Sunday, March 11, 2018

Free "Productivity" Apps

Memorion - My quest to re-acquire Aramaic this year began inauspiciously with a frustrating and time-consuming review of Android flashcard apps. What I wanted, I realized, was a mobile version of my friend Ken M. Penner's powerful, but now very dated, Flash! Pro XP Windows Program, along with the elegant algorithm that I used to study Hebrew and German in grad school. Spaced-repetition flashcard apps, such as Anki, are now very common, but they require you to trust their "scientific" algorithm and conform your learning style to their arbitrary requirements. I finally settled on Memorion. Although it does not let you adjust the algorithm, it reviews words more frequently than most of the other spaced-repetition alternatives I tried, and it has lots of other helpful, powerful and flexible features.

Duolingo -  Speaking of languages, I started using Duolingo last year to refresh my German and Modern Hebrew. Aramaic has supplanted modern languages for the moment, but I look forward to returning to Duolingo presently. It's a fun, low-pressure approach to language-learning, and it works. Best of all, kids like it too. The Duolingo leaderboard has me at 13,570 XP, but that is mostly the result of s.'s work on French.

LeadTools OCR - As a workaround for a copier that does not generate searchable scanned PDF's, I use the Windows 10 LeadTools OCR app. It requires a few extra steps, but works well. Alas, it is still the case that I make digital copies of essays faster than I read them.

Podcast / Audiobooks at speed - I now enjoy a 20-minute workout at the beginning and end of each day as I ride across Cambridge to and from the Tyndale House library. The exercise is nice, and so is the concentrated "reading" time. (Welcome to the 21st-century, d. miller.) I enjoyed Mike Duncan's "History of Rome" podcast, and am now about half-way through the audible version of Charles Taylor's A Secular Age--a tome outside my field of study that I would probably never get around to if it were not for the daily commute. Pro-tip: You can read faster by increasing play-back speed. Your brain adjusts. I actually suspect I pay better attention to the book, though not necessarily to my surroundings, at a faster rate of speed. HT: Luke Johnson, who usually "reads" audiobooks at 3x speed.  (I've settled in at 1.75 - 2x.)

I could go on. As I've commented before, everyone should be using Zotero. I've switched from Mischief to Microsoft's new Whiteboard app for quick, hand-written notes. And if efficient time management was only a matter of finding the right time-tracking software, I'd be set. (I use Toggl.)

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