Monday, August 31, 2009

Weekend Browsing

My favorite product was featured in a great write-up over the weekend in the New York Times. In an article about Freemium, the concept of giving your service away for free but charging for premium content, Evernote was one of the success stories.

I enjoyed this Tweet from an about to be married man. At least he didn't tweet again for sixteen hours.

I haven't had a chance to play with it yet, but Google Voice enthusiasts like myself now have a PHP library to play with for their own projects.

I have to go fix a broken lawn mower. Why can't you just download a fix?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A really good week

Funny how some things go. I started this blog last November to document for myself mostly, but anyone who might be interested, some efforts I was making to refine my families technical life. And also to hold musings I was having about how technology was changing our society.

I was slowly building the audience, mostly by looking over Twitter questions ever night on products I was interested in (Evernote, Google Voice, Dropbox etc.) and answering them in the blog. August 24th I noticed my visitors went over a certain milestone for the week for the first time.

Three days later, after noticing the traffic the day before had been good, keeping me on track for the week to set another record, I saw a Twit come in from Lifehacker.com about a new post. "Dang", I thought, "they posted about a topic I wrote about a couple weeks ago." I clicked the link, and realized they were talking about my post, and had linked to it.

That day I had 100 times more visitors then I'd had the day before and by week's end 38 times the traffic of the previous week. I garnered a few additional subscribers via Blogger and a few more in Google Reader. And I hope a lot more have me bookmarked now. So the challenge now is to write more that will interest these new readers that saw me for the first time.

I hope you come back. I'll work hard to keep you coming back. And thank you for a great week.

And there is another new development that has given me some positive reinforcement. It started before any of this happened last week. I'll have more details soon, when the product that is going to result from it is available to share with all of you.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Evernote Tip: Creating a Saved Search that is Notebook Specific

Buried deep in the documentation for Evernote's API, is some advanced search syntax useful when you want to create a Saved Search for searches within a specific notebook.

In the API we learn that typing : notebook:"Public Bookmarks" tag:"evernote tips" finds all notes with that tag, in that notebook.

Once I have located those notes, I can right-click on Saved Search and Create a New Saved Search.

One of the many good things about Evernote, is creating a Saved Search on one client, makes that search available on all the clients you use.

The API has a lot more searches you can do in its Section C. Evernote Search Grammar. It is found about 60% through the HTML one page version of the API's documentation.


Be sure to check other Evernote posts and my best : "Your First Day with Evernote"

Update 11/19/2009 : This post was mentioned in Ten Mov.es post "How to Search Evernote"


Friday, August 21, 2009

Recording your own notes with Google Voice

Note :   April 2016:  Frankly I don't know if this works anymore.  It is 7 years old.

I stopped using this when Google Now became useful on my phone, and I could dictate reminders using it.



I found a way a while ago to use Google Voice to record a personal note, transcribe it, and email it to me. A recent Lifehacker post "Five Things We'd Like to See in Google Voice" lists that need as their #5 request, so I realized what I'd figured out is not common knowledge.

  1. In GV's Contacts, create a Group "Special Transcription"

  2. To avoid listening to my standard voice mail when I call, I recorded a short voice mail greeting for this group simply saying "Record note now"

  3. I added a contact with my own cell phone number as the only number, and made it the sole member of this group.

  4. In GV's phone settings, I edited the settings for my cell phone. In the section "Direct access to voicemail when calling your Google number from this phone?" I set it to No.
    Updated: You have to click "Show Advanced Settings" link to see "Direct Access to Voice Mail" - Thanks @corgimas and @Daniel.
    Update #2: Some people report not seeing this.  I created a screenshot of where mine is.


Now I just called my own Google Voice number from my cell phone and it answers, says "Record Note Now" and beeps. I record my note and hangup. Google Voice transcribes the message, and from the settings I previously set in my Google Voice, emails me the note. And with the filters I setup in GMail, the transcription is forwarded to Evernote for me. I described how to do that in a previous blog post.

This is really handy while you drive. I previously had Jott for this, but when they switched to a paid model, I couldn't justify even their minor monthly cost for this. If I commuted by car daily, I'd probably re-think that and be able to justify their cost.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Back to School with Technology


This year we have not one, but two young scholars heading back to classrooms. And by young, I mean older--18 and 19. One is finishing high school and the other is in college.

This has made me think about the technology available to students and how they might make use of it in their education. I've put this post together by researching what others have thought of, some brainstorming on my own part, and talking with a few students and teachers. If I get any of this wrong, or you have additional ideas, please share them in the comments.

Here are the tools I've equipped our scholars with :

Hardware :

Wi-Fi Enabled Laptop: Preferable to a desktop. Takes up less room in a tiny dorm room, and easily carried to classes and library.

Scanner : We have a small portable one from the Neat Company. Evernote is partnered with Fujitsu and promotes their ScanSnap. They both are powered from the USB drive so taking one with you is easy.

Smart Phone – doesn't have to be the iPhone. We found the Instinct hooked to the Sprint Network to be affordable and good enough. These are important not only for communications, but they give the students a multitude of other tools : alarm clock, stop watch, basic calculator, camera etc.

Free software or services :

Evernote : “Evernote allows you to easily capture information in any environment using whatever device or platform you find most convenient, and makes this information accessible and searchable at any time, from anywhere. “ There are clients for Windows, Mac, iPhone, Blackberry, Palm Pre, web and mobile web.

Dropbox : Let's you store files online, and synchronzes files among your various computers. Also lets you share folders with other Dropbox users. It is free and paid. There are clients available for Windows, Mac & Linux.

Google Calendar and Gmail – Google's own calendaring and email. Also Free and does not require any software on the PC.

Google Docs/ OpenOffice – Either works just fine for the college student, and is free. No need to buy Microsoft Office. But if you want MS Office, look at their Student Edition. It is much cheaper.

Audacity – a free audio recording and editing tool


In a perfect world I'd also set them up with :


Pocket Digital Camera - usually better resolution then the camera in a phone

Eye-Fi - Memory card for cameras that uses wi-fi to send photos directly to Evernote

Pocket Recorder - Very tiny audio recorders that record to solid state memory and uploadable to laptop via USB port

Pocket Video Camera - like the Flip.

Dragon Speak 10 - voice recognition software. I haven't tried this, but a possible use would be to transcribe audio from recordings

Premium Evernote - Increase amount of material uploadable to Evernote from 40 meg to 500 meg a month. Also allows you to store all kinds of files. The free account is limited to text, PDF, WAV and JPG files. The cost is just $45 a year, or $5 a month.

Premium Dropbox - Free account is 2 gigabytes but you an buy more space. Fifty gigs is $9.99 a month, or 100 is $19.99 a month. I wish they offered 25 gig for $5 a month.


Here's how I see a typical day for a technology enabled student:

Derek is a Journalism student. In addition to most of the tools listed above, he also has a good digital SLR and a video camera.

Derek has already had one computer break on him during the school year, and another was stolen. Redundancy of data, and off computer backup are now critical to him. As he sits in his first class, he types his notes into a text editor. He likes Notepad for that, but it could easily be Word, OpenOffice, or directly into Evernote.

He saves the file into a folder that he has Evernote setup to "watch". Whenever a new file appears, Evernote automatically creates a note with that information. Every 60 minutes (or more often) Evernote synchronizes itself with Evernote's on line database. Evernote keeps four or more copies of every note at its data center. So now there are six copies of Derek's notes. One in the folder, one in his local Evernote database and four then in Evernote's data centers.

As he files out of the classroom at the end of the class, he takes a quick snapshot of the white board with his cell phone's camera. His new phone has a good enough camera for that. If it didn't he could carry an inexpensive small digital camera with him. Every Evernote account has its own email address. He emails the photo to Evernote. Evernote indexes the words it finds in the photo, and lets Derek search for them later.

His professor for the next class has outlawed laptop use in class, fearful students are surfing the net instead of paying attention to his lecture. Derek takes notes the old fashion way, on paper. When he gets back to his room, he will scan the notes with his small scanner into Evernote. Evernote will digest the PDF file and make the text searchable.

This professor also hands out worksheets. Derek scans them in as well later.

The professor announces a guest lecturer coming to campus who will speak about topics Derek is interested in. He whips out his phone and texts his Google Calendar account with the event. He has Google Calendar set to send him text messages to remind him of events. Derek remembers the days before the family account had unlimited text messaging. He is glad those days are over; Dad is easier to deal with now. Besides communications with friends, he finds he is going text messages to add items to various on line programs like Google Calendar and Evernote, and have applications text him reminders.

Derek also takes a minute to text Evernote a reminder for himself to study for the upcoming test in this class. Derek uses Evernote to keep track of the tasks he needs to get done. He explored the possibility of using “Getting Things Done” (GTD), David Allen's methodology for tracking tasks. He read a blog post on GTD for students, but opted for his own methodology for planning his day, and remembering tasks using Evernote. He uses Google Calendar for events with specific dates. At the start of the semester he transferred all key dates from his syllabus for each class, to Google Calendar. That way, he can see tests and project due dates do not sneak up on him. He even went so far as to put in dates a week or more in advance to remind himself to start projects.

Much of his next classes knowledge comes from a rapid fire lecture. It is too fast for good note taking, although he tries. He uses the microphone built into his laptop and Audiology to record the lecture.

He is considering looking at Dragon Speak. He hears it does a passable job of transcribing the lecture. The resulting transcription he could record into Evernote. He is also thinking of investing about $40 in an inexpensive pocket recorder. They record digitally into memory in the recorder, and upload the audio to his laptop via the USB port.

Back in his room, the takes advantage of his roommate being out to get some reading done from a textbook. As he reads, he stops at the end of each section and types up some notes about what he has read. That act alone sets the material into his brain, he has found, but having it in Evernote makes it easy to find when time to study.

Later, he heads to the library to research a paper. He types notes directly into Evernote, and takes photos with his camera for email into Evernote.

Some of the material he is researching is for a team project. He moves the material for that project into its own Evernote Notebook. He has chosen to share that notebook with the rest of the team. Since he has a Premium Evernote account, they can edit the material though the shared notebooks web interface.

Of course, a lot of the research he does is on line. He can record bookmarks,and clip items from the web into Evernote so it is stored right along with the other research he has by using the various bookmarklets Evernote provides.

His girlfriend is competing in a gymnastics meet at the gym. He takes his digital SLR him. He added an Eye-Fi card to it recently. Since the gym has wi-fi, all the photos he takes go right into his Evernote account. Later, he'll post the best ones to his Facebook account.

While at the meet, he runs into someone from his work group. He tells him about the great quote he found that day for their project. He does not have his laptop with him, so he pulls up Evernote on his phone and finds the note with the quote so he can share it right then. Evernote has phone clients for the iPhone, some Blackberry's, the Palm Pre with others to come. Derek has a Samsung Instinct, so he uses Evernote's mobile web site instead. It works okay for him.

Just before going to bed that night, he moves a copy of his Evernote database to his Dropbox account. This gives him a bit of redundancy and more off-site backup. Since Evernote's 500 megabyte monthly quota is not big enough for video files, he moves some of the video he shot in his film making class off to Dropbox too for backup. A couple videos he's made for his joint project, he moves to a folder in Dropbox shared with the others in the group.

That weekend, he goes home to visit his parents. He forgets to take his laptop, so when he decides to do a little studying, he just brings up Evernote on his old desktop in his bedroom. After a quick sync, he has all of his notes there with him.


Additional Resources :


I wrote abut using Evernote to manage tasks and events here.

Many of the websites I looked at to research this piece are listed in my Public Bookmarks Notebook, tagged with "Evernote for Students".

Using Eye-Fi with Evernote is featured in Evernote's Blog.

And finally, my favorite Back-to-School video ever!





Friday, August 14, 2009

Google Reader Sendto Evernote

A few days ago, Google Reader announced a new Sendto feature. You could choose an item in Google Reader and by clicking Sendto, send it out to your blog in Blogger, or to your Facebook page or as a Twitter Tweet.

My first thought was to send an item to Evernote. Currently, I am emailing them from Google Reader to Evernote, but would like to stream line the process. I spent some time yesterday exploring how to do it, but didn't have much time. I put a query on Evernote's Forum asking if anyone had an idea. So far no one has responded.

This morning, via a Tweet from Steve Rubel, I saw where Glenn Slaven's "The Development on a Showstring" blog had a solution. It works, at least in my initial test.

Now, TweetDeck needs a Sendto feature!

Updated 8/14/2009 9:39 PM: Evernote announced in their blog this afternoon there own SendTo solution.

If you already set it from the description above, change the URL to "http://s.evernote.com/grclip?url=${url}&title=${title}"

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Gizmo5 and Google Voice

I realized today from a question I saw on Twitter, not everyone knows about one of the coolest things about Google Voice. You can not only make free calls to and from your landline or you cell phone, but also via your computer.

The person asking the question was afraid they'd have to pay for Skype In minutes to use Google Voice from their computer. They didn't know about the free Gizmo Voice Over IP (VoIP) client interacting with Google Voice.

Some calls just need the kind of hands free I get from computer headphones and the ability to look up information or make notes I do best at the computer.

Google Voice Help tells you all about it. See my other posts about Google Voice.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Google Voice for Journalists

Once upon a time, I was trained as a journalist. While I've never actively worked in the field, I do follow the profession and have used the tools I was taught in many ways.

As I've integrated Google Voice into my life, I have considered how it could be valuable to a journalist. I was planning to research this more and write a blog post for it. Today on Poynter Online, Etan Horowitz covers all I might have, and more in his post "How Journalists Can Use Google Voice to Improve Their Reporting".

Check it out.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Collaboration with Dropbox

In an earlier post, I talked about how Dropbox ( all Dropbox posts here) had all but eliminated USB drives from our home.

That is only one of the huge benefits of Dropbox. I've been using it to collaborate with a few people.

I coordinate the Audio-Visual team at our church. We need three sets of slides each week, one each for the two services and a set of Announcement slides. The musical directors create the slides with the song lyrics, the church secretary does the announcement slides and the minister decides the Order of Service. I'll go in and add non-musical slides to the service slides (title, scripture lesson, offertory music etc.).

At first, this was a bear of an effort as everyone tried to email slides around. For a while, we tried the Documentation collaboration software OpenDocMan setup on my website, but that was over-engineered for our needs with document security and permission levels. It was hard for casual users to remember all the settings they needed to make to make slides visible to the rest of the team.

With Dropbox, I have created a folder called "This Week's Slides" in the church's Dropbox account. I then invited myself, and all the others to that shared folder.

Now, on my PC (and each of theirs) there is a folder in My Dropbox the current slides reside in. If I need to make changes, I open the file from there, make the changes and save them. A revision list lets me see who has made changes and when.






If necessary, we can roll back to a previous version.

There is no file check in/check out ability so the possibility exists that two people could have a file open and be making changes to it at the same time. The first one who saves it is fine, but the second persons changes are saved to a conflicted file I would then (as coordinator) have to reconcile the changes. It hasn't happened yet--our group is too small and we do not make a lot of changes to our files. For that reason, Dropbox is perfect for us. It may not work as well for larger groups with my dynamic files.

Even if you don't have a group of people collaborating, sharing folders has other uses.

My wife and the two young scholars in the house each have Dropbox accounts. I have a folder I share with each of them. It makes it easy to share files. Also, we have two printers in the house, a black and white only laser everyone is connected to, and a color printer. The color printer does not hold as much blank paper, so to be sure printing is done right, anyone needing a color printout saves the file as a PDF to my shared folder with them. Then I print it locally keeping an eye on the printer.

Dropbox is one of my five most useful tools. If you haven't try it out.

Shameless plea: I get can get a small bump in my free 2 gig of storage space by referring users. If you want to try Dropbox, could you sign-up using this link? Thanks!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Send to Evernote

Lifehacker just had a great idea. Use Windows Sendto to send files to Evernote. I updated my previous Evernote tips post with this idea. Today's Lifehacker post is here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Google Voice for Military - Right Now!

I've extolled the virtues and power of Google Voice many times before on this blog.

  1. What the Heck is Google Voice?
  2. Google Voice, a Game Changer?
  3. Google Voice Implemented

Google Voice is not yet open to the public at large. More and more invites are going out, but so far demand is greater then supply.

Today, Google announced almost immediate availability of Google Voice to anyone with a dot MIL email account.

From the Official Google Blog :

When you deploy, your life is put on hold. While you live and work in a different world, everyone else moves on with life back home. Your family and friends keep moving, and this sometimes means it's just not possible for them to stay awake until 2 a.m. to receive a phone call. Calling Iraq or Afghanistan is seldom an option.

Google Voice provides a solution to some of these problems. Service members can set up an account before they deploy. Or if they're already deployed, families can now set up an account for their service member. Loved ones can call to leave messages throughout the day, and then when that service member visits an Internet trailer, all the messages are right there. It's like a care package in audio form.


Eligible military can sign up here.

A good explanation from Lifehacker.com about what is Google Voice is here.

I'm off to email about this to my friends with .mil addresses.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Scripting Evernote in Windows

Evernote is one of those applications with a lot more power then is immediately evident. For example, Podcast #9 debuted yesterday, and they talk about Saved Searches. As part of that, they talk about their rich search vocabulary and how they have hidden that ability in the API documentation.

Another wonderful ability not obvious until you search around on their website, is Evernote's scripting capabilities. They have one for Windows they built called ENScript, and another for the Macintosh. Of course, they have their full fledged API as well, but for a hobbyist programmer like myself, the scripting was intriguing.

I've been playing around with the scripting and thought I'd share an example script showing the kind of power it gives an Evernote user with just a little bit of programming ability.

Before we all began using Evernote, we all had data in a variety of file formats. Text files, PDF's, and Delicious bookmarks are all easy to move into Evernote. Excel spreadsheets can be moved into Evernote if you have a Premium account. What if instead of moving an entire spreadsheet, you instead want to create a note from each line of data in a spreadsheet?


Setup and Running a Test:

While I could have done this project using Excel's built in scripting tool, Visual Basic for Applications, I decided instead to use a wonderful, and free, scripting tool called Autoit. A future project I'll blog about soon couldn't be done with VBA but could be with Autoit. And after doing this project in VBA, I re-did it in Autoit and found Autoit did it more elegantly. So I will standardize on Autoit for my Evernote scripting examples I'll show here starting with this post.

Autoit is very reminiscent of my favorite rendition of Visual Basic, their 3.0.

Autoits power can be extended by users. For this project I needed the ability to link to Excel. I found that through a User Defined Function by a user calling himself Locodarwin.

Note: Links to the various files you'll need for this project are listed together at the bottom of this post.

Step 1: Download and install Autoit3.

Step 2: Download Locodarwin's Excel.Zip file

Step 3: Unzip the file to its own folder

Step 4: Copy the excel.au3 to Autoit's Include folder. If you installed Autoit3 to its default loation, the include folder is at : C:\Program Files\AutoIt3\Include

Step 5: Download this script : Excel_to_Evernote.au3. It does not matter where you install it.

Step 6: For testing, download the spreadsheet, books.xls.

Step 7: You'll need to load the script into an editor (Notepad will do) and change the line :

$sFilePath = "C:\Documents and Settings\Mark\My Documents\Evernote\excel_to_en\books.xls"

to have the path to your books.xls file.

Note: You will need Excel to run this script. I used Excel 2003, but theoretically it should work on later versions too. If it does not, please note in the comments.

Also, to keep the script fairly clean and easy to read, I really don't have any error checking in it.

Warning: This script is provided AS-IS with no warranties. I strongly urge you to copy your Evernote Database file to another location in case anything in this script were to mess you up. It shouldn't but you never know.

Step 7: In Evernote, create a notebook called "books". You can make it unsynchronized to save on your 40 or 500 meg upload quota.

Step 8: Run Autoit. It will prompt for the script file to run. Point it at "Excel_to_Evernote.au3" script. Additional script running methods are available in the Autoit Help file.

When the script runs it will start Excel with the Books.xls file in it. It will take a minute or so to run, and then give you a message box indicating it is done. The script, and Excel will then end.

Evernote needs another minute to process in the incoming information. Then you'll see this in the Books Notebook :




Modifying the script to import you own data:

You can modify the script to bring in your own spreadsheets from Excel.

Bring up the script in your own editor (like Notepad). The pertinent section is the "Information about your spreadsheet" section.

Note: text in the script after a semi-colon in the code is a comment.

Change this to the path and name of your own spreadsheet :

$sFilePath = "C:\Documents and Settings\Mark\My Documents\Evernote\excel_to_en\books.xls"


Change this to list the columns you want to move to a note. The first column becomes the title and first line. The subsequent columns become the next lines of the note :



$columns = "A,C,E"


Show the first row in the spreadsheet to list. It must have data in it
.


$row_start = 3



Indicate the row to stop on. The script will stop before this if it finds a blank cell in the first column chosen above.



$row_end = 15



You probably won't need to change this line if you installed Evernote in the default location:



$pathToENScript = "c:\program files\evernote\evernote3\"


The script takes the contents found in cells in the first column and makes them the title of the note. You can put in text to put before that data in the title:


$ENTitle = "James Michener Books:"


Notes will be placed in the Evernote notebook you specify here :



$ENNotebook = "books"

Each note will have the tags you list in this comma separated list :

$ENTags = "book to read,michener"


How does the script work?

Basically all this script does is walk through the spreadsheet gathering the data in the appropriate columns in a row.

Then it writes a temporary temp file with the data.

Then it invokes ENSCRIPT.exe, Evernotes script engine, to create a note from the text file, with the title and tags specified, and in the specified notebook.

Then it moves on to the next row until it reaches the first row where the first column is blank, or the last row is reached.



Concluding Notes

I realized after creating this script, and starting on the next one I'll share with you in a future post, I could have instead generated an XML file with the spreadsheet data and then imported that into Evernote. That method would require only one invocation of ENSCRIPT instead of one for each record. But it would have been less illustrative then this method.

Files you need to download:

AutoIt3 Install

Excel.zip

Excel_to_Evernote.au3 (1-2-2012 - broken link fixed)
Either right click this and "save link as" or click this, then select all text and copy into an editor and save as "Excel_to_Evernote.au3"

Books.xls


Be sure to comment if you have questions or would like share something about Evernote and scripting.