GTDers group in BlackBerry Messenger
For all of you using Blackberry and GTD and wanting to share knowledge, tips and solutions, I've created a new group in BBM.
You are welcome to join by scanning the barcode below (if you have any problems, please contact me).
I've also added the current upcoming GTD Connect webinars to the group's calendar.
Hoe to see you there!
BB Messenger for GTD
Nuno- Thanks for setting up the group. I look forward to participating, and seeing how folks are using BB based tools for GTD. So far, I've not utilized any BB applications for implementing GTD; simply using Outlook and syncing Tasks/Calendar to my Bold 9700.
Long reply, wiped out
Arg! I was just composing a lengthy, detailed reply for the last hour on this topic describing my system and when I clicked "Preview Post", davidco.com threw an error on the website itself, and wiped out my entire post. ARGH!!
I'll try to type the post into an editor offline and paste it back in until the system accepts it when I Preview/Submit the entry.
Frustrating... very frustrating.
Here's how I'm doing it... so far
I've been using a BlackBerry device for the last couple of years, after being a long-time user, developer and supporter of Palm OS devices for the 12+ years prior to that (see pilot-link for one of my main Palm OS projects). Palm turned in a direction that the OSS community is quite unhappy with, and so many of us are moving on to support other devices and manufacturers.
The reason I'm using a BlackBerry now, is that it still remains the only phone/handheld device that supports what I call "rich" calendaring. By that, I mean it's the only device which allows me to sync and maintain separate calendars on the device itself, while keeping them separate when synchronized back to the desktop. Android, iPhone, Windows Mobile and Web OS devices don't treat calendaring in the same, intelligent way that RIM does with their BDM sync solution.
My system is quite optimized for the way I use these devices and platforms, and may not work for everyone, but it does work for me. Take from this post whatever you find useful and discard the rest.
First, let's talk about "capture" using the device. For capturing tasks, memos, etc. I'm using some macros and some add-on applications. BlackBerry has an AutoText feaure (Options -> AutoText) that allows me to create quick macros for commonly-typed things. The most-used AutoText entry I have is one I set up for 'ts' (stands for timestamp).
This macro consists of '(%d - %t)' and using it in any field will insert the current date and time into the entry. I use this when I create new tasks, by making 'ts' the topic, and then adding my detail in the main body of the entry. I have hundreds of other on-device macros as well, but 'ts' is definitely one I use the most.
In addition to AutoText, I've enabled "Predictive Input" (Options -> Language and Text Input -> Show Text Input Options -> Predictive Input) to help auto-complete the words I'm typing on the keyboard.
I have a tip to make that even easier too!
I have Vlingo Plus installed, configured and trained to allow me to dictate my tasks verbally into text. The translation isn't 100% perfect, but it's about 99%, which is great for what I need.
I also use Vlingo to read my texts and emails aloud to me, so I don't have to "read" the phone's screen while I'm driving. I prefer micro/small fonts and having to read them while in a moving vehicle is not smart, nor recommended. For that, I use my BlueAnt S4 in-vehicle speakerphone. The S4 also supports voice dictation and will listen for verbal commands and speak back to you.
I use my on-device calendar for capturing a lot of data, journaling and other things. To speed up how I send data to/from the main apps on my BlackBerry, I'm using another tool called "AddOnIs" from Twinkler Software. It's a simple utility that gives you a "Send to..." option in your menus, and when you highlight an item, you can send it to the Address Book, Calendar, Tasks or Memopad.
I use AddOnIs to send incoming/outgoing SMS messages to my calendar so I can sync them back to my desktop and archive them off there as "journal" entries, as needed.
There are a few features I'd like to see in AddOnIs, and I've asked Twinkler to consider them as new features, but I'm not going to hold my breath on those.
I also have the Remember the Milk client for BlackBerry ("MilkSync") installed on my device, and those Tasks I create on-device, are replicated to my online RTM Professional account where I can manage them from a web browser no matter where I am. I can organize them into projects or contexts from here as well. It also provides a clean backup in case my device is damaged or lost.
There's another way I could do this from the desktop side (see further down in this replya for details).
So that's the on-device capture side of things, mostly... let's talk about the desktop.
I use Outlook 2010 in a Windows 7 virtual machine (VMware Workstation running on a Linux host; my preferred platform). I sync my BB to Outlook directly via USB cable (more on that further on in this reply). Synchronizing directly to Outlook gives me a lot more power, features and flexibility over using BIS or BES, or using one of the external services such as a hosted Exchange account.
I sync to Outlook using BlackBerry Desktop Manager (BDM), and maintain 7 separate calendars and 2 data sources for each of the other configured apps (Tasks, Contacts, Memos). The calendars I see in Outlook include:
5. Phone Calls
7. Change Freeze/Outages
The calendars in italics above, are the ones I sync directly to/from my BlackBerry device. The other two exist in Outlook, but are not sync'd to my device (Archive is an exception, as I sync it to Outlook once to populate the device with the data, and then not again; see below for detail about why).
I have 11,000+ entries in my calendars, all of which get sync'd to my device. Once I have the previous years' entries sync'd to my device, I create a filter in Outlook to limit what gets sync'd from that point forward. I don't want BDM to have to check all 11,000+ entries at each sync to scan for conflicts and changes.
To create a date-limiting filter to trim how much is analyzed for sync to your device, go into BDM -> Organizer -> Configure Settings -> Advanced -> Calendar tab -> Filters -> New...
I created a filter called "Sync Recent", so from there, go to Field -> Start Date -> Operator -> On or after, and put in a date prior to today. I set mine quarterly, so the filter currently has 10/1/2010 set as the cutoff date.
Click "Add to list" -> Ok. On this next screen, this is very important, make sure you uncheck the "Delete from device any data that does not match the filter" option. If you leave this checked, anything older than this date on your device, will be deleted.
What I do, is do a one-way sync, sending all 11,000+ entries to my device in a one-way sync (overwriting the Calendar database on the device itself). This includes the "Archive" calendar, which goes back 11 years for me.
Once the data is on the device, I disable the "Archive" calendar from my sync'd sources and apply this filter, so I'm only ever synchronizing the last 3 months of data to my device. An Outlook rule takes care of auto-archiving data from the local data sources on the desktop to the Archive .pst file.
At this point, I now have all of my data on the device, managed by Outlook, with filters that limit how much is analyzed for sync to the device. This cuts down sync time dramatically.
In Outlook itself, I update/edit my tasks, notes, contacts, etc. with richer content. For Contacts, I might add a scanned copy of the business card to the record, or I'll add a contact photo. For Tasks, I'll add richer categories and my GTD contexts (@Work, @Computer, @Phone, etc.), and so on.
Tagging items in Outlook is amazingly simple with another add-on I have installed called "Taglocity". TagLocity can auto-tag items or you can do it manually. I tag everything in Outlook that I want to keep. Another sync to the BB and those richer tags make their way back to the device.
I also use another add-on called "Xobni Plus" (Xobni is "Inbox" spelled backwards) to help me manage my mail, attachments and other data related to items flowing in and out of Outlook. With Xobni, I can very rapidly find, respond and manage my email. With Xobni + TagLocity, I can make sure everything is tagged and sorted accordingly.
My Outlook data (the .pst and .ost files) are put into my local Dropbox folder, so the data is made available to my other Windows machines as needed. I've subscribed to their Pro account, so I get 100GB of available space for data. With the Dropbox Pack-Rat feature, I have unlimited rollback/revisions, so I can retrieve any previous version of every file I've put into Dropbox.
I have a few blog posts describing how I'm using Dropbox to relocate some data that hard-coded applications aren't so forgiving at letting you point elsewhere (using Junction).
I have the Dropbox BlackBerry client installed on my BB as well, so I can see and manage the data in my Dropbox folder from my BlackBerry. It has rudimentary file view options and I can upload photos from the BB into Dropbox if I wish.
I'm using Dropbox in quite a few non-conventional ways. Most-recently, I've been using the "Shared folder" aspect of Dropbox, to put work for my PA into the folder. I drop documents, spreadsheets, task lists and other data into the shared folder. She sees a copy of that folder in her own local Dropbox folder on her desktop.
As she's working through the documents and tasks, they're updating on my desktops in real-time. No more shuttling documents around through email, and it's much faster.
Here's how I'm doing it... so far (Part 2)
...continued from previous post:
Earlier, I mentioned using MilkSync to sync my Tasks from my BB to the Remember the Milk service. This basically allows me to sync BB -> RTM, and then I sync BB -> Outlook, so there are effectively two copies of the Tasks in two places. I could change this workflow slightly, by disabling the Tasks sync in BDM, and install MilkSync for Outlook, and sync Tasks directly from Outlook -> RTM, and then when I sync my BB to Outlook, it'll basically go BB -> Outlook -> RTM, but then I have no OTA sync from device, and if my device is damaged or lost before I can sync to Outlook, any data I've entered in Tasks, is lost. That's why I'm doing it from BB -> RTM for now.
Now I've got my data in Outlook, and that data is backed-up and revisioned in case something goes wrong, and it's accessible from all of my Windows machines (physical and virtual).
I have another capture tool I use; Evernote. I have Evernote's clipper installed on Linux (as an add-on in Firefox), and their Evernote client on my BlackBerry device. I use this to clip random reference material, documents and other material that are not directly emails, tasks, notes or contact data.
On my BlackBerry, I use the Evernote client to read or create new content which then appears in the Evernote web interface, including any quick journal entries I might want to log there as a "New Note".
This seems like it's a lot of configuration and other apps, but believe me, it's very simple to set up and very easy to maintain and use.
I'm essentially using the following:
- Dropbox client
- Evernote client
- Remember the Milk client
- Outlook 2010
- BlackBerry Desktop Manager
- Xobni Plus
- Firefox + Evernote clipper
- Dropbox client
Some may reply and wonder why I'm not just using BES, synchronizing with Google Calendar or using a hosted Exchange account.. I've looked into each of those options in great detail, and none of them even come remotely close to the power, features and flexibility of using BDM in Windows and synchronizing over USB.
With BES, I don't have the ability to create advanced sync filters, sync to more than one data source (local Outlook, remote Exchange, employer's Exchange over VPN, etc.)
Synchronizing with Google Calendar is a dead-end, since Google has never been able to get their sync logic right, and they don't support multiple calendar sources on-device. If I carry 5 calendar sources on my BB, and sync those to Google using GoogleSync for BlackBerry, Google's tool "flattens" the calendars into one calendar as it reaches Google's Calendar services. If I sync that back to my device, and then sync that device to Outlook, it introduces thousands of duplicate entries. That's just not acceptable.
I'm not speaking out of turn here, because I intimately understand sync logic, and how difficult and complex it can be. Google got it wrong, avoid it.
A hosted Exchange account would be a problem and reduce the features I have today using Outlook with localized data sources. I can add multiple Exchange accounts in Outlook 2010 (a long-requested feature), but they're hard-coded to a limit of 3 Exchange accounts.
Another issue with the hosted Exchange solution inside Outlook 2010, is that it no longer aggregates my tasks from the various other sources (Personal, Business, etc.) in the ToDo bar... so I'll have to check each individual source directly. It adds steps and complexity, where I'm trying to remove any additional steps.
This is by no means a perfect system, but it works really well for data capture, using the BB as the primary source, and using Outlook in a VM as a way to enhance that by enriching the content and managing it as the "archive" source of that data.
With Dropbox + Evernote + Remember the Milk, I have access to most of that data from anywhere I have access to the Internet, in a secure, safe manner.
Are you using GTD Outlook Add-in?
Hi, I read your excellent posts on optimising your BB and Outlook.
I noticed you didn't list the Netcentrics Outlook Add-in s/w. Have you tried this and does it synch nicely with the BB?
I could only get a list of Tasks when I synched with BDTM which didn't really help me feel organised. I couldn't see the @Calls @Computer etc context categories.
I have trialled it for 30 days, rather liked it but now cannot decide whether it's worth paying for. I posted elsewhere with this question but have had no reply.
Thanks for your help.
This is interesting. I've just started trying to use a Blackberry. I would like to have two calenders on the Blackberry, one for work which would sync to Outlook at work and one for personal stuff that wouldn't sync to anything. Is this possible?
Originally Posted by hacker
Last edited by kelstarrising; 06-05-2011 at 07:25 AM.
gtd add in
did youy find the respons to yout question? i want to find a smartphones that just simply synchronise categories from OUTLOOK