Obsidian

Using Obsidian for personal knowledge management

I have recently been looking at my use of Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) software and in particular to create a curated knowledge base to store articles, bookmarks and notes.

There are three options that have received particular attention from experts in this area recently, Roam Research, Obsidian, and Craft. I decided to try Obsidian and have been populating it with my content and getting used to the syntax.

Obsidian and Markdown

In Obsidian, everything is based on a collection of Markdown files, which means you control your data and can easily get it out of Obsidian if you wish to use other PKM tools in the future.

Markdown is a lightweight markup language for creating formatted text using a plain-text editor. Files created in this way can be read on virtually any device and are ‘human readable’ with the markup code. I store my files in a Dropbox folder which Obsidian reads from in order to create searches, edit and tag.

The following screen shot from Obsidian’s web site shows a typical page with the dynamic graph that is built upon internal links between the Markdown files.

Quick Release

Obsidian has a substantial feature set and super-quick release cycle. They provide updates weekly, sometimes multiple times a week. Obsidian’s developers have thus far made an app that gives you all the expected PKM tools: Wiki-style links, backlinks, and graph view.

I will report back on the progress with my Obsidian knowledge base and, in particular, how it plays with other software across my computer.

Importance of computer backups

Anyone who is serious about improving their computer backups should read this article by David Sparks aka ‘MacSparky’.

He uses a ‘belt and braces’ approach which guarantees availability of data if the worst happens. I use a similar approach but not as well documented!

www.macsparky.com/blog/2021/1/backup-2021

How to master the Camera app on iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro

Really useful article and video on getting to grips with the new camera features on the iPhone 12 Pro.

Full article here:

Spreadsheets

New XLOOKUP function in Excel

For those who geek out on Excel (myself included) the years of frustration with the limitations of the VLOOKUP function are nearly at an end. Microsoft is introducing a feature called XLOOKUP, which will bring new functions and make data lookup much easier. See link for the full story.

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/09/01/microsoft-releases-excel-xlookup-feature-spreadsheet-jockeys-rejoice.html

Paperless template Meeting Notes

New ‘paperless’ templates for iPad or tablets

Many people are trying to go ‘paperless’ and for some it is a real challenge. Getting away from paper and pen has proved almost impossible, especially without the right tools.

I have developed a number of templates which, when used with an iPad app, mean that I can operate completely paperless in meetings, interviews and one-to-one sessions with colleagues.

Paperless template Interview Notes

I open a template in the app and, using an Apple Pencil, write over the template. It can be stored on the iPad or exported as a PDF with the template and text all able to be filed and shared.

I am now making the PDF templates available in the Infozio store. These are optimised for using as part of a paperless process and work well with various apps.

The templates available are:

Meeting Notes
Interview Notes
One-to-One Notes

There are a wide range of note taking apps which allow a PDF template to be used underneath the hand written notes. This enables the paperless workflow to be created meaning that you will capture and store your notes without paper.

Apps available include:
Notability
Good Notes
Adobe Reader for iOS
Adobe Reader for Android

I personally use Notability and think it is excellent for paperless working.

Paperless problems with credit card receipts

As part of my paperless drive I scan and destroy all my credit card and till receipts. Today I had an item to return to my local DIY store so searched and found (thank you Alfred) the receipt PDF, printed it out on A4 paper and went back for a refund.

The retailer, B&Q, have very distinctive orange backed receipts and it was very obvious that mine was not an original (see photo). I was told by the store staff that unless I had the original copy no refund could be given. I argued that my scan and reprint was legally valid but to no avail.

Eventually, after much debate, and because it was a low value (£7) item, as a “gesture of goodwill” they gave me a credit against more purchases.

I wonder how many people who are trying to turn their life ‘paperless’ have had similar problems. Was I right that a scanned and reprinted copy is legally valid?

Some have said that scanning receipts seems like too much effort but with a combination of a ScanSnap scanner and Hazel I have got a good workflow up and running.

Each week I empty my wallet out and run everything through the scanner on a ‘credit card receipt’ profile. This scans only one side, OCR’s and files as a PDF in a specific folder. Hazel picks it up, reads the date, renames the file and moves it to an archive.

This works very well and I can search the receipts out using Spotlight or Alfred, usually easily finding the one I need out of thousands.

I hope that retailers start to recognise that over time they will need to rely on electronically stored records and get used to customers making returns with non-original copies of their receipts.

Dropbox – still my most used software

I originally became a fan of Dropbox back in 2010. For those who are not users of this clever software, its a cloud based file storage service which syncs across all your devices, Mac, PC, iOS and more.

One feature that really interested me in the early days was that you were able to share specific folders to other Dropbox users, wherever they happen to be. In this way, it became like a network ‘shared drive’ that’s always available and not dependent on all the users being on the same LAN.

After many years of development, Dropbox continues to get better and better. Its apps on iOS and Android are excellent, giving access to all your files from virtually anywhere. They also have a business solution designed to remove the need for servers and other storage devices in SME organisations.

The basic Dropbox service is free although this gets you a rather small 2gb of storage space. I use the ‘Plus’ version which is £79/year but users receive 1TB of space. There are many Business plans with higher storage and team functionality.

Follow the link below to learn more.

www.dropbox.com

SME’s and Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

The use of Customer Relationship Management systems by SMEs varies widely. Often this is dependent on the industry or sector they are in but perhaps these days, all businesses should consider what they need in terms of tracking and maintaining their customer relationships.

Those who have a very small customer base often say that CRM is not needed as they have a close watch on all the interactions. However, particularly in the age of electronic communications, it is essential to have all the dialogue together and easily accessible. That’s where CRM comes in.

A huge range of software tools are available, usually fitting into easily defined categories and have clear target markets. For example, Salesforce.com is a high spec system covering sales, service and marketing for medium and large companies. It is a complete cloud platform on which other applications can be developed. This is typically used by companies with a high number of customer or prospect records.

At the other end of the scale are such as Zoho CRM, a much leaner cloud based system which is ideally suited to SMEs. The learning curve is low, deployment quick and can be accessed from virtually anywhere.

One key area for SMEs to consider is email integration. If the objective is that every email to and from a customer or prospect is logged or referenced in the CRM tool then this must be a critical area of functionality. Check to ensure that the system integrates with your preferred email platform.

In fact the way in which CRM links to other systems in the business is critical if we are to prevent multiple instances of the customer relationship appearing across the organisation. Anyone considering a CRM implementation should spend some time looking at this area and process mapping how the proposed solution will integrate with existing processes.

This is a vast topic with many good resources available online to gain a far better understanding of CRM before committing to a particular solution. My main point would be to ensure that you understand where it all fits into your business process.

Move from a PC to Mac

Several ago I decided to move from PC to an Apple iMac as my main desktop computer. So with many months of use now behind me, what are my thoughts on this operating system and hardware setup which is loved by so many?

The mechanics of a move from PC to Mac is very easy. As a Dropbox pro user it was a straightforward job to download the application and wait for the files to sync across the wifi network. I used a portable hard drive to transfer large file groups such as video and music.

Loading the standard office and graphics applications proved hassle free, opting for MS Office and some Adobe tools. I added some of the must-have apps such as Evernote, Chrome and Photoshop.

Microsoft Office applications were originally not as good on the Mac as PC. Excel in particular proved to be very frustrating in the early days with some functions needing to be relearned as MS seems to have changed shortcuts just for the sake for it. However, with the latest versions of Office, the gap has been closed and there is very little difference between the two. I would probably find it very strange now going back to the PC versions!

The biggest difference anyone making the PC/Mac change has to cope with are the little ‘quirks’ that are pure Mac. For example, the lack of a Delete key on the short keyboard and the need to still close the application after the windows have been closed.

Probably the best thing about the Mac is the way that, together with an iPhone and iPad, the Apple ‘ecosystem’ brings everything together in a way that is impossible with the PC. It really takes your personal computing to a new level.

After several years of the Mac, I would never go back. However, anyone changing does need to invest some time in learning the Apple way of doing things in order to get the best from the system. Ultimately it is a far better system than Windows, in my opinion.