It seems that new productivity tools come out faster than we can keep up with them, but I’ve recently started using three new ones which I think are worth taking a moment of your time to investigate. All three have changed how I work:
- Jott is a service which works over the phone (sorry, US phone numbers only right now). You call the Jott phone number, record a short message, and then it is transcribed by both computers and humans before being emailed to you, one of your contacts, or various web services which interact with Jott. A recording of your original message is included, so you can figure out what went wrong when there’s a mistake. (It’s pretty accurate, but not pefect. “Ad hoc became “add a hawk” in my last Jott. They encourage you to spell out unusual names.) Even though I’m in Taiwan, my internet phone is registered in the US, so I use this all the time. Its great when I’m lying down reading a book and want to transcribe a short passage or make a note to myself.
- Evernote is a way to make sure your notes are with you wherever you are. It syncs your notes between your desktop computer (they have clients for Mac and Windows), the website, and even your mobile phone (via a Windows Mobile client, or an experimental IMAP interface for the iPhone). It also clips web pages and even recognizes handwriting, but I’m just happy to have my notes with me wherever I go. Oh, and you can send your Jotts to Evernote for note-taking bliss. (Evernote is currently in closed beta, but I have three invites left, and hopefully those three can share their invites once mine are gone.)
- Sente is a Mac OS X only application for keeping track of your references and PDF files. Nothing new there, EndNote and Bookends do the same thing just as well. In fact, Bookends was my favorite until recently, but Sente’s new “links” feature is amazingly useful so I’m giving it a try for the paper I’m writing. Download a citation from AnthroSource to Sente and it will see the link to the AnthroSource website, which it shows in the main panel. Click on the link to download the PDF file and its automatically downloaded, renamed, and attached to your reference! If there’s an ISBN number for a book you can see the Amazon and Google Books web pages for that book. And so on. Watch a short video showing this in action. (I should also mention Zotero, a free plugin for Firefox which can pull bibliographic metadata from numerous websites, organize PDFs and make bibliographies. Zotero can’t quite compete with stand-alone apps just yet, but its free and catching up quick.)