Software and Apps that I use- Part 2

In part 1 of this post, I gave you some of the programs I use for staying productive, running stats, managing references, and doing some basic video analysis. In this post, I’ll run you through what I like to use for keeping up with reading, keeping on top of my schedule, dealing with email, and finding research.

Here are a few more pieces of software and apps I’m currently using. Hope you can get some use out of them too!

Email & Scheduling

Google Calendar and Gmail

No matter how hard I try, I can’t get used to working with a pen and paper schedule. I have tried and tried, but I either leave it at home, or forget to keep up with it, or forget an appointment because I didn’t have a reminder. Google Calendar helps me to avoid all of those problems. I always have some kind of technology with me, which means I can access the calendar.  My phone syncs with GCalendar, and I can get to the calendar from any computer or other device with internet access.  What else is cool is that you can set up all sorts of recurring appointments, appointment reminders (email, popups or even text messages).

I tried my best to use Outlook 2013 for email and for my calendar, but for whatever reason, Gmail and Outlook did not want to play well. The IMAP setup was sluggish, and sometimes buggy for no reason. I am subscribed to a lot of calendars through our lab that are set up with GCalendar as well (see the lab calendar here), and while those easily integrate into each other, it didn’t play well with Outlook for some reason.

With Gmail, I can integrate everything into one place. Multiple email addresses all integrate easily into one location. I have IMAP set up so I can send and receive emails from my main address, all without navigating to another account.  This makes things very easy.

There are also some neat add-ons available- such as undo send, and multiple inboxes that can make  your clicking of “send” a bit more forgiving, and for making your workflow a bit more streamlined.

Research (finding literature)

Have I revealed myself as a Google fanboy yet? Google Scholar is easily my favorite way to find research. It indexes all kinds of different journals, and does a good job of branching out to other research I may not have found when I don’t use the keywords that are “just right”. When I’m searching for research, I really like the “Cited by” and “Related articles” to help me with just that.
Easily one of the best features of Google Scholar is the alerts feature- any time that a new article shows up for a given search string, I get an email notification the next morning with up to ten new articles (overflows come the next day, again up to ten). This is hugely important for me to keep up with new literature in areas that I study or work in. For example, I have alerts for “isometric midthigh or mid-thigh or mid thigh pull or IMTP” and “golf – patent”. The search operators you can use when doing regular searches in Google also apply here.  The “or” operator says that I want the search engine to return results that are: word1 OR word2 OR phrase1. The “-” operator removes any results that have patent in the the title or content. For something like golf, where technology is a large part of the game, there are tons of new patents all the time, so I’m not interested in those.

Keeping up with blogs and articles

Pocket, combined with Feedly and IFTTT
 
There is such a ludicrous amount of content being generated on the internet that it is impossible to keep up.  On top of that, it is totally unfeasible to have to go over to each website that hosts the content you are interested once per day (or more) to check for new content.  To save us time, there are email services that will notify you of blog updates, like the one I put on the right side of the this page (gratuitous plug finished!). This works for some people, but I’ll admit I don’t like getting anymore extra email than I already do, unless it is something that I want to stay immediately up to date with.

Instead of email, I use the Feedly, IFTTT and Pocket in combination.

Feedly is a blog aggregator. It takes content created in different blogs and puts them into one place into a clean interface. Some like to read the aggregated blogs on Feedly’s page, I go a step further.

Pocket is a service that allows me to save articles or blog posts (or whatever) that I am interested in reading for later.  If I check twitter really quick, and come across a link to something that I want to read, but don’t have time for, I open the link and click the button for the Pocket Chrome Extension.  This saves the article for me, reformats it without ads and extra website “stuff”, and I can now access it later.  I can take a look on my phone or in the browser later, instead of distracting me now.
IFTTT stands for “If this, then that”.  You set up triggers, which cause a specific action to happen for a given trigger. For example, you could set up a trigger that sends you a text message every time somebody tags you in a photo on Facebook, or whatever else your heart desires.

I use IFTTT to combine Feedly and Pocket. In my case, I want to compile everything I might want to read within Pocket. I have set up an IFTTT trigger that detects whenever a new article is added to my blog list in Feedly. That new article is then automatically sent to Pocket, where I can read it later when I have free time.

It sounds complex, but this set-up lets me read a journal article, or blog post, or webpage at my leisure, when I have free time. In one location, I have all of the links I’ve saved throughout the day, as well as any new reading material that may have been added through the IFTTT triggers. Pocket has a pretty good app for the iPhone too. Awesome!

Cloud Storage

Dropbox (and Onedrive, and Google Drive)

I am generally not very good about back ups. I have an external harddrive I use to back up my documents & videos, but I think I really only back it all up maybe once or twice per week. It wasn’t that long ago I didn’t do back ups at all. This was bad… very very bad.  A hard drive failure could have completely wiped me out. These days, I have quite a bit of  redundancy to keep me up to speed. The most importance thing I do now to keep everything backed up is to use a cloud service.

The way these work is fairly simple. There is a single folder (and subfolders) or a set of folders that get uploaded to a cloud server on a regular basis.  This might be synchronized between multiple computers, or even just between a single computer and the cloud. Either way, you have an automatic backup.

There are a ton of different services out there for cloud storage. I use three services: Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive.

If the competition was only for ease of use, I would pick Dropbox over the other two.  Dropbox is the easiest to set up, seems to be the fastest, allows for folder sharing between Dropbox users (although so does GDrive), and will sync over LAN.

It seems to be one of the most popular services, so for sharing it is terribly convenient (because almost everybody I know has it).  Basically it works like this: if you save or update any file within a shared folder, it is immediately updated in everyone’s folder (everybody that is linked to the shared folder that is). This makes it incredibly easy to work between multiple people on a document.

However, you can’t both work on the document at the same time, unfortunately, although you can with the web version of a document in either GDrive or OneDrive. In my experience, OneDrive is a bit buggy online for multi-user editing, and while Google Drive works great for multiple editors, it doesn’t play nice with word documents (you have to use GDrive’s format).

Let me preface by saying that I’m a broke college student at the moment, so I don’t have the luxury of paying for any one service. I am spread between all three primarily because I need to store a lot of stuff around, so I have to rely on the storage space between all three. I use Dropbox for my documents, Onedrive for storing videos and pictures (I got a huge amount of storage space with my Microsoft Office subscription), and GDrive for only a few things.

If you feel like helping me out, and you don’t have a Dropbox account already, please sign up for a free 2 gig account using this link (I will get an extra 500Mb of storage space if you do).

Wrap-up

Well, that is just about everything that I can think of.  I hope that you got some benefit out of my recommendations, and am able to enjoy using these products as much as I have!

Have something to say about this? Comment Below!