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Computer Organization

On Oct 9, 2011, at 2:23 PM, Alejandro Duarte wrote:

I need help. On this computer (and every other I have ever owned) I am utterly disorganized.

Could you help me tame this beast of disaster, please?

I’m not sure how helpful I can be in this matter, but these are things that have helped me:

Use Dropbox

This gives you a synchronized files between multiple computers and mobile devices, simple archival system in the cloud (Website > Hover on file > Show versions), as well as allowing you to trivially share large files with other Dropbox users (with Shared Folders) and with the world (with the Public folder and right-click>Dropbox>get link). You’ve now got one tool that makes “getting the thing where I need it” much easier

Use nvAlt

This is a “shoebox app” where you shove everything you need to remember or keep track of, and it manages lots of text notes. I’ve got mine set up to store its notes in Dropbox (you can set that in Preferences) and come up with Control-Option-Space. I then use Elements on my iPhone to update things on the go.

Use Alfred

This allows you to find things on your computer faster: I bound mine to Apple-Space and replaced Spotlight. Now I can type application names, “find” and then some filename, people, math, etc. I also have a bevy of custom searches so I can find TV listings, D&D monsters, etc. My preferences for this are sync’d via Dropbox (sense a theme?)

Use TextExpander

This allows you to automate anything you type all the time. I put code snippets, markdown templates, file names, contact info, and lots more in here to allow myself to get things done quicker. Alfred has a “snippets” feature that’s somewhat similar but doesn’t auto-invoke. Snippets sync over dropbox, and there’s an iOS version that works in lots (but not all) apps.

Use 1Password

This helps keep track of your secrets. It’s mainly a Keychain replacement, but it also puts that information into your (you guessed it) Dropbox and (of course!) has an iOS app that means you have all that information at your fingertips whenever you need it. It also helps you break the terrible habit of using the same password on every site by making it easy to generate ridiculous passwords.

Use the Documents folder

If something is a text file it belongs in nvAlt; if it’s supposed to be accessible it goes in Dropbox; if it’s neither of those it goes in the Documents folder. Don’t put things on the Desktop; it’s where ideas go to die. If you must, put an alias on the Desktop to remind yourself about the thing. But if you can’t remember without that it’s not important enough to remember.

Use iCal

Put reminders and to-do items into iCal, with alarms, so that you’ll know what you’re supposed to be doing. I know a lot of people use OmniFocus or Things to other GTD apps, but I’ve never jumped onto that bus.

Keep Applications you install in /Users/yourusername/Applications

This is a tiny change in behavior that reminds you what parts of your computer are stock and which are custom; I have 16 things in there on my work machine, and each one is necessary on a regular basis. It’s too easy to lose things in /Applications and let old, useless apps sit around or useful apps be forgotten.

The general idea here is “keep everything in a place where you can find it easily later, and make as many of those places as possible sync to your other devices”. This is useful in its own right, but it also constrains you to put things where they’re “supposed to go” so that you invoke the power of the synching, and that makes it easier to find them and use them later on.