Three nice bits of software to help me work this year:
- Launchy, which I have used before on the laptop, is primarily a way to avoid the Windows start menu: it works rather like Quicksilver for the Mac. Once it is installed, it is invisible until you press alt-space, at which point an almost completely plain box appears in the middle of the screen. Type in a few letters of the program name you want and it will offer a menu of alternatives, which learns from your previous choices. Use the tab key and arrows to pick one. This is useful, but there is more. It can index folders and files as well as short cuts, and can be taught to index different things depending on where they are located on the computer. It is also extensible with various plugins. There is a calculator, and a generalised command runner, so that typing “email” will open a compose window in Thunderbird. There are also two really classy plugins written by a young Swede, David Karlsson. One of them lets you send appointments to Google Calendar — type gcal [tab] meeting OBL @ 7pm tomorrow[return] and the other does the same with Todoist, an online todolist which is the next big discovery
- Todoist is nimble. It makes it easy to keep and organise todolists, which can almost all be done without touching a mouse. They are sorted by project, priority, date, and optional labels. There is a mobile site which will display uneditable lists on your phone. Used in conjunction with Launchy, it is just about as quick and simple as scribbling things on the nearest bit of paper, and rather easier to keep track of afterwards.
- The greatest contribution to efficiency, though, has come from playing with FeedDemon, the RSS reader by Nick Bradbury, who wrote the useful versions of Homesite, and then Topstyle, an indispensable CSS editor for windows. The great virtue of FeedDemon is that it is rather less efficient and certainly less easy to access, than Bloglines. By moving all my feeds there, I can’t start looking at blogs without making a conscious decision to do so. In conjunction with a minatory todo list, which grows all the time, I really think I will get quite a lot more actually done, without resort to ridiculous and time-consuming systems.
Feed Demon is about $30.00. Launchy is entirely free and open source. Todoist is free, but has a premium service, for $3.00 a month, which offers prettier labels and technical support. Anyone who uses Windows and dislikes mice should certainly consider Launchy.