4 productivity tools that you should consider using

This is a post in which I try to convey my excitement over Dropbox, Evernote, OneNote and Pocket. That list is not only alphabetical, but also happens to be the chronological order in which I began to use these useful tools. Below, I’ll simply relate how I’m using them.

Dropbox – “Simplify your life”

Image representing Dropbox as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

From Wikipedia: Dropbox is a file hosting service that offers cloud storage, file synchronization and client software.

I joined Dropbox months after I was first invited to use it. I just didn’t think I needed it. And while I’m still not a heavy user, it is a great tool to have on hand when I need it.

Before, when I needed to access files while at different physical locations or on different computers, I’d use my trusty USB thumb drive. Other than not having one when you need  it, the thing that bothers me most about thumb drives is the whole process of using them: plug in (wait a few seconds) – transfer files – eject (wait a few seconds) – repeat.

When I got my current computer I had to transfer files between three computers (one old and temperamental, another that I used as a temporary replacement and the new one). The file transfer process was much simplified by using the Dropbox uploader.

Dropbox’s best feature (for me) is that you can link to any file in it. This is handy for sharing files with others, but there’s more! Here on WordPress.com, one needs a space upgrade to be able to upload audio files, for example. I can upload a file to Dropbox and embed it here, all for free!

Audio clip from “190 – Original ” by taboca.

Microsoft’s SkyDrive and Google’s Drive offer similar online file storage services.  But since only Dropbox was there when I really needed it (close to 18 months ago), it will always have a special place in my heart 🙂

Evernote – “Remember everything”

Image representing Evernote as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

From Wikipedia: Evernote is a suite of software and services designed for notetaking and archiving.

Evernote came pre-installed on my current computer, but it was two months before I opened it. In the first few months I didn’t use it much, but now I use it every single day.

Before, when I came across something interesting on the internet, I’d save the page as a PDF or as a TXT file. For the short while it existed, I used Google Notebook for clipping information on the web. Now I use Evernote, whether to clip an entire page or blog article or just a sentence or two.

Evernote has also simplified my blogging life. For example, a while back I did a series of Advent hymns. To select titles, I sat down with the hymnal at church and made a list of approximately 10 candidates using the Evernote app on my phone. That information was then available on my computer once I synced my account. In the past, I’d have had to write the titles on paper—with the inherent risks of losing the list or forgetting that I had made it.

The feature that has of late excited me is the ability to attach files of any kind within an Evernote note. I’m one of a team of Bible study leaders at church, and when it’s my turn I like to go over the passage repeatedly during the preceding week. Using the Evernote browser extension, I clip the text of the Bible passage and then attach an audio recording to the passage. Voilà! When I have a couple of free minutes, I can listen to and read the Bible passage simultaneously! This could also be useful when memorising Scripture.


OneNote logo
OneNote logo

From Wikipedia: Microsoft OneNote is a computer program for free-form information gathering and multi-user collaboration.

I started using OneNote at the same time I started with Evernote. They have overlapping functionality as well as distinctions, and not being able to decide on only one, I use them both 😀

While I use Evernote mostly for works-in-progress, OneNote is more for archival storage. The process goes something like this: Clip to Evernote – blog it – send to OneNote. One reason is that Evernote’s browser extensions make clipping really easy. Another reason is that OneNote is tied to SkyDrive, where I have 25GB of storage space.  (I don’t know what the limit of my Evernote account is, which probably means it’s generous.)

A feature I really love is that contents of a OneNote page do not have to be linear, which is perfect for placing panels side-by-side. For this reason, I use OneNote to gather all my notes when preparing to lead Bible study, as in the image below:

Side-by-side notes in OneNote
Side-by-side panels in OneNote

Pocket (formerly Read It Later)

pocket logoPocket’s former name is self-explanatory. I guess they changed it when they realised that people were saving videos and other stuff you don’t read.

Before, when I found an interesting item on the internet that I didn’t have time to read/watch right at that moment I’d (a) bookmark it, and prove the adage “out of sight, out of mind” to be true, (b) save it to Evernote, or (c) leave the browser tab open (sometimes for days). Now I save it to Pocket (I especially love that the Google Chrome extension has a keyboard shortcut–nerd delight!).

One of Pocket’s really thoughtful features is that it remembers your reading position between sessions, saving users  from scrolling down to find where they’d left off. And if that’s not enough, this also works between devices—I can start reading something on my phone and pick up at the following paragraph on the computer without any hassle at all.

I surprised myself in that I actually do get round to reading/viewing the stuff I save to Pocket, mostly just before falling asleep at night. I’ve had Pocket for about a month now, so maybe the novelty will have worn off six months from now. Or maybe not.

But I don’t want to keep track of yet another account and password!

I totally understand. That’s the same reason I held off using all of these tools. Except for OneNote, I had to create new accounts with each of these services. If you’re tired of juggling multiples logins, you may want to try LastPass (I haven’t used it). Or you may want to try the tips in this article.

For me, the extra accounts have been worth it. Your mileage, as always, may vary.