Network Engineers have to manage a lot of information. Products, technologies, textbooks, study notes and research material as well as new protocols and features. Just simple tasks like keeping product manuals handy for 40 or 50 products is a real problem. How do you keep the information organised, referenced, accessible and useful ?
Your employer probably gives you second-rate computing tools like MS Windows & Office but there are software tools that can do valuable and useful tasks for managing your knowledge resources. Saving files in directories isn’t good enough in 2012, I needed to find better ways to manage the raw data, PDF files, Word Docs, that relate to projects – either delivery or research.
These screencasts are about how I solve the problems for myself, maybe you might find something useful too.
In Part 1 (this episode) I discuss how Apple Spotlight is not able to effectively search for files I’ve stored on my hard drive. This led to using HoudahSpot to locate files on my drive.
In Part 2, I talk about using DEVONthink as a knowledge management tool for storing PDF files, Text Files, Presentations and more. I cover the import of web pages and PDF files, plus using Groups and Tags to organise the data into useful chunks.
Also, I cover the management of writing projects and more by storing text files.
In Part 3, I’ll describe how I use Markdown formatted text, combined with Folding Text and Marked Applications on Mac OS X to
create focussed and targeted environment. I briefly refer to using MultiMarkdown Composer for long documents because it handles tables and document outlines better.
If you have followed my blog post on Design Documentation you might understand how I approach writing as a brutalist production line instead of creative episode.
Update: Here is a Youtube Version of the Screencast
- You can find out more about Markdown and Marked App here
- You can fin more about DEVONthink at http://www.devontechnologies.com/
- More in HoudahSpot at http://www.houdah.com/. You can find a cut down version of HoudahSpot in the Mac App Store called Tembo (but I prefer HoudahSpot.
- Folding Text is available on the App Store and more information at http://www.foldingtext.com/
- Read my review of MultiMarkdown Composer on my personal blog.
The EtherealMind View
I’ve been asked how I manage to keep up to date, write constantly, publish blog posts and more. This is the way that I keep myself organised, it may or may not work for you. And I continue to develop and change the process as new tools become available.
All of these tools are for Mac OSX. As far as I know, there are no equivalent tools available for Microsoft Windows or Linus platforms. I understand that it’s because many of the features that makes DEVONthink useful are actually part of Mac OS X. For example, QuickLook allows the preview of files- When you install new applications, like PowerPoint or Pages, then QuickLook usually gets a viewer for that data format. Thus DEVONthink doesn’t need to develop viewer for every application. Groups and Smart Groups are also standard Mac OS X features. DEVONthink uses DMG files to create an indexable data store. The search feature uses Spotlight. And so on.
This screencast is a direct response to many, many requests and emails over the last two years. Sorry it’s taken so long but I didn’t have the confidence to do screencasts until I found some training courses and now I feel I understand enough about the process to make a screencast that is good enough to publish.
I’ve enjoyed making this screencast. I’m looking for feedback on whether this has been useful to you, or any suggestions on improvement or new topics that I could cover for you. Please leave a comment below or email me firstname.lastname@example.org if you would prefer to be more anonymous.
Postscript – A personal view on Apple Mac computers
My personal experience is that Apple Mac computers and operating systems are far more reliable and have many more features than the equivalent MS Windows products. While I’m sure you will have your own opinions, my favourite feature on the Mac is Time Machine for automated backup and recovery – which has saved my work many many times over the last six years. My second favourite is the migration tool – I’ve not reinstalled the OS X operating since my first Mac in 2005 which has saved me hundreds of hours compared to yearly Windows re-installations and reconfiguration of all applications.
Another key point, I’m more than happy to invest in my tools. Yes, I spend real money on purchasing and updating my software. Just like a car mechanic, my tools assist my professional performance. I do not accept or put up with people whining about “free” software. By all means use Open Source software when it’s the right tool, but it’s not “free” – I’ve wasted many ‘man weeks’ on open source software that was simply awful, unreliable, and ultimately pointless when the programmer abandoned it. I will not do it anymore and choose to pay for software – and mostly I choose independent software developers, not big corporations, because they make software that works better.
I have nothing to disclose in this article. My full disclosure statement is here.