Thursday, May 10, 2018

Paperpile has changed my life.

Paperpile has changed my life. For the better!

You know all of those promises about the paperless world changing our lives that only frustrated us and made us become jaded about such a utopia?

The promise Paperpile makes is for real.

This year, I have been accepted into a masters by research program and I needed to look for a solution for the technical bibliography and the inevitable flood of papers that my fantastic supervisors would send my way.

I struggle to be organised. I am organised but it takes effort. The idea of trying to keep several balls in the air, including being across the details of all my research was starting to give me the heeby jeebies.

My previous research efforts involved a combination of Google Docs, MS Word, LibreOffice, Zotero and/or Mendeley. I used Google Docs to do the bulk of the grunt work, and then tried to use various add on's to get the bibliography from Zotero or Mendeley into the document but I had to faff about with MS Word or LibreOffice to manage. I constantly felt discombobulated.

I was certain that I was not the only person who wondered if there was a way to do your citation work inside of Google Docs. And sure enough, after doing some preparation prior to my masters application being accepted, I discovered PaperPile.

PaperPile (for about $3 AUD a month) lives inside of Google Docs. That's it. It all lives inside of Google Docs. No more lost documents, broken computers, hard drive failures, it lives all inside the cloud.

During the free trial period, I started by effortlessly importing my bibliography from Mendeley into PaperPile. Push of a button stuff. And not one formatting error.

Once done, I start writing. When I need to cite, I place the cursor at the correct place in the document and hit the PaperPile icon that appears in the Google Docs ribbon. An unobtrusive search box opens at that point and I start typing. It interrogates my bibliography first. I hit another button and I get some simple formatting options if necessary, otherwise it is that "push button" thing happening again.

The exciting part for me (well there are two, the second of course being it is all online, I am not tied to any particular device) is that if you find articles anywhere, you can add them to your bibliography easily or you can actually use the initial search box to find a/the relevant document you need to cite and with, yes you guessed it, another simple push of the button, add that new document or book to your bibliography.

Like I said, it is about $3 AUD a month, but I would have paid much more than that for the peace of mind I have around this new research project (please don't read that PaperPile! $3 AUD is steep for a student!).

Check it out, see what you reckon.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

New Gmail

It's been a while between posts. I have been teaching an intensive.

The big news since the last time I have posted is of course the new GMail. There is a bunch of great articles about the features on other sites. There are three things I would like to focus on insofar as the new features are concerned from a productivity point of view.

The first is the snooze function.
Snooze IS AMAZING! You can quickly move through your email inbox and snooze messages that you don't want or have to deal with. This has the effect of being able to use your GMail inbox as a task list. This functionality has been available in Google's Inbox for a long time now, but the difference between this recent GMail change and Inbox is that instead of having to change the way in which you manage your workflow based on how the designers of Inbox think you need to work, you can take this one feature of Inbox and implement it in your GMail based workflow.

The second thing I want to mention is the closer integration between Google Tasks and GMail. Previously you have been able to convert your emails into Calendar appointments but now, you can convert emails into tasks and Google have released a new Tasks app.

Seriously, this app has been a long time coming. It is simple, clean and has a small memory footprint. It is a great front end to the Google Tasks that has existed since they first implemented tasks. Being the productivity geek that I am, I was onto it right away. However, in spite of how this could totally simplify my life, the current implementation lacks tags and/or filters. My workflow heavily influenced by GTD requires that my to do system gives me the ability to see all my tasks but then whittle my list down according to (multiple) contexts. So I have installed the app on my Pixel 2 and Pixelbook and will keep an eye on it each update seeing if the powers that be add this feature some time in the future.

The third thing I want to note is Offline Gmail. Most people are unaware that if you use Chrome, there is actually the ability for you to use Gmail Offline. It has been around for years now however the interface is very 2000's. Buried in the copious detail regarding the new GMail was reference to the fact that in a few weeks after the launch, all of the new goodies will be available in an offline version. Now that is something I am pretty excited about. I will keep you posted on that front.

Google News Redux