivity, but only challenges, in the real world you find yourself in situations where you can actually must to deliver in a specific context. The beauty of Linux is that you can accomplish virtually anything you want with a little bit of tweaking and a little bit of programming and a little bit of neglecting your family ;-). It’s the ideal framework for new trends and for research. And also, incredibly stable.
But Mac, that’s another story. It’s a thing you can actually use to do things, do them with elegance, and also have a life. It’s not suitable for a server, as far as I know. I wouldn’t host on a Mac platform unless I would be forced to. But I would use it every day to write my stuff, get organized and code. Here’s a list of what I use:
Basic Sketching of Ideas
OmniOutliner from OmniGroup. Easy to use. Intuitive. Powerfull. Let me concentrate on the flow of the thoughts. Never used an outliner before, only if I don’t count the extensive use of dashes in vi and other terminal-based editor in Linux, like joe or pico. OmniOutliner come out first after trying several of its competitors.
MindManager from MindJet. I was one of the lucky guys that got a free license in a blogger related program and now I’m in love with it. I use MindManager to actually visually draw my thoughts and see how they interact with one eachother. Usually I end up by tossing a project or an idea that sounded so reasonable and eye-catching at the beginning, but once analysed into a mind map proved to be unusable. Once MindManager-ed, meaning once an idea has proven to be viable by passing the mind map exam, it can go further and turn into a project.
OmniPlan from OmniGroup. This tool is new, but is awesome. I already used it for several weeks now and it turned out to be one of the easiest way to actually put my real projects together. Besides the normal GANTT stuff that we all use, there are some gems like: Resource and Calendar view that make my life a lot easier. My projects are usually about web applications and involves a lot of human resources. Using OmniPlan gave me at some point a very strange but refreshing feeling that I can actually know the workload of each of my programmers.
ThinkingRock from an Australian company called Avente Pty. Ltd. It’s a Java implementation, that passed the 1.0 version (at this time they are at 1.2.3 version) and it follows very closely the GTD methodology of David Allen. I tried a lot of applications (including kinkless GTD since I am such a passionate fan of OmniOutliner) but none let me with a clearer mind that ThinkingRock.
Email Reading and Management
Mail.app from Mac Os X. I have only three main folders: Answer ASAP, Waiting For and Reference. The only one that it actually grows is Reference, where I allow myself to have trees of topics and hold related messages there. The Answer ASAP is where I route all the messages from my Inbox that aren’t answered right now and also are not deleted. Once answered, the messages are moved to Reference, or deleted. If one of the message implies another person, I BCC myself, and then move the received message into the Waiting For mailbox.
NeoOffice, a port to Mac of OpenOffice, with significantly low rates of crashing… Never had an import problem, but that should be obvious, since NeoOffice is based on OpenOffice. I tend not to use spreadsheets extensively (I found out that I can outline a minimal budget in OmniOutliner Pro if I really need that…) and also read text documents only when I have to.
Zend Studio 5.0 form Zend. I love the code folding feature, as I have rather large projects and seeing all the functions or DocBlocks at a glance make my life easier. The integration with PHPDocumentator is also a big plus, not to mention the very good code completion. And, surprisingly enough, is not so resource hungry as I thought at the begining.
Every once in a while I surprise myself fiddling into a terminal with some bash commands, but this is just a temporary trauma from my Linux days. I guess.
This setup allows me to have pretty nice level of productivity while letting me enough time to enjoy other, non-work related, activities.
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