The first of what I plan to try to make a weekly occurrence - the Friday Five. Each post will be of varying lengths, highlighting a list of five items that hopefully you or someone you know finds useful.

Web Apps

The time I spend in front of a computer is fairly evenly split between a Mac (home) and PC (work).

As a result, I rely heavily on web apps to access my data and keep everything in sync. In this week’s Friday Five I will highlight my five most used web services and a few related tips and tricks.

  1. Gmail
  2. Google Calendar
  3. Workflowy
  4. Simplenote
  5. Squarespace

Honourable mentions:


In my opinion, easily the best feature of Gmail is the ability to leverage Google’s search functionality. With time, I have become very efficient at searching for messages and as a result do not have to file or apply labels to messages. The incredible amount of storage space provided with a Gmail account allows you to archive all your message without having to delete them. In fact, I have my first Gmail message from March 20, 2007 in my Archive folder, 51 281 message in total totalling 5.16 GB.

Note: There are many aspects of Google services, both good and bad, that you should be aware of before using them. I’m not going to go into them in detail here but please make yourself aware. There is no shortage of information, again both good and bad, online about Google. Here are a couple sources:
Our Products and Services | Google
Google Evil or Not, Your Best Arguments | Lifehacker

Google Calendar

After my email I’m looking at my calendar. Google Calendar’s ability to integrate with Gmail and other services (e.g. iPhone apps) makes it my favourite calendar service. You can continue to leverage the search functionality in Gmail and I rely heavily on the reminder features (e.g. remind me in 2 days via email of this event). Now if I could just remember to take action on those reminders, maybe my family would get a birthday card on time this year. Better create a calendar reminder for that :-)


Exploring Getting Things Done has been a hobby of mine for the past few years. I have tried MANY task managers and have now been using Workflowy exclusively for the past few months. Workflowy’s biggest asset is its simplicity. One of my weaknesses when it comes to exploring task managers is getting caught up in the details, playing around with the settings and features when I should be actually doing the work related to the tasks in my task manager. As Merlin Mann Mann says “…the next time you think about changing task managers, stop, and go and do three things on your list” [paraphrasing]

Workflowy’s simplicity is rooted in its format: a front-end interface to navigate a hierarchical plain text file. You can use keyboard shortcut to create, expand/collapse and navigate the hierarchical levels. You can move up and down the hierarchy with your arrow keys, Ctrl + Space to expand/collapse a level, and tab to create a new level. At any time you can export to plain text which make backup and sharing a breeze.

Here is a list of other task managers I have used, all with the own set of advantages and disadvantages: Toodledo, OmniFocus, Excel, Checkvist, Remember the Milk, Asana, Nirvana HQ, Clear


Over the past couple years, as result of the influence of many of the podcasts I listen (e.g. MacPower Users and Back to Work) to I have moved almost exclusively to plain text for my personal notes. Simplenote is a text sync service that also offers a web app for accessing and editing your notes.

The key feature of Simplenote for me is the search functionality. It is fast and if your search string does not return any results, simply hit the plus icon to create a new note with the search string as your title. On the Mac, I would highly recommend using nvALT with Simplenote as the back end sync service. More on Nvalt in a later post.


I have hosted on [Squarespace] [Squarespace] for a few years now. My website is a work in progress, but keep checking back as I have some big plans for 2014.

Squarespace offers a wide range of features, allowing you to create a simple website in a few minutes right through to offering you the ability to customize the CSS or embed your own code. If you enjoy tech podcasts, I would highly recommend listening to those on the 5by5 and TWiT networks both for their quality, but also because they regularly offer Squarespace discount codes.

AuthorBryan Sippel