Tuesday, November 27, 2007

My Web2.0 Virtual Office

After reading this great post by Eric Dupin on "My life without software and with barely a computer" (sorry, the original text is in French), it came to me that it may be of interest to describe my personal productivity environment.

I've been using Windows, in various versions this past 18 years from 3.1 to XP in my work environment. Coming from the Apple IIe and Mac world in the pioneering years (1983 to 1989), the move was wrenching at the time, much like driving a Ford model T, after years of enjoying a classy Porsche 911. But, by work necessity, I tried to make the best of the IBM PC/Windows environment.

With the advent of the web, I recently took the decision to explore tools that would free me from the ever increasing race towards more cycle-hungry operating systems and thick desktop applications and would enable me to potentially work from any computer, wherever I am connected.

Although, my journey of discovery is far from being complete, here is were I am at this point. First, I decided to have a go at Linux as an alternative to Windows. So I erased the latter on a Thinkpad T22 that I bought about 5 years ago and installed PCLinuxOS, a distro that compares well with the likes of Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSuse etc. It's been fairly painless to install, although I had a bit of a struggle with the Broadcom wireless network card.

So, on this laptop, that I upgraded to 512Mb of RAM from the initial 256Mb, I am happy surfing the net with Firefox. I use Google Reader to check my suscribed feeds and I tag websites and resources of interest using del.icio.us. Google Notebook is a nice complement that helps me clip information of interest, categorize it and add notes on the fly.

Open Office seems to be a valid replacement for MS Office, although I have not completed the conversion yet. I think the next step is going to be about finding online replacements of these desktop productivity tools. The big advantages that I see in moving in that direction are:

  • Storing files on a remote location enables the ability to share them with my friends and co-workers
  • I can reference them in blogs or websites with their URL
  • I don't need to think about backing them up, although having a copy somewhere is always a good idea
I am also a big user of mind mapping software. I like MindManager in Windows and I've tried FreeMind, an open source software which is OK for basic mind mapping in Linux. Recently, a friend indicated comapping, a mind mapping application that is completely hosted on the web and allows for co-editing of mind maps in real time and remotely. It's an impressive tool, with all needed conversion capabilities from and to freemind and MindManager. We intend to use it to record minutes of our teleconferences live.

Another area of growing interest for me is social networking, mainly through Linkedin and Viadeo. I find that in addition, I have a need for a contact manager to make sure that I follow up with my network contacts in a timely way. I've chosen Highrise, by 37signals, the providers of Basecamp, the project management tool of fame. It provides me with the necessary functionality to log my contact history, details and tasks. It's a great resource, even with the basic free license.

Lastly, I am addicted to Getting Things Done and use Todoist, a neat online facility with good flexibility and Gmail integration (which I haven't gotten around to testing so far).

What productivity applications have you found on the web that you particularly like?

Interesting link:
Linux and Open Source Blog (from which the picture above comes - thanks)

Post update at 18:03:
Check this article on CIO Magazine: Windows vs. Linux vs. OS X