You Asked…We Answered {part 1}

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Thank you so much for all of your questions the other day! We are really glad that people felt open enough to ask what was on their mind. There were some GREAT questions! Some of them will be answered all in their own post, and some we will do throughout the next few weeks in a series of “You Asked…We Answered” posts. Today is part one.

YOU ASKED…

“I’m just wondering what’s the easiest way to keep track of credits (you know, all the wonderful designers) while doing a layout. I want to give credit where credit is due, but sometimes it feels like such a daunting task while I’m in the moment. Thanks for all you do! You’re all awesome!”

WE ANSWERED…

Keeping track of credits can be a tough activity. With tons of kits and element sets out there and the freedom to mix and match to our hearts content, how in the world do we remember who made what when it comes time to post in a gallery? One of the best tricks I learned was this: when you are creating a layout, create a layer WITHIN THE LAYOUT that contains a text box. As you add elements, papers, etc. write it on that layer (turning the visibility of the layer on and off while you work). Since you have all the papers and elements already open, the file names usually tell you who made it so it is easy to do. When you are done with your layout, turn off the visibility (click the little eye icon in your layers palette), and save your .psd file. When you go to post in galleries, if you can’t remember something, open your file and check your credits.
Another simple way that works for many people is just to keep a small notebook next to your computer while you work. You can add credits as you go. You could also keep a running list on a document on your computer.

The key to this is to write it down as you go. Don’t try to rely on your super-scrapper memory to get it right.

YOU ASKED…

I would love a tutorial about editing eyes in photoshop!!! Ever since you did a post on editing a photo you mentioned about a tutorial at a later date for eyes. Each time I see a Photography Class post I hope it is that one. Not that I don’t love the other ones, I just look forward to it!

WE ANSWERED…

Sorry you missed the follow-up post. The post from February 17th, called She’s Got Her Daddy’s Eyes, is a simple tutorial for making those eyes truly shine (without making your subjects look like aliens!)

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YOU ASKED…

I’d love to hear more about your personal scrapping style and how you’ve chosen to record your family’s memories. Do you keep chronological scrapbooks? Theme albums? Something else? I’ve thought a lot lately about changing my own style and it really helps to get inspiration from other great scrapbook artists. 🙂 Thanks for this opportunity!

WE ANSWERED…

I will answer this personally, but I am going to throw it out there to our team, too, to see the different ways we can do this.
When I was a “paper scrapper” (and I use this VERY loosely because I think I did about two pages a year) I fretted over how to organize my albums. When my first child was born, I fretted even more. Should I make a baby album? If I had a picture of us on vacation while she was a baby would it go into a vacation album, her baby album, a family album, or all three? I was seriously confused and it was the number one thing that kept me from actually scrapping the memories. And then I was at a friends house. At the time, she had six children (she has seven now). She had just gotten some photos back from the developer and in it were SIX copies of a particular photo. I asked her why there were so many. She told me it was so that picture could go in all six of their albums. At that point, knowing I wanted a big family some day, I KNEW I would have to find a way to not have separate albums. There was no way I was going to recreate a page three, four (or more) times. Even once I found digital, and “recreating” a page is as easy as printing multiple copies, do I really want every page I do to be printed four times?

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All that said, I decided on a family album. I don’t scrap chronologically (WAY too boring for me) but I do put them in the albums chronologically. Almost every page I do goes into that year’s album(s). I love the cohesiveness of the running tale of our family. There may be a page about just one child, but it goes into OUR albums. I have no baby books. I have no separate vacation albums. Right now, as a family of six, we have ONE story. Our lives all intertwine and we have one tale to tell. It works well for us. When they are older, I can let the kids pick and choose pages that they want for “their” album. I can reprint those pages, leaving our family story together. And I do say “pick and choose'” because there is no way they are going to want to lug EVERY page I have done about them to their freshman dorm room 😉

The only albums I keep separate are my All About Me album (which is dedicated to layouts that are JUST about me) and a Christmas album. I go back and forth about just adding these to the family story. I also frequently make mini albums for stories about a vacation, a special time in our lives, or about anything that makes me happy 🙂

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I also highly recommend Stacy Julian’s book, The Big Picture. In it she describes her method (including only doing five pages a year per kid!) and albums that carry titles such as, “People We Love” and “Places We Love.”

YOU ASKED…

I’m a fairly new digi-scrapper. Occasionally, when I download a kit, I see a file labeled _MACOSX. When I open it, I don’t see anything that I need to keep. What is this? Why is it there? Do I need it? Inquiring minds need to know please!

WE ANSWERED…

I will be honest to say I have never done a thing with that file. It has always appeared in files that were created/zipped on a Mac computer. When I click on “get info” for the file, it registers as 0kb so I have left it alone (since it doesn’t take up space). You can delete it if it bothers you.

A reader answered with this explanation, “These files come from people who design on a MAC computer. After downloading (make sure you have the little box clicked to open file after downloading)(DO NOT UNZIP!!!) & look at the contents of the download then grab(right click & hold) the file with the name of the kit (or whatever else) you were downloading then drag ONLY that file to whatever file on your computer that you are saving it in & drop it there. Don’t move the file with the _MACOSX on it or any other part of the download. Now go to the file where you moved the kit file to & open that file. You will find all of the contents in that file & there is no need to do anything further!! If you need more help with this, leave me a message & I can email you a tut with pics to help you out!! Hope this helps!! Hugs!!”
But again, I have never touched the files and never had an issue with them.

YOU ASKED…

One of the most important aspects of making a digital page look “real” is the shadowing and I find it so hard to get it right! What do you do? Do you have a set formula that you use? Do you use a separate layer for your shadows. I see some people use shadow actions. I want the most realistic shadows possible but don’t really know how to get them using PSE?? Would love you advice on this. Thanks.

WE ANSWERED…

Great question! Shadows are not my strong point and I have relied mostly on drop shadow actions with a little tweaking here and there. Steph has a GREAT acticle on shadows with tons of tips and links to tutorials. You can find it HERE.

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More questions and answers to come in future posts!

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Blinkie-palooza

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If you spend a few minutes in any scrap forum or blog, it won’t take long for you to see that we LOVE our blikies (animated gif’s)!! Simple Blinkies can be very…well…simple to make…haha! 🙂 I (Steph) thought today I would link you up to some tutorials so you can learn how to make your own.

Creating a blinkies in CS using Image Ready (prior to CS3)

Creating a blinkie in CS3 or CS4

Creating a blinkie in CS3 or CS4

Creating a blinkie in PSE

Creating a blinkie in Gimp

Creating a blinkie in PSP

If you would like something more snazzy designed for you, you can try Scrap Orchard.

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We wanted to let you know that we have a fun surprise for you in August instead of The Digi Files. We are working furiously behind the scenes to finish up the final details on a HUGE collaboration kit that includes contributions by over 25 FABULOUS designers that have already contributed to previous Digi Files. It is sooooooo BIG and FULL of really FUN things that will have your brain spinning with ideas as soon as you unzip!! This mega kit, called “Scrapping and Snapping” will be in the store on August 3rd for only $5. Remember, The Digi Files (and this kit) allow us to pay for bandwith and all of the other expenses associated with The Daily Digi and keep it free of advertising. One thing we hear over and over is that people LOVE that The Daily Digi isn’t cluttered by ads and we love that too! 🙂 Here is a peek of the colors for this versatile kit:

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Subscribing to RSS Feeds

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Three years ago right now, I (Steph) was pregnant and on bedrest with my youngest baby. It was during that time that my online life was changed…or at least the way I spent time online, all because someone mentioned Bloglines on their blog. They talked about how they were able to subscribe to blogs and be instantly notified when someone updated…..WHAT!? Up to that time, I would go from blog to blog via my bookmarks or blog links from my own blog. It was an okay system, but I hated spending the time checking so many blogs just to see that….nope…that blog did not have anything new posted today either! When I saw Bloglines mentioned, I signed up for an account and my life was forever changed!!

According to my analysis of our statistics, half of our readers are subscribed to our RSS feed (Really Simple Syndication) and the other half of you are not. Of those that are subscribed to our RSS about 68% are subscribed using a Google product (Google Reader or iGoogle), 13% are subscribed using Bloglines, and the rest of you use various other forms of blog subscription applications. So, half of you just might be convinced to try a subscription app today. 🙂

What does it do? Basically, it puts all of the blogs and sites that you subscribe to in one online application, so you can read them easily. When I first started using Bloglines, like I said, I was on bedrest, so I had a lot of time to read blogs. I had an icon on my menu bar that would pop up instantly whenever blogs that I was subscribed to were updated. During that time of my life, no blog entry went unread…almost as soon as it was posted. I am very happy to say, that is not the case now. In Bloglines and Google Reader, the blogs that have updates are bolded and then in parenthesese it shows how many posts there have been since I last looked at that blog in the application. No more surfing from blog to blog to know who has made updates and who hasn’t…..ahhhhh the freedom!!!

In Google Reader and Bloglines, you can easily subscribe to a blog by the click of a button or a drag and drop. You can also sort the blogs by categories, for instance, I have these categories: digital, paper, crafts, decorating, childhood friends, friends, and tech. When I subscribe to a blog, I just select from the drop-down menu, which category the blog belongs in and I am set!

I asked our team which subscription app they use and what they love about it and here is what they said:

Aggie: “I use Google Reader and I love it! I used to use Bloglines but it didn’t update as fast as Reader did so I exported my entries/RSS feeds to Reader and never looked back!

I love how I can “mark it as unread” so I can read it again – certain entries that require focused reading and not scanning Cheesy
And I even catch up on my favorite galleries through Reader, if you notice certain galleries (DD, MSA, SSD) has the RSS button on the URL bar in Firefox – I just go to my fave scrapper’s gallery and add it to my reader too.”

Janet: “One of my favorite things (because I am nosy curious is that when you go to Google Reader you can click on show details and you can see how many people are subscribed to a particular blog.” (Bloglines has this feature too…I am curious too, Janet…heehee! 😉 )

Ana: “I use Bloglines and I love it. I like the feature of “keep new” that you can mark a post if you want it to be there, kinda as a favorite/bookmark.” (I love that feature too!)

Kelly: “Another fun feature of Google Reader is the “next” feature which allows you to click on the “next” button that you drag into your internet bar and then it just takes you to the actual “next” blog that’s updated in your list. This way you can see the actual web blog pages and not just a generic view from your reader. I’m sure that the advertisers on blogs appreciate this too since you miss their ads when you read through the reader. Personally, I love a good ad here and there… gotta keep the economy moving, ya know? Wink (Just doing my part, honey! Don’t look at paypal and we’ll be just fine…)”

Karen: “I love blog readers (I use Bloglines) because I can sort the blogs I read as well as read them all in one place. I read marketing blogs for work and scrappy blogs for fun, and it’s much nicer to be able to have them categorized than having to pick and choose from Firefox bookmarks dropdown.”

Amy said this, “I’m still trying to convince my mom to get on a reader…Her main complaint is that she doesn’t get to see all the pretty blog decorations if she reads them in a reader.” Well, Amy, I found a subscription application that would work great for your mom! It is a no fuss, no frills, no clutter subscription application that is just that…for subscriptions. It’s not a reader at all, in fact! It’s called Rososo. Here is what the Zen guy had to say about it. This is how the Rososo guy described it:

“This is the idea of Rososo: How can I follow my bookmarks without a feeling of obligation, of accumulation? Billy and I solved it in the simplest possible way. We present the user with her bookmarks, detecting the updated ones with RSS. But we don’t show the updates themselves. RSS means “Really Simple Syndication”, but we’re not syndicating anything — and the results are more peaceful.

As a bonus, you get to read your bookmarks in context. Compare an article on zenhabits.net or slashdot.org to a syndicated article from that site in a newsreader. You lose all the personality. The font, the layout, the whole mood of the site is lost. Rososo lets you read your bookmarks as the author intended.”

If you would like to get started using a subscriber here are some helps:

Google Reader for Beginners

How to get started with Bloglines

I’m excited to see how many of you change the way you spend your on-line time and start using a subscription application!! Go for it! It WILL change your life! 🙂

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Scan My Photos

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A few years back, at a time when I somehow managed to scrap multiple layouts a day, I realized that as much as I loved scrapping current photos, I sometimes got bored and wanted to scrap something different. I had a scanner but hated getting everything set up every time I wanted to scrap some older photos. Then I discovered the amazing SCAN MY PHOTOS. It is a service that will scan all of your photos for you and send them to you on DVD. How cool is that?

Here is how it works:

You order a prepaid box from them and they send it to you. You pack it full of photos (according to their instructions) and mail it back to them. They scan all of your photos (the say the box can hold approximately 2,000 — I think I got about 1800 in there) and send them to you as well as returning your original photos. They are shipped within 24 hours! Here is the description from the website:

We know the project of scanning photos can be daunting. Most people have 1,000’s of photos in their closet packed away in shoe boxes or photo albums. Now there is an alternative to scanning photos yourself. ScanMyPhotos.com is your cost-effective way to scan photos to digital files. Your pictures are professionally scanned at 300dpi JPEG files, put onto a DVD for viewing or editing on your home computer and returned to you with your photographs. All work is completed on-site so your photo memories never leave our sight during the process and are shipped out within 24 hours of when we receive your order. Choose from either of the options below, visit our frequently asked questions for more information or view a couple sample scans. International orders click here.

There are other ways to do it (including a $49.95 per 1000 photos option) and they also now allow international orders. You can also have negatives scanned (including APS which is good news for me since I cut all my photos of my first trip to India into cute dissgustingly ugly and weird shapes). Slide scanning and VHS to DVD are also options.

Just think…all those boxes of photos just sitting there when they could be scrapped! Here are some layouts I did using some of my scanned photos…

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kanyakumari-for-web

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Declutter Your Hard Drive

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This is a post by team member, Ana Paula

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It’s almost summer and it’s very likely that you had your Spring Cleaning by now. It’s time to get rid of the stuff we don’t use anymore, donate clothes to charity, or maybe sell it all in a garage sale. When we give away what is not useful in our lives, we make space for the new. According to Feng Shui we improve our lives by organizing our home. Check it out HERE.

So, why not do it in our computers as well?

If you are like me (Ana), you probably have thousands of digital scrapbooking files in your hard drive. Tons of them! Last time I counted, it came to over 13 gigabytes! Now, do I use all of the 13 Gb frequently? I think you know the answer.

So, I decided to stop the madness and do a major clean up in my computer. The task is insane, so I am taking baby steps. Each day I delete 5 folders of products I haven’t used recently. In a week, I’ve got rid of 25 folders and hopefully I’ll have a few more megabytes of space in my HD.

Sometimes I delete files within folders. When we get a huge kit, sometimes we are not in love with all of the files. So I choose the ones I like most and delete the rest. This helps reducing the size of my digital scrapbooking folder too.

Now, let’s talk about pictures. Oh, I can hear the screams “No! Don’t touch my photos!” But, really, do you need 372 pictures of your baby taking her first steps? I don’t. With digital photography, it’s so easy to keep shooting and shooting and we end up with tons and tons of images, most of those we never get to print anyway.

I used to be like this – kept every single photo I took and couldn’t even think of deleting one of them. Now I have a different approach. When I download my images, I sort them out right away. I delete the bad ones (blurred, bad focus, bad cropping, etc) and I also delete the extra photos of a scene, keeping just 2 or 3. The rest just goes. Then I scrapbook even fewer, sometimes I just get prints done and put them in my regular photo albums.

Recently I’ve started to clean up my fonts as well. I am a type addict (I specially love the handwriting and script ones) so I install lots of them every once in a while. But, again, some I never used. So I’m using the 5-a-day rule with fonts too. It makes my life much easier when I get to scrap because I don’t need to go over a huge list of fonts to choose one.

So today I invite you to do a major cleaning in your hard drive and get rid of the files you don’t use anymore. Don’t forget to also make regular backups of your files.

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Organizing Life

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When I (Steph) was 13 years old my parents enrolled me and my older sister in a class to learn how to use the Franklin Day Planner.  I used the system for a while, but ended up just using the calendars and not much else.  Since then, I have used various calendars and systems to try and make sure I know where I am supposed to be and when.  Some worked better than others.  Some I loved and others I hated.  But I have not used any calendar as consistently as the one I will share today.

A couple years ago, I was searching for a calendar that my husband could access as well as me (I could enter things, but he would be able to see it real-time on the calendar too), would sync with my phone, could be printed if I needed, and could be color coded based on the person the event is for.  I researched and found some paid calendars and found a few posts in various forums about Google Calendar.  It took a while for me to decide that a FREE calendar could really provide everything I was looking for.   I decided to give it a go and quickly fell in love.

Google calendar is a web-based calendar system that can be synced with any other calendar and almost any device.  You can set up a different calendar for each person in your family (or church group, school groups, etc.), assign them a color and mange them on the left side.  You can make the calendar private and invite people to view them or help you manage them, you decide how much control to give.  You can also view other public calendars (I have one for U.S. Holidays and the weather for my area) or private calendars you have been invited to view.  You can easily toggle through daily, weekly, or monthly views.  I have most of  my calendars set up to give me an onscreen reminder 20 minutes before the event.  One of my favorite calendars is one I set up for my husband’s family and his mom went through and entered all of the birthdays and anniversaries.  This event calendar sends me an email reminder two days before the event.  You can set the calendar up to send you test reminds as well if you want.

Google just recently added tasks to the calendars, which I have not yet tried, but intend to very soon (as in today…haha).

Just like all Google products, Google Calendar is definitely intuitive and easy to use, no need for a user manual!  If you would like to read some reviews though, I dug some up for you here and here.  I also found a great resource for more information on all of the cool things you can do with your Google Calendar here.  If you are looking for a way to help you organize your life then go ahead and give it a try, I know you will LOVE it too!

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I See Your True Colors Shining Through

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(Slide from TDF5)

After my post last week where I shared my iPhone skin that printed exactly as I saw it on my monitor, I had a few comments and emails asking about how to calibrate monitors. I figure that there are probably more scrappers out there with “sad eyes” than there are scrappers seeing “true colors shining through” from their monitor to print. After all, I was one of those scrappers with an uncalibrated monitor until not too long ago myself.

How do you know if you need to calibrate your monitor or not? The first part of this great article at imaging-resource.com has some easy tests for you to see how badly your monitor needs calibrating. Most monitors will need some adjusting.

There are some ways to calibrate your monitor for free without having to buy software or gadgets. For most scrappers, this will work great! Until I started working with the other Stephanie to design digital supplies, I used these various methods and they worked fine for me. Wikihow.com has a great article with some tips on how to calibrate your monitor for free. It will work for people on most platforms. The article also briefly explains a few pay-for gadgets and software tools to help in calibration.

If you are a designer, photographer, or addicted scrapper that would like a perfectly calibrated monitor, then the second part of this article by imaging-resources.com explains the differences between the different Spyder products for calibration. From the different articles I have read, it seems most graphic designers and photographers use Spyder products, but if you have had success with other items on the market, we would love to hear about it!

For years, I read on the message boards in digiworld about monitor callibration, but was a little…okay…a lot intimidated by it. After buying my Spyder and running the calibration, I realize that I really had nothing to be affraid! So to quote (again) Cyndi Lauper and run the risk of bordering on corny , “don’t be affraid to let them show, your true colors are beautiful….like a rainbow!”

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If Your Blog Needs a Makeover…

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There are lots of us in the digi world that blog. I started my personal blog way back in January 2006 (I think!) and for a few years was blogging every day. I love that blogs allow me to keep track of the day to day stories of my life in a fun way that my friends and family can see. I also love reading other people’s blogs! I have quite a long list of blogs I check out. While most of them I read in my Google Reader, there are some that are just too pretty not to look at directly. I am a sucker for all things pretty.

So what can you do to pretty up your own blog?

There are lots of options! If you don’t feel like doing it all yourself, check out some of these resources for getting your blog to look great!

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One of the easiest options is a website called CUTEST BLOG ON THE BLOG. They have lots of free backgrounds and banners and easy installation. This is a great choice for a quick makeover and is also great for your non-digi friends who want to make their blogs as cute as yours!

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smj

Shabby Miss Jenn has a TON of fun blog packs. They come with full instructions, including screen shots and html codes. There are also video tutorials. If you have tried everything and still need some help getting you blog looking right, they have an exclusive arrangement with The Blog Shoppe to help you out! Each of SMJ’s blog packs include a banner, banner for a photo, 3 background images, picture frame, border divider, journal mat, tab buttons with text and blank tab buttons.

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Shabby Princess also has a lot of options when it comes to BLOGwear. I guarantee that anything you make with something by Shabby Princess will be oh-so-cute!

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Zoe Pearn also has a lot of blog packs over at Sweet Shoppe Designs. I love all her fun and fresh designs! This is from the descriptions of her “Blog in a Box”: The “Blog In A Box” line contains everything you need to bring your Blog to life, including Photo Headers, Non-Photo Headers, Sidebar Buttons (both labeled and plain for you to add your own headings), Backgrounds, plus Post-Separator Graphics. Everything is coordinated, right down to the text and link colours to make sure your blog will look absolutely perfect! Installation couldn’t be easier – full, easy to follow instructions are included, PLUS the code for the page to make sure that everything will turn out perfectly!

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If you are looking for something totally custom-made but don’t want (or know how) to do it yourself, why not give THE BLOG SHOPPE a try? Kathy, the master behind it, is FABULOUS. She has done everything for THE DAILY DIGI. She worked (cheerfully) with all my questions, plans, mistakes, and made my dream come true. She has also done a lot of other great blogs! In addition, she has permission to use digi materials from great designers such as Kitty Chen, Flergs, and Shabby Miss Jenn.

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So what are you waiting for? Give your blog a makeover today!

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He Must Have Been Reading My Mind

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I love Gmail. I really, really love it. And once Steph helped me figure out how to get ALL of my email accounts (okay, well up to 5) to come into ONE inbox, I was even more in love. Threaded conversations, great filters, and NO spam in my inbox make me think it is just the best. I also use iGoogle (my Firefox homepage) which gives me a quick all in once glance at email, blog reader, time, weather, to do list, verse for the day, and calendar. I adore Gmail chat, am learning about Google Calendar, and basically think everone needs to know how cool it is. When I love something, I want others to love it too. Remember my Firefox post?

A number of times Steph and I have mentioned (over Gmail chat, of course) that we should do a post on how cool Gmail is. And what comes into my inbox today? THIS. Yep, that Zen guy has done it again. He read my mind and has already written about how cool Gmail is. So rather than me writing it, let’s just see what he has to say. I learned a LOT from this and can’t wait to try some new things. Maybe I will actually start getting into Twitter. Maybe.

These days there are a proliferation of digital tools we use for productivity, for time management, for communication, for social networking, for keeping track of our lives, online and off.

It can be a nightmare to keep track of it all, and frankly, it’s a bit unproductive to keep switching between a dozen different tools.

Enter Gmail, my favorite solution for just about anything. OK, maybe not for things like solving marital problems or spending time with my kids, but … give it time. 🙂

It’s already pretty clear that Gmail is the best tool for email, and integrations with calendar and chat have made it the go-to place for much of our information. But Gmail Gadgets have allowed us to bring the rest of the pieces of the puzzle together. Now we can do just about everying in one place – Gmail.
Here’s how:


1. Email
: Gmail is how email should be done. With great filters, you can keep your inbox fairly clean. With keyboard shortcuts, you can get through the inbox in minutes. With labels and archiving, you don’t spend time filing. With threaded conversations, your email stays organized. There are dozens of smart little innovations, from automatic contacts to a “send and archive” button and much more. If you’re not using Gmail for email yet, you should strongly consider a change.

2. To-do
: Gmail only recently added a Tasks feature, something most of us have been wanting for a long time. It’s just about the simplest to-do list there is. You add a task. You check it off. You can re-order them. That’s about it. But it’s incredibly useful, because here’s the trick: you’re zooming through your inbox, and when you find an email that requires an action … you add it to the task list in Gmail. Then you archive the email, instead of leaving it in your inbox. Result: clear inbox! Cool feature: you can turn an email into a task, which means the task is linked to the email, and you can easily open the email by clicking on the task. Enable Gmail Tasks by going to Labs (in the upper right corner of Gmail). For Remember the Milk users, there’s also an RTM gadget of course.

3. Calendar
. Google’s Calendar (Gcal) is hands down the fastest, easiest and best calendar I’ve used (and yes, I’ve tried iCal, Outlook, 30 Boxes and Sunbird). It just works exactly like you’d want it to work. And now it’s in Gmail’s sidebar, so you can see your events at a glance while in Gmail, and even add tasks quickly without having to go to the calendar. Also cool: Gcal, like Google Docs and Gmail (see below) now has an offline mode, so you don’t have to worry about being connected to the Internet. Enable the GCal gadget in Gmail by going to Labs.

4. Docs
. Are you still using a desktop word processing or spreadsheet app? Consider switching to Google Docs & Spreadsheets, which I use exclusively now. It’s online (with offline access now), it’s simple, it opens the usual formats, and it’s so much better for collaboration. Seriously — no more emailing different versions to people. Best yet, no need to sync docs between computers or carry them around on a USB flash drive. And now, with the Docs gadget in Gmail, you can open your docs from within Gmail, making it even more of a one-stop center for all your productivity and information needs. Enable the Google Docs gadget in Gmail by going to Labs (in the upper right corner of Gmail).

5. Twitter
. A lot of people are finding Twitter to be an incredible place to connect with others, to find great things to read, to keep in touch with what’s happening now. But keeping your Twitter app open all the time can be unproductive. Enter Twitter Gadget, which takes seconds to install into Gmail and lets you have the most important functions of Twitter right within your all-in-one productivity center — you can see your Twitter stream, replies, direct messages, and favorites, and send out Tweets quickly. Granted, it’s not as nice and fully-functional as other great Twitter apps (Tweetdeck comes to mind), but it does the job quickly and painlessly.

6. Bookmarks
. Want to look up a site you bookmarked earlier? I’ve been using the delicious gadget for Gmail, and it works pretty much as you’d expect — you can see a list of your most recent bookmarks in the Gmail sidebar. You can even see the most popular bookmarks on delicious right now, which is cool. Having your bookmarks right within Gmail is a nice feature that brings together a lot of your online life.

7. Text, voice and video chat
. I use the Gmail chat for all my chat needs (which are fairly minimal), because I can do it from within Gmail. And now you can use Gmail chat for video and voice — I’ve done it, and it’s super simple and works great. With these additions, Gmail takes care of all my communication needs.

8. Social media
. What about other social media you might use, such as Facebook, MySpace or Friendfeed? Put them right in Gmail with the Facebook, MySpace and FriendfeedDigg and Flickr. gadgets. There are even gadgets for

9. RSS feeds
. I think Google Reader is the best RSS reader for its speed and simplicity. However, while you used to be able to add Google Reader to Gmail using a Greasemonkey script, with the newer version of Gmail that script became unusable. So what I do now is add Google Reader to my Firefox sidebar, so I can easily check my RSS feeds while in my all-in-one Gmail productivity center (only works in Firefox afaik).

10. Managing your gadgets
. As you can tell, this is a lot of gadgets to add to Gmail. You can end up with a ton of gadgets running down the left side of Gmail’s window. I recommend, if you have a fairly wide monitor, that you move the labels and chat boxes to the right side. Also, you can minimize any of the gadgets with a click (there’s a minimize button at the top of each gadget), to keep things manageable. Finally, get rid of gadgets you don’t use very often, to simplify things.

11. Offline Gmail
. One of the problems people use to have with Gmail is that it’s online — meaning that if you can’t connect to the Internet (if you’re on the road, on an airplane, or your connection goes down), you can’t use Gmail. Well, that’s now changed with Gmail’s offline mode — you can read, compose and organize messages while offline, which is nice.

Most Important Tip
Finally, now that you’ve set up Gmail to do everything you need it to, here’s the most important tip for staying productive: don’t keep it open all the time.

Ideally, schedule certain times to use Gmail and the other gadgets you have set up — maybe 2-3 times during the day. Or close it when you’re ready to work on an important task, and then open it when you’re done with the task, but only for 10 minutes. Find what works for you, but set your limits and stick to them!

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Article written by Leo Babauta. Used with permission.

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P.S. The freebies for two of these weeks posts (Creashen’s SPONSOR SPOTLIGHT and the JUST FOR FUN madlibs posts have had new links added.

That Zen Guy Has Some Good Ideas

computertipsandtricks

I’ll admit it.  My inbox is usually overflowing.  And that is not with junk mail and spam (my beloved gmail keeps all that stuff out of my inbox).  There are, of course, lots of emails that I don’t need to read and do not need to respond to: store newsletters, lists of students absent from school, Facebook updates.  But there are lots that I do need to read, lots I do need to respond to, and lots of other stuff that should be taken care of to keep that little number to the right of “inbox” at zero.  That is rarely the case.  So, I thought I would share a great article for you on The Simplest Way to Clear Out Your Email Inbox.  This article, written by Leo Babauta, author of Zen Habits, is reprinted with permission.

In a sentence: Don’t reply or even read most of your emails.

Your inbox can be cleared in minutes with that method.

Here’s how I suggest you do it:

  1. Select all junk mail, newsletters, routine notifications, auto-replies, joke emails, chain mail, ads, anything else not super important. Delete em.
  2. Select about half (or more) of the other emails that you know are not important, just from the subject line. Archive em.
  3. Quickly read through the rest, archiving almost every one of them. Select a few to reply to or act on (5 at the most). Those will be your most important.
  4. Reply to them in three sentences or less, act on them immediately, or put them on your calendar to do later.

Done.

Following this method, you can process your inbox in  less than 5 minutes if you’re quick (use keyboard shortcuts).

What? But … what about all those emails I need to reply to? President Obama gets thousands of letters a day, and only reads 10 of them. This method forces you to simplify, to focus on what’s really and truly important.

Then, when you’ve saved all that time you might normally spend on email, go and Do Something Amazing. Oh, and only do this once or twice a day at most — the rest of the day, stay out of email.

Try it for a day or two. Tell me if the world falls apart. I bet it won’t. If it does, I’ll buy you a beer. If it doesn’t, you owe me one.

This is about something a bit deeper: our need to reply and act on every single request that comes in, rather than to take control of our work days and do what we know is important. You don’t need to respond to every email, act on every request, or even read everything that comes your way. You can choose the essential ones, and then get to work on what really matters. And if you tell others that you’re doing this, that you’re not going to reply to every email, they’ll eventually stop expecting you to reply.

Note: I realize this method won’t work for everyone … but I did say this would be a simple method. You can use it to get even simpler than the steps I listed above — just choose 1-5 emails to respond to/act on, and archive all the rest.

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I think I need to give this method a try.  Goodness knows my inbox is not at zero right now.  I need to do something to control the chaos.  What about you?

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