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Category: App Review

Self-Control Screencast

So for this post I am sharing a small screencast I made using as app called Screenflow. I am demoing it– it is quite pricey but not as pricey as its Windows counterpart, Camtasia. There is a HUGE DEMO MODE watermark on the video, so bear with that. I will be buying it in a month and so I’ll be making videos I won’t share (exporting them with a license removes the watermark).

The app I am giving an easy tutorial on is Self-Control. It is a small, free app that is big in the Mac community and anti-distraction apps. Check it out below.

App Review: Cisdem ContactsMate

ContactsMate by Cisdem is a supplemental contacts manager for Mac that can help you clean up duplicate contacts, delete contacts, fix suffixes, prefixes, and unusual character names or just a first name.

When you open ContactsMate you are greeted with a screen that asks for permission to access your contacts.

Once you do this, you have a screen that looks similar to this:

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On the left you have all your iCloud/Gmail groups. In the main pane you have your currently selected contact.

Scanning Contacts

Scanning contacts is relatively simple and fast, depending on how many contacts you have. I have around 850, with about 80-100 duplicates.

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Fixing Contacts

You have the option of merging, deleting, deleting the duplicates, or ignoring the conflict.

Batch merging of duplicate contacts froze the app. I had to force quit the app. This caused data loss— a lot of my contacts were simply deleted. Luckily, I have BusyContacts, which I will share a screencast on later. BusyContacts allows for multiple backups, which really saved me, and it syncs with iCloud and multiple services.

Merging contacts one by one resulted in deleted contacts as well. Some were missing names, some were missing numbers, some were just flat out deleted. What I needed from the app is to merge the contacts, which it did not do well.

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Fixing Other Problems

As with the other fixes, I lost names, numbers, and other data that could tell me who was who in my contacts. I had to restore from another BusyContacts backup to get my data back. I didn’t try to delete the duplicate as I wouldn’t know which one was being deleted. It doesn’t give much control over which one is the right one, or other granular controls.

Conclusion

The app is slow and has frozen up a couple times when moving around it. If you have a lot of contacts, fixing them all is something that will freeze the app, causing you to force close it and lose data. It doesn’t give options for granular control over your contacts and if you are a power user, like me, this is a deal breaker. I would not recommend this app, right now, as it is. I hope the developers improve the app to make it more feature rich, and consider speeding it up, fixing the bugs that left me without the contacts I most needed for a while.

Toggl and Coach.me to Keep Track of Goals and Time

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Reading Asian Efficiency Blog is a real treasure. You get great productivity tips and services from some of the top Productivityists in the game.

I got a newsletter from them entitled The 4-Step System You Need to Be Less Stressed At Work and I came across another article linked to it from Asian Efficiency about Time Tracking. I intended to get an Excel spreadsheet and instead got introduced to Toggl.

What Is Toggl?

Toggl is a time-tracking app. One-click time tracking, so it is easy to track time without much thought. The only thing you need to remember is to actually start the timer.

Toggl is free and there is a premium version for more features.

The Interface

Here is the Toggl interface in the Chrome browser. I set my Toggl up much like the example at The Asian Efficiency Blog. I have a list of projects, perhaps some more specific than what is required but it works for me.

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Setting up your projects is key. You want to track every minute of your day to get a sense of where your time is being spent so you know where you are most and least efficient with time management.

So far here I hadn’t done well. But that’s okay. As a new user, I just need to get a sense of where my time is going.

This is the timer part of the interface, which is self-explanatory. Select a project and start a timer.

Projects

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You add projects on this screen. As you can see I have plenty, and you can add as many as you want. You can also add clients to any project and have a team of up to five people for free. You can color code the projects as well.

 

My basic setup is: Work, Personal, Excess, Non-essential. You can basically assign these categories as tags. I am currently working on this myself but Work is anything that will help me further my goals. The tasks or projects under this tag need to be important and urgent. Most of the things I am doing do not fall under this category currently.

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Personal is for things like important but not urgent phone calls and emails. I also list reading and podcasts under this but that may change.

Excess is TV and Netflix, cleaning (while necessary doesn’t actually help me achieve my goals), sleeping, relaxing, etc. While a rested body is important to success and is important, it doesn’t necessarily count as urgent unless you are sleep deprived. Let’s hope that isn’t the case for you.

Non-essential are for things like blogs I maintain that while being a great endeavor, are just for fun and are neither important or urgent.

Reports

You can get weekly reports as well as detailed reports that will breakdown the time you spent on each logged project as you can see here:

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Integrations

Toggl integrates well with other services like Gmail, Freshbooks, GitHub, and Todoist, which are services I use. It also integrates well with Quickbooks, Trello, and Asana.

Todoist

Here you can see the integration between Todoist:

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Right from the task list you can start a timer and it will show up on Toggl on web, mobile, and even their desktop app. You can’t actually use to Toggl/Todoist integration on the Todoist desktop app, and they don’t have any plans to integrate that right now.

Gmail

This is how you use Toggl in Gmail:

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One thing I noticed about this is that when you start a timer for an email, you aren’t able to start again for that same email. I don’t know if this is a bug but it would be nice to see this functionality fixed or come to the app.

Coach.me

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Coach.me is a brilliant way to keep track of your goals. While Toggl can help you determine how much time you are spending in getting to your goals, Coach.me helps you list them and gives you a little gamified motivation to do so with keeping up with your friends and answering questions.

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It is web and mobile based but so far I have only used the iPhone version. You can pay coaches for their services but I find I don’t need the coaching.

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Conclusion

These are two of my favorite apps to keep track of time spent towards achieving my goals and actually listing out each goal as I go along.

Did I miss your favorites? Let me know in the comments.

Another Look at DEVONthink Pro

Devonthink

So I’ve been giving DEVONthink Pro a good run-through and I have to say, I really really like what it has to offer, so much so I will be buying Pro Office. I have several databases for important projects and things that I want to keep locally on my Mac, with backups in Time Machine, SuperDuper and CrashPlan.

So how does this differ from Evernote? For my usage, I send text to Evernote from Marvin Reader app that I want to save immediately from my iPad. Marvin has a way to send text to Evernote directly from a book– it doesn’t have a typical share sheet. For instance, I am looking for scholarships for next fall semester as I have pretty much almost exhausted all my school loans. So I send text from The Ultimate Scholarship Book 2016 to Evernote in Marvin, then I combine the notes and add them to DEVONthink for safe keeping. This way I can access them offline and add the due dates to my calendar, in a database called school:scholarships:aid.

In general, I catalogue important data in DEVONthink and ephemeral data in Evernote. Data that I’m going to move around or not keep for long goes in Evernote.

I still, for the most part, have to pay for Evernote– the feature of emailing data and text into Evernote is a paid feature and now the price has gone up by $1/mo or $10/year. I only use this feature for Marvin Reader on my iPad and iPhone because of the lack of share sheet, so for now I will continue to pay.

What sets DEVONthink Apart

Categorization is one of the things that sets DEVONthink apart from Evernote. For example, you can group or categorize files based on metadata or what is actually in the files. I have 3000 books in an ebook database in DEVONthink. I can choose a predetermined category called Dewey Decimal System and it will categorize the ebook files based on the metadata or info it scans from the books themselves and categorizes them in the Dewey old school style filing system. This is good if you want to know a genre of a book or a sub genre of a book.

There are other categories available that you can group together automatically.

DEVONthink Mobile Apps

There has been much hand-wringing about DEVONthink mobile apps but I understand what they are and what they are not, for now. I don’t have problems syncing data, all my data syncs over to my iPad and iPhone, quickly and easily. The caveat is I don’t have a lot of data yet in DEVONthink. I have maybe 12 databases with at least 30 gb of data (I have videos in there as well). The videos that I’ve stored in DEVONthink I don’t sync over to save space on my iPad, but I may just to see where it falls down. There is a version 2 coming and they promise improvements. Because I have so little data synced over to my DEVONthink mobile apps, take my praise of them with a grain of salt. I’ll update my review once I sync over more data.

There will be more about DEVONthink as I use in the classroom– I’ve got a history class as well as a computer science class so a lot of research and data. I keep the app open to see where I can use it in everyday situations. I’ll let you know.

Trello for Project Management

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I know I have a BusyContacts screencast to get up and running here– I’ve recorded it but I have to go in and edit it which takes a lot of time. Getting up in running in the university as well as other projects takes a lot of that time.

So I made a brief screencast for my other blog, a blog about my journey as a new developer over at Code Newbie in Pittsburgh about Trello, a not-so-new productivity web app based on the Kanban principle for agile and lean development which is, of course, programmer speak. Kanban isn’t in itself a developer productivity principle– it was first used in manufacturing at Toyota back in the 40s.

I was, and still am, using OmniFocus for more linear tasks. I’ve spent too much on it to give it up. But with Trello and the new TextExpander I have found an enjoyable way to be productive.

DEVONthink

 

I am currently playing with DEVONthink, the 150 hour free trial. I’ve heard a lot about it; a lot of academics use it and swear by it and I decided to give it a go. It is touted as a powerful alternative to Evernote, however, you don’t have the cloud component. So while you can sync between and iPhone or iPad (those apps have been trashed throughout almost every blog I’ve come across so I’ll hold off on those) it isn’t an everywhere you are app which is attractive to many.

The upside of this is that it is local so harder to hack or get your data. The syncing happens over your wifi (so make sure to secure your wifi) so there is no cloud middleman.

DEVONthink relies on databases to organize your data. You can import data into DEVONthink by dragging and dropping folders into the sidebar. Which, folders and hierarchical structures are the main way DEVONthink works. With DEVONthink Pro you get multiple databases…for a price. If you are a student (which this blog is specifically for students) you get a good discount on Devon Technologies apps. DEVONthink Pro is $80 without a discount– not a cheap app. With the student discount it is $50.

DEVONthink really isn’t essential unless you’re doing massive research. I am still playing with it, and I will update once I get a real use-case for it in school. Currently waiting for an admissions letter for Pitt and I hope to put DEVONthink through its paces during my stay there. For now, I’ve only got 6 databases with three or four of them empty. Stay tuned for more info.

Until then you can find people talking about DEVONthink here.

BusyCal Screencast Review

 

As promised, here is my screencast review of BusyCal. There are a few around but people seem to be in love with Fantastical 2 since it has just been released. It’s receiving high praise so I’ll test it out and report back. I don’t plan on buying another calendar replacement app, but I will utilize the free trial.

In any case, here is the BusyCal screencast.

You can buy BusyCal here.

Note:
Learning more about screencasting as I go. The quality is okay but I should have bumped the quality up past 1206 kbits/s. So now I know.