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Blog: Technology As An Organizing Tool
Using a Virtual Notebook to Organize Your Ideas

When you use a paper planning system such as a Day-Timer, Filofax, or Franklin Planner, you usually have one or more sections for writing notes about things you're working on, as well as ideas for future projects. If you decide to make the transition to Microsoft Outlookor another electronic personal information manager, you may find yourself lost, because although Outlook does allow you to create and store notes, you can only enter text, so it's impossible to include maps or diagrams, or even to format your text. You could start keeping a notebook with you, but that would basically eliminate one of the benefits of switching to an electronic system.

Fortunately, there are other solutions! Innovative software developers have created a number of products which allow you to jot down and organize your ideas, maps, tasks, and other information. Here are a few that I have come across.

Tomboy is a free desktop application with more capabilities than Outlook Notes. It allows you to use different font styles and sizes, highlighting, and bulleted lists, and includes a spell checker and undo/redo tool. One really cool feature is that you can link notes to each other, which can be really useful when one idea branches off into others. Even more impressive is that you don't lose your links if you rename or rearrange any of your notes. For more information, visit http://projects.gnome.org/tomboy/.

In addition to your own notes, Evernote is a tool that allows you to capture web pages, photos basically any kind of information. You can then organize your information into different notebooks and tag it so you can easily find it again later. You can download the software to your computer or mobile device, use the online version, or even synchronize your information between multiple platforms. There is a free version, but you can upgrade to the premium version at any time if you require additional storage space or enhanced features such as priority image recognition. For more information, read CPO Deb Lee's recent interview with Evernote's Marketing Manager.

Springpad is a free online notebook that is completely customizable to meet your needs. It includes templates for common projects such as planning parties or trips, tracking fitness and medical information, managing your job search, and many others. Being completely web-based, you can share your lists with others, allowing business associates or family members to work on them, or send email or text reminders to people.

I am especially impressed with the weekly meal planner. When you see a recipe you like online, instead of printing it out or bookmarking it, you simply add the link to your Springpad. When it's time to plan your menus for the week, you can drag and drop the recipes to your planner. You can then use that information to generate your shopping list. You can even add a restaurant from the web if you want to eat out one night. For a technogeek like me, this could make meal planning a lot more fun!

Most of the features shown are personal or household-related, but I'm sure it could easily be applied to business as well. To check out the demos and see what else you can do with Springpad, go to http://www.springpadit.com.

Since there are new developments in technology every week, I'm sure I've barely scratched the surface here, but hopefully I've given you some idea about the options that are available to you.

If you've used any of the above virtual notebooks, or would like to recommend another, please leave a comment below.

posted on: 5/21/2009 8:30:00 AM by Janet Barclay
category: Business

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Discuss This Post

by H.Kyle on 5/28/2009 12:25:57 AM:

Although not perfect, I find that Microsoft OneNote can make a great Viral Notebook. You can add all kinds of content into it. You can also print to it really easily. It is easy to organize and manage. It comes with Microsoft Office 2007 Home and Student. Not open source, but highly functional.

by Janet Barclay on 5/28/2009 6:41:36 AM:

It sounds pretty good, and I doubt that any software is perfect! I see that it can also be purchased as a standalone product, and you can download a free 60-day trial from the Microsoft website.

by Deb Lee on 8/4/2009 9:22:54 PM:

I'm still using Evernote and really like their web clipper function. Thanks for the information on Springpad and Tomboy. I'm not very familiar with them, so this was a good introduction. Nice post!

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Technology As An Organizing Tool

by Janet Barclay

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