Five apps I find really useful for my writing and blogging

Five apps I find really useful – Evernote – Dropbox – Sanebox – Feedly – WasteNoTime

Evernote – I use this as my main repository for notes, links, lists, etc. I appreciate that you can clip websites directly to it, or email things to a direct address. As I come across useful things; references; things I want to blog, read later, watch, etc., I just throw them into Evernote, and then clean and tidy them later. It syncs across multiple devices, so wherever I am I have access to lists of things to do, things I want to find in libraries, etc. Really useful, handy to have to fill small pockets of time with something useful, and I’d hate to have to do with out it now.

Dropbox – everyone really ought to have some form of online backup. This is the one I use. Free if you don’t use too much space, but not that expensive for individual users. You can share folders with others such as colleagues or collaborators, or use it as an easy way to let someone have access to large files without emailing them. Files are saved on your computer, so you can use them offline (or, I suppose, if Dropbox went down), but are synchronised online, and so you can move between computers and have access to the same files. I’ve not lost a file since I started using this.

Sanebox – I’ve talked about this before, but it helps organise your inbox. This saves time for more important things. I really only want emails that are important and possibly urgent going into my inbox, with less important ones going somewhere else which I can check less frequently. The key folder is @sanelater – a folder it creates and puts all non-urgent emails into. You can train it over time simply by dragging and dropping – tell it some people are important; that others are not. To stop clogging up your inbox; you can banish annoying colleagues (such as those whose default is to ‘reply-all’), email list posts, reminders, to @sanelater – auto-replies are sent here by default. You can set up custom folders for certain people/groups – ones that are important but not urgent, for example. @saneblackhole is even better – drop something in this folder, and you’ll never see an email from that address again. Much better than trying to unsubscribe – never get another Linkedin reminder, for example – and much quicker to set up than in-box assistant or similar. Even before I had this tool, I used to have a rule that meant that only messages addressed to me, by name, in the ‘To’ box went in my inbox. Everything else – group messages, cc’ed messages, etc. went into a different folder that I’d check regularly but less frequently. A huge improvement for prioritising things; but Sanebox is several steps better.

Feedly – a blog/rss aggregator and reader. I like to keep on top of multiple blogs and news sites, and this is the most effective way I’ve found to do that. I can skim through multiple things until I find something I want to read – it’s a crucial source of things I post on this blog. Many email lists have a rss feed – if you subscribe to the list and chose the ‘no post’ option you get no emails, but can still post yourself. Then add the rss feed to Feedly, and you can skim through the posts quickly. This way I keep up-to-date on lots of useful sources, but don’t clog up the inbox. It make crit-geog-forum bearable. I used to use Google Reader until they closed it; this is the best alternative I’ve found.

WasteNoTime – if you need a little web-discipline, this is for you. A plug-in for Safari and Chrome browsers that keeps track of how much time you spend on sites, and can be set to only allow you a limited time on key time-wasting sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc. – you choose) – split between working day hours and off-peak times. You can also put it into lockdown mode for a set time, when you can either only access some sites; or others you have specified are blocked; or all browsing is blocked. Useful to force yourself to commit to writing for a set period.

So, those are the ones I find useful. What else is helpful for organisation, backup, not being interrupted by non-urgent email, general time management etc.? – all things I find crucial to effective writing.

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12 Responses to Five apps I find really useful for my writing and blogging

  1. Philip says:

    Gmail is good for folders/filters and stuff. I use ‘The Old Reader’ for rss feeds. Simple, elegant, very much like the now defunct Google Reader (indeed, it was made to replace it).

    Evernote looks really useful. I’ll have to investigate it.

    • stuartelden says:

      Yes, I have a separate gmail account which is useful, but use Sanebox for my Warwick email. I tried The Old Reader, but actually prefer Feedly, especially on the iPad. I’m sure there are good alternatives to all the things I use (as the comment below also suggests) – these are just the ones I use.

  2. ldtreherne says:

    Why don’t you use onenote instead of Evernote ?

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  4. Hi Stuart,
    Thanks for sharing this insight into the management of the everyday aspects of academia. What do you use for citation/pdf library management? Do you you try to interface it with Evernote?

    • stuartelden says:

      I don’t use citation software. I tried Endnote for an article once and found it frustrating. I probably should try again. With pdfs I tend to save as ‘Surname Year – Short Title’, and plan to scan and label the older photocopies/printouts from years back. But that’s a major task and I’m not sure if the time is worth it – anything i need now I can usually find quickly online.

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  7. stuartelden says:

    Reblogged this on Progressive Geographies and commented:

    As a followup to the last post, and especially #12, a reblog of my 2014 suggestions for useful apps for reading, writing and blogging.

  8. Chas Spain says:

    Super useful advice – I’ve just started on the PhD journey so this is really timely!

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