Going Old School

It’s probably been a month or more since I gave up Outlook (more here), and I’ve noticed something. As a result of giving up on Outlook, I seem to have given up on my PDA as well. Not that I ever used my PDA to it’s full potential; I used it mainly to manage my schedule, maintain my address book, hold shopping lists and display driving directions.

But times have changed. I stopped using Outlook, so it’s pointless for me to input my work schedule into my PDA, since I’ll just re-enter it into Google Calendar when I get home. MapQuest no longer supports the offline, downloadable maps for portable devices that it used to, which was the only reason I ever used MapQuest, really. If I can’t download my directions onto my PDA, I’ll just go back to printing them out like I did before I had my PDA.

So this basically leaves me with two remaining functions; address book and list holder. But again, since I’ve given up Outlook, I won’t keep the contacts in there up to date. I’m in the middle of creating a digital address book in Access to hold all my contact information, so that when Christmas comes around, I can just do a mail merge and print the addresses onto the envelopes. Hand addressing envelopes sucked when it was just my friends and family – I’m not crazy enough to try that for two families worth of Christmas cards. As part of that, I’m trying to find a way to print out address cards, as a sort of do-it-yourself kind of address book. I’m playing with forms in Access – ideally I want one card per person, so that when their information changes, I can just print a new card and replace it. Finding a way to keep it bound together, and not in an index card box, is proving problematic.

After ruling out calendar management, driving directions and address book, I’m left with list holder. That’s right, my PDA is a glorified notepad. And honestly, if I’m just using it to hold shopping lists, do I really NEED a PDA? I think not. And so, after checking out the Hipster PDA, I think I’m ready to give up the PDA and go analog again. We’ll see how it turns out.

Giving Up Outlook

A few weeks ago I decided I would try giving up Microsoft Outlook. I already used Gmail as my primary email account, and was getting frustrated with trying to achieve a two-way sync between Google Calendar and my Outlook appointments, so I thought I would just give up Outlook for Google. And honestly, it’s a lot easier than I thought it would be. The main reason I used Outlook wasn’t just for use as an email client – if it was as simple as email, I would have given up Outlook for Gmail years ago. No, I used Outlook as a management system for my appointments, tasks, address book and email.

Everything I liked about Outlook, I can accomplish with Google, with few exceptions. I love Google Calendar, and the ability to manage my calendar and appointments online. I can share my calendar, manage invites, and have my daily agenda emailed to me so I don’t forget anything. With the personalized Google homepage, I basically created a web based version of Outlook’s “Today” view; email inbox, upcoming appointments, and tasks with upcoming due dates. Embedding my email and calendar into my homepage were the easy tasks; Google doesn’t yet have a to-do list, and so I had to look elsewhere for list management. Remember The Milk does Task management, and then some. You can share tasks with other users, tag tasks, associate a web page, give a time estimate, and more.

Honestly, the only thing I can’t accomplish with Gmail is auto-adding birthdays and anniversaries from contact information into a calendar, which would be really nice. Otherwise, I can never remember who has an upcoming birthday or anniversary. Another thing I wish Google would add is the ability to label/tag/categorize contacts. I would love to be able to filter out contacts; say I want to send an email out to family, but I don’t want to make a “Family” mailing list. If I could just filter out business contacts and friends, that would be convenient.