Posts tagged Tools

Configuring Google Voice as a Jott / reQall Replacement

I’m a big fan of reQall, Jott, and the various other voice-to-text services out there.  I currently have a reQall Pro account and use it on a daily basis.  Naturally, the first thing that came to mind when I heard that Google Voice was going to have voice transcription capabilities was using it to augment or maybe even replace my current tools.  After some trial and error, here is the method I came up with to configure Google Voice for this purpose.

By the way, if you would like an overview of the Google Voice service, there are some nice articles on Lifehacker.com.

GENERAL ACCOUNT SETUP

  1. Create a Google Voice account.  Until it’s open to the general public, you’ll need to request an invite here.
  2. Go through the basic setup following the instructions to add your home phone number and create your account.
  3. Once your account is created, click the Settings link at the top of the page and go to the General tab (see screenshot below).  Make sure that Notifications are set to go to your desired email address.  Optionally, you can disable the “Send a text (SMS) message to” checkbox.  I disabled this because most of the messages are ones that I leave to myself, so I don’t need a text message telling me that I just left a message ;-)
  4. The Call Screening, Call Presentation, and Caller ID settings will not really matter for what we are doing.  Set these however you wish for your other callers.  Do check to see that the “Transcribe Voicemails” box is checked, and save your changes.



SETTING UP YOUR CUSTOM GREETING

The idea here is to create a greeting that mimics what you might hear when dialing into Jott or reQall.  This greeting will only be heard when dialing in from your cell phone.  There are several ways Read the rest of this entry »

Strip Outlook Attachments and Replace with Links

UPDATE OCT 2009: Reader jumpjack has created a Google Code project for this macro. You can download the latest source code on the project page.
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There are many good reasons to strip attachments from your email messages. The main reason for me is that I often embed email messages into my Outlook tasks for quick reference. Since some tasks have multiple emails (each with multiple attached files), I need a way to keep the task size manageable. So, I simply strip the attachments before embedding the email into the task. Another reason to strip attachments is to improve Outlook performance. Smaller PST files are less likely to be corrupted and are faster to search and index.

The Outlook VBA macro below is one easy way to strip attachments from your messages. Simply select one or more messages in the Outlook explorer window, then activate the macro. The result is shown in the screen shot below. As you can see, all of the attachments throughout the email are numbered and replaced with links at the top of the message. There is even a hyperlink to the folder containing the attachments. The macro also saves a text copy of the original email message along with the attachments for future reference.

You’ll notice that there is still one small attachment remaining called “Attachments Removed”. This is added so that the paperclip icon in Outlook is still active, which indicates that the message has (or had) attachments.

The attachments archive folder is organized with one folder per email, as shown below. The folders are named using the date of the message, the sender name, and the subject line. At the end of the year, you can grab the whole collection and zip it up for archive purposes. Since the links are hard coded into the emails, you’ll want to be consistent with your folder locations. That is why I simply use “C:\Outlook Attachments\” along with the year. If I ever want to restore some old messages and be able to browse the file attachments, I know exactly where to put them.
>> READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY >>

ClearContext and My Quest for an Empty Inbox

In a previous post I talked about my quest for an empty inbox and all the tools I tried along the way. Well, I’m at it again. My previous tool of choice, Taglocity, has taken a turn toward online social/collaborative email in their 2.0 release. I’m afraid that 99% of the email I handle is work related, and our big lumbering IT department would never allow a rogue server, inside or outside the firewall, collecting corporate data. Likewise, getting said lumbering IT department to establish their own server would be equally unlikely. The social/collaborative approach might be the next big thing, but I need help now. The final nail in the coffin was that some of the features that originally sold me on Taglocity 1.x are no longer supported in their 2.0 beta release. Given the new direction, those features won’t likely return.

So where does that leave me? Well, I went back to my notes and started to think about what kind of help I really need. Here are the requirements I came up with:

  1. Need a quick way to triage and file email. Filing must be effortless, otherwise I will resist doing it
  2. Needs to be a stable tool that works well with Outlook 2003 (yes, I’m still stuck there… see comment above related to the big lumbering IT department).
  3. Need to strip out the spam and low-priority reference email & notifications
  4. Need reminders for my own actions as well as follow-ups for requests I send to others
  5. Must fit into my GTD workflow… In general, that means I need a way to create tasks and appointments from email and somehow tie related tasks/emails/appointments/notes together to form a “project”.

After recasting my net and re-evaluating the latest versions of all the tools I had previously considered, I came across a gem that I hadn’t given a chance the first time around: ClearContext IMS. It seemed to meet all of the needs I described above, and there was even a trial version available… Off I went.

CLEAR CONTEXT FEATURE WALK

After using the tool for over a month now, I am starting to see some nice benefits from the various features. Here’s a look at the highlights as well as some improvement opportunities for the ClearContext development team…

FILE MESSAGE, FILE THREAD. ClearContext does a fantastic job with filing (my #1 requirement above). One of the best features is being able to bring up the topic selection dialog (ALT-P) and type just a few characters of the topic name to narrow down the list. ALT-M will file it from there (no mouse required). What is especially nice is that your don’t have to remember any prefix or top level folder name since a match even in the middle of the topic name will select it. Additionally, You can choose to file the original message while typing your reply right from inside the reply window. Nice touch!

Two needed improvements for topic filing are:

  1. Please, please, please guys add a >> READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY >>

DROE Tool now supports EverNote, and much more!

I just released a new version of the Daily Record of Events (DROE) note taking tool.  This release adds support for EverNote and text-based DROE files, as well as enhancements for the OneNote DROE.

From the README file, here is a summary of what changed in v0.4 (Beta). For complete details, download the README file. To get your own copy of the tool, see the Downloads page.

  • NEW FEATURE: Added support for a completely text-based DROE without the need for OneNote. This includes a quick edit window.
  • NEW FEATURE: Added support for EverNote… DROE Tool can send text notes to EverNote using EverNote’s auto-import feature
  • NEW FEATURE: The amount of white space between notes is now configurable in the INI file.
  • NEW FEATURE: “Clip Mode” causes any selected text to be clipped and included in the DROE entry. For OneNote DROE files, selected images are also sent to the DROE.
  • NEW FEATURE: WIN+LeftArrow now summons a new control panel that makes it easy to update settings in the INI file and reload the tool.
  • Bug fix: Fixed issue with cursor being stranded 3-4 lines below the date stamp.
  • Bug fix: The CTRL-SHIFT-K and CTRL-SHIFT-M shortcuts were not working when the Outlook window was active. This is fixed.
  • Updated and re-organized this README file. Switched to PDF format to significantly reduce the download size.

Handwriting Recognition in OneNote 2007? Well, kinda…

In my post on EverNote vs. OneNote, I mentioned handwriting recognition as one of the shortcomings in OneNote. I also mentioned that the implementation in EverNote is a bit disappointing as well because it uses a “shotgun” word approach. By that I mean that EverNote sets up an XML database of sorts where many possible words (most of them completely wrong) are attached to each handwritten word. If you search on any of those words, it will come up as a hit on that part of the image. You may be initially impressed when it magically finds the correct word when you search on that word, but the excitement fades when you realize lots of other words that aren’t even close will match as well. As I mentioned before, I do give the EverNote team a lot of credit for even attempting this, it’s just not quite good enough yet to be useful.

Having said that, the EverNote implementation did give me an interesting idea. Even though I capture a good percentage of my notes electronically using the DROE Tool, I still find it impossible to move away from handwritten notes entirely. There are too many situations where I either don’t have my laptop, or it’s not convenient or polite to use it. (I’m also too cheap to invest in a fancy image capture pen or tablet PC.) So here is my poor man’s solution…


I scan my hand-written Daily Record of Events (DROE) pages into a PDF file using the office copier. I then print these to OneNote, and I store them in my DROE Archive (@DONE section) as described in my post on “Bending OneNote and Outlook to Fit my GTD System“. I then add a >> READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY >>