Thursday, November 23, 2006

Two great online note taking solutions: Google notebook and Scrapbook extension for Firefox

Whenever you do some web-based research, be it for a school paper, gathering documentation for any project, collecting reference for an article you are writing, or compiling information about a particular purchase, you need a good system to save snippets of text, images and links.

You will be using the internet and your browser more and more for this purpose in the foreseeable future, and the necessity of a good way to store, access and organize your collected information is crucial.

Of course, you can always copy and paste the text using regular office software, an outline editor or some other program. Or you can just copy images, save PDFs and complete web pages in a particular folder in your computer. But using your own browser to save, organize and access this repository of information is a more practical approach. How?

There are two good, free and easy to use solutions that live right within your Mozilla Firefox browser: the Google Notebook and the Scrapbook extension for Mozilla Firefox (the first one will work, with some limitations, in any browser.)

Scrapbook extension: saving a complete pageThe Scrapbook extension deservedly won a contest for the best Firefox extension organized by the Mozilla Foundation. Scrapbook provides a reliable system to save anything from a page, from an image or a small text selection to whole pages. The saved snippets and pages can be further edited, for example to get rid of non-significant parts such as ads or navigation items; you can also highlight or annotate passages. Scrapbook adds a new panel in your sidebar (which can be accessed at a mouseclick if you add its icon to the program toolbar), some items in the Menu and contextual commands. For example, if you want to save a snippet of text or an image, you simply right-click it and choose Capture Selection.

This extension provides extensive control on the way you save your selections, and you can organize them in folders and subfolders, reorder them, export the items or generate a list of references telling you exactly where you found what. Compiling a list of links for an anotated bibliography is simplicity itself. Scrapbook comes with an excellent and detailed user manual.

To install this extension you only need Mozilla Firefox. Visit the Addons page, install it, restart your browser and you are done. You can also find more information and the detailed manual and tips in the developer page.

example of Google NotesGoogle Notebook makes web research of all kinds easier and more efficient by enabling you to clip and gather information even while you're browsing the web. Google Notebook lives in your browser, you won't be left with a scattered collection of notes, Word docs, and browser bookmarks to sort through; all your web findings will be gathering into one organized, easy accessible location that you can access from any computer. You can organize your notes in sections; all the linked materials are saved the server together with links to the original websites you used to take your notes. Notes can be shared or private; this makes the Google Notebook a good collaboration tool.

To access the full potential of Google Notebook, it's better to install a small extension for Firefox that adds two features: a contextual menu to save selections, and a mini-notebook on the status bar. When you have installed this extension, you can add web clips to your Google Notebook in three easy steps: a) Select content from a web page; b)Right-click and c) Select "Note this (Google Notebook) You can open and close your mini Google Notebook by clicking the icon on your browser's status bar (bottom right-hand corner).

The Notebook can be integrated in your Google homepage by adding the Google Notebook gadget.

Monday, November 20, 2006

My personal GTD workflow

click the image to see a bigger version
This image (click it to see a bigger version) represents the practicalities of my normal organisation system. As you can see, I try to keep it as simple as possible. Otherwise, you must spent your time organising your organisation!

Both the digital and the paper-based sections are equally important for me, but I could skip either the digital or the paper compartments if necessary. If I only needed the digital tools, for example if most of my projects were done in the computer, I probably would need fewer printouts and I could even get rid of the paper organiser, except for the occasional to-do list and other kinds of reminder lists. Similarly, if I seldom used the computer, I would work it out only using the paper-based tools on the outside of the circle.

This method seems to work for me. Note I have put the ThinkingRock program as the centerpiece of the digital section, but you could use other GTD-centric applications as well, either alone or in combination. The list on the right side, GTD-relevant links, points to some of these solutions. But as I said, I prefer the leanest option available, and I prefer using a single program in a single instance (running from an USB drive.)

Feel free to download the bigger graphic and use it with a Creative Commons Licence.

Of course: I would like to hear your opinions. Is your system even simpler? Do you have some brilliant hack? What do you think?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Clear mind: the mind as water state

As a contribution to the Illustration Friday project, I created an image for the theme of the week, clear. A rather abstract concept which admits a great variety of treatments. My concept can be related with one of the central ideas in the GTD method: keeping a clear mind, a mind as water state, with all the worries related to the organisation of your tasks safely removed from your body “RAM” and put into an efficient and trusted external system.
This illustration is made up of some forms suggesting the open space and a head taken from my Capsbats series. This is a digital image made with vectorial shapes (although these heads were originally ink drawings, prior to scanning and tracing.)
If you wish to see a bigger version, just click the picture above or this link.
The bigger version, by the way, makes a beautiful wallpaper for your computer. Use the centered setting and choose a dark blue background color, and you should enjoy the picture while having neat space on the four sides to have your desktop icons arranged.

1000 Heads: the book

1000 heads, my illustration book

My artwork at Flickr

Inspiring books for the creative type

My GTD (Getting things done) illustrations

I conceived this blog basically to share my visual side notes of the Getting things done process. My most recent posts about GTD software and related topics have “masked” the original posts.

You can access most GTDrawings in the archive of december 2005 and january 2006.

Here's a miniature with most of my sketches: this is what you will find, commented and in larger sizes, in those previous posts.

See also the article about GTD drawings.

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