Thursday, November 17, 2016

Size Matters - Choose the right tool for the job

My wife uses her cell phone for just about everything, because she doesn't spend a lot of time at a desk. Reading and writing email, browsing and posting on Facebook, editing photos, signing up for a school function, shopping on Amazon - it's amazing how much she can do from her one little handheld computer.

image credit - flickr daniel mennerich


I, on the other hand, am spoiled by easy access to a full-size computer, so I get frustrated trying to type long messages or navigate an intricate website from my cell phone. It's not that I can't do these things per se, but it's an inefficient use of time unless the task has top-level urgency.

Here are the tools I have available, and when I use each one:

Smartphone - Provides communication and instant access to information (duh, we all have one, right?)

I use it for:
  • Instant communication - phone calls and text messages
  • Reviewing emails as they come in. Short emails get read (and replied to if the reply can be brief); longer emails get saved for later.
  • Camera - this is my primary camera and video camera
  • Information lookups - quick web searches, pulling something out of Evernote.
  • Maps & real-time Traffic Updates
  • Calendar - checking my schedule and adding appointments
  • Browsing Facebook posts
  • Listening to Music, Podcasts, and Audiobooks
  • Various games and other time-wasters
Not so good at:
  • Consuming large quantities of information, including long passages of text and complicated web pages.
  • Writing more than a couple of sentences as a time. Typing is slow, and formatting text is a pain in the butt.
  • Photo processing - such as adding photos to a blog post, grabbing a screenclip of an image, adding notations, or moving through a large number of photos quickly.
  • Research & Multi-tasking - trying to find information from multiple sources, consolidate it into something useful, and share it with others (ie: preparing and writing a blog post) is simply not worth the effort.

Smartphone with Bluetooth Keyboard - I was able to increase my phone's value-added functionality tenfold when I purchased a $20 Bluetooth Keyboard. This keyboard lives in my backpack, and I reach for it regularly:


  • Texting - Whenever messaging involves quick writing, or long writing, you can bet I'm using my keyboard.
  • Emails - If I need to mobile-respond to an email, and I'm going to type more than a sentence or two, this keyboard makes all the difference.
  • Writing - I can jot down quick thoughts for a future blog post, e-news article, or marketing idea, quickly and easily, wherever I am. Taking that a step further, I can even write full copy if I'm someplace where I have time but no computer. (truth be told, half of this blog post was written with my keyboard.)

Tablet - A great way to "share the screen" among multiple people, especially when out and about. It's also a very good tool for consuming information (ie: reading websites, browsing photos).



This is a nice tool to have when out with clients, as I can put comps on the screen and then hand the screen to clients. That being said, I find myself reaching for my Chromebook laptop more often than a tablet - I think I prefer the increased speed and functionality of the Chromebook; it just has fewer limitations.


Chromebook Laptop - I wrote a glowing review of the Toshiba Chromebook 2 when I first started using it last spring, and I like the laptop even more now than I did back then!



I have almost full functionality with this laptop - reading, writing, editing and inserting photos, online shopping. It's all a breeze. And it's instant-on feature makes it act more like a tablet than a Windows laptop in that regard.

However, this is a cloud-based laptop, meaning I don't have access to my Windows files, and processing photos and/or video in bulk is way too slow. So I can't quite ditch my desktop.


Desktop Computer (home) - When I need to work in Microsoft Office, process photos and/or video, access my Windows filetree in a local environment, or work for an extended time period, my basic home computer does the trick. It's a couple years old, and doesn't have a lot of power, but it's still faster than any of the other previous options over the long haul (once it fully boots up!)


Desktop Computer with Dual Monitors (office) - My office computer is a high-powered beast, with loads of memory and dual monitors. The more detailed my project, and the longer I'm going to be working on something, the more likely I am to wait until I can be at my office desk.


This is where I get spoiled, and find myself pushing tasks off until I can get to the office:

  • Exporting and analyzing data from MLS
  • Large quantity photo and/or video processing
  • Blogging - clipping, saving, resizing, uploading, and formatting blog posts with multiple images. (like this one.) I can write text from anywhere, and I can prep the photos from my Chromebook (slowly) if necessary, but I can put it all together at light speed on this machine.
  • Research while working - being able to type an email on one screen while looking up facts, data, maps, and history on the other screen saves a lot of time. It's also nice to review a map, an email, or a contact's info while adding a calendar appointment.


Bottom Line 

I've often said that technology is only good as much as it is useful - using tech just for tech's sake, or just because it's cool, doesn't do me any good. This is definitely the case when choosing where to work and what device to work from.

Working from a smartphone feels cool - like an uber-tech geek changing the world from the palm of his hand.

An Ipad is a lot sexier than a clunky laptop, and a Chromebook feels like embracing the future compared with running Windows.

Sometimes though, the best way to work is with a big 'ol box of a computer, running all the Windows programs you're comfortable with. Hands resting comfortably on a full-sized keyboard and mouse complete the picture.

It's might not be as pretty, or as sexy, or as futuristic - but choosing the right tool for the job always makes the job better. Higher quality work in less time - I'll take that outcome every time!

- Chris Butterworth

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