5 Ways to Use Ubiquity for Getting Things Done

Ubiquity is a new Firefox add-on that attempts to fix problems with the usability of the web. Developers and users alike can extend the web as they see fit. It allows you to control the web using regular language.

With search, you type what you want to find. With Ubiquity, you type what you want to do.

Here are a few ways that this new Firefox add-on can help you get things done and boost your productivity.

Schedule an Appointment

You can easily add an event to your Google Calendar using the add-to-calendar command. Simply describe your task in plain english:

add-to-calendar lunch with Louis and Scoble on Thursday

Check Your Calendar

Make sure you’re available for upcoming events with the check-calendar:

check-calendar thursday

Fire Off an Email

Sometimes I keep Gmail open in case I need to send an email real quick, but that’s no good for staying focused and on task. Ubiquity gives us the email command to make the process easier. Send a quick message by specifying a message and a contact from Gmail:

email Rahsheen is an awesome musician. Check him out. to Diddy

You can also select text and images from the page you’re on and do something like:

email this to Kyle

Add a Task to Remember The Milk

Being somewhat of a Remember The Milk fanatic, the first thing I looked for was a way to add tasks to my list. Google led me to this command:

rtm Finish mixing new song

Send a Message on Twitter

It’s possible that some people use Twitter to accomplish things besides broadcasting when they create a new blog post. For those people, you can use Ubiquity to send a tweet like this:

twitter I just ate a mango

Tying it All Together

Visit Mozilla Labs for an Introduction to Ubiquity. I recommend watching the video first. It doesn’t really make sense until you see it in action.

All of the commands above are included with Ubiquity except for the Remember The Milk command, which you can find in the Ubiquity Wiki. You’ll also find a plethora of other commands for your perusal.

Installing new commands is as simple as visiting a web page once you have the add-on installed.

Are you already using Ubiquity to increase your productivity? Tell me about it.

Make FriendFeed Slightly More Productive

FriendFeed is becoming more and more central to my online activity. I feel I have only scratched the surface of what can be accomplished with it. Even at this early stage, I know that I have accelerated the development of relationships, and the growth of my personal knowledge just by being a regular FriendFeeder.

A recent discussion started by jeff(isageek), got me thinking. I really should have tabs for web apps I want to keep tabs on right there in FriendFeed. I mean…I’m always in it anyway, might as well try to get things done while I’m there. You may remember Duncan Riley creating a slew of scripts for adding various tabs to FriendFeed, but there were a few missing that I still needed.

You can’t be productive without access to your Calendar and your Task List, so I created a couple of quick and dirty Greasemonkey scripts based on Duncan’s.

And, just for good measure, let’s go ahead and add a tab for Identi.ca:

Another script that I find I am using a lot is the FriendFeed Read Later script. I don’t see how anyone survives without it. It will allow you to mark an item as “Later” and creates a “Read Later” tab where you can view all of the items you marked. I primarily use it to follow discussions I find interesting without having to hope they resurface or searching for them. I also use this feature to mark items I may want to blog about later.

How do you keep up with your FriendFeed? How do you make sure you stay productive while using it? Enquiring minds want to know. Leave me a comment.

Remember The Milk: Posting Directly from Your Desktop

In a recent post, we talked about 6 Ways to Add A Task to Remember The Milk. While the methods discussed were varied and useful, I was not satisfied with any of them. This post will show you another quick method to handle this.

I have very simple criteria for being able to add tasks to my ToDo list:

  • It must be quick
  • It must not disturb my current work flow
  • It must be reliable

I had almost satisfied all of these using the solution involving Launchy, Curl, and Twitter. Launchy is probably the fastest desktop launcher available for Windows. So the procedure went like this:

  • Launchy pops up instantly when I hit ALT+Space
  • I type in “rtm<TAB>Task Description<ENTER>” (rtm is just a batch file in my path)
  • The task is added to my Remember The Milk Inbox list via Twitter

If we review the last item on my list of criteria, we see that our posting method needs to be reliable. Well, Twitter shouldn’t even be in the same sentence. I have actually been burned before using this setup, as you can read about in my post How Twitter Keeps Me from Getting Things Done.

So, how do we make it better? I had to find a way to get Twitter out of the picture. If you recall, You can add tasks to Remember The Milk via email. All I needed was a way to shoot off an email to RTM from within Launchy. Problem solved, right? Well…not really. GMail apparently makes this slightly more complicated.

This is about to get pretty technical, but I will try to break it down as simple as I can. If I don’t do a good job, please leave a comment and I will be happy to help 🙂

Download, Install, and Configure “Stunnel”

We need Stunnel so that we can communicate with the Gmail server securely. From the website:

Stunnel is a program that allows you to encrypt arbitrary TCP connections inside SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) available on both Unix and Windows.

So, here is what we need to do:

  • Download Stunnel from the Binaries Page. The version I used is 4.25 (direct download link)
  • Run the installer and hit “Close” once complete
  • Now, edit C:\Program Files\stunnel\stunnel.conf
  • Replace the “Service Options” section with the following:

[SMTP Gmail]
accept =
connect = smtp.gmail.com:465

[POP3 Gmail]
accept =
connect = pop.gmail.com:995

  • From the same directory, run the command “stunnel -install”
  • Then run the command “net start stunnel”

Download, Install, and Configure “Blat”

We need Blat so that we can send email right from the command line.

Blat is a Win32 command line utility that sends eMail using SMTP or post to usenet using NNTP.

  • Get Blat from here: http://www.blat.net/
  • Open the archive and stick “blat.exe” into C:\Windows\System32\ or somewhere else in your path
  • Run the command: blat -install smtp.gmail.com yourusername@gmail.com

Configure Launchy

You already have Launchy, right? If not, you are probably not working very efficiently, you are on a MAC, or both. Go ahead and fire it up now.

  • Open Launchy’s Options dialog (click the gear), go to Plugins and click Runner.
  • Hit the “+” button to add a new command
  • Enter something nifty for the Name (“rtm”, maybe?)
  • In the Program field, Enter the path to the Blat executable: C:\Windows\System32\blat.exe
  • In the Arguments field, Enter the following:

– -body ” ” -subject “$$” -to [Your unique RTM Email Address] -u [Gmail Username] -pw [Gmail Password] -f [Your Gmail Address] -server

  • Hit “Ok,” we’re done here

Make sure you include the preceding “-” and the space between the quotes for the body argument. To find your unique Remember The Milk email address, login to RTM and go to Settings->Info. You want the Inbox Email Address.


Now, you can hit ALT+Space (or whatever key you have it set to), type “rtm<TAB>task<ENTER>” and you have just added a task to Remember The Milk without even breaking stride.

Being able to quickly dump tasks/ideas out of your head and into your organization system of choice is pretty important. Without doing this, you will never get anything done because you won’t ever know what to do.

More often than not, you are going to be in the middle of something when an idea strikes you for something else that you need to capture. As we all know, if you get interrupted, it takes about 10 minutes or so to find your place and get back into the groove.

This is why I have been so anal about this specific facet of my system. I don’t believe there is a faster way, short of direct brain-to-computer communication, to capture your thoughts to your to-do list.

How do you make sure you can capture things at all times? Do you have a better method than me? I’d like to hear about it. Leave me a comment.

Supercharge Remember The Milk: 6 Ways to Add a Task

One important thing that will ultimately hold your GTD system together and make it work for you has to be accessibility. In the first and second installment of this series, we discussed how to set up Remember The Milk to handle most of your GTD needs. We also talked about using SMS to access RTM. Here are 6 more ways to access your shiny new system.

This post is the first in a series on Super-Charging Remember The Milk including:

1. Email

When you signed up for Remember The Milk, you received a special unique email address. You can find this address in your confirmation email or on the RTM site in Settings->Info. Just shoot RTM an email at the address provided with your new task as the subject. The body can be empty, or you can use any of the following (quoted from the RTM site):

Priority: 1 or P: 1

Due: Monday at 9am or D: Monday at 9am

Repeat: Every Week or R: Every Week

Estimate: 2 hours or E: 2 hours

Tags: report coffee or S: report coffee

Location: Home or O: Home

URL: http://www.rememberthemilk.com/ or U: http://www.rememberthemilk.com/

By default, your task will appear in your Inbox. If you want the task to appear in a different list, you can do so with the following:

List: Work or L: Work

Optionally, if you’re unable to specify the subject of your email, you can use the following to specify the task name:

Task: Weekly work meeting or T: Weekly work meeting

Notes can be included at the bottom of the email, but need to be separated with ‘—‘ (three hyphens).

If your email automatically contains a signature or disclaimer that you’d like to prevent being converted into a note, you can include ‘-end-‘ on a line by itself, and everything after this line will be ignored.

2. Instant Messenger

  • Add one of these to your buddy list:
AIM IMified
MSN imified@imified.com
Google Talk imified@imified.com
Jabber imified@imified.com
  • Send it any random message and it will create an account for you and send you back a menu
  • Choose the menu option for My Accounts (should be number 4) and follow the link you receive
  • Add the Remember The Milk widget and send ‘M’ to your IMified buddy
  • You should see a new option for your newly added RTM widget. Have fun 🙂

3. Desktop Launcher

This happens to be my favorite because it doesn’t matter what I’m doing, I can always hit a key combo and immediately add something to RTM. Doing things this way also helps you stay focused because you don’t have to really think about it.

I use a launcher called…well, Launchy. It’s fast and flexible. This particular solution requires that you have RTM set up with Twitter. Go back here if you missed it. Here is how you make Launchy work with Remember The Milk:

  1. Download and install Launchy
  2. Download and install Curl
  3. Download this ZIP and extract it to C:\Program Files\Launchy\Utilities
  4. Edit the file “rtm.bat” and put in your Twitter username and password

Are you on a MAC?

There is a Dashboard widget and a QuickSilver Plugin

Are you on Linux?

Check out this Deskbar Applet.

4. Quick Add

Who doesn’t love bookmarklets? Check out This FAQ for details on setting up your browser. You can watch this video for a demo of how it works.

5. Gmail Plugin

Do you live in Gmail? Go get the Gmail Plugin and integrate it with Remember The Milk.

6. Google Calendar

Put your tasks right on your calendar with This Plugin. Once you add it, just click one of the blue check marks to see what you should be doing.


I use a combination of these at any given time. Primarily, I stick with 3, 5 and 6. Also, there are way more than 6 methods for accessing Remember The Milk. You can find out more information on their website.

How Twitter Keeps Me From Getting Things Done

You probably think this article is about how much time I waste on Twitter. You probably think I’m going to lament about the long hours I spend Tweeting my Tweeps from Twhirl about how we gonna have a Tweetup or whatever. You got me all wrong.

You see, I recently learned all about Getting Things Done. I am horrible at organization, so finding such a simple system for getting it together was enlightening. I started emptying my GMail Inbox mutiple times a day (the Y key is your friend). I started actually putting events on my Google Calendar. I started dumping everything I needed to do into my new TODO list app, Remember The Milk.

I was able to interact with GCal and RTM right from my cell using SMS (I don’t have the web on my phone). I was also able to use a nifty application loader called Launchy to quickly add things to GCal or RTM without missing a beat (the details of this setup are here). All was right with the world. I was Getting Things Done.

What the hell does all this have to do with Twitter? Well, in order to interact with RTM and GCal so easily, I was piggybacking off of the Twitter service (this is actually how I was introduced to Twitter). There are two bots (gcal and rtm) on twitter that allow you to control each service. I had scripts that would use curl to pass messages to these bots directly from my app launcher. When Twitter went away, I had no way of knowing my scripts were failing.

Instead of adding items to my calendar or todo list, I was just throwing them away into oblivion. This is definitely the opposite of Getting Things Done. Now, I am in the process of coding my own apps to make sure this never happens again. RTM has an open API. Just my sad story about Twitter. You probably don’t care, but the recovery is always in the telling.

Has some nifty web 2.0 app wronged you somehow? Tell us about it.