IT tips #15: Four ways to help you remember where you put things

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In a comment on a previous tip, Ninette wanted to know how to make sure to be able to find tips again in the future because she’s ‘rubbish at remembering things like this’.  Join the club. Here are my suggestions (in addition to yesterday’s blog about Delicious). All these apps are digital forms of the “commonplace book.” 

  • Evernote  [but see last bullet point below about OneNote] is like iTunes for ‘stuff’ (free for a basic account). It syncs itself across different devices, so apart from storing websites and documents, you can do things like take a photo or audio note with your phone, store it on Evernote for mobile, and then sync it with your home computer. I know that a lot of people swear by it. I’ve got it, and it’s great, but because most of my work is geared towards writing projects, I tend to use the next two suggestions more.
  • Scrivener is what everyone should be using for any large-scale writing job. It enables you to keep multiple notes, sections of text, research materials such as snapshots of  websites, photos, pdfs, and other bits and pieces  in an easy-to-organize outliner, and when you’ve finished working in bits, you ‘compile’ it into one long document.  It’s the best program I have ever used, and I now couldn’t live without it for writing extended documents. And it’s only about £30 at current exchange rates.
  • Zotero is free bibliographic software, and is like the iTunes of books. However, you can use it to store,  catalogue and search absolutely anything – books, articles, pdfs, music, pictures, websites. So in my Zotero, alongside collections of articles about rhythm, metre, neuroscience and the sociology of music education, I also have one called ‘Recipes’ where I store snapshots web pages with recipes on, and where I link to files of recipes that people have given me.
  • OneNote Update January 2019: I admit that I never really considered OneNote when I wrote this post, because I was prejudiced against Microsoft products generally. But I am now an enthusiastic adopter of the Office 365 Home subscription: for about £80 p.a. it allows you and five other people in your household (loosely understood) to share a licence for the MS Office suite, plus 1TB of cloud storage each, + 1 hour of SkypeOut calls a month. If you calculate the cost of buying that kind of storage with DropBox or other providers, and a subscription to Evernote, it’s a bargain. And OneNote, while it’s less glam than Evernote, is easier to use, and works easily across platforms, on your phone, on the web, as a standalone app or in your browser. I’ve found that it is the nearest thing to a commonplace book. I now use it as a cross between a private blog and to-do list and commonplace book/research diary. It’s also useful for gathering up and categorizing all those bits and pieces like recipes and articles you liked into one place to look at another time. 

The fourth way is to keep a blog, and that’s why I do it.





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Jonathan Still, ballet pianist