Two weeks with my Newton.

Using a Newton everyday.

Two weeks ago, I decided to dedicate all my GTD, notetaking, scheduling, and day-to-day tasks using nothing but my Newton MessagePad 110.

I originally bought my MessagePad on eBay just to play around with, and see what all the fuss is about.  As I’ve worked on this Newton Poetry blog, however, I’ve developed quite an affection for the green machine.  Maybe it’s contagious, I don’t know.  But I figured if I really wanted to get to know my Newton, I had to use it everyday – not just for translating poetry.

The project began on Monday, Feb. 4, though not with a bang.  That first Monday, I mainly got acquainted with setting up calendar dates and making appropriate folders to store my notes.  Nothing special; just the basics.

Tuesday I wrote myself a note to remember a wine maker called Sand Hill Crane was having an event during the weekend.  The Newton showed its personality, however (and displayed the reason this blog exists) by translating the winery as “Sunday Erase.”  Close enough!

I also wrote down my grocery list and tried to take the Newton to the store, but this is an area where transportability is key; I left the Newton in the car and took in a scrap slip of paper instead.  No sense in risking the MessagePad’s injury in the mean aisles of Meijer.  I can see the sense in taking note of needed items as I go along during the week with the Notepad system, but some tasks are better with the old fashioned method.

On Wednesday, I discovered that I had underpaid my rent.  My co-workers and I had a meeting in Detroit, and we were leaving soon after I found out about my mistake, so I scribbled a note, with my apartment office’s phone number, into Notepad and left.  on the way, I turned on the Newton, retrieved the number, and saved an eviction.

That sure as heck beats my scrap-paper method, where I took bits of cut-up paper and scribbled all over them, trotted them from home to work or vice versa, and hoped I didn’t lose one along the way.

A sample note from the week.

Later, at my Recycling board meeting, as soon as ideas came to me, I could jot them down for later.  I discovered that by drawing a line in the middle of a note, it added a seperator line that dedicated each side of the line to a different day.  And in the middle of the meeting, I heard my first Newton reminder beep – even though the MessagePad was turned off.  My iPod doesn’t even do that until I turn it on.

After my meeting, I assigned all the notes I took into either calendar items or to-do list items, thereby discovering the Newton’s benefit over my normal TXT file to-do list: it’s portable.  I can take it anywhere and turn it on.  With my TXT file, stored on a thumb drive, I need a computer to read and edit it.

What would be awesome is a mashup of both.  A combined ability to edit my text file AND jot notes down as they come up would be the ultimate in GTD-dom.

Disaster – or semi-disaster – struck Thursday night when I came inside, I discovered the back of the Newton was missing the battery cover.  The latch on the front screen cover was getting wonky, and I was scared the battery cover latch was on its way out, too.  But not so.  I found the cover on the passanger seat of my car, a victim of all the crap I keep there.  The MessagePad simply lost a fight with my books and binders.  No harm done.

The “Assist” button is still the great black box in the Newton.  I still haven’t got the hang of it, nor of the To Do list options and features (then again, maybe it’s just the to-do part…).  I understand that I can set up To Dos, but how to easily change the time and date of when they’re do baffles me.  This will require some research.

Now, at the end of the second week, a comfort level has settled in, and I’ve noticed the power of taking notes and filing them.  Later I can cycle through each file, see what needs to be done, and erase the item when I’m done.

Back in its heyday, the Newton’s ability to coordinate with others and beam and fax information would’ve been amazingly useful, especially in group environments.  Now, however, it’s just me, and I’m okay with that.  I get a few weird looks when I whip out my brick-sized mini-computer/PDA/whatever, and I’m okay with that too.

What I really want to get my hands on is a 2×00 and try out proto web surfing and some of the nifty software – like Pocket Quicken – that the OS 2.0 can handle.  In the meantime, I’ll be happy scribbling my notes in the 110 model.

What started as a “Week with my Newton” could be “Everyday with my Newton.”

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