Tag Archives : productivity


13 Insanely Useful Chrome Extensions 9

Google Chrome Extensions

Google Chrome is my favorite browser, as evidenced by the proliferation of extensions I have loaded up. I’ve reached the point where I should probably consider a little housecleaning and uninstall those least used, though I fear that I’ll have a pressing need for that deleted extension after the fact. It can happen. Nevertheless, the sheer productivity gains I’ve realized with this collection overall are, quite simply, insane (or at least they may appear that way to the casual observer).

Chrome Extensions in Order of Usefulness. To Me. Sort of.

BufferBuffer

Post to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Fill your “Buffer” with up to 10 tweets (free version) and schedule them for delivery when your followers are likely to be online. Use an integrated app like SocialBro to analyze your followers, see when they’re typically online, and adjust your Buffer schedule within seconds.

ShareaholicShareaholic

Share to any of the main social networking sites. It’s fully configurable, of course, displaying your top 8 sites in one click.

AdBlockAdBlock

It sure feels like I’ve been looking at far fewer ads lately. I think I’m much calmer as a result.

Do ShareDo Share

Schedule posts on Google+. Your browser must be open an active in order for this to work. Apart from that, it works like a charm.

G+ HashtagsG+ Hashtags

Clean up your Google Plus stream. Hashtags appear in the right column where you can selectively view and mute them.

EngagioEngagio

Dashboard for social networks with GMail integration. See Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other conversations all in one stream.

EvernoteEvernote

Clip an article, selection, full page or URL to Evernote.

CoolirisCooliris

I used to be fascinated by this 3D wall of photos, until I got an iPad and started discovering things like Flipboard.

My Hangouts for Google PlusGoogle Hangouts

Pull up a list of active Google Hangouts, with notifications and even a world map.

RbutRRbutR

Create links to pages that provide counter-arguments. There’s tremendous potential here if people actually start using this. Of course, I’m still wishing more people would use Editz (like me).

Adobe ShadowAdobe Shadow

Streamline web development by previewing instantly on connected devices.

efTwo Advanced Find on PageefTwo

It’s text search on steroids. I have yet to work out the kinks with the keyboard shortcuts on my MacBook Pro.

Window ResizerResize Window

Resize the browser window to emulate different device screen resolutions; configurable list of screen sizes.


Groupware Has It Wrong

Do we need groupware? Perhaps the question is, “Why do we need groupware?”

The primary groupware business assumptions are that people need it and that they would be willing to integrate another piece of software into their individual workflows. Let’s look at an assumption along with a possible user persona and scenario:

Groupware assumes people will add software to their workflow.

CommunicationJoe Media has a killer to-do list app that he uses. It’s sort of like Evernote, but it integrates actionable, time-based items that trigger force feedback on his iPhone when he marks them as ‘Done,’ a sensation he now equates with the taste of the best raw oyster he ever had. Joe is not giving up that app. The app also sends e-mail reminders. Joe uses Outlook at work, albeit a bit reluctantly, since he’s no big fan of Microsoft, but he considers it a necessary evil in his workplace, particularly since his organization does business with other businesses who also tend to use Outlook. Scheduling meetings is just much easier that way with people trading meeting invites. They’re not ditching Outlook any time soon.

Joe’s early-adopter-to-a-fault I.T. buddy at work keeps pushing for some kind of group collaboration project management Kanban-style social media-integrated tool to assist their team with meeting deadlines. They tried Yammer for about three minutes once because his friend heard they were well funded, after a customer mentioned that it would be really cool if he could he could chat with other meeting attendees in advance to arrange things like hikes, bike rides, lunches. That was eight months ago. There was no traction.

Joe and the I.T guy constantly bemoan everyone else’s inability to stick to processes, many of which don’t exist in any documented fashion but should, in their eyes, be “Common Sense.” Their big pain point is in communicating deadlines.

People Already Have Collaboration Apps

We all have e-mail, though by default e-mail is far from ideal for project management. For instant communication, the telephone used to be ideal, but phone calls are time consuming and, thanks to the variety of tools available now, the telephone is all but history. Social media services are tribal in nature, thus there tend to be rabid followers for Facebook, Twitter and Google+ (which is decidedly NOT a ghost town, you naysayers), though rarely the twain shall meet. Regardless of the lack of intersection, the messaging infrastructure is already built many times over, but e-mail is the common thread.

Adjusting e-mail to accommodate project management methodologies has been discussed for years, with add-ons developed for Outlook catering to fans of GTD and the like. I’ve been using the free version of ActiveInbox for Gmail. There is a lot of potential there.

The idea is to migrate the important data out of individual e-mails into actionable items with visual cues, calendar integration, and customizable reminders.

E-Mail Is Intensely Personal

Content of e-mail can certainly be personal, not to mention incriminating, but e-mail itself has been woven into the fabric of our society, regardless of the rich ecosystems of apps that have been developed around mobile devices. E-mail is ubiquitous. E-mail is a noun and a verb. People use e-mail for project management whether or not they admit it. It may not be the primary tool for more evolved organizations, but it is highly integrated into processes nonetheless. It cannot be avoided, as everyone else uses it. The popularity of such systems as Getting Things Done is a testament to people’s need for something more, but perhaps a replacement for e-mail is not what we’re all asking for.

Successful collaboration software needs to integrate with existing e-mail along with other popular time management methodologies. It needs to be familiar, with a virtually nonexistent learning curve.

Groupware should not be just another app.


Adobe Illustrator will Iron Your Shirt

I confess I had not given Adobe Illustrator nearly enough attention over the years, until recently. Photoshop used to be my go-to app for comping/wireframing/pre-production deliverables for years. In fact, Photoshop is still used in some of the top companies for exactly that purpose. This is certainly not what Photoshop was built for originally, but those designers are a wacky bunch. Eventually, features like slices and Layer Comps wormed their way into the software spawning new web prototyping workflows.

The Problem with Photoshop Comps

The problem with Photoshop in this context, aside from its limited support of vector artwork, is that it lacks multipage support. Layer Comps are great for enabling designers to maintain representations of multiple application “states” in single PSD files – which can, incidentally, be placed into InDesign layouts, with specific states activated, for presentation purposes – but the reality is, building these files is cumbersome at best. The result can easily become a labyrinth of grouped, nested and duplicated layers which becomes incrementally less manageable as each comp is added.

Overengineering with InDesign

Illustrator Multi-Exporter ScriptInDesign, of course, is the be-all and end-all of multipage layout software. (If anyone is aware of anything that truly comes close, I’m all ears. I’ve had people suggest a few things to me over the years, but I’ve shut them down with the mere mention of Object Styles. If you’ve never heard of them, well, you’re in the majority. Suffice it to say they’re tremendously powerful yet seldom understood.) InDesign also has a formidable set of vector tools, but Adobe Illustrator can always be used for complex vector compositions, which can then be seamlessly imported into InDesign.

Adobe Illustrator Artboards to the Rescue

Photoshop Export Layers to Files ScriptStill, InDesign can be a bit much, as it turns out, for virtually anything other than lengthy, text-heavy projects. Thankfully, Adobe Illustrator CS4 introduced multiple artboards, which effectively made Illustrator my primary design tool. In my case, I design for print and web far more often than I build books. For those occasions, InDesign is always there.

With multiple artboards in Adobe Illustrator, an entire branding project can be housed in a single file. One caveat is that only one unit of measurement can be set within that file. Thus, if the project will span print and web, two separate files can be used; otherwise, there will be some switching of units (likely inches/cm to pixels and back) during the project.

The missing ingredient here is automation. Thanks to Matthew Ericson over at www.ericson.net, there is a script which exports layers and artboards to individual PNG files, even at double resolution to retina displays if you so choose. You can download the script right here.

Multiple artboards can be exported to multi-page PDF or placed into InDesign layouts. I’ve managed to avoid the InDesign phase for the vast majority of recent projects. I try to avoid complex wireframes, for that matter, as I feel the wireframing process can distance developers from actual users which can result in a lot of wasted time. The Lean UX approach favors “Getting Out Of The Deliverables Business,” but if you can’t avoid it, Adobe Illustrator’s second-to-none toolset is right there, so add a few artboards and wireframe to your heart’s content.

There is also a similar script for Photoshop downloadable right here. My typical use case is the need for multiple PNG files of the same dimensions. Simply stack the layers, including placing vector files, name the layers individually, and run the script.


Busy

Picture a chart depicting heavy usage of graphic design software between the hours of 9am and 2am. Rescue Time is the monitoring software which will produce these reports for you. It can be enlightening to see evidence of workaholism or excessive distraction. Don’t you dare use it on your employees.