Vote for the best Mac software in the world!

Here at Nik’s Picks, I try to dig up some of the best software out there and share it with you. But I’m just one (lazy) guy, and there’s a lot of smart folks out there.

So, to make everyone have a little something new all the time, I set up Squidoo lens that tracks the top MacOS X software.

Just pop over to the lens, and you can vote on your favorite software, and vote down any software you don’t think is deserving! Should be fun.

You can see the top few results here in the sidebar, or best of all, at the page itself. Get out there and vote! (And, if you like the lens, be sure to give it a nice rating!)

Go vote now! What are you waiting for?!

And, as a disclaimer, I make no money on this. All the ad revenue generated by the lens is automatically gifted to charity.

Written on December 20, 2006

Give to charity, get great software!

In case you haven’t read this elsewhere, MacHeist has made a great bundle of software available at the culmination of the incredibly fun MacHeist game/software giveaway.

The bundle has some of the real cream of the crop Mac applications, including Delicious Library, TextMate, RapidWeaver, and a Pangea game of your choice, and it’s only $50 – $12.50 of which is donated to a charity of your choice.

If you’re a newish Mac user or mostly stick to open source apps, I highly recommend picking up this sampler so you can see what some of the top independent Mac developers are capable of producing. This is the sort of software that will make you switch to a Mac or keep you from ever being able to quit the Mac fold.

If you’re interested, go take a look and buy a bundle if you like what you see.

Written on December 11, 2006

Elementary, my dear Watson

For quite some time, my 12” Powerbook G4 has been crashing (kernel panic) erratically. I finally narrowed down that when the left front part of the case (across from the battery) flexed (like when I picked it up on that corner), it crapped out!

After discussing this with some techs online and off, I came to the conclusion that the most likely problem was a miniscule crack in the motherboard or in some of the traces on the mobo. When the board flexed, the traces no longer made a connection, and the computer crapped out. Made sense, it fit the symptoms, and mobo damage from flexing has been known to happen with various laptops that don’t have totally firm cases. (i.e. All plastic, aluminum and titanium ones.)

So, I remembered where the kill spot on the case was, and handled my Mac more gingerly to avoid the kernel panics.

Then I dropped it. Right on the corner next to the kill spot. Dented the case nicely.

Next thing I know, Airport (wifi) went haywire. If the computer woke from sleep, it would fail to find any access points.

I figured this was all related. The airport card connects around the kill spot part of the case, and it made perfect sense that if the mobo was damaged, the wifi would suffer for it.

But then the wifi died entirely. “No airport hardware was detected”, said Internet Connect. Grr…

So, I pulled the airport card. Took a look at it. It looked fine, but what the hell do I know? So I put it back in. (The old unplug and plug it back in again trick!)

Guess what? It works now. Moreover, my computer doesn’t crash when I flex the part of the case right under, yeah, the airport card connector.

So what I think REALLY happened was that my airport card got jiggled loose. I’d flex the case and effectively unplug my wifi card while the computer was on, causing a kernel panic. Eventually the card worked its way even looser, which finally got me to zero in on the problem.

So, I’m psyched things work now. But boy, strange problem there.

Written on December 10, 2006

Nik's Picks: TiVo fun!

I recently whomped together a little TiVo decoding application, that lets folks convert the videos on their TiVo into something they can actually use. This has caused me to get a little more interested in other programs that enhance the TiVo experience. So here, for a Very Special Nik’s Picks, is a rundown of some of the best software out there to assist you in using your TiVo. Best of all, they’re all free!

Tivo Desktop

This is a nifty little application provided by TiVo that lets you stream your iTunes music to your TiVo and also view iPhoto slideshows. While its functionality is a bit limited compared to some alternative programs, it does what it does extremely well. I especially enjoy using it to play my MP3s through my home stereo, since I have full control over the player from the TiVo itself, unlike other solutions (such as Airport Express) that force me to go to my computer and muck with iTunes. Download TiVo Desktop

TiVo Now Playing Widget

This deceptively simple widget gives you a nice view of what’s waiting on your TiVo for you to watch. It effortlessly pulls down listings of what’s on your TiVo, and with a click, downloads the .tivo file to your computer. Downside is that it takes a while to load (especially if you have a 160 GB TiVo, like I do), but once it gets the list of shows, it’s quite responsive. Download TiVo Now Playing Widget


Galleon is the mack-daddy of TiVo software. It lets you add a variety of custom applications to your TiVo. I mean sure, the TiVo Desktop program lets you stream iTunes music or watch your iPhotos on your TiVo, and that’s pretty cool. But what about using your TiVo to monitor your computer over the network? What about automatically downloading shows that meet certain criteria? Or what if you want to view video podcasts, play any internet radio stream, or do a variety of other strange things off of your television?

Well, Galleon handles all that. Behind its somewhat daunting configuration lies a powerhouse of a system which has been tastefully and cunningly integrated into the TiVo interface. True, many of its functions are built into TiVo now, but it still has some gems of applications in there.

To make installation and configuration much easier, I highly recommend the Galleon Bundle for MacOS X which manages some of the initial configuration and makes it much easier to launch and use Galleon on your Mac. Download Galleon

Written on December 7, 2006

Speed your life up with LaunchBar and services!

The latest beta of LaunchBar adds support for sending text to items in the services menu, via specially formatted search templates. This can be a very cool way to quickly enter data into a variety of applications without ever having to write a line of AppleScript or anything.

While LaunchBar’s included “look up in Dictionary” example is pretty slick, if you have programs with more expansive Services offerings, you can do some truly wonderful things. Here’s a few of my favorites…

Let’s start with a basic one as a sort of tutorial, and create a LaunchBar entry that lets us create a new sticky note in the “Stickies” program. Just open LaunchBar’s configuration, and enter the following search string in a new search template called, I don’t know, “New Sticky” or something:

> x-launchbar:perform-service?name=Make+New+Sticky+Note&string=*

Then select “New Sticky” in LaunchBar, hit space to get into the text entry mode, and type in the text for your new sticky note and hit enter. Bam! Stickies opens (if it wasn’t already open) and creates a new sticky note. Pretty cool, eh?

Now, where this really takes off is if you have some very cool services installed, specifically the Calendar Creator and Contact Creator services from QI Software. These services let you enter iCal and address book information using plain English. So you can select text labeled “Meet John tomorrow at 3 PM” and Calendar Creator service will turn that into a meeting for tomorrow at 3 PM. Nice and easy.

To use those services, just download and install them, and then add the following search templates to LaunchBar. Once you log out and in again (necessary to reload the Services menu), you’ll be able to smoothly and easily add contacts, to dos and events to iCal and Address Book.

  • x-launchbar:perform-service?name=CalendarCreator/Add+Calendar+Event&string=*
  • x-launchbar:perform-service?name=CalendarCreator/Add+To+Do&string=*
  • x-launchbar:perform-service?name=ContactCreator/Add+List+of+Contacts&string=*

And if you’re using Entourage, and you have synchronization with iCal and address book turned on, these utilities will work just as well for you, provided you set up your defaults so that calendar entries go to the Entourage calendar instead of to the CalendarCreator calender. Just type the following terminal command, and you’ll be all set:

> defaults write com.qisoftware.calendarcreator “DefaultCalendarName” “Entourage”

So there you go! Go make your own services plug-ins for whatever you like. It’s quick, easy, and will almost certainly speed up your computing time!

Written on December 5, 2006

What would a weekly review script actually do?

A couple folks have asked that I build a “weekly review” script for Entourage. I have just one question, what would it do?

I can easily see that it might build a list of projects without next actions, overdue tasks, maybe even upcoming events from your calendar. But all that is really at your fingertips anyhow, isn’t it?

Let me know what a review type script or application would do for you. Sound off in the comments!

Written on November 20, 2006

The genius of Disco (or Buying Buggy Betas)

John Gruber ran an excellent article, ‘Beta’ is Not an Excuse, dissecting the important difference between beta software and simply buggy, but released, software. His target: The much ballyhooed CD burning application, Disco. His point was simply that calling Disco “beta” is disingenuous, because as long as they’re selling the software, they have an obligation to their customers to create software that works.

Simple logic, but it misses the true genius of their approach: They’re using pre-sales as a means to gain investment capital to fund the final development of Disco!

Disco, you see, is still in beta, and still has some bugs which I can only classify as henious. As an early adopter of the software (I got it off the pernicious MacZot, a site that seems dead set on capturing my pocket change), I have found it to be exciting to look at but incapable of burning anything more functional than a coaster. (By the admission of the program.)

But here’s the rub: I paid for this software.

I must be stupid, right? Well, yes, perhaps so. But the folks at Disco are nothing short of geniuses!

Let me ask you this: How do you fund a software start-up?

Most people use some combination of credit cards, personal savings and outside capital (either The First Bank of Mom and Dad or, if they’re exceptionally lucky/well-known, venture capital bucks). This money often is hard to come by and runs a very high interest rate. So start-ups often try to stay exceptionally lean until they have a first release and can finally start bringing in revenue and pay off their loans and investors.

Not Disco, though, no sir! They’ve managed to create such a feeling of trust and excitement (through some phenomenal viral marketing, aided by MacZot), that people (thousands of people) were willing to pay $5 for the software before they even knew what it did! Furthermore, once the software’s final purpose, features, and so forth were released, excited users could buy it at half price ($15) before it’s so-called final release.

In one fell swoop, Disco was able to build up a few thousand dollars in sales without even the requirement that their software exist, let alone be stable, feature-complete, and reliable! If that’s not a stroke of true marketing genius, I don’t know what is.

And, of course, they no longer have to worry about paying folks to beta-test for them. A paying customer will be quite eager to download the latest point releases and test them out, hoping beyond hope that the program will justify the $15 worth of expense.

The danger inherent in this approach is that the Disco developers now have a true obligation to these paying customers to deliver a fully functional application, and moreover, to deliver it quickly. If they don’t, they will lose credibility and won’t be able to pull this stunt again (and others will find it far harder as well).

As for me, I’m still Toasting my CDs, as Disco just hasn’t proven itself reliable enough to handle my backup needs. Maybe the next release will reliably burn a disc…

Written on November 14, 2006

Un-Kinking Entourage Part 4: Best Practices

Learn how to transform Microsoft Entourage into the ultimate GTD productivity system. If you haven’t already, read the previous articles in the series to get started before diving into these details.

If you’ve been following the series, you’ve now had a few days to try out the system and see how it works. In that time, I’ve received a number of comments and questions, so I figured I’d include some answers to those questions to help fine-tune your application of GTD in Entourage, as well as cover some tips on how to handle your reviews, the best way to carry your tasks with you at all times, and some ideas on how to capture information and keep your projects straight.

Projects and Next Actions

Canonical GTD leaves you with a task list containing nothing but next actions. If that’s how you want to work, power to you. For myself, I want to list all my tasks and have them ready to pop up as the next action as soon as I complete the task before it. It lets me keep rolling and is especially useful if I’m going to be away from my lists for a while.

That’s the whole point of using priorities in this system. Actions which are, er, actionable, will be high priority, and others will be lower. Actions which are on hold get dropped down to lowest (deferred) priority.

This lets you outline everything you need to do for a single project when you first think up the project. But, as always, don’t be a slave to old ideas. If you think a new task is necessary or one you originally entered isn’t right, go ahead and make changes as needed.

Best Practices for Send to Entourage Script

The Send to Entourage script lets you immediately create a task, project, context and even set an alarm in one easy step. Use this feature sparingly. Your goal is to capture and then review. If you have 50 projects running at once, the last thing you want is to accidentally attach a task to the wrong project because you’re in a hurry, or to delay getting an item filed away because you had to spend time considering its context and whether it was more appropriately a project of its own.

Send a single sentence to your task list and it’ll show up in your Inbox view, waiting for your next review. Keep moving, keep being creative, and then when you’re feeling like getting all your ducks in a row and being the boring well-organized you, you can visit your Inbox and file things away perfectly.

About the only time I’ll use the script to drop a task right into a context and project is during my review. (And it’s a huge timesaver.)

Taking it With You (Palm syncing)

If you have a PalmOS device, you can synchronize Entourage with it. You have two different ways of doing this: You can use Entourage’s built-in support for Sync Services to sync to iCal and Address Book and then use Apple’s conduits, or you can use Entourage’s own conduits.

Use Entourage’s. Trust me.

If you don’t, you’ll lose categorization for all your tasks, and without categorization, you can kiss you lovely contexts good-bye!

You will notice that your Palm doesn’t have projects on it, only contexts. This is, in my mind, a good thing. The PDA is a way to carry your to-do lists with you, it is not a terribly good replacement for your Mac. (Try entering 100 tasks with categories on your PDA, then do it on the Mac using the Send to Entourage script if you don’t believe me.)

You can, of course, use your PDA to capture new tasks. My recommendation is to not categorize tasks at the PDA. This will ensure that they end up in your inbox view (well, they will regardless since they don’t have a project), and will thus take the pressure off of your stylus-hand to make you enter a thorough and well documented task. Instead you can jot down “donaldson paper thursday”, and when you do your review that reminder will get transformed into “Turn in economics paper to Dr. Donaldson next Thursday and remember to print two copies”. Life’s too short to spend your life hammering on a thumb-keyboard or mucking with a stylus.

Reviews and Entourage

A few people have emailed me and asked why there isn’t a “review” script. There’s a simple answer: That’s impossible! But, this method is set up to make your review simple. Here’s a quick list of things to check to get your review going (in addition to the usual review steps as detailed in Getting Things Done.).

  1. Empty your email box! Some of those emails will end up in your inbox. It’s up to you whether they now become part of this review or if you want to put those off until later.
  2. Check your Inbox view and file away everything in there. This is obvious, but is a great first step
  3. Review your projects. For each project, consider whether it’s still active or whether you’re done, and make sure you have at least one action associated with it as a next action. (If you don’t, take a moment to determine a next action and enter it immediately!)
  4. Check off any tasks you’ve completed within each project, or defer tasks which are no longer necessary or are now on hold.
  5. Look at the next actions in each project as well. Is it truly the next possible action? If you’re using the scripts to automatically assign actions, it may be a completely inappropriate item as a next action, in which case you should defer that action or at the very least put in a new next action immediately.
  6. Review your raw task list. Make sure you don’t have tasks mis-categorized or otherwise funky due to manual error.
  7. Review you deferred projects and actions. If you’re waiting on something, you may want to add a new action of “Remind X that I’m waiting on something.” as an agenda item. If you have a project that’s been on hold for a long time, maybe it should move to the someday/maybe list instead. Deferred does NOT mean that you aren’t responsible anymore. It simply indicates you cannot take immediate action on that item.

Lists and Reviews

I highly recommend keeping any and all lists associated with your review processes in Entourage. This ensures that they will be available when you’re actually doing your review.

Additionally, if you have a PDA that you’re sync’ing to, you can use the PDA to read your lists and run through them, while actually walking through the process on your Mac. It’s like having two computers!

Questions and Answers

How do I use the Entourage script menu? This question came in a lot of different forms, ranging from “I can’t set a keyboard shortcut for a script menu item” to “Scripts aren’t showing up in the menu, what’s wrong?”

First, read the help. Just open up Entourage’s help and search for “Script Menu”. There you go.

If you want more detail this post on the Entourage User’s Weblog may be just the ticket.

The Send to Entourage script doesn’t correctly match projects and/or contexts, what am I doing wrong? That was my fault. Re-download the script and it should work fine.

How do I handle sub-projects? I already answered this in the comments, but I think it’s worth noting here. I don’t believe in sub-projects. Either it’s two projects that are not necessarily dependent on one another, or it’s one project. Even if the projects aren’t necessarily dependent on one another, but they both work toward an ultimate goal (e.g. you want to sell your house, so you’re going to paint it and redo the plumbing), consider whether your mind would be more at ease tackling one and then the other. Otherwise you’ll end up with a half painted house with holes in the wall as you run back and forth between these “sub-projects.”

But, if you want sub-projects in Entourage, it obviously doesn’t handle it out of the box. Instead, you could use a naming convention, create a note that lists all the steps toward your ultimate goal (a good idea for any major goal or objective!), or just trust your brain to keep it straight, thanks to your regular review process.

You keep mentioning Kinkless GTD. Do I need that or OmniOutliner to make this all work? No. Kinkless GTD was the inspiration for this methodology, that’s all.

You keep mentioning GTD and David Allen. Do I actually need to read that stuff? I recommend that you do. Getting Things Done is one of the few personal organization books I’ve read that correctly puts the emphasis on being productive, creative and happy rather than organized. I don’t care how many stack of crap I have piling up, provided those piling stacks feel under control and I am confident I’m spending my time doing what’s most important to me. It’s a wonderful way to live.

Written on November 10, 2006

Un-Kinking Entourage Part 1: The Basics

Learn how to transform Microsoft Entourage into the ultimate GTD productivity system. Read the whole series to find out how.

Today’s installments cover the basics of how GTD methodologies can be integrated into Microsoft Entourage. I’ve broken it up into two parts to make it easier to read, but by the end of these articles, you will be able to set up Microsoft Entourage in a fashion that will work smoothly with GTD.

In later installments, we will get into the nitty-gritty of using AppleScript automation to further un-kink and streamline your workflow.

These articles assume you have a basic working knowledge of Microsoft Entourage, and are comfortable with creating events, tasks and projects, and can even edit your list of categories. If you need help with that, I highly recommend trying out the built-in documentation to get started.

Entourage and GTD

Under the Getting Things Done methodology, all of your actions are related to open loops, or projects, in your life. A project is simply any obligation that will take more than one action to complete. Those action are then categorized by “context,” where each context is a location or mode (e.g. Home, Office and Online might be common contexts you would work in) you must be in to complete the action.

Many actions are also delineated as “next actions,” which is to say that they are the next possible step to move a given project along. Similarly, some actions may be deferred until later (often because you’re waiting on something else to complete), and you may not want to see them in your actions lists.

The other (and perhaps most important) part of the GTD methodology, is the concept of keeping innumerable lists, and writing down everything on your mind into a trusted and reliable system. So we also need a way to store all manner of lists and other supporting documents in a way that we can rely on to retrieve the information effortlessly when we need it.

So how do these GTD concepts fit into Entourage?


Entourage has a built-in Project Center which is ideal for tracking projects. You can link notes, documents, tasks, events and emails to your projects, and view it all in one place. Projects can even be shared and collaborated on with other Entourage users.

Because it can be cumbersome to create new projects using the built-in wizard, we will use AppleScript to un-kink the project wizard and speed up project creation.

Some of the un-kinking scripts make use of suffixes on projects which are similar to the prefixes on Contexts. These will be covered in later installments of this series.


As for contexts, that gets a little more involved.

Entourage’s Categories is where we will store contexts for our actions. But we may also want categories for our address book, events, and notes, but those categories are not contexts and we generally don’t want to confuse them.

As a result, we will add a prefix character of “@” to all of our context categories. So in the categories list, you will have, for example, @ Home, @ Work, @ Online, as your contexts.

Contexts may also be prepended with “+” or “=”, but we will get into that in a later installment when we look at the advanced AppleScripts for un-kinking Entourage.

Now all your other categories to keep your personal addresses separate from prospects or work addresses can stick around, and all your context categories will sort to the top of the list, making it easy to assign them to your actions when needed.


Actions = Tasks. Nice and easy. Every action needs to have both a Project and a Context-type category associated with it in order to be considered a “real” action. (Otherwise it will end up in your Inbox view, as you will see.)

Since GTD doesn’t recognize prioritization as a priority (excuse the pun), we will use Entourage’s prioritization scheme to keep next actions and deferred actions separated from other actions. A task with a priority of “High” or “Highest” is considered a “next action,” and a priority of “Lowest” is considered a deferred action, with “low” and “normal” priorities indicating a normal action.

Lists, Notes and other Supporting Documents

Entourage lets you store numerous rich-text notes in its Notes view. These notes can be associated with projects, assigned to categories, and even linked to tasks or events. This is an ideal place to store project-related notes and lists.

You can also associate files (of any sort) with Entourage projects by dropping the files into the Files “hole” in the Project Center view, or putting documents (or aliases) into the drop folder for your project. (Configurable from the project center.)

By collecting everything related to a project in one place, you can trust at all times that you have the documents you need to complete your project at all times. This is a huge contributor to peace of mind, and I highly recommend doing so.

Calendar and Email

Entourage can also support calendaring and email. Yes, there are better email clients, and (possibly) better calendars, but both work quite well once you learn their ins and outs.

While there is no reason why you have to use Entourage for more than just task and project tracking, its true potential is achieved through the integration of all these functions. By keeping your calendar and correspondence in the same program, you can have all the material associated with your projects viewable from within the Project Center.

Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, read part 2 to find out how to actually go about setting this up in Entourage.

Next article in this series:Un-Kinking Entourage Part 2: Setting Up Entourage

Don’t have Entourage? TidBITS and Microsoft are holding a giveaway to get your own copy of MS Office 2004, go register!

Written on November 1, 2006

Un-Kinking Entourage: An Introduction

Do you want to manage your tasks and open-loops/projects easily and automatically? Do you want the ease of use of Kinkless GTD with the reliability of a commercial application? Well, so did I. This is what prompted me to finally settle on transforming Microsoft Entourage into the ultimate personal productivity system. This is the first entry in the series, so read along, and keep coming back to find out how you can work Entourage to your best advantage.

I started out with the Getting Things Done methodology about two years ago. I was working through graduate school, as was my wife (she still is, I’ve got my degree), and I was swimming in too many things to do and not enough time to do it. Prompted by the numerous enthusiastic reports of David Allen’s book on some blogs I frequented, I jumped on the bandwagon. I read the book, loved the approach, and have been valiantly striving to become a ninja-grade practitioner of GTD ever since.

But see, I’m an efficiency wonk, and a major geek, so I couldn’t just do GTD, I had to find a system that would let me do GTD better! I tried some note taking software, index cards, notepads, outliners, wikis and full blown web applications of all sorts. I’m a geek and a productivity/efficiency wonk, so I was happy to do it.

Finally, after months of experimentation and getting on and then falling off the GTD wagon, I became a Kinkless GTD (KGTD) user.

Kinkless GTD has much to offer. Because it has the incomparable OmniOutliner Pro, It’s efficient, easy on the eyes, quick to enter data, and very extensible since it’s entirely comprised of AppleScripts. As a user, I spent no small amount of time extending what KGTD could do, and making it work better with Apple’s Mail program, export contextual tasks to my iPod, and more.

But as I fiddled and toyed with the system, I became disenchanted. While the base KGTD outline worked great, its interface with the rest of my workflow was, for lack of a better word, broken. This wasn’t Kinkless’ fault at all! The problems were resident in iCal’s poor handling of date stamps, thus rendering Palm synchronization (Clie sync, in my case) useless. Mail’s AppleScript dictionary, while robust, is broken, and renders many common tasks entirely impossible, including such necessities as linking an email to a task in a fashion that will withstand moving the email from one folder to another.

And as for Kinkless itself, it was just AppleScript, and that was a failing. If I forgot to press “Sync” in the toolbar every day, it didn’t update. If I marked a task with a date in one place, it might get another date from another location in the document. KGTD is good, but it isn’t bulletproof, and worrying about whether my task and project lists (the lifeblood of my peace of mind) would survive the next Sync was not contributing to a mind like water. And isn’t that the whole point of the GTD methodology?

So, I went back to the drawing board, but more knowledgeable about what I wanted or needed from a task manager. I came up with a simple list of requirements:

  • Easy and ubiquitous entry of new information via LaunchBar, Quicksilver, or darn near anything else. I am hopeless addicted to the “Send to KGTD” syntax (which I extended in my own scripts), and I simply could not live without it.

  • Able to categorize my tasks based on two axes: Context and Projects. While The David may be content with a separate project and task list, having the ability to view my tasks both by context and by project cuts half an hour out of my review process.

  • Integration with email. I have set up a GMail account which creates tasks. If I’m away from my computer, I can send it a task, and it pops right into my task list. (Thanks to the Mail to KGTD script.) Same goes for an email that requires action; I want to send it to my task inbox or to a project, not let it clutter up my inbox.

  • Portability, on either an iPod or my Clie. I need to have my tasks with me when I’m out and about. Then I can take use of those precious ten minutes of slack time when I arrive early for a meeting, and can take a couple calls. Furthermore, on the portable device, context must be maintained, or else I’ll be swimming in tasks.

As I looked over this list, I thought of software that could handle it. There were the usual crop of wikis and other hacks. There was the excellent Ruby on Rails application, Tracks. There was even one fellow who hacked GTD into his GMail account. But none of these had all the key features I was looking for.

_And then I thought, “Why not Microsoft Entourage?”_

Why Entourage? Well, because it handles categories as well as projects, thus keeping everything nicely in line. It also has a phenomenal AppleScript dictionary, which was well up to the task of replicating the Send to KGTD functionality I craved.

As I poked around in Entourage’s inner workings, I found that the program, bolstered by recent updates, had even more to offer. It is Spotlight searchable; it shares its schedule and contacts with Apple’s Address Book and iCal programs, thus enabling me to keep using other programs that rely on those data-stores; it syncs effortlessly with my Clie, maintaining categories with aplomb (and there’s tools to sync to the iPod as well); and its use of custom views and categories makes it easy to slice its information into just what I want to see at any particular time – the ultimate goal of the context-based GTD system.

Entourage also has its warts, it’s true. Its Project Center appears to be the answer to all of a GTD user’s dreams – a single repository for emails, tasks, files and notes related to a given responsibility – but it’s kind of kludgy in some ways, especially when it comes to creating projects. (A three step wizard is the only way.) But then, couldn’t I AppleScript a way around that limitation?

It turns out that I could, and I have started to do so. The results have been incredible. I have full confidence in my system and am spending less time than ever fidding with its workings. While I’m certainly spending some time scripting and extending the functionality of my system, the basics are all built right into Entourage, and are therefore well supported by everything else that supports Entourage.

So, for the next few days, I’ll be posting a series of blog posts, and putting up a few scripts (in early beta, at best, but don’t worry, none will harm your data – I made damn sure of that!), about how you can Un-Kink Entourage (a homage to Kinkless GTD, I assure you, and not poking fun), and turn it into a superb storehouse for your actions and open loops and even for the other random files which end up getting in the way.

This is all built on 10+ years of AppleScripting know-how, a deep appreciation for the finer points of organization, and a firm desire to put the best of Kinkless GTD into a more robust and automatic system. I welcome your comments and questions throughout, and will try to answer them directly in the comments section, but may keep some as grist for additional articles in this series.

And yes, I know, The David has his own guide to implementing GTD in Microsoft Entourage. But his costs $10 and mine’s free and comes with oodles of software. (Now might also be a good time to mention that I’m not associated with David Allen, the Getting Things Done book or concept, or anything else – I’m just an enthusiastic user.)

If you’re feeling adventurous, dust off that copy of Entourage, update it to the latest version, and join me on this wild ride to turn the corporate behemoth into a lovely and efficient task manager.

Next article in this series: Un-Kinking Entourage Part 1: The Basics

Written on October 31, 2006