Archives for : December2009

When Did The Focus Rules Change?

Back in the old days, the concept of “focus,” that is, which active window, button, text field or icon being active or selected was very clear. If a message box or dialogue box appeared on the screen or “took focus” from whatever you were doing, it was clear that you’d have the option to either press space bar, tab, alt+key, or any other combination thereof to make your desired selection quickly and move on.

This was the norm for many years going back as far as MS-DOS to Windows98 SE if my memory serves. After that, somehow the rules changed. Mind you, I’m not talking about Linux here, just Windows. From the limited distros I’ve tested, Linux seems to be pretty spot-on with handling focus consistently.

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Why Microsoft Outlook is to be Avoided for Personal Use

Recently, I’ve had to work on a number of machines that have had Outlook as their primary e-mail client for a number of years and in doing the requisite work on these systems that I’ve come to see a broad issue with locally stored e-mail and the way Outlook in particular makes it very difficult to get away from. What is surprising to me is just how many people are still falling for the locally stored e-mail trap. Don’t get me wrong, allow me to explain. Some people (such as those who heavily value privacy, manage their own e-mail servers, etc.) can benefit heavily from such a system, but an average user who doesn’t know the difference between Gmail and an Exchange Server should certainly not be using the latter.

At first, Outlook seems like a great tool. It’s got everything in one place, e-mail, tasks, calendars, notes and so on. As you continue using Outlook over the years, I imagine it becomes familiar as you begin to make folders and subfolders, add to your calendar and make reminders for your calendaring. I get that.

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Information Management Using VUE (mindmapping software)

Some of my job functions require a large volume of record gathering for several cases simultaneously. At first, I was dealing with this task by using a Word or WordPerfect text document (“record disposition log”) with tables indicating the name of the location and what had transpired between my phone calls/faxes to them and their responses to me. Sometimes I contact 10 to 20 different places in one day and unfortunately must leave an innumerable number of voicemails; when people start returning my calls, I would often have difficulty locating their entry on my text documents or even knowing which case they were calling about — quickly. The text documents would soon begin to look like a real mess, and there was no quick way to link scanned information to a particular table without using some cumbersome feature like Link Object in Microsoft Word.

One day, after fumbling through a series of notepads and text documents trying to locate a phone number, it occurred to me that there had to be a better way to manage large volumes of interconnected information. What I needed was a surface, a canvas that would enable me to map out the process of gathering and collecting information as well as being able to keep a detailed catalog of notes for each area of interest. I tested a wide variety of software; ConceptDraw, NovaMind, Pimki, FreeMind, Compendium and a whole bunch of others.

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