Highlights productivity

On the road, in the cloud

Picture yourself working on a bamboo table under the coconut trees on a beachfront in Bohol. Beside your laptop, imagine a scoop of Bohol Bee Farm avocado ice cream to refresh you as you finish a report due in three hours.

On this age of widespread mobile connectivity, this is increasingly becoming an option.

Many online freelancers, for example, make a living by working for clients from all over the world in fields ranging from design, writing, social media management and tech tasks from home or wherever they are, even on family vacations.

Increased productivity with remote work

Offices are also starting to allow remote work, with studies showing increased productivity in such a setup.

Highlights Journalism Newsroom tech productivity WebTech

New #30DayChallenge: Write in Markdown

I’ve always wanted to learn and start using Markdown in writing. For some time, it hovered near the top of my to-do list but I never got around to actually starting to use it.

I use a Markdown-capable online writing tool – Editorially – but I never used it for that. I used it purely to manage articles and to allow me to work on a post in multiple workstations.

When I write, I compose only in plain text. As soon as I’d finish the article, I’d go over the post again and manually code the HTML tags for blog or website publishing.

LifeHacks productivity Wiki

In the time of the cloud, paper notebooks


I love paper notebooks. I have several at a time: the reporters’ favorite Green Apple steno small enough to fit in your pocket, a pair of Moleskine plain cahier journals and OhYeah Moleskine knockoffs (see photo). When I’m in the bookstore, I never fail to stop by the notebooks section, often going there first. I go over the items one by one, the notebooks I checked just last week.

I panic when I don’t have one: notwithstanding the fact that my phone has Evernote and Simplenote, which are both connected to an online account and syncs to all my devices.

Highlights Internet productivity

Messenger, Viber, WhatsApp, Kik me, maybe

The headline screamed “install me now!” It was for yet another mobile messaging application and this time, one that promised, according to TechCrunch, “A Richer, Faster Messaging App That Quickly Grabs Doodles, Videos & Images.”

The article about MessageMe got me at: “It’s light, It’s fast and it isn’t just limited to texting or photos.”

I promptly opened the website and was invited to “experience the free messenger that everyone’s talking about.”

The app was quick to install and set up. After activating my account, it immediately scoured through my social networks to look for contacts already in the system. Of my 797 phone contacts, MessageMe was able to find only one who already signed up. One out of 797, imagine that. And that person signed up, I suspect, because he wrote about the service for a tech website. After a few days of checking whether other friends would sign up and seeing none, I uninstalled the app.

Open source productivity

Stop paying for (or pirating) Microsoft Office, get LibreOffice

LibreOffice released version 4.0 of its office productivity suite a few days ago and early reviews and feedback point to a solid release.

LibreOffice is the free and open source equivalent to Microsoft Office. Unlike Microsoft Office, which costs as much as P10,995 for a single license under the Home and Small Business edition, LibreOffice is free.

It is, as advocates are wont to say, free as in beer and free as in speech, meaning it costs nothing and does not come with license restrictions.

The LibreOffice suite of applications includes Writer (for word processing, the equivalent of Word), Impress (for presentations, think PowerPoint), Calc (a spreadsheet program similar to Excel), Math (a program for dealing with mathematical formulas and causing nose bleed), Draw (a drawing and diagramming tool similar to Visio), and Base (a database program similar to Microsoft Access).

Highlights Mobile productivity

To do: Install to-do apps on phone

(I wrote this for an article on digital to-do lists for the Sun.Star Cebu Weekend)

I arrived home to the ding of my phone reminding me to run 5K and finish writing this article on to-do lists and a blog post on Inbox Zero.

My phone flashed the reminders because it detected, through global positioning system (GPS), that I was home.

Beyond calling, today’s phones have become our main computer. For many people, it already is the main device to read or send e-mails. Increasingly, it is how people access social networks like Facebook.

If there’s one task phones are really good at, it’s keeping to-do lists. Even before smartphones, people were already keeping to-do lists via the SMS editor, alarm system, calendar feature or the rudimentary notes facility built into some phones to keep track of tasks.

CHECKMARK. The app, which is available only on the iPhone, allows you to set location-based reminders. The images above, taken at various times, show notifications flashed by the app.
CHECKMARK. The app, which is available only on the iPhone, allows you to set location-based reminders. The images above, taken at various times, show notifications flashed by the app.

Productivity apps are a dime an unli-SMS bucket today and you’d have a hard, albeit fun, time figuring out which app works best for you.

What makes the task of choosing an app even harder is the tight competition for features and users, with developers releasing updates every few months or so in a frenzied apps race where users, millions of users, are the top prize.

Highlights LifeHacks productivity

Inbox zero

IT took two long weekends but I finally got to inbox zero and that state of bliss you find yourself in after having processed all pending e-mails and seeing an empty inbox.

Like many people, I felt that I’ve lost control of my e-mail. My inbox was full of messages that needed to be replied to or dealt with. Instead of immediately acting on an e-mail by sending a short reply, I’d put off sending a response until I had the time to send a fuller e-mail. My e-mail even served as a digital filing cabinet for documents, contact details and event invitations. And that was how the messages piled up.

It was Sisyphean. I’d clear a few messages only to get so much more and by the end of each day, my inbox kept growing.

Heading to the two long weekends last month, I decided to revisit the Inbox Zero philosophy of dealing with e-mails. It was started by writer Merlin Mann of 43Folders, a blog “about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.” Mann, in turn, said he got inspiration from the getting things done philosophy espoused by David Allen.

The best resource on the topic is a video of Mann during a Google Tech Talk last July 23, 2007. That video can be accessed at the Inbox Zero website.

productivity Social networking WebTech

Encourage hacker culture

Facebook kicked off its historic initial public offering by holding another of the company’s fabled hackathons, which are all-night events that gather the social networking giant’s employees to work on products outside their office assignments.

Hackathon 31 was held on the eve of Facebook’s IPO and was a strong statement that even as it stands to raise billions, the company was still rooted in its “hacker culture.”

The word “hacker” has been sullied by years of use in media to refer to people who break into computer systems. The word originally meant a person who does clever tweaking of a system to improve its performance. “Hacking is ‘playful cleverness,’” said Richard Stallman, one of the world’s original hackers.


Google Drive

Talks are rife that Google will announce its long-awaited Google Drive this week. According to unconfirmed reports that came out in several blogs and technology news websites in the past weeks, Google Drive will offer users five gigabytes of free storage space.

Several tech sites also published screengrabs of a possible Mac application and the download page for the Windows application for the service.

And as with any online drive or cloud storage service worth its space, Google Drive will offer synchronization across devices and folders.

Highlights productivity

Google releases news reading app Currents

LAST week, Google finally released for Android devices, iPad and iPhone its long-awaited mobile news reading application Google Currents.

The application, however, is still only available for devices in the US. The decision to allow only US users to test the application has sparked criticisms in some website comments sections. While previous Google products came out first as invitation-only beta programs, they offered everyone the same chances of getting into the testing pool.

Android users outside the US, however, can still install the application by downloading the installer from other sources. I got mine from the XDA Developers forum.

My first impression of the app was that it was visually appealing in that less-is-more kind of way that has become the trend nowadays. There has been a general movement toward simpler design in interfaces and Google Currents reflects that. It was also much more functional and easier to manage than some of the RSS and mobile readers that I am currently using.