For me, “productivity” is all about reducing clicks and keystrokes—I spend the vast majority of my waking hours in front of a screen of some sort, click click clicking away to get the job done. To move on to the next task or—egads!—to go outside, I look for ways to reduce those clicks and keystrokes either through the number of applications I have open at one time, the number of times I launch or re-launch an application over the course of the day, or the number of keystrokes I use to make my applications do what I want.
Keyboard shortcuts are a big deal for me, so much so that if I wrote a post about them it would be book-length and therefore reduce my productivity at the moment. On this matter I will defer to Lifehacker’s Top 10 Productivity Basics Explained blog post, in which “keyboard shortcuts” is listed at #2, and where the keyboard-shortcuts tag lists well over 300 related Lifehacker posts.
But the #1 productivity tool that I use is actually Firefox itself; since Firefox is the one application that is almost always open on my machine, I’ve configured it so that I can quickly reach out to other applications while also having some time management tools installed within it. Mashable has a brief rundown of basic Firefox productivity options in “HOW TO: Make Firefox Your Productivity Machine” but here I’ll quickly point out a few of the many add-ons/extensions that make my time and work easy to manage. Since we’ve already talked briefly about Zotero here at Prof. Hacker (see zotero tag), and I envision many more posts in the future about this beloved tool, I will skip that for now.
Brian Croxall mentioned Read It Later in his post “Asynchronous Reading”, and I would like to echo that pick as well. I used to have a disjointed process for saving things to read later—so disjointed that I rarely ever did go back and read things later. I used to bookmark pages and throw them in a “to be read” folder, and I used my Google Reader “favorites” button to make yet another list that I rarely looked at. Now I just click the Read It Later checkmark icon in my brower’s URL bar and the link is saved, or I can check the Read It Later checkmark icon in my Google Reader interface and voilà: my reading list winds up in one centralized location that I can easily access within my browser.
Here are a few other Firefox add-ons that make my life a little less cluttered:
- Greasemonkey: Installing this add-on is the first step; finding and installing (or writing and installing) user scripts for Greasemonkey to enhance your web browsing experience is the second. User scripts can add features or remove extraneous information from web applications; if you’ve ever looked at a web application and thought “it would really enhance my productivity if that column were on the right instead of the left,” a Greasemonkey script can enable you to see the site or application in that way.
- DownThemAll: This add-on allows you download all files listed on a page with one click—no more right-click/save-as for every link you need. Sure, you might get a few extra files along for the ride, but you can clean those up after the fact. This tool will still save you from the right-click/save-as process for each file.
- Shareaholic: Let’s say you find a link (or write something useful) that you want to share throughout your social network. You can use this extension to add to those sites without having to go to Digg, Twitter or your Twitter client, and so on. You can also interface with URL shorteners like bit.ly (my personal favorite) as well as your e-mail client.
- Picnik: The Picnik extension allows you to select and import images directly into the Picnik web-based photo editing application (free). Let’s say you’re looking for a Creative Commons-licensed photo for use in a blog post and you see the perfect one but it is too large to include within your text. Simply right-click and select “Edit Image in Picnik” and you’ll be able to crop, resize, and save the image within seconds.
- ReminderFox: This add-on manages lists of date-based reminders and to-do items. ReminderFox is not meant to be a calendar replacement, but it certainly can be It sits there in the corner of my status bar and reminds me to take out the trash, get on a conference call, and when to start thinking about getting up to go to campus. I’ve used it for almost four years now and if I didn’t need to share my calendar with others (I use Google Calendar for that) ReminderFox would have remained my lone calendar system.
There are more than 5000 Firefox extensions—which ones do you use to stay productive?