My Electronic WorkflowJul21

Saturday, 21 July 2012 by haemoglobin

After two years of being in London I have refined my electronic workflow to the point where it works so well I’ve been wanting to document it. It has a nature of having circles of information flowing seamlessly between different services, eventually settling in the right place for you to deal with at the right time and in the right place. It also works very well if you spend periods of time with no internet connectivity such as commuting underground or travelling.

The setup for me looks like this, devices on the outside with supporting apps, and cloud services down the middle:

Workflow

 

    A well managed information flow between devices of course requires all information to be stored in the cloud. All the boxes down the middle are places on the internet where my life in essence is stored, and can be accessed easily from any device or any internet cafe.

    These are:

  • Pocket (formerly known as Read it Later)

    • A brilliant service for saving internet articles to read later at a time that is more suitable. The really well made iPhone/iPad app will sync these articles for you to read offline anywhere and at anytime. If offline, it will remember your marking of read items so it will all sync up again when connected to the internet next.

    • Both Byline (RSS) and Echofon (Twitter) have Pocket integration so articles can be sent in from there to read later. Byline does a much better job at queuing links sent to Pocket when offline, Echofon on the other hand annoyingly requires you to be online which not as convenient, hence the dotted line. You can however send links to Pocket via email which will always work offline on the iPhone/iPad.

    • Most of my reading of long articles I wait till I see it inside of Pocket as opposed to reading directly from Twitter/RSS feeds for the simple fact that if it takes too long to read, I’m blocked from seeing any of the other twitter / rss action until I’m done.

  • Google Reader

    • Still the best RSS service around by far and great source of information. Byline is the app I have been using to process these for a while now and it does the job well. As mentioned above, Byline integrates with Pocket very well.

  • Twitter

    • Another great source of information in our industry. Echofon supports online integration to Pocket. 

  • Buffer

    • A service that I have started using for queuing up tweets and sending them to twitter at set times to avoid spamming followers with flurries of tweets all at once and have them more evened out. It is very sleek and allows you to have 10 items in your queue at anytime for free. Buffer accepts email as input which makes it very easy to integrate and send tweets from any application (and allowing tweets to be sent offline).

  • Gmail

    • The best webmail service out there. Syncs great with everything.

  • Toodledo

    • My main to-do list service now which I am very pleased with. I have written about my conversion to Toodledo in a previous post. The main importance in the workflow is the ability to send tasks to Toodledo through email. Most apps in iOS can send email which means you can send yourself to-do tasks from any application that has some information that you want to capture. This is a great way to get info off iOS and into PC land for “proper work” to be done on it. Emails also queue very nicely offline in iOS and all the emails will send out automatically as soon as you walk into a wifi/3G connection again.

    • The  Toodledo app will also sync 100% offline to your iOS device.

  • Evernote

    • A great place to keep your reference material / notes. Evernote does great apps across all devices.

  • Dropbox

    • A fantastic online file storage that most people are already using. Not normally too much part of information workflow, but it can be – for example a to-do list task or an Evernote entry may refer to a file in Dropbox which you can access from wherever you happen to be. 

Circles of Flow

As you can see in the diagram, a piece of information can come into the system, captured and shifted around until it settles to where it should be. For example, someone writes a blog post, it enters your system through Google Reader then shifts through Byline –> Pocket –> Buffer –> Twitter, and all of this can happen even if you are offline.

It’s the level of disconnection I think that is healthy, as opposed to always feeling the immediate need to stay on top of everything, as you know it’s in the system and you can read it later when time and priorities match.

It is also very easy to send myself to-do items to Toodledo via email (either from within various apps or directly) which then come into an inbox/processing bucket there. In true GTD style I then process this inbox weekly into the right area within Toodledo (i.e give it a due date / importance / context). This is another area though I have refined which is essentially a zoomed in part of my overall GTD workflow above, which I can definitely save for a future post.

Bonus: The drawing above was made with Lucidchart, I’m always on the lookout for cheap and easy Visio replacements, this has great integration into google drive and works well!

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Productivity Tip 5: Gmail to RSSJun2

Saturday, 2 June 2012 by haemoglobin

I’m always finding new ways to refine my day to day workflow, one of my recent wins was deciding to convert many email newsletter subscriptions into RSS feeds and out of my inbox.

This suits me brilliantly because:

  1. I like to practice inbox zero - I don’t like having newsletters piling up in my inbox that I intend to read at some point but don’t have time to read now.
  2. My main bulk of reading is done on my iPad in the London Underground where there is no internet connection, so I rely on everything to be synced either as RSS through the Byline app or as saved articles through Read It Later (now known as Pocket).

To solve the first point, for a while I started automatically tagging and archiving the email subscriptions in Gmail, and setup reminders to read the unread items (say in the weekend) – but this did not work at all since I do most of my reading in the London Underground during the week during my commute.

I had a search around the internet and found a couple of options. The first option I tried was using the Gmail feed URL itself (for example https://mail.google.com/mail/feed/atom/LabelName/) however, this has two problems – one it’s an authenticated feed which means Google Reader will not be able to access the feed unless you route it through a third party service such as http://freemyfeed.com/ which strips the authentication part off. This means handing over your username and password however which isn’t ideal. The other issue is the GMail feed is truncated, so your RSS reader will only be able to read the subject and a few starting lines which is no good.

I then found http://emails2rss.appspot.com/ – this free little gem lets you auto-forward your subscription emails to your account there, and they will turn these emails into an RSS feed that you can subscribe to. This has worked perfectly for me and my RSS reader has the full email synced for offline reading, and even in the case of HTML email it comes through correctly formatted – brilliant.

The instructions for setting this up with GMail is on their site here – you need to login to the service using your Gmail account which lets them know your email address so they can match the emails as they come in from you – but at least no handing over of passwords (as it uses Gmail’s login service). If you are extra paranoid about protecting your main email address, then nothing is stopping you from creating a second Gmail account used solely for email subscriptions that you forward all incoming through to the Email To Rss service. I ended up doing this since I had already created a second account when I was testing the first option with freemyfeed.

All up very happy with this, long live RSS – lets hope it never dies!

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Saying Toodledo to Remember the MilkMay20

Sunday, 20 May 2012 by haemoglobin

As you can probably tell from some of my blog posts, I have been using Remember the Milk (or RTM for short) to manage my to-do list tasks.

For many reasons that I am about to describe, I have stopped using Remember the Milk and have converted all of my tasks over to the popular and much better (in my opinion) Toodledo service instead.

Here are my reasons:

Remember the Milk Negatives: image_thumb[7]

    1. The reason I started looking into alternatives in the first place was due to the poor customer support and the seeming complete disregard RTM has for customer requests. My particular case was that I was in the process of writing a beautiful (and free) desktop client UI for managing RTM tasks in a clean way. I made a good start on this, and proceeded to send RTM a support email with a very simple question I needing answering about the API. I sent this a month ago now with still no reply to date. I followed up with a couple of very polite tweets to their twitter account a few days apart asking if they had received the message as this was a fairly urgent request for me…. I still have no response even to my tweets and I doubt that I ever will. I sent one more follow up email explaining my disappointment, doing the right thing by still allowing them more time for them to get back to me before I wrote anything publicly (still no response).

      What I find most disappointing by this is I am a long term paying (pro) customer, who are apparently entitled to priority support. One big frustration is that the twitter account is very active and actively sending tweets to people who casually mention @rememberthemilk (so they would have been received), but simply no answer to mine which were for actual questions I desperately needed answers to. I would have even been happy with a simple “we have received your email but the queue is currently long, give it a few more weeks sorry!” - but not even a peep which I find is disconcerting and just plain rude to be honest.
    2. There have also been very little updates to Remember the Milk for years, the common theme in the forums are people desperately asking for features such as subtasks, calendar pickers for dates, calendars views etc all of which seem to fall on deaf ears.
    3. Questionable ethic. An iPhone client Appigo Todo had their API access to RTM revoked without warning, affecting all of their users, here is what they said in the blog entry:
      Unfortunately for users of Todo, rather than contact us about the problem upfront, RTM chose to immediately disable the sync service available in Todo, Todo Lite, and Todo for iPad, causing immediate interruption to the service. We strongly feel that pulling the plug on users without warning is never the way to deal with a potential business relationship issue.

 

  • Toodledo Positives: image_thumb[5]
    1. Toodledo seem to listen to their users and make an effort to work on features that are important to people. Just have a look at this chart comparing the two services – Toodledo winning hands down with a whole lot of features that people have been asking about for years in remember the milk to no avail.
    2. The pro subscription is cheaper at $15 a year (compared to $25 for RTM). Toodledo’s pro subscription is also only really needed if you require the subtasks functionality and a few other bits. Likely you will be fine with a once off payment for the Toodledo iPhone app with no further charges and you will be set with a lot more features than RTM can ever provide.
      For RTM you really need the pro subscription because otherwise your mobile app will only be able to sync once every 24 hours, and you will not be able to receive any push notifications to your mobile for due tasks both of which come to be essential.
    3. The Toodledo API is much more open and free.
    4. With Toodledo extra features such as start date, status and context fields have simplified my workflow a lot. Things which were starting to become very complicated and troublesome to do in RTM became much cleaner to implement in Toodledo. It is a much more powerful platform, so to do the same thing in RTM you have to try and work around a lot of shortcomings. Subtasks can also potentially tidy things up quite a bit if you opt for a pro account.

Toodledo admittedly does have a slightly less friendly looking UI (based more on a functional grid), but as a power user it takes little time to learn and the benefits are well worth it. To be honest, the RTM interface isn’t perfect either, it’s not usable for a power user without the a bit better rtm 3rd party addon and I still found that the layout was buggy with the floating details panel often getting stuck in odd places.

I know who I will be making my UI for now instead Smile If you are a serious about maintaining those to-do lists and use them day in day out, I would definitely consider Toodledo over Remember the Milk and have been very pleased with it so far.

Hamish

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Windows Quick Launch for Remember the MilkDec16

Friday, 16 December 2011 by haemoglobin

Lately I am using Remember the Milk (RTM) more and more to keep track of all my tasks, and I am looking forward to writing a blog post about what I think is a great way of using it day to day – I will continue fine tuning the process first however.

For now I thought I would share how to set things up for rapid task entry. Remember the Milk has a nice stripped down entry page you can access to add tasks, the URL to this can be found here: http://www.rememberthemilk.com/services/ext/addtask.rtm

It would be nice though to have this appear as a small popup in the middle of your screen, launched through a keyboard shortcut such as CTL-ALT-T to pop the following window up:

RTM

I found the best way to do this is to make use of the Chrome Application feature as I talked about in my last post, associate a keyboard shortcut to it through the windows shortcut and optionally do some trickery to get the window size right.

Just follow the steps below:

  1. Browse to http://www.rememberthemilk.com/services/ext/addtask.rtm in Chrome and create a Chrome application shortcut by clicking on the wrench->Tools-"Create application shortcuts".
  2. On the next screen, choose where you want the shortcuts to be placed.
  3. Find a new shortcut created, right click->Properties, assign a keyboard shortcut such as CTL-ALT-T as in the screen shot below:

    RTMProp

And you are done.

Note that if on Vista, the keyboard shortcut key will not work if you set it on the quick launch bar shortcut.

Optional Window Size Adjustment

At the moment Chrome does not seem to remember window positions of chrome applications so I have opted to follow the approach of Eddie in his article here to size the window appropriately.

Essentially you are changing the –app part in your target field in the shortcut from:
C:\Users\HamishG\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe --app="http://www.rememberthemilk.com/services/ext/addtask.rtm"

To something like this:
C:\Users\HamishG\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe --app="C:\Users\HamishG\Desktop\Dropbox\RTMAdd.htm"

Where RTMAdd.htm is a file with the following contents - I have extended the javascript logic a bit however so the window will always centre on the screen no matter the resolution:
    <html> 
    <head> 
    <script language="JavaScript"> 
    var width=500;
    var height=300;
    window.resizeTo(width,height);
    window.moveTo((window.screen.width/2)-(width/2),(window.screen.height/2)-(height/2)); 
    window.location = "
http://www.rememberthemilk.com/services/ext/addtask.rtm";
    </script> 
    </head> 
    <body> 
    <h1>Please enable javascript.</h1> 
    </body> 
    </html>  

Hope this is useful,
Hamish

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Productivity Tip 4: Chrome Application ShortcutsNov27

Sunday, 27 November 2011 by haemoglobin

I generally use Firefox as my default web browser mainly because the plugins still seem to have much more polish, and it’s speed is catching up to Chrome after every release, however one useful thing Chrome has that doesn’t seem to exist in Firefox yet is the “Create application shortcuts” feature.

A web application, as opposed to a web site, is rich in client side functionality and keyboard shortcuts, much like a desktop application. Gmail is a good example of this, or your online to-do list application such as Remember the Milk. Since these are like desktop applications, they should really exist on your PC like any other application would with their own icon in the task bar, on your desktop and start menu etc.

You end up with something that resembles the following:

image

The 2nd and 3rd icons there on my desktop open a new stripped down chrome window with remember the milk and gmail inside, as opposed to a tab lost in amongst all the other web pages you happen to have open within your browser session. I know you can “pin as app tab” in both Firefox and Chrome but there is a benefit to be able to hit WindowsKey-3 wherever you happen to be on your PC to bring up your Gmail – or the ability to alt tab to it just like any other application.

The following steps create the application shortcut from Chrome:

  • Browse to the web application
  • Click the wrench icon in the top right
  • Choose Tools then “Create application shortcuts”

image

You then have the following options, choose what you wish:

image

And you are done. I’ve tried all sorts of hackery to get something similar going with Firefox (with shortcuts to firefox.exe and the url to load etc) but didn’t have much luck with the web application always grouping into the same Taskbar group icon in Windows 7 – even after trying to set the application id appropriately on the shortcut etc.

I am however quite happy that using Chrome I can have my favourite web applications fire open independently from my taskbar – and chrome being fast is also a good candidate for the job.

p.s I had a slight issue with the chrome applications not remembering the size of the window when I launched it next as it was always appearing in a strange location and a funny size. You may not need to do the same, but I fixed this by changing the properties on the shortcut to always open as Maximized.

image image

Cheers,
Hamish

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Productivity Tip 3: Mouseless Browsing and Password ManagementNov8

Tuesday, 8 November 2011 by haemoglobin

A couple of Firefox plugins that I have been playing with recently which I think are worth mentioning:

Mouseless Browsing

The more you get used to the keyboard, the more reaching for the mouse seems like a burden. Browsing the web tends to be quite a mouse happy activity, but there are times when you are in the keyboard “groove” and you don’t want to leave it. The mouseless browsing addin for Firefox (there are similar ones for Chrome) allows you to navigate the web just using the keyboard.

This Firefox plugin can be obtained from the following link https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/mouseless-browsing/

Once installed, you can configure a hotkey to display a special code beside each link on the page you are looking at, that you can type the id to navigate to that link.

An example screen shot of what I am talking about is as below:

image

After installing, I have modified the extension with the following settings. This is just my personal preference, the plugin itself is very customisable.

Display Ids only on demand

The webpage tends to look ugly when the ids are displayed so I prefer not to have these visible all the time:

image

Use standard characters instead of numeric

Like the mouse, I find the numeric keyboard too far away from where my hands are, so I’ve defined the ids to be standard alphabet characters instead:

image

Redefine Toggle visibility and Postfix keys

Since I don’t have the ids visible by default, I use Ctl-J to bring them up (only because of it’s natural touch typing finger position).

Turning off the numeric ids in the second step unfortunately means you can’t use modifiers anymore for opening in new tabs or windows. You can however have Postfix keys which I have setup to be the convenient keys J and N:

image

Example

Now when viewing a webpage I can use Ctl-J to bring up the ids which will all be standard letter combinations.

In the screenshot above of my site I would type ‘B’ to go to the archive section - I could also follow this by J or N if I want to open in a new tab or window respectively.

I don’t use this plugin all the time for browsing as sometimes I am just feeling mousy, but it is a handy alternative for sure !

Password Management – LastPass

As we all know, it isn’t recommended to have the same password for everything – but if you are going to have a new password for everything, how on earth do you remember them all? I have been using LastPass for a good year now and it has been great.

With LastPass, all you need to remember is the one master password, and then it will keep track of all the other passwords for you so you don’t have to remember them plus keeping them all different from each other.

When you sign up for a new website, last pass will suggest an auto generated password for you. It will then register your username and password for the site when you go to login so you don’t need to type these in for the next visit (you can specify that you always need to type your master password if you like before autocompleting the login). Their business model is a small amount per month to make use of their smart phone apps to access your passwords etc, otherwise it’s free!

The passwords are all stored on the server so you can access these anywhere you have an internet connection, but they are encrypted with your master password so no-one else including LastPass employees will be able to decipher your passwords, and all communication to LastPass is over SSL for security.

It really has streamlined my online experience - Recommend !

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Productivity Tip 2: Window and File ManagementOct16

Sunday, 16 October 2011 by haemoglobin

This is a continuation from my post Productivity Tip 1: Application Launch . When you start documenting it, it’s amazing how many little things you come to realise you are doing day to day, and it tends to end up looking quite convoluted. I will try to keep things from now on more simple!

Window Management

If you are using Windows 7 – please learn the great commands for shifting and positioning windows. (Note that whenever I use the word Win, I mean the windows key on the bottom left of your keyboard).

These are:

  • Win-Down: Minimise. 
  • Win-Left: Dock window to left half of your screen.
  • Win-Right: Dock window to right half of your screen.
  • Win-D: Minimise everything to show desktop.

If you have a second screen:

  • Shift-Win-Right: Move window to your right screen.
  • Shift-Win-Left: Move window to your left screen.

If you are not running Windows 7, you can have all the commands above plus more by installing Winsplit Revolution (note you can remap the default shortcuts to the windows 7 ones above so the transition when you upgrade will be smooth).

Just to iterate from my last post, getting your favourite apps up from pinned items in your task bar is done fastest using the Win-[# location in taskbar] shortcut. Keep pressing the number while holding the windows key to iterate through items that have grouped onto the same taskbar location. 

Alt Tab Replacement – VistaSwitcher

The Alt-Tab window switcher in Windows 7 is much better and have improved a lot since XP.

However, I am still preferring to use VistaSwitcher. The main benefit I get from using VistaSwticher is a larger window preview, and also being able to clean up and close my open windows directly from there.

To do this:

  • Alt-Tab
  • Up and down arrows to navigate
  • Press ‘s’ when over an item you want to close, to select it.
  • Press ‘x’ to close these items (note that the item you are currently over will also close)

If you have two screens, make sure that in the VistaSwitcher settings you choose a particular monitor for it to always display on for consistency, as by default it will show up on the monitor where the currently active application is sat and is just confusing.

File Management

QTTabBar

There is one major problem with windows and doing work that requires access to a multitude of folders across your machine.
You end up with something that looks like this:

image

This in my opinion is pretty hopeless for productivity.

Folders should be tabbed, just like your web browser is and any other application that opens multiple items.

Enter QTTabBar – this free open source explorer enhancement will insure that you will only ever have one explorer instance open and have lovely neat tabs for your open folders instead.

After installing, the first thing you should do is go to View->Toolbars and untick the space greedy QTTab Standard Buttons.

Now, right click the area beside the tabs to choose options:

Under “Window”:

  • Tick “Capture new Explorer processes”
  • Untick “Do not capture window as a new tab when opened from outside”

The options above will ensure you will only ever have the one explorer window no matter how you go about opening folders on your PC (the right click ‘Open folder in Windows Explorer’ option of Visual Studio for example).

Under “Tab

  • I like to have “Show tab switcher by Ctl+Tab” unticked.

Under “Shortcut Keys

  • Untick “Open current folder in new window”

The above keyboard mapping conflicts with Windows 7 create new folder shortcut.

You can now:

  • Ctl-Tab through tabs
  • Ctl-W to close tabs
  • Shift-Enter to open selected folder in a new tab

Also note the following handy Windows 7 explorer shortcuts:

  • Ctl-Shift-N – create new folder.
  • Alt-Up – navigate up one level.
  • F2 – rename (of course!)
  • Alt-D – puts the cursor in the address bar.

I then recommend pinning explorer to your taskbar for easy access using the Win-# shortcut mentioned above.

Alt-F4 Replacement with AutoHotKey

For hardcores only – I find Alt-F4 the most awkward keyboard combination for something that I need to do quite regularly (remember though that many windows respond to Esc for closing, especially modal type windows). This awkwardness of course must go.

I have instead mapped the very easy keyboard shortcut Win-Q to Alt-F4 using AutoHotKey.

Once installed, browse to the Startup folder in your start menu, right click and choose Open.

Create a text file in here with the extension .ahk and the following contents:

  • #q::   Send, !{F4}

Double click the file to start the script (this should also start when windows starts).

Other interesting lines I have in my AutoHotKey file:

  • #w::    Send, ^{F4}     (maps Win-W to Ctrl-F4 for apps that don’t follow the Ctl-W custom for closing tabs – not quite as cool as Win-Q however)
  • ^+4::Send,{ASC 0163}    (this types a ‘£’ symbol with the keyboard combination Ctl-Shift-4, useful if you are on a US keyboard).


This will do for now!
Hope this helps,
Hamish

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Productivity Tip 1: Application LaunchMar15

Tuesday, 15 March 2011 by haemoglobin

I have recently moved to London and squeezing every last second of time out of the day is more and more important as it is very busy here. I have been working on a new version of my workflow that is more suited to my lifestyle here (compared with back in NZ), which I hope to blog about soon (as a teaser though, I have moved from MyLifeOrganized to Remember the Milk).

Lately I have been learning techniques to approach common tasks very quickly – the keyboard generally being the fastest way to do this.

My plan is to blog about techniques I’m using that are very beneficial as a core part of my day. The productivity tips though will be biased to what I do however, .NET development on Microsoft Windows Vista / Windows 7 so may not be applicable to everyone – but there may be some more general tricks in there, such as this post.

Below I’ll talk about one of the most common things you do while working at your computer which is launching applications (and then switching between them in a follow up blog post). If you get fast at this you will save plenty of time.

Application Launch

There are a few different techniques to efficiently launch applications, each one serves a slightly different purpose and I tend to flip between them. You may also have a preference for one particular style over the other.

Windows Start Menuimage

Starting with the obvious one, the start menu in Vista/Win7 is a big improvement over what windows XP has:

  • Open it by hitting the windows key then:
    • Type straight away for the application you are looking for, or
    • Press the down arrow to navigate to an application (maybe one you have pinned to the top).
  • Hit enter and you are away.

Of course typing cmd in here is a great way to get to the command prompt quickly.

Vista Quick Launch / Windows 7 Taskbar

image

!cid_C566A07E38BE4017966F07C56890EF80@HamishPC

In Vista, add an application to your quick launch bar, or in Windows 7, pin an application to your taskbar (by right clicking the application shortcut and choosing the option).

You can now open these applications by using Windows-Key and then the Number corresponding to it’s position in the list.

For instance, in my setup above I can do a google search by doing the following:

  • Hit “windows key –> 1” which opens the chrome application above since it’s position is first. By default, Chrome puts the cursor into the url bar when it launches – Ctl-T may be needed to create a new tab first.
  • Type in the google search and hit enter.
  • Chrome then searches google by default.
  • The up and down arrow keys can then be used within the google search results.
  • Hit enter to open the result you want, or ctl-enter to open in a new tab.
  • Ctl-Page Down/Page Up to cycle between tabs.
  • Ctl-W to close tabs again.

This process would be similar in Firefox except you would first need to use Ctl-k to get the cursor initially into the search box.

Another application I have pinned to my Windows 7 taskbar is called Jumplist-Launcher. This is good for a sort of overflow of applications that you don’t want to all have pinned individually, but still want them available from the taskbar itself. If you want, the jumplist-launcher’s jumplist can be opened using the Alt-Win-Number shortcut (number being the position the jumplist laucher app is pinned on the taskbar).

You will find many more core windows keyboard shortcuts and tricks on my Windows Tricks page.

Launchy

image_thumb51_thumb

Launchy is a tool that I am starting to use more an more recently instead of the options above and can be fired open from anywhere using alt-space.
It’s very fast and brilliant for firing off any complex command that you might find yourself doing a lot during the day.

In it’s most basic form, it essentially does the same as the start menu. So if you only use it for opening applications it probably isn’t worth having something extra for.

However, it gets much more powerful than this very quickly through the use of it’s plugins.  The first plugin that is most useful is the Weby plugin.

Some useful default entries in the Weby plugin:

These don’t mean much on their own, but the %1 part is where the Launchy parameter gets fed in.

The way you use the Google Weby entry for example to do a google search you would:

  • Alt-enter to launch Launchy.
  • Type “google” (this can be reduced to just ‘g’ over time after this bubbles to the top of the results based on usage).
  • Hit tab, this puts Launchy into google parameter mode. (Note you can hit tab again to enter a second parameter which would be picked up by %2 if it appeared in the entries above).
  • Type in your Google search, hit enter.
  • Your default browser will fire up to Google with your search term entered. You can then navigate google using the keyboard as described before.

image_thumb5_thumb

The Dictionary entry lets you search the definition for a word using “d->tab->wordtolookup->enter”, as well as the Maps entry to fire up a location based on a postcode for example you have just copied from somewhere else “m->tab->placename/postcode->enter” . I also recommend WordWeb however which is a quick offline dictionary that can use the ctl-alt-w shortcut on any highlighted word.

You may want to then add some of your own Weby entries that take you straight to that website that you visit often, possibly using parameters also if you need. I have set this up to Google calendar, London transport (tfl), a link to the remember the milk task entry page (http://www.rememberthemilk.com/services/ext/addtask.rtm) and one to google translate that takes in the phrase to translate as the parameter, this is below for your interest:

Google translate in this case will automatically detect your source language and convert to english. Fastest way I think for a translation, “alt-space->translate->como esta->enter”.

The Runner plugin is another that I use which makes Launchy very powerful, and can be used to run arbitrary programs and scripts. It’s setup is similar to the Weby plugin, except you point to an executable (.exe, .bat) on your computer, and then specify the arguments.

I have the following setup:

  • Shortcuts to launch favourite folders by simply listing them in the runner app (anything you have in Runner will open in the default app, i.e explorer in this case).
  • Shortcuts to launch certain websites in IE (some require this!) by specifying iexplore.exe as the program, and the url of the website as the argument. Another option for this scenario though is to use the IETab firefox plugin or equivalent.
  • Shortcuts to development batch files to execute common tasks such as svn update / commit, database recreate. You can also put these batch files somewhere defined in the Launchy catalog, these are directories that are listed in Launchy to be indexed (you will need to add the *.cmd file type however).
    • If you use TortoiseSvn, you can fire open it’s UI for these tasks with a .cmd file containing the following script (commit below can be substituted by other tortoise Svn commands such as revert and update):
      • set path=%path%;C:\Program Files (x86)\Subversion\bin\tortoiseproc.exe /command:commit /path:"E:\svn\ProjectFolder\src"

Conclusion

In general, if you use an application a lot, find out what the keyboard shortcuts are for it, it will make your life easier. For example keyboard shotcuts for Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Reader or your favourite email client.

If you find yourself doing the same thing over and over and it just feels awkward every time you do it, take time out to find a better way as it will pay off quickly.

More productivity tips to come! Next up is application switching and window management. 

Categories:   Productivity
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