“Getting Things Done” Outlook plug-in

April 20th, 2005

I use Microsoft Outlook at lot, and not just for reading and sending email. I'm one of those people that makes use of it for keeping track of appointments and tasks. I've been using Outlook for so many years that I can think back to before it was actually called Outlook (can't remember what the predecessor to it was called now ...) but I've always wished it had better productivity tools and features. For example, I get a lot of emails that are time-sensitive - someone might send me an email asking me to look at something or check something out after a certain date (you know what I mean, that "get back to me in two weeks on that" style of email) and while I can set this up as a task or appointment with a reminder this isn't as straight forward as I wished it was.

Anyway, the other day while I was searching the web for something completely different I came across a plug-in for Outlook called "Getting Things Done". This plug-in (developed by NetCentrics and distributed by the David Allen Company, a professional training, coaching, and management consulting organization based in Ojai, California, USA) and seems to bring to Outlook some of the functions and abilities that I've always wanted. For example, here are just a few of the product features:

  • Clear your Outlook Inbox, knowing you will be able to act on the messages at the appropriate time.
  • Define what has to be done next for each message or group of messages; delegate to another person, defer to a later date, create a next action task, file for reference, etc.
  • Store the email in a known location and link it with reminders and tasks so you will always be able to work on the things that matter when they matter.
  • Create associated reminders and tasks with the click of a button.
  • Automatically remind yourself when it is time to act on a processed email.

It seems, from having just been using it for a few days, that this system works very well and if things go as well as I expect them too I'll share my experiences with you by putting together a full review of this plug-in. The options to delegate, defer, snooze, file or delete an email from one toolbar is really useful and I'm already finding myself using the shortcuts that the plug-in offers over my traditional methods of working with Outlook. I can also assign an action to an email as well as placing it in to a "someday" box for possible future action. These seem like logical ways to handle email to me (especially the defer, snooze and someday categories) and they allow me to stay on top of things without having to be bogged down with creating tasks or appointments or messing with flagging emails. The file feature is also great because it remembers the places that I file mails to and I can perform the action again.

At $69.95 it's not a cheap plug-in but then again I think that it's definitely saved me more than $70 in my time already and I certainly feel that I'm more in charge of Outlook than I was.

I've just remembered, the predecessor to Outlook was called Schedule+ - don't remember much about it but that memory certainly goes back to the 16-bit days of Microsoft Windows 3.11 (and probably Office 6)!

More from the Dave Allen Company

April 20th, 2005

In my last blog entry I mentioned the "Getting Things Done" Outlook plug-in from the Dave Allen Company and while looking through their site again I came across this page full of wonderful tips and tricks for making the most of your time. Some are blindingly obvious (so obvious that we still don't do them) while others present a real shift in the way of thinking.

Microsoft Fingerprint Reader

April 20th, 2005

I'm just finding this bit of kit to be just so darn useful!

I've written quite a bit about my Microsoft Fingerprint Reader here on my main website but I still don't think that it does this bit of kit justice - in the space of a few short weeks it has become one of these bits of kit that I just find myself turning to automatically many times a day and each time I need it to work it does.

By now I have a lot of website passwords built into the DigitalPersona software (no critical ones as this is not recommended but all those other places that require to to have a username and password to get the most out of the site) and the main benefit of ownership that I'm finding is one of increased productivity and just how much more I use the sites I signed up for. I've never been a big fan of storing passwords in the browser so this is a great way to keep the information at my fingertips (pun intended) while still keeping all the information secure. It's also got that right level of "geek" appeal!

This really is a superb bit of kit that well thought out and executed and it actually does fill a need rather than being a bit of kit looking for a problem so that it can be a solution to it.

Top marks to Microsoft and DigitalPersona!

Eating at your keyboard …

April 20th, 2005

"Office workers are exposed to more germs from their phones and keyboards than toilet seats, scientists reveal.
Work stations contain nearly 400 times as many microbes than lavatories, it is claimed."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3505414.stm

I've always said you shouldn't eat at your keyboard! I say this because food and drink (especially soda) can seriously damage peripherals. However, this seems to raise the stakes a bit and turns it into a health issue.

The scary part comes later:

"The key offenders are telephones, which harbour up to 25,127 microbes per square inch, keyboards 3,295 and computer mice 1,676.

By contrast, the average toilet seat contains 49 microbes per square inch, the survey showed."

I sometimes eat at my desk (do as I say, not as I do!) but I try my best not to but I think reading means that I will make try a little harder - not to mention give my peripherals a good clean out a little more often!

The tale of two USB 2.0 hubs …

April 20th, 2005

One PC, two USB 2.0 hubs.

One hub was a Belkin F5U234 hub. A really small, smart looking, compact hub that annoyingly uses a mini-B USB connector at the hub end instead of the full-sized B connector like all the others (which means that if you want to move it to a different system you have to take the cable too). Another annoying feature of this hub is that the ports face the back rather than the front (cables might "look" untidy but it's a major pain having to reach around things to plug a connector in).

The other a D-Link DUB-H4. Front-facing ports.

Both powered hubs, both 4-port, both roughly the same price.

One key difference - power up the PC with the Belkin hub connected and none of the devices on it would be recognized and the power had to be cycled to get it working (annoying because the mouse was connected to it). Power up with the D-Link hub attached and everything works fine.

Solution - swap the Belkin with the D-Link and then the Belkin worked just fine on the other PC. I'm still bugged by what caused this problem but sometimes a simple solution such as swapping one bit of hardware for another is the quickest.

USB is supposed to be an extensible solution that's easy to use and versatile - and mostly it is. However, more and more people seem to be having problems. Take a look at http://www.usbman.com to get a glimpse into the problems (along with solutions) that people are having.