Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tech Column: Going Paperless (Part 5) With Cork Boards

by Bill Adler

I'm a visual person. Which means that in the dark I'm prone to walking into stationary objects, such as walls. It also means that I like to see things to help me remember them.

While I'm a great fan of Evernote, www.evernote.com, the multi-platform note taking, file saving, organizing and collaboration program, there are some times when I wish that I just had an old-fashioned cork board on which I can pin things like shopping lists, reminders, favorite photos, and newspaper articles I want to read later. It's useful to be able to see all of my stuff on one place, on one board. A quick scan is usually faster than going through a physical or virtual collection of notes, no matter how well they're organized or tagged.

If you write fiction, a cork board lets you easily keep track of what various characters are doing in different chapters. If your job involves seeing clients, a cork board lets you instantly see who's on your plate for today. If your work involves driving to lots of different places, you can move the notes around your cork board to help you visualize your route for the day.

I spent the better part of a week looking for the best virtual cork board, one that would complete my paperless existence. (Yes, I know: I could have been watching Downton Abbey or the Superbowl, but this is how I choose to spend my pathetic life so that I could bring you the best in virtual cork boards.)

After spending quality time with six different online cork boards, I chose Corkboard.me, www.corkboard.me. It's not free (some of these are), but I think it does almost everything right. Corkboard.me is as simple to use as it is practical. Simple is important when it comes to a virtual cork board; after all, would anyone use a real cork board that made you take extra steps, such as having to assemble each push pin?

Double click on any spot of your Corkboard.me board to create a new note. You can change a note's color, size, and position on the board, after you've created that note. You can drag photos to your board, too: Pictures are automatically framed like Polaroid photos.  You can also attach files to notes: If you have a note about a trip, for example, you can embed your e-ticket in that sticky note.

Corkboard.me lets you keep multiple boards: private or shared. You can use it for your personal stuff, or as a collaborative board. And Corkboard.me uses a cork board background, giving it a bona fide cork board feel. You can view and modify your cork board on your tablet, too.

Several of the cork boards I tested require you to navigate to a "create note" button to make a new sticky note. That's fine, but I like how quickly you can place a new sticky note on your cork board with Corkboard.me.

A close runner up in the cork board championships is Mural.ly, www.mural.ly. Mural.ly has the basic cork board features, as well as the ability to create multiple boards, add stickers, change note colors, share boards, add pictures, and more. You can change Mural.ly's background to resemble a cork board, too. I'm not sure why, but having that faux cork board look is important.

Listhings, www.listhings.com, is another excellent option. As with Corkboard.me, all you need to do to create a new sticky note is double-click anywhere on the board. You can add pictures, as well as share your boards with others. Listhings is not feature-rich, which is a virtue when it comes to a cork board: Some things --cork boards, toasters, TVs (I wish!)-- are meant to be simple to use.

If you want to step beyond the traditional cork board, give Wall Wisher, www.wallwisher.com or Popplet, www.popplet.com, a try. Wall Wisher is oriented toward collaboration: Not only can you share your board, but you can moderate posts that are made on it. Popplet looks little like a mind map, showing you the connection between your stickies. 

Most of these online cork boards have free and paid levels, and they all give you the ability to try them out before you subscribe. Cork boards are great because they let you see everything you need to know all at once.

Well, that's it for my series on going paperless. Here are the links to the previous four articles in the series:


Bill Adler is the co-publisher of the Cleveland Park Listserv, www.cleveland-park.com. He is the author of "Boys and Their Toys: Understanding Men by Understanding Their Relationship with Gadgets," http://amzn.to/rspOft. He tweets at @billadler.

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