The intersection of technology, research, financial aid and student access in higher education

Filtering by Category: Technology

Tossing out the legal pad and sticky notes with Drafts for iOS

Added on by Scott Cline.

Things come at me from many different directions. It might be the phone call from the boss, a direct, a student or a parent. It might be while I am in my office, in a meeting or walking down the hall. It might also be an idea that I have while walking the dog in the evening, eating lunch or even at 2 AM.

Many people have written about the idea of "universal capture" devices. Many people use an always handy notebook and a compact pen where ever they go in order to write these ideas, thoughts and to-dos down. They then sort these ideas into the appropriate directions.

I have used a few different "universal capture" from a yellow legal pad to Field Notes Notebooks and a Fisher Space Pen to a sticky notes next to the phone. But thanks to some suggestions from much smarter people then me, I have been using for a while the iOS app Drafts.

Drafts in its basic form is a simple text app for both the iPhone and the iPad. Every time you open the app, it opens to a blank text field with the curser ready to go. Since my iPhone is nearly always with me and the app opens ready to take text, the barrier to entry is the same or less then a pen and pad.

The best part of Drafts is what it can do with the text after you have captured it. Drafts allow you to program certain actions to do with the text. Some of the basics is it can email the text, add the text to a file in either Dropbox or Evernote, or send it to another iOS app. Here is my action menu items.

Many of the things I capture end up being to-do items and I use OmniFocus to capture, track and do those items. Since I use OmniFocus on the Mac, iPhone and iPad and I sync all of these through the OmniGroup sync service, I also have a dedicated email address. When that email address receives the email, it adds it to my OmniFocus inbox. Next time I launch the application, the item is in the inbox and ready to go. This is what the setup looks like for me to email text directly to OmniFocus.

I also use Drafts for meeting notes. We have a standing 30 minute staff meeting each week and want to keep the notes from the meeting for later reference. I created one large (markdown) text file saved in Dropbox and I created an action in Drafts to pre-pend my latest meeting notes after I am done with the meeting to the (markdown) text file. Here is Drafts on the iPad with my meeting templete and action items.

If you are/were like me, I used to hand write notes from meetings and tasks that need to be completed. The problem was some of those meeting notes would never make it out of my yellow legal pad and sometimes those tasks would be lost for ever. Now, by using Drafts, I am able to quickly get this information in and sent in the correct direct for later action or reference. The most useful aspect of Drafts is that it allows me to get information out of my head and I no longer have to worry about remembering it.

Finally, here are some other great resources and reference:

Federic Vatechie on Mac Stories

David Sparks on MacSparky

Great Tips on Tweeting and Conferences

Added on by Scott Cline.

Brian Croxall over at the Chronicle’s ProfHacker blog wrote an article on tips for Tweeting at conferences. Since I have a love for TextExpander (both on Mac OS and iOS) he had a really good tip to speed up the process:[1]

Use text expansion. By this point, you’ll notice that I’ve told you several things should be in each tweet: a conference hashtag, a session hashtag, and a username for the person speaking. You can save yourself a lot of time in tweeting if you make use of text expansion. When a person starts speaking, I create a snippet that looks like this “.@stewartvarner: X #mla14 #s402” and assign it the keyword “twt”. Then, I can simply type twt in my Twitter client and the speaker and hashtags are created automatically.

  1. Also probably speeds up the process of annoying most of the people who follow me.  ↩

Technology has arrived when you no longer think about it

Added on by Scott Cline.

Conferences and iPhone batteries have traditionally not been the best of friends for me. I have owned the iPhone 3GS, 4S and now the 5s. While at conferences, I am usually checking/posting to Twitter, (i)messaging, emailing, looking things up, and using Maps/OpenTable/Yelp to find the best dinner place. The 3GS and the 4S would barely make it mid- to late-afternoon before they were dead.

The solution was usually to hunt for power throughout the day, sneak back to the hotel room to charge up (and catch up with the office) during an afternoon session, or pack an extra battery case.

I picked up the iPhone 5s when it was released back in September and have used it during three different conferences.[1] It has gotten me through the entire day. This despite the three conferences in cities, New York, Las Vegas, and San Francisco, that might have some of the worse cell coverage in the United States.

Running from the 7:00 AM breakfasts to the 1:00 AM last call, often I would be plugging it in with only a few percent of battery left, but I never got that sweat of imminent phone death. The whole time at all three conferences I remained on cellular data because wifi is always so bad at conferences.[2]

Certainly, the camera is great, the speed of LTE is wonderful, and the weight is nothing, but to me, my nearly four months with the iPhone 5s is its ability to get through a full conference day (and night). This is technology getting out of your way to just do what you need to do.

  1. I know three conferences between late September and now is a bit much.  ↩

  2. There are difficult problems in this world, but why is it so hard to have good wifi in large public places with many, many people?  ↩

Papers 3 - A Change in File Structure

Added on by Scott Cline.

Aleh Cherp on trying out the Papers 3 beta:

All documents are stored together with meta-information in a bundle not accessible to other software.

Aleh did receive some clairifiaction from the developer:

If the Dropbox synchronization is not switched on there is still a possibility to control naming and storage of files, much like in Papers 2. However, the files are still kept in a bundle not accessible to Spotlight. The support staff says that Spotlight index will be added in future versions.

I am with Aleh Cherp over at Academic Workflows on Mac. I would really like to have both Dropbox sync and easily accessable/readable file structures for my PDFs in my reference software.

I know sync is not easy, but I am really looking for a great reference, storage and cite software that works across Mac OS, iOS and even windows seamlessly.[1] I have used Zotero as well for a long time, but it support on iOS is still painful and not user friendly.

  1. Ok, if you just do the first two great, you do not have to worry about windows.  ↩

Why as hard as we try, we still use Word in Academia

Added on by Scott Cline.

Macademic Blog:

In the past [we] wrote about misuses of and alternatives to Microsoft Word. But we also believe sometimes Word is the best tool for the job.

While I would disagree with Word ever being the "best" tool, I do still concede that there are not always universally known tools to replace Word in academic writing. But we are getting there. In the mean time, Macademic points to some great resources for having to deal with Word.