Posts Tagged ‘paperless’

Going paperless and getting organized – Part 2

May 10, 2013


It’s been over 4 years since I last posted on this topic, and I am ready to offer an update.

I made the complete switch to Apple products, so our house now has an iMac, Macbook, iPad, Apple TV, and iPhone. There are trade-offs involved, but for me the benefits (one relatively functional system that combines software and hardware) outweigh the costs (moderately expensive, plus I have all my computer eggs in one corporate basket).

I would not have done this were it not for one cloud-based application that is not dependent on Apple: Evernote.

I have been using Evernote for five years, and now it contains all my personal and other information, organized in about 65 notebooks (as of today I have 6495 notes). Each note contains either a single piece of data (e.g., a product on Amazon I am considering buying), or a whole category of data (e.g., all of my contacts with my dentists). A note can be written by me, clipped from the web, a photo, a video, a sound file, an attachment, an email, or any combination.

Evernote works just as well if you use one notebook, or 200. How you organize is entirely up to you. I have my notebooks arranged under main categories, such as Health, Food, People, My Stuff. Under My Stuff, for example, I have notebooks for House, Bicycles, Yard, Computer Hardware, etc. Under Food I have separate notebooks for Wine, Recipes, Cooking Tips, In-state Restaurants, etc.

When you do a search, all notebooks are searched, or you can specify one. You can put multiple “tags” on each notebook and organize/search that way.

Now, if I need information (e.g., a history of an insurance claim), it is super easy to find, and almost effortless to update. What is even better, and essential, is I can access this data instantly on all my devices, or any mainstream device connected to the internet.

This is really my dream system, one I have been hoping would emerge in my lifetime, but never really expecting it to.

With Evernote, I have essentially gone paperless. On my always-present iPhone, I use an application called Drafts to assemble or compose notes, etc., then hit a button to instantly transfer the note to Evernote. Just as often, I email a note (or forward an email) to Evernote. As a Premium Evernote user ($45 per year), I can search any attached document, whether it is a .doc file, a .pdf, or something else (like a photo). The free Evernote program is powerful, too. You can switch back and forth from free to premium with no obligation or penalty.

I use other programs to store and access a variety of information I want to keep, such as Vimeo for videos I create, Flickr and Snapfish for photos, Yahoo for email (also Gmail).

I do keep backup data on hard drives, and Evernote allows me to keep its data (my data) on my devices, so it is available whether or not I have an internet connection.

The main problem going forward is I am increasingly dependent on a corporation (Evernote) and its continued availability and functionality. So far, despite a few problems along the way, it has been dependable, and its future seem assured.

Going paperless (and getting organized)

September 21, 2008

I have not posted for a while for a variety of reasons, one of which is I am getting organized (again!). I used to keep all my personal information (contacts, calendar, important records) in a paper address book and wasted much time and energy every year transferring it all by hand to a new pocket-sized booklet.  Then, around 1998, I lost my address book in an airport, and had to start all over, from scratch. That is when I bought my first electronic organizer, a Casio.   In 2001 I bought my first Palm Pilot PDA, and have gradually put everything in it: addresses, calendar, bank data, travel info, medical info, recipes, random notes, etc.  Over the next 7 years I bought several new Palms and finally a Treo (Palm) mobile phone which nicely contained everything I needed; truly a second brain.  But the Palm platform is getting old and its future not looking good, so (after much research and agonizing) I switched to a Blackberry.  Anyone who has read this far is probably something of a technophile (like me), but if not, just roll your eyes and find something else to do.

Here is what I am discovering:

The Blackberry (I have a Verizon Curve) is a neat phone/PDA, very comparable to the Treo.  Except it does not have a touch screen, and that has taken me a while to get used to (a new Blackberry is coming out soon which does have a touch screen, like an iphone).  It does have a very usable QWERTY keyboard, though, and a neat trackball, which I really like.  So, after 2 weeks, I have made the transition to the new device.

The Blackberry’s operating system is different from the Palm’s, and in some ways not as user friendly.  Again, though, I am used to it now and find it very functional and more powerful than the Palm.

One reason I moved to BB is I had become very frustrated over the years because of the difficulty in updating software after switching hardware devices (e.g., when my MS Windows laptop crashed and I replaced it with a new one; when I bought a new imac desktop; and when I changed mobile devices).  All of my Palm data would have to be transferred over to the new device, and I would have to be careful how I backed everything up and synchronized it.  Now, because of the software I have chosen to use, my data is floating in a cybernet “cloud” and not residing on any hardware device other than my BB Curve. If I lose my Curve, all I have to do is get another one and download the data from the cloud.  (If the cloud goes away, I will be in trouble!)  The beauty is that I can easily access my info from my Windows laptop, my Apple desktop, or any computer I happen to be in front of.  All the information is synchronized with my mobile phone over the airwaves (or by using the Blackberry desktop program that came with it, which passes the info along to the cloud).

Most Blackberry users up to now have been part of corporate networks that use company software for storing calendars, contacts, data, etc.  I do not; I am just a lone individual.  So, I had to find a set of software applications that would do all that the Palm used to do, and more.  Here is one major downside: in order to use the cloud, I have to subscribe to a service (through Verizon) that provides internet access to the phone. It works very well, but costs me $30 per month over and above basic voice/phone service.  I did not need this level of service on my old Treo, because all my data resided on my phone and laptop.  The cloud is costing me money, but it is worth it (one side benefit is that now I can surf the internet and send and receive email on my mobile phone).

For the very select few of you who are still reading and who might want to go in the direction I have described, here are some more discoveries about the cloud: I use Yahoo for keeping my calendar and contacts coordinated between the handheld and various computers (it works very well with the blackberry software); I use Rexwireless Ideamatrix for keeping all of my hundreds of folders and other containers of data organized and synchronized with the cloud (it is designed to work with BB and is very elegant, but not free, though reasonable); I use Upvise for some other cloud/BB applications, such as the shopping list function which is pretty cool (this, like Yahoo, is free); and I use Evernote as a general (free) way to keep and organize a variety of information that does not fit in any of the other categories (e.g., keeping track of info I find on the web, including pictures, that I may want to go back to from time to time, or send along to other people).

As an addendum, I store photos and video I make in the cloud, too, and find Flickr and Vimeo to be excellent sites. Vimeo is free and can keep and display high defintion movies (which I can take on my tiny all-purpose digital camera and easily edit on my imac).

That’s where I am at this point.  I would welcome a discussion about any of this with any of you who are interested.