Sunday, January 29, 2012

Notebook Alternatives to Moleskines

Thanks for coming to Read "Notebook Alternatives to Moleskines." This article has been updated, rewritten, and posted on the newer Frugal Guidance 2 blog. You can read it by clicking here.  We look forward to seeing you there and invite your friends, too.

You can also copy and paste the link:

Friday, January 27, 2012

Taming the Wild Moleskine, Pt 2

This post has been updated, rewritten and moved to our new site,

You can read part 1 of this article at and then continue to parts 2 and 3, with more info about using Moleskine-style notebooks than ever before.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Taming the Wild Moleskine

This post has been updated, rewritten and moved to our new site,

You can read this specific article at

We look forward to seeing you there.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Using a Moleskine (or a Moleskine Clone) Notebook

This post has been updated, rewritten, retitled, and moved to our new site, Frugal Guidance 2 at
 with more info about using Moleskine-style notebooks than ever before.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Focusing Your LinkedIn Profile for Multiple Careers, Interests, and Job Hunting

Dealing with LinkedIn Multiple Personalities

Four Solutions

Life is complicated and so are people and careers. You can argue that it was simpler when one worked for one company all week for 40 years and then retired at 65. You got a gold watch and a pension. Life was good. (Maybe.)

Today, when the social contract between workers and employers has been shredded, stomped-on and burned to ashes, when pensions are replaced by 401(k)’s (or 403(b)’s) or retirement plans just don’t exist, and when most employees stay with an employer for 2 to 3 years and when most employers are looking for temps and part-time workers, things ARE more complicated. As a result, many people now like to advertise their multiple careers, career changes, hobbies turned businesses, consulting gigs, blogs, freelance work and, when necessary, they may be looking for multiple jobs. (This doesn’t even touch on those of us with multiple personality disorder.)

But LinkedIn, bless their networked hearts, insists in their User Agreement, that you can have one profile and one profile only. And this is one of the rules that they actually enforce!

Very recently, Viveka von Rosen, CEO of Linked Into Business, and known on Twitter by the handle @LinkedInExpert wrote a great blog post on the subject, “7 Ways to Deal with Multiple Businesses on LinkedIn.” (Yes, you should read it!)

Viveka also hosted a session of #LinkedInChat (on 1/17/2012) where the same issue was the main part of the discussion.

So how do people balancing multiple careers, new careers, encore careers, consulting businesses, flea market sales, dog sitting sidelines, freelancers and job hunters all fit everything into a single profile?

(This is entirely separate from the issue of people who, intentionally or by accident, set up more than one profile. Almost any day of the year, there’s somebody asking the question, “How can I consolidate two – or more – profiles into one. We’ll have to deal with that in a different blog post.)

Viveka herself brought up Solution No. 1: Focus on one thing at a time. Focus intensely on what you want to accomplish in the next six months: whether it’s your career, your freelance work, your consulting, or you job hunt. Then adjust your profile accordingly.

Some of things you may want to do:
  • Make sure your headline reflects your choice (use your 120 characters well). You don’t have to list everything. Focus. 
  • Your Summary should use your keywords for search purposes. You have 2000 characters here, so edit carefully. 
  • Your Experience section (that stuff “below the fold” in your profile, if you know the newspaper reference), no longer has to be listed chronologically. So move up the sections that emphasize the things you are focusing on (a specific career, service, job search target). 
  • Make sure your search terms (or SEO terms) reflect your focus. 
  • Use recommendations that match that focus. (You can hide and show specific recommendations.) 
  • Your LinkedIn profile does not have to be a complete résumé, nor does it have to reflect your entire life. 
  • Use the new Skills section to add skills – which are actually keywords people can use to find you. 
  • As Viveka says, “Use your LinkedIn Real estate!” The character counts for different sections: “Summary 2000, Specialties 500, Interests 750, Contact Me 2000.” 
  • If you have Honors and Awards, there are new sections for that. If you have volunteer experience, add that, too. 
  • If you are fluent in more than one language, you can have your profile in more than one language, too.
So if you like to train Labrador Retrievers but need to focus on finding a job as a COO, focus on the chief operating officer job search for now and retrieve the Retrievers later.

Solution No. 2

List your different careers / personalities and describe them concisely. If your different careers are somewhat related, this might be easier. For example, this might be a better solution if you are an off-Broadway actor at night and a voice-over artist by day. They are different careers, but one complements the other.
  • Match your history to the different careers. Group related job experiences together. They do not need to be chronological. 
  • Use keywords for both. 
  • Use add-on tools to showcase both, either individually or together

For example, use Presentations to explain your different careers, interests, history. is great for sharing work samples from within your profile. You have places for links to Twitter and three other links to blogs, online résumés, and other social media.

Solution No. 3

Use different social media for different fields.
  • Use LinkedIn for your “professional” focus. 
  • Use Facebook or Google+ personal pages (or business pages) for your alternate careers or interests, say for your Flea Market Antiques sideline. 
  • Create a business web page for your individualized greeting card line and Facebook for your professional oboe career (to use a real example). 
  • Use links to your different online sites to refer people to your other interests.

There is a danger here in fragmenting your social media exposure. If you want to create a unified SM appearance, this would not be the best choice.

Solution No. 4 for Job Hunters

Job hunters may need to be especially creative and careful, especially if you are looking for more than one type of job opening. Say you are doing freelance work and consulting while you are also looking for a full-time job in a similar or non-related career. Plus you are doing volunteer work and networking to find jobs and clients.

A full-time employer doesn’t want to hire you just for a full-time 40-hour-a-week job anymore. They want to pay you for 40 hours and expect you to be available for phone calls, “paper” work, and online telecommuting for another 20 to 30 hours a week. So, if they know you’ll be working every weekend at flea markets, or training dogs, or playing jazz gigs at night, they might not consider you a good prospect for their job. This may not be fair, but if you encounter this, then you should reconsider using Solution No. 1 above.

But even employers know life is complicated. Use your experience in multiple careers to show your ability to meet deadlines, juggle multiple tasks, and prioritize your schedule.

For example, my previous career as an orchestral bassoonist might not seem to have a lot of relevancy with a new career in nonprofit fundraising. Yet, I can discuss the fact that my musical career involved in long periods of self-directed reed making and practice followed by rehearsals taking minutely-detailed supervision under conductor/supervisors while working smoothly with a large team of co-workers. All this while intensely focused on meeting serious deadlines. (You can’t stand up in front of an audience and say, “Sorry, I didn’t get to practice as much as I wanted this week, but if you come back on Monday night, I can give you a highly polished performance.”)

Consider not posting résumés on your LinkedIn profile (with the Box application, or with
links to your online résumés). Instead, create a Marketing Statement, which might look similar to a résumé, but features a list of your 50 top employer prospects. (This might be a good place to use a task-based résumé format instead of a chronological format, too.)

Use this marketing statement to:
  • Get recommendations for contacts in these specific companies.
  • Get introductions to leaders in that field. 
  • Find other smaller/larger/regional employers who would complement your list, to expand your job search. 
  • Find similar employers in alternate geographic locations.
You can create marketing statements for more than one job area. For example, if you are an accountant with experience in corporate taxes and also serve on nonprofit boards – you could have one marketing statement (and list of target companies) for a tax accounting position, and another for a non-profit chief accounting position with experience in filling out IRS 990 forms.

So, when life is complicated, use that varied experience creatively to stand out from other job hunters, freelancers, consultants, gurus and workers on LinkedIn and elsewhere.

Tags: LinkedIn, profiles, job hunting, hiring, life

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Networking Styles Part 2, for Job Hunters

Finding your LinkedIn "Style" of Networking

PART II Your networking style if you are in a job search.

In our last post  we discussed the different styles of online networking, from timid to gregarious.

Your decision on which networking style you want to use should depend on your networking goals.  Your personality and approach to marketing Me, Inc., are also factors. Some people who are bashful in person-to-person networking (my kind of people, actually) may find online networking more comfortable. Those who are trying to create networks in new career fields or in other physical locations (say, Chicago, San Francisco, Boise, Lubbock or Shreveport) may find online networking and phone networking essential.

When is the best time to grow your network for a job hunt? This question is similar to the (Japanese, I believe) adage:

When is the best time to plant a tree? Twenty years ago.
When is the second best time to plant a tree? Today.

Likewise, the best time to grow your network for a job hunt was three or four years ago. The next best time is right now. (If you actually did start to network on LinkedIn, collect recommendations, and develop your profile years ago, congratulations! Now is a good time to get a bit more aggressive.)

If you are job-hunting, there are practical reasons for creating a larger network. Many companies are now using employee referrals to vet potential hires. Some companies even give bonuses to employees if those referrals result in hires. One of the current trends in HR circles is to use employee's connections to help find new employees instead of using expensive search services and recruiters

Therefore, to find connections from your list of target companies, you want to use the LinkedIn's Company listings. Look for people in your geographic area or work in the same locations you want to. Find out what professional (or other groups) they belong to that are of mutual interest. Join them.

If that seems too much like stalking, see if they have a Twitter or other social media link on their profile. If so, that's an invitation to connect with them there. Also check and see if they advertise themselves as a LION. If so, feel free to send them a personalized invitation. Note that some LIONs get so many requests to connect, it could be difficult to get noticed in the crowd. If they have a blog, that's also an invitation to read it and leave a comment.

Once you get to know these people, they could be great advocates for you if the right job opens up. (This is similar to the approach that Richard Bolles has espoused for many years in What Color Is Your Parachute?, way, way before online social networks.)

When you join professional groups on LinkedIn, if you have a free account LinkedIn may still put a few obstacles in your path to contacting 3rd degree connections. Mainly, they may hide the last names of 3rd degree (or further) connections and make it difficult to send them a message (unless it's one of their $10 InMail messages.) There are many ways around these restrictions, but one way is to connect with one or two LIONs in that group. (LION = LinkedIn Open Network.) Do that and nearly everybody in that group, however large, will be a 2nd degree connection. That's a good incentive to accept an invitation from a LION in that group, too. How do you know if a person is a LION? Look at their profile. Many LIONs actually post in their profile the term, LION, or announce that they accept all invitations.

You can also make it easier for other people to find you when they have the same problem of indentifying you. It’s easy. Just re-type your name in the Headline section (just below your name, next to your photo). You do that by clicking the Edit button next to your name when you edit your profile. This way if a group member points at your photo in a group, they might see your first name and last initial from the name field, but they will also see your full name in your headline. You can also add your full name to your links to your Twitter address and other accounts on your profile. This can make it much, much easier for people to find and identify you for jobs and networking.

Also, when people write you a recommendation on LinkedIn, simply ask them to use your full name in the recommendation. If an HR person is searching recommendations instead of entire profiles, your name will pop up there, too.

You can also be strategic in accepting invitations, especially if you get one of those boring, canned "I'd like to invite you to join my LinkedIn network" invitations. When you get that invitation, that could mean one of three things:

1. The person sending the invitation doesn't know how to personalize their invitation, especially when LinkedIn gives them the option to connect with people. (That means they’re a newbie and might not be particularly helpful to you.)

2. The person doesn't really care enough about you to send a personalized invitation, they just want to collect connections. (Why would you want to connect with somebody who won’t even take the time to personalize an invitation?)

3. They assume you are an open networker and will accept most if not all invitations. (A less impersonal, but still careless error unless, of course, you actually ARE an open networker.)

There actually is a fourth possibility: they clicked the wrong button and sent you an invitation by mistake. It does happen. Again, this is not usually a great way to start a networking relationship.

If you get one of these impersonal invitations from somebody, be strategic. Look at their profile. If that person is in your field or one of your groups, consider accepting the invitation and writing back, "I'm happy to connect. Was there a particular reason you sent me an invitation? How can I help you?" This could be a good way to start a conversation. If they don't write back in a reasonable time, you can always disconnect.

If that invitation is from a person in the HR field, they might be working strategically to build their network for their specialty, or they may be flailing, randomly sending out invitations to anybody they can find who is connected. Again, if they are a specialist in your field or in your region, consider accepting the invitation. If (as in some recent invitations I've received) they work in an entirely different part of the country (or world) and/or place clients in a field unrelated to yours, you can simply hit the Ignore button with a clear conscience.

When job hunting, you also need to make sure your profile is close to or at 100% completion. Use keywords for your occupation in your job descriptions and use those to make it easier for HR people to find you, too. There are other techniques we'll talk about in other posts, too.

If you are thinking of planting your tree now, start digging.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Networking Styles

Finding your LinkedIn "Style" of Networking

On LinkedIn, as elsewhere online, there are all kinds of networkers. Each has their own style, related to their networking goals and desires. One way to think of networking style is to think of a continuum of networking approaches ranging from a private, select group of contacts to a gregarious, recruit-everybody-into-my-personal -network style.

Since the beginning of LinkedIn, there have been emotional debates arguing Quantity vs. Quality. Although LinkedIn officially recommends caution when adding people to your network, they also reward those who collect many contacts by allowing them to see more connections when they search for people and make it easier for people to find you.

LinkedIn's official stance is to only invite people into your network that you know and trust. These people would include school and corporate alumni, co-workers, other academic connections, friends, and people from your live networks. We could call this the "LinkedIn is a dangerous place" approach.

"Power networkers" thumb their noses at LinkedIn's warnings, arguing that you wouldn't attend a live networking meeting and only talk to people you already know. The whole purpose of networking is to find new connections and learn new things. If you find somebody on LinkedIn you would like to talk to in real life, invite them into your network. (And some people would like to talk to everybody.) This could be called the "LinkedIn is a rich place of incredible diversity and knowledge" approach.

In reality, they are both right. The first approach is probably the one that LinkedIn's lawyers are comfortable with spreading. The second approach could make you vulnerable to corporate intelligence collecting, scams, people "stealing" your connections, and whatever it is that those people who create fake LinkedIn profiles do. However, it can also help you find lots of people willing to help you in your online endeavors.

The Quantity vs. Quality debate ignores the vast area inbetween the two extremes. It also ignores every person's networking goals. Your goals could vary greatly, and could include such things as:

  • Creating a network of trusted friends.
  • Helping mentor others in your field (or about LinkedIn).
  • Become a professional Go-To person in your field.
  • Support your blog.
  • Learn about your field of endeavor from the pros.
  • Find a new job.
  • Find a new career, find a job coach, find a mentor, or change careers.
  • Read current news in your field.

You could argue that no two people are online for exactly the same thing.

I think of networking style more as a continuum, ranging from a private, timid connection to a power networker. Somewhere in-between is a "Normal Networker" which could include you and me. Here are my four categories of networkers.

The lurker is not a real networker. It could be somebody who just joined LinkedIn (or another service) and wants to look around and get a feel for things before proceeding. In many online discussion groups (or in many LinkedIn groups) this is not necessarily a bad approach.

The lurker could also be a person who created a LinkedIn profile because somebody else (perhaps their boss) told them to. They only have 1 to 3 connections in their network, which means they're not even trying. They do not join groups. They have no recommendations. Some have not even finished filling out their profile basics. (One profile I saw only had the person's initials and no viewable information. Ironically, he listed his career as "Communications.")

They might also be referred to as Timid Connectors. Novice Networkers may network because they have to or because they are curious about all this talk of online networking, but they are not yet enthusiastic about it.

They have a few people in their network, but those may be people they already network with in person.

They might belong to a few discussion groups, but only participate occasionally.

They may connect only once a week or a couple of times a month. They're not growing their network and they're still trying to figure out what all the fuss is about.

This category includes NPLYOM's (Normal People Like You or Me).

These are gradually more active networkers, probably like you. You may have anywhere from 25 to 600 first level connections. Here are some strategies you can use to develop your network:

Don't invite everybody into your network, but DO try to get a variety of people (alumni, co-workers, other people in your field, some creative types, and a few Power Networkers) into your network.

Also join Groups so people can find you and contact you without having to use expensive InMails. Join several professional groups so you can find who the leaders are in your field, and so others in your field can find you also. There are several large groups (including some job search groups) which span many professions and are good just for connecting you to a diverse portion of LinkedIn.

Your LinkedIn profile should be at least 80% complete. Make sure it includes your basic contact info (whatever you feel comfortable sharing online), your full name some place other than the name field, connections to other services (I share my Twitter and Google+ IDs, but not my Facebook one, which I use mainly for older friends). Get a few recommendations if you can.

Answer questions in the appropriate user groups and collect some "Best Answer" credits and some Recommendations.

Grow your network gradually and steadily. Set LinkedIn to forward InMails, Invitations and Introductions via email and respond to them promptly.

Communicate with the people in your personal network from time to time, but don't pester them and NEVER send them sleazy marketing invitations.

Often called LIONs on LinkedIn, for "LinkedIn Open Networkers," this group includes many HR recruiters, sales people, politicians, and other people who feel they want to have a huge network. They may also be bloggers, writers, speakers or other freelancers and get leads for future gigs online.

These people will normally allow almost anybody into their personal network. Some have thousands or tens of thousands of 1st degree contacts. They like being able to see everybody's profile on LinkedIn and to be able to find a connection with every company.

Some are very generous with their time on discussion groups and may spend hours per day on LinkedIn as well as other services.

Invite a couple of LIONs into your network and see your 3rd Level contacts grow while you sleep.

So it is important for you to decide what style of networker you want to be. That style can change as you mature as a networker. However, as you expand your style, it is difficult to dial it back from an open networker to a more moderate style. So proceed appropriately.

In the next post, we'll discuss how being in job search might be a good reason to change the way you network.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Free Kingsoft Office Pro 2012 download today

For the next 12 hours, (until midnight, west coast time), you can download a free copy of Kingsoft Office Pro 2012, legally, from the website Giveaway of the Day

The suite normally sells for $70. It is an imitation (dare we say ripoff) of Microsoft's Word, Excel, and Powerpoint..

I wrote about the package in an earlier post:

Chinese Kingsoft & Yozo Office sing G&S in new versions

Friday, January 13, 2012

First LinkedIn Dating Service Launches

It had to happen, especially with LinkedIn’s demographics showing the wealthiest average membership of any of the social networks.

LinkedIn now has a dating service. Actually, the service is (which, unfortunately, sounds more like a horse rental site than a dating service to me, but maybe I don’t know the current dating scene).

Membership is free with access to your LinkedIn credentials. LinkedIn members looking for love (UnLinked Lovers? – lots of possibilities for new LinkedIn group titles here!) can join free, but you need to purchase credits to contact others. You can view LinkedIn profiles before making contact.

No word on keyword or premium searches, or on new dating sections for your LinkedIn profile, yet. Presumably you could create a dating presentation and post on your LinkedIn profile with Google Presentations or Slideshare. And you could post photos of your sexy, premium-gym-sculpted body using the application.

Nevertheless, either this move is genius or an effort doomed to fail due to excessive geekiness and soon-to-arrive SEO marketing keyword overkill in daters’ profiles. (I hesitate to mention the fact that, even with current LinkedIn head shots, its obvious that many members haven’t been actively working out for a while.)

As says in its FAQ sheet, “It is safe to assume that majority of the members on the site are corporate professionals looking for love. Having said that you should take all the necessary precautionary measures of dating someone online.” (And we all know that corporate professionals never indulge in inappropriate behavior in or out of the workplace.) <Insert your own Herman Cain joke here>

And we just needed one more incentive for establishing fake LinkedIn profiles, didn’t we?

In any case, I’m sure much, much more will be written about the service, serious and tongue-in-cheek.

For Veena Bissram’s original article on Mashable, see is at

Kewords: LinkedIn, Love, dating, singles, hitch, SEO

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Seven Types of Evernote Users

1. List makers create
  • To Do lists
  • shopping lists
  • gift lists (with photos and price tags)
  • packing lists (for home moves and office storage)
  • travel agendas
  • conference agendas
  • people to meet (and, sometimes, people to avoid)
  • job descriptions
  • books to read and/or books already read
  • good restaurant meals (with photos)
  • wine labels, tea tastings, coffee dealers (or other tasty things)
  • stamps collected & photographed
  • ticket stubs
  • tweets posted or collected
  • receipts for reimbursement
  • house or apartment hunting lists
  • bucket lists 
2. GTD enthusiasts. There are bloggers who will go into excruciating detail on how to use Evernote to organize your life and Get Things Done (from the book by David Allen). (There are others who will do almost anything to avoid these sites.)

3. Networkers  use Evernote to collect business cards, photos, names, plan your next networking event, list people to meet, and track LinkedIn contacts and people to invite.

(Hint: if taking photos at a networking event, ask people to hold up their name tags so you can read them in the photo, too.)

4. Planners use Evernote to organize:
  • events ranging in size from a private dinner to a half million dollar fundraiser
  • conferences
  • job hunting
  • meetings
  • agendas
  • assigned tasks
  • instructions
  • maps
  • menus and catering info
  • price lists
  • decorators
  • volunteers and volunteer job descriptions
  • venue info with contacts
  • PR specialists and connections
  • janitorial services, and
  • temp agency contacts, among other things.

5. Creatives find new ways to use Evernote for their business, hobbies, song lyrics, poems, drafts, blogging, photo sessions (including studio diagrams and shot notes), makeup notes, hair styles, writing and researching, repertoire lists, reviews (only good ones), press clippings and story boarding.

6. Collaborators use Evernote with others: your personal assistant, your job search group, your baseball team, your wiki group, your work team.

Evernote is being used by a detective agency, realtors, lawyers, coaches, and farmers. (Of this blog's seven groups, this may be the only which which requires a paid account for full usability.)

7. Home & Family Data Collectors use Evernote to keep track of
  • all your warrantees for anything you buy with the receipts and date of purchase
  • scan or photograph your instruction and repair manuals and other How-To’s
  • keep lists of your kid’s school supply requirements
  • summer reading lists
  • permission slips
  • homework assignments
  • teachers’ names and contact info
  • kids’ friends’ names and parents (tip: take photos of your kids’ friends with their parents – it helps you associate which parents belong to which kids and they won’t think you're creepy photographing just kids)
  • list your kids’ friends’ food allergies (so you don’t accidentally send them to the hospital during the birthday party)
  • lists of all your repairmen (and repairmen recommended by friends)
  • track all your insurance policies
  • doctors’ phone numbers
  • immunizations
  • photos of science projects and awards earned
  • report cards, of course
  • photograph and file those holiday cards (after keeping them on the fridge for a respectful period of time)
  • take-out menus from your favorite home delivery restaurants (pictures of your favorite pizzas are optional)
  • gift/wish lists for your kids and your extended family

As you can see, there’s an endless list of ways to use Evernote to track your work, your play, and your life. See to get started, or try one of the other notebook apps described in the Frugal Guidance post: .

Please add your ideas in the comments.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

National Letter Writing Week

In the "Why didn't anybody tell me?" category, I just learned today that this week  (January 8th-14th) is National Letter Writing Week (in the U.S.) or Universal Letter-Writing Week according to the International Society of Friendship and Goodwill. 

So whether your goal is to promote universal friendship and goodwill, or to help save the U.S. Postal Service, or just to get off your tush  (actually, to get on your tush, but you know what I mean) and write some thank you letters for your holiday gifts, there is still time this week to get out those letters AND celebrate the week as you feel appropriate. (And if you wanted to extend the week to the 15th or later, since you had such short notice, I won't tell.)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The notebook applications – online and off

The next step in human evolution or just a good place to park your data?

In our previous discussion on how to organize information using outliners, mindmaps, files and even 3x5 cards, we discussed some of the advantages of using notebook applications which are, essentially, free-form databases. It might be an exaggeration to say that these applications are the next evolutionary step in human memory capacity, but they sure can be useful.

If you want to use a notebook application, there are some wonderful choices for you to consider. Here is my take of the advantages and disadvantages of the various offerings.

Springpad emphasizes social networking tools rather than just collecting data. It is primarily a web application which can also be accessed using Android and iPhones and iPads — no downloadable PC or Mac apps, yet. Springpad has some unique features, like the ability to scan a bar code with your phone to import the info on the product (say, a book) directly into Springpad. It also has a digital felt board area where you can arrange different pages in a notebook on a wall. (Unfortunately, this feature appears only to work in Chrome and Safari so far).

You can create notebook pages, tasks and add things to a “Look it up” area. You can also create both public and private RSS feeds. Presumably, other Springpad users can look through your public RSS feeds to see what you are following. This fits in with the “Friends Stuff” (which, grammatically, should be “Friends’ Stuff”), which allows you to choose which Facebook friends to follow to see their favorite books, movies, games, TV shows, and places. The interface facilitates sharing info (recipes, recommended books, films, restaurants), which makes it great for online communities. I never found Springpad a useful place for individuals. People who value privacy probably should avoid Springpad (and, apparently, Facebook, too). Some features may only work with Chrome browsers.

Springnote. Although the name is similar, Springnote takes a very different approach from Springpad. When you create a notebook you decide whether it will be private (personal, but allowing you to share with others) or a group notebook (which is more like a wiki environment where all members can view, create and add information). Since sharing information is an important part of Springnote, you can use your RSS feed application (such as Google Reader) to show updates to other members’ notebooks. You can add other members to your “watch” list, and use search tools to find content you are interested in. Once you visit another person’s notebooks, you can leave comments.

Springnote appears to have one of the best text editors of the notebook apps, allowing you pretty full formatting of text, including list and paragraph styles. You can also export a Springnote page to your blog – which might be particularly useful if you want a group to take a wiki approach to creating blog posts.

Likewise, Springnote’s wiki approach allows you to easily create workspaces for formal and informal work groups with other users around the world. You can allocate different permissions for reading and editing.

Among the other features are a Dashboard, similar to what you find on project management applications. You can easily see which pages have been updated, add tags, organize pages into a tree structure (like an outliner), view page histories and download HTML backups of files.

Membership is free and you get up to 2 GB free storage. In addition to working online, you can use iPhone and iPad applicatons, but there doesn’t appear to be an Android app.

If you need fairly complete word processing tools, want to connect your notebook to your blog, or want to create an ad hoc or permanent wiki-style work group, Springnote might be a very attractive option if you don’t have to work off-line or use non-iOS equipment.

übernote has fewer social tools and its main use is to take actual notes. (What a radical idea!) If you don’t need to share notes with others or create workgroups, überNote is a nice online option. You can create check-off lists, tag information, collect web references (with their übermark tool) or just import the entire page. There is a lightning tag you can use for important notes and reminders.

The main application is online, but you can access it from phones and use additional tools to collect information via browsers. UberNote includes free and paid levels, but will be adding a more expensive premium level which will include SSL secure connections, use of folders to collect different pages, more and larger files, and a new voice to note utility.

Zoho Notebook  Previously, Zoho’s notebook was a very basic and boring notebook application; it’s main attraction was that it was part of a large application suite. Today’s Zoho Notebook (in beta) has grown to include many of the features of OneNote and Evernote and beyond. It lets you store text, graphics, audio, video, HTML, and you can also embed URLs, RSS, lists, Zoho writer docs, spreadsheets, presentations, and files. You can also create well-formatted text files and spreadsheets directly within the notebook with its mini-Writer and mini-Sheet tools.

You can share notebooks with others and publish them, too. It does have a few features that Evernote doesn't have: You can embed videos in Zoho Notebook. (You can attach short videos in Evernote, but it doesn’t appear that you can watch them within Evernote.) You can create functioning spreadsheets in Zoho, Evernote just uses tables, and Zoho’s formatting tools are superior to Evernote.

If you use Zoho as your main office workspace, combining the Notebook and Zoho’s clipping bookmark might be a nice way to centralize all your research in one location. But there are no desktop or phone applications for Zoho Notebook as there are for Evernote. Individuals may use all of Zoho’s applications for free. Feature-wise, Zoho is creating an impressive multi-media data collection tool.

Microsoft OneNote is a well done but more complicated program with PC, online, and Windows Phone and iPhone apps (no Mac or Android versions). You must buy one of the Office 2010 suites for the latest version, it’s not sold separately. (OneNote 2007 does not sync with the newer online OneNote pages.) Like all Microsoft programs, it is feature-rich and allows you to select commands in many ways (ensuring a longer learning curve). The lack of tags is, in my opinion, a major weakness of the program as is its search function. However, with web, installed and Sharepoint tools, it can be a powerful information resource for teams in a business setting. If you already own Office 2010, by all means give it a look. For me, the lack of Android support and the necessity of buying an entire Office suite to upgrade are fatal weaknesses.

Evernote. One of the ways that Evernote blows its competition out of the water is its almost universal accessibility. There are downloadable desktop versions for both Macintosh OS X and Windows; apps for iPhone, iPod, iPad, Android, Blackberry, Palm, WebOS and Windows Phone 7, and it works with Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and other browsers, including various clipping and reading tools. You can also submit clips via email and send tweets to Evernote by adding “MyEN” to the tweet. (You can set up a circle in Google+ specifically to forward any of your messages to Evernote.) You can also share notes with your Facebook friends, and with Google contacts.

Evernote offers universal file synchronization for plain and formatted text, images, audio, photographs and PDFs. A great feature is its ability to search for and index text from within images and PDF files. So, for example, you can take a picture of a whiteboard presentation with your phone and send it to Evernote online. Evernote will search the photo for text and index that text for easy search. That picture and keywords will sync with your desktop app, too.

For free accounts: you can upload up to 60 megabytes/month free. (I’ve never exceeded it.) You can share access to your notes or publish them to the web with an URL. (Shared editing takes a paid account, however.)

Paid accounts cost $5 per month or $45 per year, and allow you to upload up to 1 GB of data per month. You can sync any file format as long as the file size is under 25 Mb. The paid accounts also add secure SSL encryption, priority tech support, priority image recognition (to find searchable text), and no ads. It will also search PDFs for text and index the text. Another paid advantage is the ability to store your complete Evernote collection on your smart phone, so you can access your notes even when not connected to the internet. Other premium services are collaboration capabilities and the option to allow others to edit shared pages. There are discounted memberships for three or more sharing an account for a workgroup.

In the past year, the company has begun developing additional programs to augment Evernote. Its first new app, Skitch, allows you to edit and draw on photographs which you can then send to Evernote or to other applications. Evernote Clearly is a browser app which allows you to read web articles in a variety of fonts and sizes without all the background ads and rigmarole (similar to Readability, but quicker). Clearly also works with Evernote’s clipping tools to allow you to save selections or entire articles in Evernote. Evernote Food is designed for foodies who like to photograph and write about their culinary experiences, so far only available for iOS. Evernote is also developing Hello, which is a people manager (much like a contact manager), but your contacts can help create their own profile. Rumors are that a new advanced To Do list manager is in the works for release sometime soon.

There is also a huge number of outside utilities designed to work with Evernote. One, Call Trunk, is an internet phone service to make phone calls, record them, and upload the sound files to Evernote, where you can add your own notes and even transcribe the files. It works with Android, iPhone and Blackberry phones and even integrates with your phone’s contact manager.

There are many other tools, including over 100 phone and tablet apps to connect info (scans, business card photos, handwritten notes) with Evernote – mostly for iOS but also Android and others, too. There are many other desktop and web accessible applications which connect your info with Evernote, including webcasting and groupware applications. Hardware manufacturers from scanners to smart pens, to Wacom tablets, to VAIO computers include software to connect with Evernote also. It’s hard to think of any net-based program that is better connected. You can find these apps on Evernote’s own web store called TheTrunk. There are also free applications and notebooks to share.

Evernote Essentials is a PDF book by Brett Kelly just on using Evernote. There are also a wide variety of tools and guides in Japanese – it appears that the program is well received in Japan as well as in the U.S. Like its competitors, Evernote has its own blog and community. In addition, Evernote has its own Ambassadors — people who create blogs, webcasts and videos on how to use Evernote in the home and in business. Evernote is well represented on blogs and YouTube videos.

My Evernote Wish List.

If you, the reader, haven’t already figured it out, Evernote is my favorite of this group.

However, even with all these features, I do have a few quibbles with Evernote. First, its universal green interface reminds me of some old institutional green color schemes, which is not a great psychological boost. A choice of colors or even skins would be nice.

Its text formatting options could add styles for characters and paragraphs as well as formatting rulers and better tabs. (Zoho and Springnote have better text formatting tools.) Evernote’s tables are quite limited. Evernote could really benefit from embeddable spreadsheets to replace tables, like Zoho Notebook. (Zoho uniquely has the advantage of actually having its own spreadsheet program to embed into its Notebook.)

Evernote really, really, REALLY needs a good To Do / Task List manager to add to its notebooks. I would have gladly foregone many other features for this. (I’ve been waiting years for this, Evernote.)

It would be great if Evernote allowed you to encrypt notes for greater security online. You can encrypt text in Evernote’s Windows and Mac clients, but not online. Since you can create private notebooks that are not shared online, that is not a bad option, but it limits accessibility. (None of the reviewed programs above appear to encrypt pages online. For this reason, users need to beware putting sensitive, personal, student data, legal, medical or proprietary info or passwords online, no matter which notebook they use.)

Finally, as an Android user, I would like to see more programs come out in Android before iPhone and iPad, naturally. Also, it would make life simpler if The Trunk put iOS and Android apps on separate pages or otherwise showed which was which without clicking to read the description.

In conclusion, your choices:

So if universal connectivity, lots of ways to submit notes, and a galaxy of add-on apps appeal to you, Evernote is probably your best choice. If you are more interested in what your Facebook and other friends are reading, watching, cooking and listening to, Springpad may be the better tool.

If you want an app with wiki features for a workgroup, you should compare Springnote and Evernote to see which has the features you want. (Zoho also offers a wiki application plus its notebook and all its other applications, but they are separate programs. Google offers free wiki tools, but is discontinuing its notebook app.) Springnote and Zoho Notebook appear to have the best word processing features, too.

If you are a spreadsheet maven and like or need to embed spreadsheets in your notes (say, for a blog on using spreadsheets or for data analysis), I’d give Zoho Notebook a good look. It can also export its pages in XHTML to add to a web page.

If you are a student and use your notebook or netbook computer to take all your notes where there is a universal Internet connection, UberNote might be all you need, but frankly, I’d try Evernote, too.

If your office already uses Microsoft Office and Sharepoint, OneNote is probably already installed and ready for use, online and off. The problem there is training the staff how to use the program features and how to work in groups. Macintosh users are left out in the cold, though, and are probably already using Evernote.

But Evernote is the über-program to compare all others to, and it’s growing new features and apps quickly.

Coming soon: The Seven Types of Evernote Users

Key wordsEvernote, Springpad, Springnote, UberNote, OneNote, Zoho, notebook, wiki, workgroup, notes, apps, phone

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Getting Organized: Storing your Life’s Data

Information storage: Digital Notebooks vs. Outliners vs. Mindmaps vs. Files

If you write, do research, plan conferences and events, blogging, or just handle large amounts of business or family information (and who doesn’t these days?), collecting, organizing and retrieving information is the big task for almost any computer user. And it should be. That’s what computers are designed to do.

In ancient times, before PCs, students were taught in school to divide research information into small units that fit on 3x5 cards in order to write their research papers. You could sort the cards easily (and randomize them by simply dropping them). You kept track of bibliographic information by using numbers or codes on the data cards. Finding the card with the exact information you wanted was a bit more challenging. But it was fairly efficient and entire libraries of information could be searched using those little 3x5 cards in catalogs. (3x5 cards are not dead. People still use them to track information, with or without Getting Things Done planning. See’s pocket briefcases for a luxurious example.)

Then, back when Macintoshes were new and all, I had a nifty outlining program called Acta which was a terrific place to keep data (notes from phone conversations, research, text documents and much more) and handle information – the challenge was keeping it all together hierarchically.(That card system experience served well in this kind of environment.) If you have the type of mind which thinks that way, an outliner is a wonderful way to store bits of information. Even today, I have a two terrific Windows outliners, Maple Professional and Treepad, but I never use them. Why? Because the notebook applications have come of age.

A notebook application lets you organize pages of information. Pages can hold text, graphics, web pages, tables, photos, sound files, videos, and sometimes PDF files and spreadsheets – almost any type of data. You can clip and save a web address or the entire web page. You can paste a phone number in, or an entire directory. Just as on a bookshelf, you can organize your information into separate notebooks (or separate card files if you prefer that analogy). You can think hierarchically, so you know where to look for any kind of information. Or you can use tags to make it easier to find things, even if you just dumped all your information into one huge notebook. OneNote has notebooks with Tabs for various sub-divisions, and pages for each tab. Evernote has Stacks for organizing related notebooks and tags which you can use to find things. Most notebook applications allow you to share individual pages or entire notebooks and allow teams to work collaboratively. Or you can publish it to the web so anybody can read it if they have the URL. (Try THAT with your 3x5 card.)

So in a notebook you give up some hierarchical features, but you can save lots of other types of information.

Mindmaps are great for creating and collecting ideas and building a more visually oriented outline. Instead of folders, you have nodes off a central idea. You can collect different file types insert text and graphics, enter web links, and some allow you to attach files. You can collect large amounts of data, but finding it is much more hierarchical, and most mindmaps don’t use tags to find individual bits of information. With Freemind, for example, it’s easy to see the connection between a mindmap and an outline. Select the central core node, copy it, and paste it into a Word file, and you have a beautifully formatted outline with all your mapped information. I often use Freemind (a free, open source mindmap program) to gather ideas creatively, to brainstorm, or just get the creative juices going. Other people sometimes use a mindmap as their daily organizer. But I use a notebook to collect data.

You can also use separate files (say, Word, Excel, Powerpoint, graphics files) to capture information and store it into folders using Windows Explorer (or the Mac desktop). But it’s harder to find the information you want. It’s a great way to store large amounts of information and individual documents and templates, but not a great way to access it later – or to find the connections between different bits of data in different folders. It also takes much more effort to collect the information and save it all into separate files.

Any computer user can use any of these systems to organize their information. A notebook has the advantage of flexibility, allows you to combine a lot of file types, and makes it easy to find information, whether you are a hierarchical guy or a tagging gal (or vice versa).

When it comes to collecting and retrieving information, one data location isn’t enough any more. Almost all of the popular notebook applications are available on the cloud so you can access it from any computer or your phone or tablet. Some, like OneNote and Evernote also have installable applications for your computer (PCs only for OneNote; PCs and Macs for Evernote). Most, nowadays, also have smartphone and tablet applications so you can access your data (or collect it) even when you’re away from your computer.

The ways to capture information have also increased. Instead of just typing in data, you can scan it, photograph it, write it, use a smart pen (such as Livescribe’s) which can remember what you write or draw. You can record audio files, and some software (like Google Voice) will take your phone messages, transcribe them into text, and send to your notebook via email. Camera phones are becoming common ways to capture such diverse things as short notes (such as sticky notes), encyclopedia references, contracts, the location of your parking space at the mall or airport, or the contents of that box you’re packing for the big move. Web browsers often have dedicated clippers to automatically save any highlighted web information (or entire pages) into your notebook. It’s the various ways of collecting this information that make notebooks the organizer of choice for many info junkies.

In the next post, we’ll talk about the specific applications, including my favorite, Evernote.

Keywords: notebook, application, mindmap, outline, Evernote, OneNote, Freemind, information management

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Part 12 Free and Cheap Software for the SOHO Office

Google vs. Zoho vs. Microsoft vs. others on the Cloud

This list began years ago as a comparison between Google and Zoho, grew as Microsoft began offering its Office Web Apps, and also now includes some of the many web applications now available. Note that Microsoft’s Office Web Apps are designed to be used alongside their installed Office counterparts, offering some limited functionality online.

Word Processing
ü  Google Writer
ü  Zoho Writer
ü  Microsoft Word (Office Web Apps)
ü  Adobe Buzzword
(the only online word processor using Postscript fonts)

ü  Google Spreadsheet
ü  Zoho Sheet
ü  Microsoft Excel (Office Web Apps)
ü  ThinkFree Office online
ü  Yozo Office online

Presentations / Slideshows
ü  Google Presentation
ü  Zoho Show
ü  Microsoft Powerpoint (Office Web Apps)
ü  ThinkFree Office online
ü  Yozo Office online
ü  SlideShare (includes online sharing community)
ü  SlideRocket

Notebook / Web Clipping / Research
ü  Google Notebook
ü  Zoho Notebook
ü  Microsoft OneNote (Office Web Apps)
ü  Evernote  
ü  Springpad  
ü  UberNote:

ü  Google Gmail
ü  Zoho Mail
ü  Microsoft Hotmail & Business Productivity Online Suite
ü  Yahoo! Mail
(plus many, many others)

ü  Google Gmail
ü  Zoho Mail (see also Contacts portion of Zoho CRM)
ü  Windows Live Hotmail

Calendars (private and shared)
ü  Google Calendar
ü  Zoho Calendar
ü  30 Boxes  
ü  Tungle   (calendar coordinator & meeting scheduler)

Chat / Internet Messaging
ü  Google Talk
ü  Zoho Chat
ü  Windows Live MSN Chat
ü  Kool IM

ü  Included in Google Sites
ü  Zoho Wiki

Database Applications
ü  Zoho Creator
ü  Microsoft SQL Server Express /

Database Analysis
ü  Zoho Reports

Project Management / Collaboration
ü  Zoho Projects (can be integrated with Google Docs)
ü  37 Signals' Basecamp, Highrise, Backpack, Campfire   
ü  Huddle  
ü  Wiggio  
ü  Nozbe  
ü  Cozi (Family Organizer)
ü  AjaxWorkspace
ü  Liquid Planner
ü  TeamBox

Web Conferencing
ü  Google – Limited conferencing via Chat and Gmail Video Chat
ü  Zoho Meetings
ü  Microsoft Office Live Meeting

CRM / Customer Relationship Management
ü  Zoho CRM (may be used with Google Docs)
ü  Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online (Office Live Small Business)
ü  BatchBook

Personal Organizer / To Do Lists
ü  Zoho Planner
ü  Remember the Milk
ü  TeuxDeux
ü  Toodledo
ü  Hiveminder
ü  ToDoist
ü  Vitalist
Vitalist and Nozbe are based on the Getting Things Done (GTD) system.
Many other phone + web applications exist, too

Web Site Hosting
ü  Google Page Creator
ü  Microsoft Office Live Small Business
ü  SnapPages
Many other web site hosting solutions exist, too.

News Feed Reader (RSS & Atom)
ü  Google Reader
ü  Microsoft (available in Outlook and Internet Explorer)
Also available in other browsers and many downloadable programs.

Personalized Homepage
ü  iGoogle
ü  My Yahoo! (and many others)

HRIS (Human Resources Info Services) & Hiring Systems
ü  Zoho People (for existing staff)
ü  Zoho Recruit (for hiring services)

Business Suite
ü  Google Apps Premier Edition
ü  Zoho Business
ü  Microsoft Office Live Small Business & SkyDrive Services

ü  Zoho Invoice
ü  FreshBooks
ü  The Invoice Machine

Phone & Answering & Forwarding Services
ü  Google Voice

Social Networking Communications & Customer Services
ü  Zoho Discussions

Small Business Accounting
ü  Zoho Books
ü  OutRight (geared towards freelancers who report on Schedule C)

Software Development Tracking
ü  Zoho BugTracker

Conclusion: This is not an exhaustive list of online applications, but it is a good comparison of the types of services offered by Google and Zoho with links to other online office suites and similar independent services.

The value is in finding the applications that work best for you. Mix and match according to your needs and work style. The Google and Zoho applications are all free for individuals, as are many of the others. 

Microsoft applications work best when combined with their Office applications, which are fairly pricy compared with the other options discussed in this series.

To find earlier published Frugal Guidance blog posts about these software options, see:

To read the entire series on alternatives to Microsoft Office for the SOHO office, start with

Key words: Zoho, Google, Microsoft, applications, cloud, SOHO, office, online