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My favourite online tools September 2, 2008

Posted by Sarah in me, random.
Tags: , , ,

Over the last few months I’ve been experimenting with online tools with mainly two goals: (i) social networking, as I was fed up with the format of the traditional social networking platforms like Facebook and MySpace, and (ii) productivity, to help me manage and plan my workload. I have just one laptop and some disk space on our work servers and am constantly travelling, so back ups are *very* important. Working on several projects also makes good diary keeping, notes and to do lists are essential for keeping on top of things. I also recently got an iPhone so am still exploring the best ways of syncing between my phone and laptop. Oh yeah, and some things are just fun!

So of many things that I tried out here are some keepers.

  1. Google provider for Mozilla Thunderbird/Lightning. This add-on lets me do a two-way sync between my calendar on Thunderbird and my Google calendar, which I can share with other people. Seeing as I don’t use Outlook, I use Google Calendar as my iPhone calendar application. It’s not an ideal solution as it doesn’t give me full access to my calendar when I’m offline, and I really hope that someone will write a two-way syncing add-on between iCal and Thunderbird. But for now using Google Calendar is a pretty convenient go-between.
  2. Evernote. I like this. Evernote is a note-taking application that operates on several platforms: it has a smart-looking desktop application in which you can create notes either by entering text directly, or by using a custom-defined Clip to Evernote keyboard shortcut. Just select something and dump it in a note. It also has a web interface, which syncs with the desktop application. A handy browser button lets you clip webpages into a note. In addition, Evernote creates an email address for every user so that you can email new notes to your account.

    I’m pretty diligent with keeping notes at work but one thing I’m bad at is keeping track of papers and my notes on them – so now I make sure I keep my notes on Evernote, with the paper header and reference clipped in for easy reference. As a bonus there’s also a free Evernote iPhone application.

  3. Remember The Milk. RTM is a to-do list application and, as well as a simple and smart-looking web interface it has many syncing options with other applications. I have my lists synced with Thunderbird via iCal, and with Google calendar, which gives me access via my iPhone. Upgrading to a Pro account (25 USD per year) provides an iPhone-optimised interface which is apparently very nice – so I may try that if I keep liking it! Tasks can be tagged, and as with Evernote a handy email address means that you can email new tasks (or mark existing ones as completed) to your account. There are numerous desktop tools for adding tasks into RTM – I use a standard Windows thingy which works very well, albeit with limited functionality.

    Very cool is that you can add tasks via Twitter, and that RTM can send you reminders to your mobile phone, IM client, Twitter or email account – whenever you want it to. Good stuff.

    What would be *really* good though, is sub-task functionality. I have tasks that are ongoing for months but that go through various stages, like “email x, wait for answer, then check y and write into this document” etc etc. It would be a real life saver if I could have all that stuff written down in a step-by-step task list. Other programs like OmniFocus do this, hoping RTM will pick it up too.

  4. Dopplr. Dopplr is an online networking-type site for people who travel a lot, like me! In its simplest form, it means my nearest and dearest can see where on Earth am I today, and when I’ve planned my next visit to see them. But I can also sync my travel schedule with Google calendar, and from there with Thunderbird/Lightning, which is very handy. Dopplr also notifies me of any coincidences so I can see if any of my contacts will be around for a beer wherever I’m going. If I find a good hotel or restaurant then I usually add a tip for that place in Dopplr, that other travellers can see. And I love Dopplr’s design even more than its functionality – my Dopplr badge looks super cute on my workhomepage.

    I would really like to see more location-based services with Dopplr: for example, I really like going to gigs when I’m bored in a foreign country and have had great experiences like that in the past (Patrick Watson, Vancouver, awesome) – so the developers at Dopplr and Last.fm (see below) should *totally* talk 🙂

  5. Mozy. Mozy is an online back up service that just works really nicely and is easy to use. I just upgraded to a Pro account which gives me unlimited storage for $4.95 a month. Score! Standard storage for free accounts is up to 2 GB and you can get extra space by referring friends to Mozy. I managed to get up to 2.5 GB that way but decided to upgrade so I can back up my entire life. Yay.

Those are my favourite tools that make my life just a little bit easier and more pleasant 🙂 Look them up if you think they mgiht do the job for you too!


1. Brian Shaw - September 3, 2008

Another online note-taking application you might wanna try out is Springnote (http://springnote.com/en). It’s a little bit different from Evernote; Springnote puts more focus on collaboration with others. You get to share pages with your colleagues, while creating as many note pages as you want. It also comes with 2GB of free file storage. After all, it’s a great tool when you do lots of research.
If you really liked Evernote, Springnote is also worth a look.

2. Ann - September 3, 2008

For all online backup, file sharing and storage related info, I recommend this website:


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