Wednesday, December 23, 2009

December 23--Web Tool(s)

Web tool. It came into your work flow this year and now you couldn't live without it. It has simplified or improved your online experience.

Two things come to mind which I've test driven this year and have come to rely on. I got myself a snazzy Blackberry phone in the spring and immediately set about trying to make it as useful as possible. One of the things I discovered which (nearly) always makes my life easier is Evernote, a note gathering application that works on your PC. mac, phone or on the web and I've found it extremely handy for consolidating and organizing all the random bits of information I come across in a day. Whether I'm looking at knitting patterns on my home computer, researching something at work, or trying to consolidate all my recipes in one handy place, everything gets dumped into the appropriate Evernote folder and is then available to me on my home computer, phone, and any computer with access to the web. That way I can look up recipes at the grocery store and patterns at the yarn shop and all the information I need is with me. The only downside is that you are dependent on web access to get at your information using a mobile device. I have had Evernote fail me, for example, at the beach where there was no wireless coverage and I found myself wishing I'd just written that scone recipe down and taken it with me. And on days like yesterday when Blackberry service was down throughout North America I had no access to my information when I was out which was annoying as I was cooking with a friend. But those are the only two instances I can think of in 8 months where I was stuck. The other 99% of the time it's brilliant. And even free!

The other service I've come to rely on is Mint, a free money tracking website which is phenomenal for seeing where your money goes. I've tried using Microsoft Money and Quicken for this purpose over the years and found Mint infinitely easier to use. It connects with your bank account and downloads the most recent information every time you log in. It's remarkably good at categorizing expenditures from day one, but you can tweak categories and individual entries to make it more accurate and it will remember your changes for future transactions. I don't know how well this works for people with complex financial lives but for us it's been a simple way to track money in and money out and to give us the cold hard facts about just how much money we've spent at the local Indian buffet this month.

I am so thankful to the brilliant and generous people who make these tools available for free.
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Anonymous said...

Yeah, but how long did it take you to learn how to use the technology?

This is the thing that hangs me up every time. It takes me FOREVER to learn how to use electronic technology.

Conversely, I can look at a mechanical thing and figure it out in minutes if all parts of the mechanism are visible. Maybe it's just me.

Magpie Ima said...

Beth--the only way I've ever successfully learned techie stuff is by figuring out what I need and making the tools work for me. Meaning that I don't try to learn everything a tool can do, just what I need it to do. Having said that, both Evernote and Mint are dead easy to use, assuming you have a use for them.