the new face of johnbkendrick.com

If you’ve been a long time reader of John Kendrick’s Weblog, its likely that you noticed that my web presence disappeared some time ago.  Unfortunately, due to lack of attention, I lost my original domain and have been without a blogging vehicle for a couple of years.

Recently, I made a great many technology changes that have brought back my itch to write, so I have resurrected my blog under a different name, johnbkendrick.com and intend to spend a bit of time catching up on all that has changed in my technical life.

Stay tuned for an initial post sometime soon.  Thanks for reading, J.

BookBook Stays the Course

When I purchased my last MacBook Pro a little over a year ago, I knew I needed a case that would stand up to carrying the device from home to work everyday, and moving from meeting to meeting all day, every work day.  Not to mention carrying it to church each Sunday so I could use it to watch YouTube and other videos with the  teens in my high school Sunday School class.  I am seldom without my MacBook no matter where I go, so it needs protection with staying power.

I had been using a BookBook case from Twelve South for my iPhone for several years, primarily so I could have my iPhone and wallet in one case, so I was intrigued by the MacBook case by the same name.  Incidently when I traded up to the iPhone 5 this fall, I purchased another BookBook for it as well.

After using my BookBook to house and protect my 13″ MacBook Pro for the last 14 months, I can honestly say that I could not see myself switching to another case.   Here are my reasons for staying the course with BookBook:

  • The interior of the case is padded red velvet, so I know my MacBook is safe and comfortable in its home.
13" MacBook Pro in BookBook case
13″ MacBook Pro in BookBook case
  • Using two zippers, the case quickly zips up surrounding and securing my entire MacBook, and just as quickly unzips ready for use upon reaching my destination.
Two zippers make opening and closing a snap
Two zippers make opening and closing a snap
  • It can be carried just like a book, and the leather feels oh so good in your hands.

IMG_1873

  • Best of all it looks like a vintage book when closed, hiding its real contents, which of course was the intent of its designer.
BookBook opened for use
BookBook opened for use
  • I’ve  added some additional character, reminiscent of a college book cover, by adding stickers of some of my favorite things to the outside of the case. (This makes the case uniquely my own, and also helps me quickly place the laptop right side up, as the stickers are on the top of the case.)

Lastly, and most importantly, the case has held up perfectly, the zippers are as smooth as new, and the case ages gracefully, actually looking better as it ages.

As a late 50ish guy on his way quickly to his 60’s, the case has a way of making me feel younger than I am, and I get comments on the BookBook often.  Word about these great cases must be spreading, because while watching the new ABC series, Zero Hour, I spied the star carrying his MacBook in the very same case.

So this case, in my mind anyhow, has advantages that others simply can’t beat.  Twelve South makes great products for Macs, check them out and I think you’ll agree.  Thanks for reading . . . John

~OmniOutliner is my “New” Favorite App

Long time readers of this blog know that I have a love (let’s call it a craving) for productivity methods and applications. Perhaps its because I always seem to be managing so many professional projects at one time, (currently over 20 network storage projects). With my ever increasing workload, anything I can do to speed my workflow is essential in keeping my commitments, not to mention my sanity.

The GTD method, and applications patterned after that method, have taught me a lot about managing tasks to be more efficient, and have helped me keep up with the frenetic pace of business life.

Nozbe and Omni applications in particular, have played a significant role in my development, so first I’d like to say thanks to Michael Sliwinski (Nozbe) and Ken Case (Omni), for their significant contributions to this industry and my personal growth.

Having refined task management over the past few years for myself, I have turned my efforts toward helping my project teams to organize their efforts a bit more. I have learned to do that by providing timely meeting notes that identify specific task assignments and due dates, and creating project plans to provide a bird’s eye view to keep our entire team on schedule.

I know that some task management applications (notably Nozbe) can be used in a shared environment, but that hasn’t worked for me in the past, due to the large number of disparate team members I work with on a daily basis, and their need to focus on their project tasks and “keeping the lights on”, while leaving the project and task management efforts to me.

While I have used OmniOutliner for the past two years for all of my note taking, I have, over time, added it as my primary tool to conduct research, gather information for estimates, document project requirements, create project plans, and record testing results.

The reasons I have expanded its use beyond simple note taking are two fold:

  1. Using OmniOutliner is fast, really fast.
  2. OmniOutliner Pro allows outlines to be saved as templates for reuse.

I’ve used Word and Excel for many of these tasks in the past, and often get slowed by inserting and reorganizing rows, indenting and outdenting, dealing with the outline formats, etc. With OmniOutliner all these formatting tasks fade into the background after you learn a few keystrokes to do all of those things. This allows me to focus my attention and energy on the content instead of the tool.

Templates

Having the ability to open a new outline based on a template that is used on a frequent basis, saves a great deal of time. This is important to me as I run (sometimes literally) from meeting to meeting during the day. I have OmniOutliner running on my MacBook Pro, and simply open up a new outline based on the appropriate template, as each meeting is started.

Selecting a Template
Selecting a Template

Examples

The best way to demonstrate how I use OmniOutliner is to show you some of the templates I have created for my work. Perhaps this will initiate some thoughts on how you might put this extraordinary tool to good use to improve your own productivity, and perhaps even those with whom you collaborate.

Meeting Notes template ready to use
Meeting Notes template ready to use
Completed Meeting Notes
Completed Meeting Notes
Completed Project Plan
Completed Project Plan
Completed Project Research
Completed Project Research
Testing Results
Testing Notes Template

That’s all for now, and thanks for reading, John.

~New Faces of Nozbe – Part Duo

In March I blogged about the brand new platforms for NOZBE, including the new Mac OS X app. Well, back then it was more of a Mac application (available as a download outside the app store).

The exciting news for this month is that the new Nozbe app for OS X has been accepted and is now officially available from the app store.

Get all the exciting details and enter to win a free Nozbe account for a year. Thanks for reading, John.

~The New Faces of Nozbe

Finally, the last major limitation of Nozbe has been overcome . . .two faces

I’ve long held that Nozbe is the premier general purpose task management system, and much of the reason is that it has always been an easy to learn and use web-based application, available to both Windows and Mac users alike.  As such, if you’re a Windows user at work, but prefer OS X at home, Nozbe has you covered.

But its strength in this area always had one weakness . . . what to do if you don’t have an Internet connection. For that reason, many users  preferred a real client application, so that they could work in their “trusted system” whether or not they were online.

The problem is that most GTD applications were written for one or the other, but not both major OS’s.  A prime example is the industrial strength OmniFocus application which is available only for the Mac, leaving Windows users without any non-mobile options (though they do have very good iPhone and iPad apps).

Today, Nozbe changed all that when they announced the release of two new client applications, one for  Windows and the other for Mac OS X.

These two new apps join their tried and true web-based application, as well as the iPad, iPhone and Android apps users of those platforms have come to rely on for mobility.  This makes Nozbe one of the very first, true multi-platform GTD applications.

What they did right . . .

How about a Windows app that looks and works exactly like its Mac counterpart.  This is extremely rare – in fact I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a Windows and Mac app that are exactly alike.  Even browsers like Internet Explorer look  quite different in Windows and OS X.

So here’s what the Windows version looks like . . . and other than title bar and menu, this is also what the Mac version looks like.

Viewing project task list in Nozbe for Windows.
Nozbe for Windows and Mac look just alike with the exception of the title bar.

Both versions have an easy to use mouse driven interface, that includes lots of new features.

What could improve . . .

Part of the simplicity, and I suspect similarity of these apps, is that they don’t take advantage of the keyboard, make virtually no use of the menu in either OS, have no right-click context menus, and don’t appear to interact with their respective operating systems to any degree.  Having said that, the Mac app does make use of one of the newest features of OS 10.7, Lion’s full screen mode.

If you’d like more details, be sure to check out the FREE screencast and download links for each of the new applications.  After using the link to reach the home page, click on the “Nozbe GTD Blog” link at the bottom of the page.

Thanks for reading ~ John.

~Discount for Nozbe 2.0

Exciting News!

Nozbe 2.0 and Nozbe 2.0 app for iPhone have just been released. Increased functionality and a new pricing model with gigabytes of storage in every plan, plus for the first time ever, unlimited projects and contexts in all paid plans.

And I just love the new calendar in the web app and iPhone app.  It makes it really simple to see what’s coming due, whether you’re at your computer, or on the go with iPhone.

If you’ve never heard of Nozbe, or possibly GTD (Getting Things Done), now would be the perfect time to learn more.

I just downloaded and installed Nozbe 2.0 for iPhone and it has all the bells and whistles of the web app, including the beautiful new context icons that everyone is talking about, and it’s only $2.99.  That is an absolute steal compared to the other major GTD players out there, which run from $9.99 to $19.99.

And for a very limited time you can get a 60-day money back guarantee, AND a great discount on a Nozbe account!

Use the coupon code “UNLIMITED” for 15% off any prepaid plan, but hurry as this offer expires on Friday, May 14th.

Start getting things done with the best multiplatform GTD app available, now with unlimited projects, improved limitless contexts and gigabytes of file storage.

~GroupWise on the iPhone?

While this blog has evolved into a productivity portal of sorts in the last couple of years due to my heavy involvement with GTD, I occasionally feel the urge to stray away to other territory, usually to iPhone apps. This will be one of those posts.

Visit Ghost Pattern Software

GroupWise

For those of us working in a Novell environment at work, GroupWise is a way of life.  It’s how we get work and communication done.  But this causes challenges for those of us that want to take our GroupWise email and calendar with us on our iPhone.  While there are enterprise solutions available, few Novell shops will implement the infrastructure and other resources necessary to support iPhone users.

Until recently, the GroupWise WebAccess mobile client was the only client solution available.  When compared with the iPhone mail app, it was worse than rudimentary, very small links and many clicks to see your mail or calendar.   So most iPhone users just forward their email to their personal account.   But this is not a good solution, and is a security nightmare waiting to happen, should a confidential message or one containing privileged information be intercepted as it is sent across the open Internet.

Enter Ghost Pattern Software.  They began with a simple wrapper with which to use the WebAccess mobile client, and then expanded to provide a couple of really promising apps.  I’ll describe each of their apps below.  All three are available for a very reasonable price on the app store.

GW Web

This application is much the same as what you would see if you used Safari on the iPhone to visit your WebAccess page, with a couple of important differences.  The first is that it provides one click access to WebAccess as it will store your login credentials so there is no need to type them on the small iPhone keyboard.  Second, it provides a convenient back button with which to move to the previous screen.

This mobile app provides most of the basic, and some not so basic, GroupWise features.  The problem with this mobile interface is that its links are small, and it takes too many clicks to reach your destination.  You can see some nice screen shots of the app at work at Ghost Pattern Software.

GW Mail

If you like the look of the iPhone mail interface, your going to love this step up from GW Web.  This app provides one click access direct to your inbox, and presents your waiting messages in a more readable format.  While this app is more lean in features than GW Web, it has been evolving quickly, recently adding access to other folders, adding a link to more than the initial 25 messages displayed, and provides access to message properties and your GroupWise address book for use when composing new messages.

This app does crash at times, especially when attempting to access folders in the cabinet, but nonetheless has allowed me to stop forwarding mail to my personal account.  I rarely feel the need for features beyond what it currently provides, other than push notifications of arriving mail, which won’t be possible until the arrival of iPhone v4 with multitasking.

GW Calendar

This app provides one click access direct to your calendar in a day or week format.  Again, the presentation of your appointments is done in a more readable format than the GW Web app, and without all the clicks.  You can even see your notes along with appointments in the day view.  And now you can accept or decline appointments right from your iPhone.  I love this app and use it all day, frequently checking my calendar when moving from meeting to meeting to make sure I’m headed in the right direction.  And just like the GW Mail app, it allows you to see the properties of appointments.

So, all in all, some great iPhone apps to keep your GroupWise mail and calendar available while on the go.  One caveat is that all three apps need Internet access and a GroupWise WebAccess account.  But if you live and work in an area with ubiquitous Internet access via wifi or 3G, you will find these apps a major step forward for productivity on the go, and should give them a try.

Did I say productivity?  Well yes, I guess this does qualify as a productivity post after all.  Let me know your thoughts, and thanks for reading, John.