I read a lot of articles online everyday. From blogs I follow in Google Reader, to Twitter and Facebook posts and links, I find tons of material. There are a lot of posts I want to keep along the way. Maybe it’s a list of ways to improve my blog, or a long set of instructions to setup a media center. Whatever it is, I need a way to keep all of them organized and saved, in case I need to refer to them in the future.
There are a lot of different ways to do this, and you really need to find the one that works best for you. I’d like to list a few of those options, and describe the system I’ve recently implemented. Warning Mac Users! I use Windows, so I have no idea what to recommend for OS X in terms of desktop client solutions. I’m sure there are several good ways to do this on a Mac, and I’m also sure they look 20x slicker than anything I’m using. If anyone out there wants to donate a MacBook Pro, I’d be glad to spend the next month researching the topic. Until that UPS driver shows up, I’ll just describe Windows and cloud options.
My Current System
Although I’m pretty sure Google will someday take over the world and use our information against us, they sure have some useful apps. I’ll write a post about my full setup soon. All my RSS feeds go into Google Reader. I have about 60 feeds, which get sorted out into folders, based on their topic. I used to have quite a bit more, but I scaled back some of the non-business feeds, just because it was getting out of hand. This is what it currently looks like.
Ok, so the music blogs aren’t really business related, but I’d give up a leg before I gave up music, so don’t argue with me on that one. Articles I want to save for later get a star. So, for you GTD folks out there, this takes care of collecting and processing the data. All the articles I want to keep for later have been separated, and the rest has been discarded. In the processing stage, I go through the Starred Items, and decide what they are.
If it’s a bit of software I want to check out, I either download it now, or forward the link and bookmark it for later. If it’s a quick tip I think others would find interesting, I’ll tweet it (which I can always reference later). Finally, if it’s a long article I like, I’ll do one of two things. I’ll either write a post about it or just save it for later. Either way, these all get archived.
At the bottom of each post in Reader, there are lots of options. For these purposes, you can email it, or you can send it to a 3rd party. Here’s where I’d like to ask Google for some help. I would like there to be 1 of 2 things added to Reader to make this easier for me.
- Give me an email address just for Google Docs, so I can forward documents directly to Docs, instead of having to upload them.
- Give me a “Send to Docs” option under the Send to menu in Reader.
I’ll let you know if/when Google emails me with an update on this. For now, what I do is email the article to [myemailaddress]+email@example.com. In GMail, all these emails get sent directly to a folder/label called Reading. In GMail, I open up this folder to find all my articles. When I open up the email, I have a perfect copy of the article. On the right side of the screen, I have these links.
Click on Create a document, and the contents of the email (in this case the full article) are turned into a document in Docs. In Docs, I’ve setup folders, similar to in Reader, to keep everything organized. Here’s what that looks like so far.
Judging by my bank account and my diet, there are two folders there that need to get used a bit more often.
Now I’ve got all my articles nicely organized and archived. If I need some inspiration for a new post, or just to reference some instructions in the future, I don’t have to try to remember the keywords to search for, or a clever tag I used 2 months ago. The great thing about Google products is that “folders” aren’t really folders. They’re really just labels, so some of the articles I saved are in multiple “folders”. Something I saved that talks about blogging to make money might go in Blogging/Writing as well as Small Business. It’s also really easy to share with someone else. I can share an individual file, or the entire folder to 1 person or everyone. I’ve tried a lot of ways of doing this. Until Google gets back to me about removing GMail from this equation, this method seems to be the best yet.
This is by now way the only, best, or easiest way to do this. This is just the way I’ve settled on for now. I really like a lot of organization. I also want the apps I used tightly integrated, and available to me anywhere I go. Here’s some other options you could use that handle some or all of the same features as my method.
Evernote: Yes, I know that a lot of you didn’t even wait to finish reading the post before you started shouting this out at me. Evernote is an amazing way to keep track of, well, everything. I use Evernote a lot. I have it on the front page of my iPhone, installed as a desktop app, and installed as a plug-in on Firefox and Chrome. Anytime I find a clip of something, a picture, directions, menus, whatever, I clip them into Evernote. There’s even a Send To Evernote option for Reader. The only reason I don’t use Evernote for this is due to the output of the articles. The articles I save in Docs are documents. I can edit them, print them, add notes to them, and share them. The interface to Docs is also a lot sleeker (probably not the case for Evernote’s Mac client). Plus, I use Evernote for so much, I wanted to have these articles in a clean, distraction free environment. When I’m looking for inspiration for a post, I don’t want to get sidetracked by a screenshot from Plants vs Zombies or the menu from that new Chinese restaurant. That’s just me, you may find it to be the perfect app for you.
Microsoft Outlook/OneNote: Outlook has a really good RSS reader built into to it (at least the last couple versions do). If you like to process all info the way you do emails, then this is a natural way to view your feeds. You can create folders, and drag and drop the articles just the same way you archive your emails. In my opinion, OneNote is by far the most powerful note taking app around. There are even plug-ins for IE, Firefox, and Chrome that let you send info directly to OneNote, just like Evernote. Evernote is great because it’s free, accessible online and on my iPhone, and has a lot of good features. However, if a OneNote iPhone app and online client were to arrive, I’d probably drop Evernote. The tight integration between all of Microsoft’s office apps makes it even easier than Google’s apps to share info between any two programs. Anything I have in Outlook can be easily sent to OneNote, including emails, articles, appointment reminders, and task lists. In this case, the lack of portability is what stops me from using these two apps. I only use the one computer now, but if that changes in the future, or if I want access to the folders on my phone, I’m out of luck.
There are lots of other ways too, but it would take forever to run down all the possible combinations. You could even go really simple and use a word processor and a good folder structure locally. Combine that with Dropbox, and you could have access to them wherever you go.
Do you have a better/different way to handle your favourite articles? Please leave a comment and let me know. I’d love to hear from you, and it may help me refine my current system.