This is a fairly simple and really useful idea from the good folks at google. Create a home page where you can see all of your favorite stuff (including several of the things described above) on one web page. I have this set as my home page and it is the first thing I look at in the morning and the last thing I look at before going to bed. I can see what's going on with my calendar, task list (remember the milk), gmail, weather, and rss feeds (google reader) all on one screen. Key features: 1. Tons of different gadgets that you can add and arrange on your page. 2. Select a theme to reflect your personality 3. Keep one eye on the news of the day while keeping track of everything else going on in your life. Science use case: All of the use cases described above rolled into one easy to use platform
This is my favorite word processing app right now and is in fact what I'm writing this post on. You can generate word processing documents, spreadsheets and presentations in this suite of products. The best part is that you can collaborate with people by giving permission to others to view and edit your document. Key features: 1. Work on the same document simultaneously with colleagues 2. Access your documents from any computer 3. Edit your documents offline using google gears Science use case: I have found collaborating on manuscripts in this way much more satisfying and efficient than passing 30-40 drafts back and forth between folks. Getting real time feedback from collaborators is not only a faster way to work, but I think it also results in a better end product.
This is a great free online tool for making to do lists. It allows you to set up due dates, priorities, repeating tasks, and a bunch of other cool stuff. You can also maintain multiple lists in this program. Some examples of lists that I maintain include project ideas, gift ideas, things I want to read, watch, or listen to, etc... It also has a nice mobile application for several different phones (I use the iphone version) and it has a gadget for my igoogle homepage. Most people use calendars to plan out the nitty gritty details of their day, but I think a good todo list is far more effective. Key features: 1. Create multiple ongoing lists 2. Set up priorities and due dates for tasks 3. Lot's of ways to input data like igoogle, phone apps, and their website. Science use case: This is the best way that I have found to plan out my experiments for the week. It also allows me to set up repetitive tasks like changing cell culture media. If you don't get to an experiment during the day, no problem, a click of a button allows you to postpone until tomorrow....much more efficient at moving tasks around than calenders. Video tutorial:
This is super cool. Although there have been several programs that have tried to do this, Dropbox is the best that I have found to transfer and sync large files across several computers. You can access your files from any computer that the program is installed on or from a web browser. Best of all, it gives you 2 GB of storage for free (if you want 50GB there is a fee). Key features: 1. Easily share files with collaborators 2. Super fast uploads and downloads 3. Looks like an ordinary folder on your PC or Mac Science use case: I think this is great for huge image files that I want to access on several computers or for sharing large illustrator files for figures with collaborators. Video tutorial:
This is the best way to keep track of new journal articles, grant announcements, and any other news that you are interested. Basically, it is a blog/RSS feed reader. What's great about RSS (really simple syndication) is that most sites have RSS feeds (including this science hacks blog). After you subscribe to a feed, newly posted articles from you favorite sites will pop up instantly in google reader. For me it keeps me up to date on the 100s of things that are coming out every day. It's a stress free way of staying plugged in to what's going on in science or any other area that you are interested in. Key features: 1. You see articles as soon as their published 2. Synced on all devices and is accessible offline 3. Share articles with friends via email, facebook, twitter, etc... Science use case: When I was searching for jobs this service was a life saver. It alerted me when ever new jobs were advertised in Science, Nature, and Cell. I used this in combination with evernote to keep track of all my postings. Lately I've been using it to keep track of new journal articles. You can create an RSS feed for anything that pubmed can search for by performing your search, pulling down the "send to" menu bar, and selecting "send to rss". If you click on the newly created link it will dump you into google reader and you are good to go. The feeds that I have set up are for my favorite journals, authors, and keywords. Video tutorial:
This is the best email program ever. It gives you a ton of storage space so you never have to delete emails and there is a sensible archive strategy so the emails remain accessible without cluttering your inbox. You can also do text and video chat right from your Gmail page. If you are worried about all of your other email accounts, don't. Gmail allows you to consolidate all your accounts such that you can send and receive from any address (this will be the subject of an upcoming post). Lot's of other great Gmail features are available and will be the subject of other posts. Key features: 1. 25MB attachments 2. No email quota (never delete a message) 3. Manage all email accounts from one place Science use case: The chat features and sending large email attachments make collaboration a snap. Your Gmail user name and password will also be your gateway to the rest of the great google apps including Reader, Docs, iGoogle, etc... (reviews coming soon). Video tutorial:
I have started writing this series on my favorite productivity apps in order to decrease the technology learning curve for new members of my lab. My hope is that it might also be useful to other folks out there looking to stay on top of the increasing amounts of incoming information that the modern scientist must deal with. Most of the apps that I'll cover are free and fairly easy to use. In the coming weeks I'll post more of these apps and then I'll post on specific scientific use cases. For now, allow me to give you a brief overview of Evernote.
Essentially it is a free notebook program, which can archive clips from the web, PDFs, pictures, or just about any other document that you can think of. It is basically your external brain. The thing that is really remarkable about it is the search functionality. When you upload a picture from your camera, phone, scanned document, etc... it performs a text recognition operation which makes text (even messy hand writing) within pictures searchable. This in combination with the ability to tag notes how ever you like makes it really easy to find exactly what you're looking for. It's also great for collaboration since you can share notebooks or a single note with individuals or groups. Key features: 1. Text and handwriting recognition 2. Synced on all devices 3. Input via desktop application, browser, phone, digital camera, etc...
Science use case: The way in which scientific notebooks are kept hasn't changed since Darwin. I think now a days we should be able to do better. I use this app to archive pages of notebooks, daily work logs, chemical and consumable inventories, receipts, notes for teaching, notes on whiteboards, and anything else that I can think of.