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BLOG: Three tools for getting organized: Looking for 'The One'

Mark Gibbs | July 2, 2013
Gibbs really wants to be organized, but somehow, it never quite happens.

Getting organized isn't something you do once and then forget about. Oh no. Organization needs constant polishing and review and, in short, is a total pain in the butt. I've always wished I were one of those hyper-organized people who has a place for everything and everything always has its place, but alas, that apparently isn't in my genetic makeup.

But, while organizing my small slice of the real world is a huge pain for me (you should see my garage ... or rather, I'm glad you can't), organizing my computers and what I do with them is, in many ways, an even bigger challenge.

My excuse, when I feel I have to make excuses ... which is NEVER (well, never unless something critical has gone missing in my, ahem, "controlled chaos" and my beloved needs whatever it is) ... is that I am "creative" and that getting seriously organized would be alien, far too time consuming, and require me to be someone completely different from who I am.

Even so, despite all my vacillations and excuses, I really do want to get my act together. So every now and then I have another shot at digital organization, which usually involves taking on YAA (Yet Another App).

My "go to" for organizing my writing, research, design and development "stuff" (which accumulates with frightening rapidity) was, for some time, Instapaper, which I highly recommend for having a spark of near-genius in its design and execution. That said, I'd also add the caveat that, while it lives up to its billing -- "A simple tool to save web pages for reading later" -- it lacks features for organizing and searching saved content.

The service's creator, Marco Arment, who was the lead developer of Tumblr, notes in the service's FAQ that "Instapaper isn't optimized for keeping track of thousands of pages. This isn't the right tool to collect, categorize, tag, filter, and search the contents of every web page you've ever found -- for that sort of use, try Pinboard or Evernote."

I beg to differ regarding Pinboard, as this is really just a YASBS (Yet Another Social Bookmarking Service) which does nothing for actually organizing a huge pile of stuff. As for Evernote, we shall return to that it a second.

Instapaper is free (you can optionally donate to the author for the service's upkeep), and if your goal is to save "stuff" for later rather than archive the entire online universe as it sometimes seems I'm trying to do, then this service won't disappoint. Instapaper gets 5 Gearhead stars out of 5.

So back to Evernote. I've started and stopped using Evernote several times, and while I appreciate the service's level of detail and sophistication, somehow its user interface is not, for want of a better word, "comfortable" for me. It isn't quite slick or obvious enough and it seems hard to integrate it with my workflow (which is a rather pretentious way of saying "how I get things done").


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