Productivity Boosting Tools (for Windows): Second Week Rundown

 

windows_boost

A little under two weeks ago, I started using some new tools to try and make my work flow smoother and hence more productive. I had felt like the standard tools we use in Windows were limiting my productivity potential, and I reviewed how things were going after using them for a week.

Now that I’ve had some more time with them, I have had the chance to ease into using them daily, get over the novelty of the new tools and experiment with the other features.

XYplorer

I did think about trying out other file explorers a few days ago, but I decided I hadn’t yet given this one enough of a fair chance.

I’m glad I stuck with it, as I have discovered that I actually really like the dual pane feature. I was using it quite a lot this morning and it proved itself to be of great benefit to my workflow. I was running some macros that produce output files and then when they were finished I was dragging them across into particular folders. Having a dual pane view meant that the two folders were always directly beside each other and I never lost track of where I was putting them, nor did I risk dropping the files anywhere they didn’t belong, as you might when dragging into another folder on the tree view, or dragging up to another open tab.

I also finally discovered how to get the folders to auto-refresh, a puzzle that had been bugging me for a week. I had to go into Tools > Configuration and enable Auto-Refresh on Network Folders. Boom, just like magic! It was a little irritating that it wasn’t switched on by default, but I assume the developers would want to emphasise performance and from that perspective it makes sense to not be constantly refreshing network folders.

Tabs continue to be the handiest feature here, so for anyone on the fence about switching file explorer, I would heartily recommend adding tabs to the standard one with something like QTTabBar, if you can bear the slight slowdowns that sometimes occur when using it.

Desktops V2.0

This week I discovered a little keyboard short-cut that actually kept me from relying on the multiple workspaces that Desktops V2.0 offers, and that short-cut was Windows + 1 (or 2, or 3 etc).

When you hit Windows + any number, it either launches or switches to the app on that location in your taskbar. I set XYplorer, Outlook and Chrome to the first three locations on my taskbar and for two days I worked with just a single workspace. Part of this was helped by me having two monitors of course, but I didn’t feel like I was restricted really, even though I had enjoyed the freedom of multiple workspaces before.

One thing I did notice with keeping everything on one workspace is that I was far more prone to distraction by email. If you are working on something where you want no distractions at all, putting your emails and browser in a separate workspace is practically a no-brainer.

One of the reasons I’ve been trying out the Windows key short-cut is that I want to be able to demonstrate it to colleagues and help them work more effectively. Most people are dubious about installing and learning new software on their machines, so just showing them a couple keys to press is a much easier sell. Once I get them comfortable with that, switching desktops is just as easy, I think you can even tie them to that same short-cut.

PhraseExpress

PhraseExpress has been getting in my way a little this week!

In Excel, when entering formulas, I like to hit tab to auto-complete sections of the formula. When you’re typing something like VLOOKUP, my preference is to type ‘vlo’ and then hit tab to finish it off and get the opening bracket. This is fine for VLOOKUP, because I don’t have any text snippets or frequently-used sentences that begin with ‘vlo’, but I do have snippets that begin with ‘int’, ‘ind’, ‘mat’ and others, so PhraseExpress is getting in the way there!

I don’t want to disable it for Excel, because I have some Excel-specific snippets that I would like to continue using, what I do need to do is figure out how to ignore the suggestions with a keyboard short-cuts. It’s probably right there in the guide I haven’t read.


 

 

I don’t know if my productivity has increased from using XYplorer or PhraseExpress, but I do feel like they’ve relieved some of the pressure, which is probably more important than an incremental productivity boost.

My workflow and productivity have definitely improved from using Desktops V2.0, so I’m very happy I started using it. I might look at changing the short-cuts to something a bit more easily accessible, do that I can switch workspaces even quicker, which will make it all flow better.

At this point, I think I’m reaching the limitations of improving by adding better tools into my workflow, which means I’m going to have to find techniques and methods for handling tasks instead. This is an area I always come back to and one I also struggle with. I spent a long time being disorganised and being okay with it, so switching myself to becoming a more organised person is tricky, and tiring.

I have some ideas of where to carry on. I’ve read about GTD (Getting Things Done) and Bullet Journaling. I use Trello every day and like the idea of Inbox Zero. I think one day, if I just keep on practicing, I will become an organised person, it’s just a matter of time.

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