I love technology that makes me more efficient. Here are some productivity aides I recently discovered. (Some are free. I have no financial interest in any.)

Workflowy.com. I started using this “cloud-based outliner of unlimited dimensions” about a month ago, and am moving more and more things into it — my journal, meeting notes, various collections, such as quotations I want to remember, and more. The site is for text, not images. I can access it from my desktop, smartphone, or iPad, and it works quickly and conveniently on all those devices.

Workflowy has a really fast search. You don’t have to remember where you put things; just search on any word you recall.

The site also supports tags. Tag anything with an “#” or an “@,” followed by a word or phrase, and you can retrieve everything associated with that mark. For example, click on any “#movie” to see all the entries that have that tag in them. Users can filter and output results in a variety of formats. Workflowy.com is free. A small annual fee adds a couple of features.

Toodledo.com. I have not encountered a better, easier-touse, less-obtrusive to-do list manager. It is cloud based and has apps for most smartphone and plug-ins for most browsers; I use Chrome now, and have used the site on Firefox.

Toodledo works with Google Calendar and others, so your tasks and projects show up on their assigned dates. It has extensive search functions, customizable fields, alarms, unlimited notes, a flexible hierarchy (project/sub-project/ task/sub-task, if you like), and sorting. Of course, to-dolist programs don’t make you do things. But Toodledo.com makes it easy and fast to create tasks and let you find them later. I like that.

Evernote.com. I use this to grab Web pages I want to keep. Evernote stores them both on my machine and the Web, so I can access the pages from my smartphone or iPad . It supports tags and has an excellent search function, so even though I have thousands of entries, I don’t lose things and can find them quickly.

Evernote has an amazing optical-character recognition feature: If you put a picture on the site and the picture has text in it — say, a wine-bottle label or a street sign — you can search for the text and the program finds it. This handy tool is free, with a small ad. Make the ad go away for an annual fee.

Cmap. Concept maps, popularized by Joseph Novak, are deceptively simple. A concept map contains bubbles or blocks representing concepts, interconnected by lines that represent relationships. They are used to represent knowledge. I’ve found concept maps to be useful when I am trying to understand or communicate complex systems that have more than a few components.

Freckle. Do you want to know how you spent your day? Freckle is designed to make it easy to record the time you spend on each task or project, then easily collate the entries. If you use the free version, you only get one project. The paid version is much more flexible.

Visual.ly. Have you noticed that infographics seem to be exploding all over the Web? These are creative graphics that represent quantities and magnitudes of various phenomena, in entertaining ways. Visual.ly is a site for sharing infographics. How about a world map showing “where the bribes are”? Or “Pinterest versus Facebook”? You may not find an infographic covering what your presentation needs, but you will surely be inspired by the creative imagery these artists have designed.

Write me with comments on these, or with your own discoveries.

— Joel Orr
www.joeltrainsauthors.com
(650) 336-3937
Twitter: @jobookmaster

Edited by Leslie Gordon

© 2012 Penton Media, Inc.