My Life In Four Programs
So, the calendars come next week and I’m in the middle of one comics project and starting to report another. In the meantime, I thought I’d share my current bliss: programs for Macs that help me make sense of life. Have a PC? Sorry, don’t care.
I don’t know about you, but I’m only as good as I am organized. Give me a free chunk of time and I’m aimless. If you’re like me, and you certainly might not be, you’re always looking for programs that make it easy to process your life as it happens and remember what you’re supposed to. Except for the one that you probably recognize, these cost money, and I thought I’d try and make the case for each so you can decide if it would plug an organizational hole in your life.
First up, Bento, comes to me via Professional Practices teacher and ultimate beard-master Alec Longstreth. This program is a super spreadsheet/database utility that is really intuitive to use. Ever worked on an project in Excel and realized that what you’re doing is just too complicated to work in one spreadsheet? Databases are the answer, but usually they are ridiculously hard to use and enter data into. In Bento, you can easily build a form for whatever you want (mailing list, ongoing creative project, complicated multi-step process, etc.) and then make it legible in one spreadsheet that shows whatever you want. I really doubt I could have kept track of the Beef Steak calendar so well without it. This one is new to me, and I’m using it for EVERYTHING.
Yojimbo I’ve had for a while now, but it still might be the hardest thing to describe. Besides being an awesome movie, Yojimbo is a program that collects all the ephemera and miscellany that you want to save. Memorable image? Recipe? Quotation? Forget folders somewhere on your computer. Yojimbo has it all in one place, searchable, browsable: tagged and bagged. My favorite use for it now is when I get a receipt or plane ticket I’m supposed to “print out” I go to file>print>PDF>Save PDF to Yojimbo. Always asking, “where did I write that down?” This is perfect for that.
Innocuos name aside, Things is way more than I ever expected a To Do program could be. It’s hard to tell from this screenshot, but you can easily organize a general list of tasks into “today,” “next,” “scheduled,” “someday,” and “projects.” This means Things can scale your most basic tasks into fantastically complicated projects in a matter of minutes. At 50$, this is expensive, but it’s probably the smartest of these four programs. It’s soooo satisfying to check off items and have them logged automatically at midnight.
Yeah, iCal comes standard on every Mac. But unlike Mail and Address Book, which are both pretty much rendered obsolete for me by Gmail, iCal remains really strong interface-wise. I find Google Calendar more difficult to use, though I think it probably works better for collaborative projects. Did you know it’s really easy to subscribe to other calendars, like U.S. holidays or indie comics conventions? I have a preference for iCal because I’ve been using it for so long, but it really excels at working with my other organizing programs (Bento especially) and is automatically synced with my ipod touch (and bluetooth phones sync really easy too). These programs all have apps actually, but I haven’t gotten there yet.
So yeah, sometimes I wish a single program did everything. Still, it’s not hard to remember what does what. On a comics project I might organize it in Bento, make notes on research in Yojimbo, schedule reporting in iCal, and make sure I do everything in Things. Each handles a unique function, and I bet you’d like at least one of them too. None of them paid me to write this, and they all have free trials if you’re curious.
That’s all I got this week.
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