Lately I’ve been struck by technology more than usual. It’s amazing how many new devices, applications, and programs developers are coming up with to help organise our lives. As I hit this part of my life (early twenties) and my first significant memory loss, I find myself clinging to these problems. Strangely enough, I still keep a to-do list (as well as a to-read list, a to-watch list, and various other lists) in plain old Microsoft Word. I still keep phone numbers in my cell phone and e-mails in my gmail contacts, and I will never learn to keep track of addresses. Every holiday season, I find myself calling my mom saying “what’s so-and-so’s address again so I can write a thank you card?” But beyond these basics, I’ve found myself spending an ungodly amount of time just organizing and re-organizing my files in all these various nifty new ways. Here are a few of the devices and pieces of software I find useful, if you’re similarly inclined:
Google Reader: Speaking of sucking away time. On an average morning, three to four hundred new items show up in this RSS feed manager, designed to look like a gmail inbox. It’s the high-tech equivalent of reading the paper, but admittedly I really need to cut down, or I’ll never get to the actual magazine subscriptions that I’m actually paying for that are piling up on the coffee table at an alarming rate. I subscribe to the New York Times, Le Monde, the Financial Times (required reading for work that I never actually do because I’m not getting paid for it), a number of queer and feminist blogs, nearly two hundred food blogs, the Fail Blog, one of the LOL cats blogs, a few Mac updates, and some miscellany. I think I’m addicted, but I feel so informed!
YummySoup: If you have a Mac, and you cook, I really recommend this shareware. It’s $20, and it organizes all your recipes in a great visual format. It includes a shopping list and an alcohol manager, and allows importing from any website (read: foodblogs), not just a few popular ones. It’s not good if you need to keep track of nutrition, but it’s the best layout I’ve seen. The only bad thing is that my shiny new iMac is not in my kitchen, and so if I want to use a recipe that isn’t on the laptop I either have to e-mail the file to the laptop (not that big a deal) or remember it. The large print option is great if you do have a laptop, though. As a person with thousands of recipes to cook “one day,” this is making my life a lot easier.
ProVoc: This program has been “retired,” which means they won’t update it if you do find a bug, but the good news is that it’s free! It’s a flashcard program designed for learning languages, but you can use it for whatever you want. There’s a really nice training module so that you can practice your vocabulary. I find this invaluable, since I try to study my seven or eight languages as much as possible but have very little time. I can enter in new vocab on the weekends, then train myself in ten minute spurts during the week. There’s also an iPod feature, though I haven’t tried it yet.
Scrivener: This is a $35 shareware program for writers (Mac only), and I really like the format. I wrote my last novel on it, and though I did get the heebie jeebies a little about exporting, it does export well and has lots of features. You have to tinker a bit to make sure all your formatting is being preserved, and I had a bit of trouble importing my first novel into the program to edit it, but I figured it out eventually. It also has that handy “ignore the rest of the computer” function, which is great for ADD writers like me.
OSX Leopard: If you have a Mac with Tiger and are considering updating, I’d recommend it. Granted, I just got a new computer, and I don’t know how it would run on a smaller system, but I love the organizational features of this thing. You can have separate desktops, so that your personal stuff is on one desktop, your work elsewhere, and the porn hidden on desktop three. No, really! I also really love “Front Row,” a media program with a remote so that I can be lying in my bed working and select music (the font is rather large on the Front Row menus), change the volume, skip tracks, etc. I can also sit in my chair and watch DVDs as if I had a television.
iPod Touch: Okay, I got this for free, but if you’re thinking about iPhone because of all the nifty features and already have a phone, think about getting the Touch instead. AT&T will really rape you on fees, whereas if you keep your old phone you don’t have to pay a termination fee, you still have a phone, and you can use the Touch features free anywhere that has WiFi. It’s true that with an iPhone, you could use data features pretty much anywhere, but in my case it’s not that hard to find a coffee shop or a library if I need to jot an e-mail. It’s got a calendar, notes (shopping list!!), address book, web browser, separate YouTube browser, maps, weather, and of course the standard music-movies-photos trifecta. I only have 8GB, but that’s just fine for someone like me who doesn’t really need all their music on the iPod. With the AppStore coming soon, I’m hoping I might be able to get recipes on it, too.