Transparency

Transparency

Something that I really enjoy is configuring my devices to be as transparent as possible. A good tool is one that you don’t have to think about using – you just use it. It should fade into the background of your day and let you frictionlessly get things done. For me, the device of choice … Read more

Something that I really enjoy is configuring my devices to be as transparent as possible. A good tool is one that you don’t have to think about using – you just use it. It should fade into the background of your day and let you frictionlessly get things done.

For me, the device of choice is my iPhone. However, aside from actually using my iPhone, I tend to tinker with it. I like to move apps around, much to my girlfriend’s dismay, and frequently change folder names / sorting methods for my home screen. I don’t think I’ve gone more than a couple days without something changing.

Unfortunately, this habit of mine directly contradicts what I want my iPhone to be – transparent. If I’m constantly shuffling apps around and changing things, my mind doesn’t have time to build any sort of time saving habits. Instead of just knowing that Mail is on the bottom right of the first screen, I have to scan for the blue and white envelope every time I switch its location.

At the start of this month, I said enough and started an experiment. Many, many apps were deleted and everything was rearranged one last time. This is now my current homescreen:

app homescreen

That’s it. I have my three most used apps on the Dock, and the next seven most used in the folder; sorted alphabetically. It was hard to get use to, but now I swear by it. I don’t have to think, and my screen gives way for whatever beautiful photo I have as the wallpaper (which does still change from time to time).

There’s a saying that goes “a Japanese garden is finished when there is nothing left to remove.” There is beauty to this system, and the results of this experiment have been astoundingly beneficial to my productivity and sense of peace in general.

When there’s nothing left to tinker with, you tend to stop tinkering.

Instapaper

Instapaper

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instapaper

We’ve all been there. You’re being productive on your laptop when all of the sudden you click a link one of your friends sent you. One link becomes two links and before you know it, today has become tomorrow and you still have a paper to write.

The problem exists not because you can’t focus, but because you are worried that if you don’t go check out that link right now you will forget about it and may never see it again. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a way to save that article, video or picture for a later time when you aren’t working? Well, turns out there is and it is called Instapaper.

Instapaper is an online service I have been using for a very, very long time. Marco Arment, founder and single developer of Instapaper, describes his service as “A simple tool to save web pages for reading later,” and it does just that. See an article you want to read, but don’t have the time? Just click on the “Read Later” bookmarklet (bookmarklet. n. a small bookmark that performs an action on the current webpage, rather than directing you to a new one.), and watch a small box appear that reads “Saved!” Your article is now saved in the unread section of Instapaper’s website. You aren’t limited to just articles however, Instapaper can save any link you throw at it, be it video, image or text.

Now, being able to deflect possible distractions while working online is a blessing in and of itself, but where Instapaper really shines is in it’s mobile app. Officially available for the iPhone, Instapaper’s mobile offering allows you to use either your iPhone or iPad to read your saved articles on the go. However, instead of just serving up the normal webpage that you saved, Instapaper parses through the article for just the text. This means that when you load up an article in the Instapaper app, you won’t have to wait for ads or the whole webpage to load, instead, you will be greeted with just the text. This makes for a great reading experience.

instapaper comparison

The app costs $4.99 and is a universal application which means it has been designed with both the iPad and iPhone in mind and a specialized user interface for each. You might be put off by the higher price, but this is only if you want to take your articles with you on your device. The basic services of Instapaper, the bookmarklet and the website, are all free for you to use.

So go now and check out Instapaper and set up an account. The next time you see an article or link you want to follow, save it for later instead of checking it out now. Once you finish with whatever you had to do, just head on over to the Instapaper website and all your cool links will be there waiting for you.

Loved by hundreds of thousands of users, Instapaper has changed the way I work for the better and made me more productive. I highly encourage to give it a try and check it out.

Instapaper website
Instapaper on the App Store

Dropbox

Dropbox

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How many times have you been using a computer that isn’t yours and wishing that you could have access to all of your files? This seems to be a common complaint amongst many of the students I have worked with on projects, papers, etc. What if all those files could be accessed anywhere, even if you didn’t have a flash drive or your computer?

dropbox

Enter Dropbox. Dropbox is a tiny application that you install on your computer. When you install it, you are given a single folder aptly named your “Dropbox.” Whatever you put inside that folder will be automatically synced to your online account at dropbox.com and will be able to be downloaded and accessed anywhere there is Internet. However, the real benefit of Dropbox comes when you put most of your files in that one folder. Then, you suddenly have access to every single paper, presentation or photo that you want from any computer.

For me, I dragged my entire documents folder into the new Dropbox one after I installed the app. Since then, having all my documents available anywhere has saved my grade many times over.

The elegance of Dropbox lies in how it handles the syncing between web and computer. Whenever you save a file, Dropbox will immediately sync that version you just saved. However, it will also keep a list of previous revisions you have made to that particular file over time. Mess up your paper and want to go back to the original version? No problem. Log into dropbox.com and restore a previous version.

In short, Dropbox is like having a flash drive with all your files everywhere you go. They even have mobile apps so that you can access your files on-the-go.

Of all the neat uses I’ve found for Dropbox over the years, the most recent one was having a quick and painless way to transfer photos from my iPhone to my computer. Before, I had to email the pictures, one at a time, and then go and download them onto my desktop. Now, I just launch the Dropbox app on my phone and upload the pictures there. Within seconds, the photos appear in my Dropbox folder on my computer.

I highly encourage you to check out Dropbox; the first time you use it to download that presentation you forgot to bring with you will prove how useful and efficient it really is. Check out this link here for an extra 250MB tacked on to the 2GB free plan. Happy syncing!

Dropbox Signup