Just the other day (and posted today), I wrote a blog post lamenting the lack of an app which let me draw out block diagrams, architectures, or pretty much whatever I wanted, to clients over the internet. The requirements were that it needed to:
- Allow drawing on my iPad
- Be viewable on an iPad or Web Browser
- Ideally be viewable on smartphones (iPhone/Android)
- Not require any account – just a URL
- Ideally allow a password
- Display as-you-draw in real-time
And guess what? Today, I found that App: Syncpad
And – it basically does exactly what I want.
It’s free in the iTunes Store (look for v2.0, not v1.5 which was $10). I can’t wait to try it out in anger.
And – on a related note, if you want similarly simple, no-account, no sign-in, just the URL, screen sharing, then try Join.me. It’s great.
One of the great things about Notability is the way that you can plug it into a projector at a meeting, and basically whiteboard. Then at the end, you can save and email the notes. Fantastic.
However, what if you’re not physically present. How many times have you been discussing an idea or an architecture on a call, and found yourself verbally describing it over the line, wishing that you could just sketch it, and the other parties could see your sketches in realtime?
Well… if they have an iPad too, then I’ve found something that can do that… PageSend. It’s intended for education, but is fantastic – you can import screenshots, and as you draw, the other party sees your drawing; you can both annotate and adjust as well.
But they need:
- An iPad
- The app
- An account
Not really ‘ad-hoc’, is it?
What I want is a drawing app, where I can just click a ‘get link’ button, and email or copy/paste to IM the link. The party clicks it, and whether they’re on a Desktop, an iPhone, an iPad, whatever, they can see my drawing in real-time. Ideally, they can point/modify on it too. Like join.me, but for whiteboarding rather than desktop sharing.
It seems there is no such app. Is there?
I’ve just found 3 different disparate bits of data I want to keep in my morning email catchup; the link for a download relating to a project; a news story with some key dates; and a list of URLs.
Where did I paste them? Not to OneNote. Straight to Treepad.
Amazingly, I think the difference for me is the simple Treepad hierarchy vs lack of clear colours/folders in OneNote. Since OneNote has different types of ‘folders’ – Section Groups, Sections, Pages, Subpages – I have to think which I want to use, and have to move my eyes and mouse left, up, right to see the section groups on the left, sections on the top, and pages on the right.
I’ve whited out sensitive parts (eg. Folder names) in these screenshots, but you can see the issue.
In OneNote – see all the places I have to look. See the uniformity of the section groups on the left
On Treepad – everything on the left side, quickly browse to the section you need, and press insert to create a new note. No need to think or move my mouse all over the screen – just get it in somewhere vaguely accurate
Ironically, part of me does see the point of Evernote’s tagging system – something I loathed over Treepad’s clear hierarchy. I was sat in a meeting, wondering how I could easily just add this note to my existing notepad, but then later be able to see all the relevant notes for that company, AND that included the people sat around the table. Suddenly it dawned on me that this is where something like Evernote, or any tagging system, stands out.
I could have a tag for Meeting Notes, another for Companies -> ACME company, and another for Contacts -> Companies -> ACME Company -> James Smith and Contacts -> Companies -> ACME Company -> Jane Smith. Then by filtering on those tags I could instantly see what my history was for ACME, and also what info James/Jane had been involved in before. Right now, I have an disorganized, untagged trail in a folder called Meeting Notes in Onenote.
My only reluctance is being able to manage the huge hierarchy of tags that I would need in Evernote – Companies, Contacts (every single one I ever meet), Projects, etc. I guess that’s what it’s for. I also have to assess how it would work for other types of notes – particularly hierarchical reference notes, which is how I originally chose Treepad / OneNote. No – don’t say I have to start using another Note app!?
TheBrain / PersonalBrain fail
Of course, if you want complex hierarchies and infinite possibilities, this is where TheBrain comes in. I do love the structure in TheBrain. It’s just that it has no realistic iPad/iPhone interface (aside from a fiddly, laggy and limited HTML5 interface), so again, not a clear choice. I currently use this for tracking relationships between different companies and people.
Beauty of Notability
If you remember, before I embarked on a OneNote spree, I used Notability. When I was in a meeting where I quickly wanted to jot a diagram, that’s where I turned.
And that’s where I would love to stay…. You see, when you’re in front of a customer, or colleague, or presentation, you need to be able to jump into an app and just start using it, and for it to meet your needs …. So that the audience isn’t sat there thinking “Why doesn’t the idiot just use a pen and paper”. Notability is the only app for me that can do that… AND keep the note at the end. Like a Turing Test for note-taking: “When the ease of the app is such that you don’t miss pen and paper, then it has arrived”.
It doesn’t exist yet, but I feel this is what I need:
I define my goals. Those large, top-level tasks – like learning to fly or fixing up a car. These are also projects. I then write all the subtasks I see as being subtasks to those: find a nearby airfield, buy some flying books; check instructors; book lessons; etc.
This is the clever/important bit.
I always overload my task list. I see a load of tasks that I consider to be really important, put them all for tomorrow, and don’t achieve half of them. I push them out to Tuesday… Wednesday.. Thursday.. and they’re all sat at the end of the week, and I go through the process again.
What I would like to do, is drag-and-drop all those subtasks into my calendar, around my week, and existing appointments. Once there, they’re booked: that time allocated to my goals is just as important as any meeting that might be booked in there, if not more so. My calendar links the task to the actual time in the day that I’ll work on it.
Then – looking back up at my top-level goals – I would like to see how my progress looks, with all those tasks now assigned to my week. How much am I actually progressing in my goals now?
Other stats to analyse: How much further along will I be by next week? If I insert other tasks – jobs that crop up, distractions.. then how did those affect my efforts towards my goals? Was my learning to fly project going to have progressed from 20 to 25% complete, but thanks to distractions, I only got to 23%? OK – so based on past trends, on what day/month/year will I get to 100%? Can I accept that? If not, shall I rebalance?
Yes – Project Management tools do exactly this – they allow scheduling with Gantt charts. But they’re usually intended for teams rather than individuals, and they usually are disassociated from an actual time of day calendar. One that gives me a 5-minute warning: “Time to move onto that next task now”
So.. I’m currently invested all-in MyLifeOrganized, and have looked at countless others. There’s one which is close : SmartTime Tasks, on iOS, but it looks a pain to set up, is only on iOS/OSX, and only integrates with Google Calendar – not Corporate Outlook (or just sits behind and reads whatever iOS calendar I’m using)
So… I continue ticking off my tasks, but seemingly never actually managing to get stuff done….