DonnaM » Neat stuff

Neat stuff

Writeboard – I wouldn’t use that (or would I?)

Wednesday, October 5th, 2005

I spent a little time on the weekend looking at 37 Signals new product – Writeboard. If you haven’t seen it already, they describe it as:

“shareable, web based text documents that let you save every edit, roll back any version, and easily compare changes. Use Writeboard to write solo or collaborate with others”

I like 37 Signals products, and use backpack a lot. But reading about Writeboard, I couldn’t imagine a use for it at the moment.

So today I was driving to work and a great idea for an article/workshop/series of blog posts popped into my head. By the time I got to work I’d thought it through and wanted to write it down. Where to write it? I didn’t want to hand write it on paper. I didn’t have my tablet with me (this would be my usual first choice). I hate Word. Putting it into the ‘notes’ area of backpack didn’t feel quite right (and would stop me from using the notes area as ‘notes’).

Ahah! Writeboard actually seemed like a good solution.

So I got to work, and went into the site. Created a new writeboard, wrote up the idea and saved it. Yay – idea out of my head and written down.

Then I remembered that the blurb said I could connect it to my backpack. I have a backpack page for articles and speaking ideas already. I went into my backpack and, just like magic, there’s a tab with ‘Writeboards’ at the top, and a link to import. I imported my new baby and it sat in the list of writeboards. It was a bit lonely there, and I really wanted it to connect to my articles page. Just like magic, there’s a link at the bottom of the page that lets me link a writeboard. Linked and done!

How easy was that! This probably sounds stupidly marketese (well, it does to me), but it was completely real. I had an idea, wrote it down and linked it to my existing ideas within about 3 minutes. I hardly had to think about the process at all. I spent bits of the rest of the days adding extra ideas when they came to me, and have a decent outline all ready. When I’m ready, I can send it to someone and they can review it.

Now this is what usable software should be about…

Backpack – one week in

Wednesday, May 11th, 2005

The value of a product isn’t how well everyone reacts to it initially, or the nice initial reviews it gets, but what happens as time passes. It is easy to think that you’ll use a groovy new tool but just don’t.

I’ve been using Backpack for just over a week now. I’m over the groovy hump and into really thinking about how I can use it to help me. And I’m still liking it and still using it every day that I’m at my computer (which is part of its downfall – there have been a number of times I’ve wanted to jot something when I’m not at a computer).

There are a couple of things that I’m finding particularly useful:

  • the ability to quickly and easily jot an idea before it flies away
  • I can add alerts in Backpack and then synchronise them into my Sunbird calendars at work and home (I was previously emailing or carrying around my calendar file to keep them in step). Improved calendaring will make this even more useful.
  • the ability to break all of my ideas into projects, rather than having everything muddled together

But I really, really wish my mobile phone carrier were supported. With that facility, backpack would be totally indispensible.

I got a golden ticket (for backpack)

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2005

I got a golden ticket to have a look at a new 37 Signals product called Backpack.

Backpack is a simple, personal organiser. With it I can create pages for projects and add to-do lists, notes (plus images and files in the paid version). I can share lists and projects with other people over the web.

It has a neat reminder feature, which sends reminders via mobile or email. This would be truly, truly fabulous if my mobile phone provider was supported (but this not a criticism – I’m with a smaller provider in Australia).

One of the most important things, and I have found this with everything I have seen come out of 37 Signals, is that it is very, very easy to use. I jumped right in and made 2 projects and added lists and notes for both of them. There is a good set of examples, which was particularly useful when I was staring at a blank screen wondering what this thing was for.

I have an idea for a real project that I think Backpack will be useful for. Without it I’d probably store to-dos in Sunbird or my tadalist and make notes on paper as I go. I often have good ideas when I’m at work and email myself reminders at home. I can see that it will be useful to be able to access my project information from work and home and make notes as I think about them. I’ll let you know how it goes.