Sunday, March 1, 2015

Bring some order to your messy digital life


Now that the piles of snow are finally gone and spring is threatening to arrive, it's time to clean up and get organized. My garage looks like a hoarder's paradise and I will get to it real soon. But first, I want to organize my digital life and these are the tools I'll use to whip my computer, tablet and mobile phone into shape.

I’ll start with Evernote, a free program built to hold all of life's random bits of information. It might be a recipe, a to-do list, a restaurant review, a website address, PDF versions of user manuals or the plot for the novel you're going to write someday. Toss them all into Evernote, give each one a topic tag, or just use the search feature to find them.

The items are stored in the cloud, so they're never lost if your computer crashes and they are accessible from any computer (Mac or PC) and mobile device (Android or iOS). That means you can start a grocery list on your computer, make additions from your tablet and call it up on your phone when you're at the supermarket.

After using Windows for decades, I have files parked in all sorts of digital nooks and closets. Rummage will help me find and organize them. The free program inspects hard drives and other storage spots, identifies different file types and applies tags to get them organized.

When Rummage is finished searching, you can type "Word" or “Excel” in its search field to display a list of all your Microsoft Word documents or spreadsheets, regardless of where they're stored. The program also looks at the text inside documents and adds a tag based on the subject matter. If you connect Rummage with your Facebook, Twitter and Outlook accounts, it will also attempt to tag files based on your relationships with other people.

I love to take pictures with my phone, but I never have time to sort and edit the best ones. Lumific is a free photo gallery app for mobile devices that will tackle that job automatically. The app will group similar photos together by identifying their date and location to create one collection from an August vacation and another from the family reunion in October.

The app will also automatically enhance, rotate and crop photos. When it's finished, it shows you only the best pictures. You can keep good stuff and toss the junk, freeing up space on your mobile for more photos.

What about that pile of sales slips on my dresser? They will be gone after I feed them into a free iPhone app called OneReceipt. I’ll take an iPhone photo of each receipt and let the app crunch the numbers. I’ll add tags to tell me what I bought, where I bought it and whether it was a personal or business expense.

Now on to my overstuffed email inbox. Mailstrom is designed to sort through your mail and separate the important messages from the junk. It uses message headers, not the actual text inside, to find patterns. It marks mail that it thinks is related and lets you act on those messages in a group.

Mailstrom is free to try and works with Gmail, Apple mail, Outlook and many other mail services. It will identify frequent senders, like family members or business associates, and bring them to the top of your inbox. It can also sort and group emails by subject.

The program specializes in blocking junk mail and freeing your inbox from mailing-list messages that you never read. I’m sure I will get along just fine without all those Twitter notifications. I might even have time to clean the garage.


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Follow me on Twitter @ricmanning and read my technology columns at My Well Being.


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