Checking out Dropbox Paper

Dropbox Paper

Dropbox has sent us all a Valentine. If you have the app installed, you probably got an email or two from them about their new collaboration product, Dropbox Paper.

So, either Paper is a “low-end disruptor” that will transform the way people collaborate online, or maybe it’ll be a hammer searching for a nail, and nobody will really use it. If it can make things easier or better for non-traditional, distributed teams like our own, or for those of us with clients in many cities, that would be a welcome addition to our arsenal of tools.

Scott Rosenberg says, “At its launch state it looks like a simplified browser-based document editor with comments — as if Microsoft Office or Google Docs got reincarnated as the love-child of Medium and Slack. “

But it looks like there’s great potential here. In his article about it on Backchannel, Rosenberg concludes:

“[One] thing…stood out for me: Although the half-dozen managers and execs I spoke to there were all straining a bit to bring the elusive vision of the new Dropbox into sharper relief, they presented a remarkably united front and consistent picture…The secret? Kavitha Radhakrishnan, Paper’s product manager, told me that Dropbox used eight Paper documents, total, to plan the whole product launch. In the middle of the last-lap scramble before the event, everyone was noticeably — as promised! — in sync.”

Can’t wait to test it out on a real-world project. What do you think about Paper and online collaboration?

MsgFiler for Apple Mail

The productivity geek in me has surfaced again. I’m a guy who really doesn’t like using a mouse any more than I have to when I’m reading emails or navigating around my computer. I’m a long-time Quicksilver user, who switched to Launchbar about a year ago and never looked back. I just love the speed with which I can find things, open applications, email files to clients or move a file to another location on my computer. But the one thing Launchbar can’t deal with is Mail folders.

I have my email pretty organized — folders for each client, and a bunch of other folders as well. And dragging emails around with a mouse to file them is a pain. If you agree, then meet MsgFiler, a slick little plug-in for Mail.

With a single keystroke, you get a little pop-up window. Start typing the name of a folder — just a few letters — and it gives you a list of all the matches. Select one and bam! your email is moved right where you want it.

Adam Tow is the developer. Eight bucks is the price. Go get yourself a copy.

The calendar app that respects your mother

The calendar app that comes on the iPhone sucks. It’s fine for viewing what  you’ve got on your schedule, but its interface is pretty horrible for an Apple product. Entering a new event is an irritating sequence of taps and spins and “Where the hell is that field?” snarls and “Oops!” realizations.

When I heard about the calvetica calendar app for the iPhone, it sounded like exactly what I was looking for. I went to their page in the App Store, and read their feature list.  Shortly after “Lets you add events in just TWO TAPS,” the authors added: “Respects your mother.”  Nice.

But when you see the actual interface design, your immediate reaction is “Aaaahhh. So that’s how a calendar app is suppose to work!” Simple. Clean. Short learning curve. Utterly enjoyable to use. They’ve out-Appled Apple, and are a stellar example of what brilliant interface design can achieve: respect for my sanity, my time — and my mom.

I hope calvetica decides to make a desktop version. Meanwhile, their iPhone app will be waiting patiently at the top of my Home screen.


T&A (or: All we have is Time and Attention)

Merlin Mann (he of the productivity blog 43Folders.com) thinks that we don’t take ourselves seriously enough.

That’s an odd idea coming one of the funniest podcasters on the web. (Please tell me you have heard and been appropriately offended by You Look Nice Today.)

It’s not that he wants people to take everything seriously. Just the value of our time, and of our attention. These two precious commodities are nowhere near as real-seeming to us as, for example, $20 in cash. In fact, we think we have so much that we allow them to be wasted in enormous quantities. Via always-on email, for example, where any human being on the planet who can figure out how to push a few keys can rob you blind. Via Facebook or ESPN. Via standing meetings with time limits and no agenda. Via blogs. (Oops!)

So the question is: What can you do about it? How can you use all that T&A in a way that’s useful and meaningful to you — not just to the people around you? And, conversely, how can you avoid sucking up huge slurps of time and attention from your co-workers, colleagues and clients?

That’s the subject of this funny, entertaining, partially improvised talk Merlin gave at Rutgers University. You can watch the video (here or on his site or on YouTube) or listen (here or on his site or on iTunes). You will laugh. You will learn a lot. And you might event gain back a big chunk of your life.

A note for Mac users

Notational Velocity iconI have been using a little piece of software that is mind-blowingly simple and easy, and because of that, has begun to make a big difference in how I work.

It’s called Notational Velocity. And it is — get this — FREE.

It’s elegant. Brilliantly simple.

I use Quicksilver, so I’ve assigned a keystroke that brings NV up instantly so it’s just there when I need it. If I didn’t do that, I would just keep it running in the background (which I do) and use Command-Tab to access it when I need it.

It takes notes. You type stuff into it. I use it to capture ideas, draft emails, make little text documents I want quick access to — say a list of things I need to add to over time, to take or transcribe or organize meeting notes, to jot something down I want to refer to later, etc etc.

Unlike most text editors, this thing thrives on little bits and pieces of stuff (think Post-Its). But it can also handle much longer text.

You don’t have to save things either. It remembers what you type without your doing anything at all.

It’s so simple you can’t believe nobody’s made something like this before.

Give it a try….for a while. It took me a few weeks before I “got” it.

Awesome little addition to my workflow.