Free resources from Udemy

The folk at Udemy have put together good collection of youtube videos focusing on public speaking. The videos are short, and give good examples and advice on become a better speaker.

Udemy also has a several online public speaking courses for sale. But like many learning sites you may have to look around to find the one that best suits you (hint: click on the courses and check out the table of contents).

They gave me a enrollment of one of the courses, and I got video, downloadable PDF supplementary material and external links.

Personally I think that nothing can compare to getting up and giving a speech in a safe environment (such as at a Toastmasters meeting), but if you are looking for some fast-track information or want to supplement your training,  there is some good stuff to be found.

On a side note I have used Udemy for technical training as well, and they have lots of very good courses on a variety of topics. They are worth checking out.

DEVONThink or Evernote?

I have been a paid user of Evernote for a couple of years and have always found it to be a very good service. However I have become recently more and more frustrated in it, in particular changing the MAC interface to a complex and unintuitive interface, and the reliability of the sycing between the cloud and the IOS app. So I have been looking for an alternative, and I think I may have found it in DEVONThink pro.

Since both DEVONThink and Evernote are used to store and find pretty much anything stored in notebooks (e.g. notes, documents, images, PDF etc), they pretty much do the same thing. In some ways DEVONThink does it much better than Evernote, but there are a few limitations as well.

Here is a feature comparison (this is not an exhaustive list of all the features, just what I consider to be most important for me), and some general comments after. While I have tried to keep this feature comparison as objective as possible, it is based on my own experience. Versions compared are Evernote v5.0.6 (MAC) and DevonThink Pro v2.5.1.

Feature Evernote DEVONThink
Platform Cross platform Mac and iOS only
Groups Notebooks can be stored in a single group (Evernote calls them stacks), but they cannot be nested in multiple levels Notebooks can be stored in groups, and groups can be nested.Notes can also be replicated and stored in multiple folders. EG I have a single list of items I need for photoshoots which is stored in both my photography and my travel folder.Smart groups allow for documents in different folders to be visible in a single place. For example I can view all WIP documents in a single place.
Tagging Tags supported Tags and labels (WIP, completed etc) supported
Browser plugins Yes Yes
Email notes directly to a notebook Yes No
Mobile Sync Over the air Over the air (mac to mac), but only via wifi for IOS. Note that version 2 of IOS is due soon which will support over the air sync. Of course the wifi sync is super-fast (since only the local network is involved).It is easy to select which notes or notebooks to sync (just replicate them to a “mobile sync” folder).You can also sync to dropbox and webdav
File formats Evernote; propriety format with limited export ability. Notes are all regular file formats (pdf, jpg, rtf etc), so it is easy to get the notes out should you wish to migrate the notes somewhere else
Search Saved searches supported. Search is slow Saved searches supported via smart groups. Search is super-fast
3rd Party support Lots of 3rd party applications that connect to Evernote, as well as apps created by them (eg Hello and Food app) Applescript support allows for extension of capability into other applications.
Editing internal editor Limited Since the files are stored in the file system, you can use any external editor (e.g. Textedit for RTF, preview for images etc). However the internal editor generally good enough.
Sharing Yes and very easy Yes but a little more complex
Note templates No Yes (eg: new agenda)
Size limits Limits depending if you have a free or paid package, but very generous limits. Since the files are stored on the computer, no limits
Costs Free and paid versions (annual fees) Pay for s/w, but no subscription costs, but it will take about 3 years to break even in cost compared to Evernote
Mobile version offline access (iPhone) Supported, but I never could get it to reliably work (at last check it told me that I had about 100tb used when I actually had about 100mb used) Supported via wifi

And now for some subjective comments.


While the Evernote IOS application looks really nice, it is overly complex and cumbersome to use. In other words it looks pretty but is not friendly. When sync works it is great, but it constantly seems to be wanting to update notebooks, and the updates seemed to take forever. Of course it has online sync, whereas the DEVONThink products do not (yet – see below).

The PC desktop version is great, and the MAC version was until a recent update in which it became very unintuitive. I had to do an online search to find out how to do a simple thing like delete a notebook.


The DEVONThink IOS application is very simple, but it is easy to use, search is accessibly (and fast), and navigation is really fast and easy. Sync can only be performed via wifi and not though the cloud (although a new version is due this year which will support sync via the cloud).

It reminds me of using the beautiful OmniFocus interface, similar, easy to use but powerful. This is a good companion product for the GTD junkies and OmniFocus users. While both are simple and intuitive, they are powerful products and have loads of useful features. It is not the cheapest products, but after using it for a few weeks you will wonder how you ever got by without it.

It integrates into almost anything, and getting information into and out of it is a breeze. I feel less “locked in” than with Evernote.

Overall (and yes I am coming from a grumpy Evernote experience), I think that DEVONThink is the winner, it will be my product of choice.

You can download a 30 evaluation version of DEVONThink, or the free version of Evernote and decide for yourself.

Disclosure: free license for both iPhone and MAC were provided by DEVONThink for my evaluation.

Be afraid of our customers

Heard in a presentation by (the other) Michael Jackson

Yes, you should wake up every morning terrified with your sheets drenched in sweat, but not because you’re afraid of our competitors. Be afraid of our customers, because those are the folks who have the money. Our competitors are never going to send us money.

Jeff Bezos, CEO,
Remember who could be sending you money, and do everything to gain their trust, respect and business.

Concise and effective messages – GroupWise confuses the reader

Just before I went on Christmas leave, I tried to set-up an out of office at one of my clients (where I have an email address). I am used to setting it up in Outlook, which is a very simple procedure. However this client is running a rather old version of GroupWise (v7).

The help file in Outlook explains how to create an out of office in exactly 49 words, while the GroupWise help file took over 500 words to completely confuse me (I never managed to get it working in the end).

My point is twofold. Firstly that GroupWise is probably the worst email system in the world. Secondly, their help file is far to confusing. It managed to confuse a very experienced computer user.  If I was confused,  I really feel sorry for the regular user. It should not take 500 words to explain such a simple task.

Ok, here is the lesson. Are you ever a GroupWise help file when you communicate? Do you give complex, confusing messages that make no sense? Or are you Outlook, providing short, effective and powerful messages?

For your reading pleasure, here are the instructions for both products (good bedtime reading).

Here is how you do it in Outlook:

Turn an Out of Office Assistant rule on or off

To turn out of office rules  on or off, on the Tools menu, click Out of Office Assistant.
In the Status box, select or clear the check box next to the rule you want to turn on or off.

Here is how you do it in groupwise version 7:

To create a vacation rule

  • Click Tools > Rules > New.
  • Type a name in the Rule Name box, such as Vacation Rule.
  • Click the When Event Is pop-up list, then click New Item.
  • Next to And Items Are, select Received. Make sure no other item source is selected.
  • Do not make any selections under Item Types.
  • Use Define Conditions to add specific information to your rule. The following are examples of using Define Conditions.
    • If you want to set up the dates during which the rule is in effect. Click Define Conditions > click Delivered in the first drop-down list > click On or After Date in the second drop-down list > in the date field, select the date you are leaving on vacation. Click the End pop-up list > click And. On the new line, click Delivered in the first drop-down list > click On or Before Date in the second drop-down list > in the date field, select the date you are returning from vacation > click OK.
    • If you want to make sure you reply only to items that are sent specifically  to you (and not to list servers or newsgroups). Click Define Conditions > if you have already specified information in this dialog box, click the End pop-up list > click And. On the new line, click To in the first drop-down list > click [ ] Contains in the second drop-down list > in the next field,  type your name as it displays in the To field of a mail message.
    • If you want to make sure that you do not reply to items from yourself (possible through delayed delivery). Click Define Conditions > if you have already specified information in this dialog box, click the End pop-up list > click And. On the new line, click From in the first pop-up list > click [x] Does Not Contain in the second drop-down list > in the next field, type your name as it displays in the From field of a mail message > click OK.
    • If you want to reply to internal items only. Click Define Conditions > if you have already specified information in this dialog box, click the End pop-up list > click And. On the new line, click From in the first drop-down list > click [x] Does Not Contain in the second drop-down list > in the next field, type @ > click OK.
  • Under Then Actions Are, click Add Action, then Reply.
  • The Reply dialog box is displayed, showing Reply to Sender selected (you cannot select Reply to All). If you want your reply to include the sender’s original message, select Include Message Received From Sender. Click OK.
  • Type a message, for example:
  • I will be out of the office from September 3-September 10. If you need assistance during this time, please contact Martha Robbins at extension 1234.
  • Click OK.
  • Click Save. Verify that the rule has a check mark next to it, indicating that it is enabled, then Click Close.
  • Rules that trigger a reply (such as this vacation rule) keep a record of who a reply has been sent to, and make sure that a reply is sent only once to that user.

For completeness sake, here is how Google’s Gmail does it (36 words).

1. go into Settings->General
2. then scroll down to Out of Office AutoReply
3. Fill Subject and Message

Every time you leave your office set Out of Office AutoReply on, when you’re back turn it off.