ThoughtAsylum 2014 Review

It’s the new year so once again it’s time to review the past 12 months and see what’s been going on at and with me.

2014 was definitely a year of ups and downs in terms of blogging time. Work definitely dominated for a good portion of my time with extended and or regular business trips. This included a visit to the Netherlands and a couple of weeks in Romania as well as good half of the year commuting from York (where I live) to London. This was in addition to visiting clients across the UK from Taunton to Aberdeen and several places in between.

As a result of all this work investment I have hopefully strengthened my skills once more and I’m sure this will mean I’ll be able to draw upon it and share some more good stuff in 2015.

I’ve also begun to publish some less technically focussed posts on LinkedIn (replicating them here as well so they’re always available). One of the posts rated quite highly on the recommended reading list for a day so that was a particularly good result.

I managed to publish twenty two posts on the site this year so that’s a small amount up on last year, but in all honesty I was hoping to be posting on average every couple of weeks so it’s a little disappointing to have dropped a little short … but time as ever was against me on this one. Hopefully 2015 will see this target achieved.

Whilst still not up at the levels of 2012 (86K page views in 2014 vs. 131K in 2012), I’m not overly disappointed. I’ve not really been pushing the blogging in the last twelve months and I’ve barely even published anything to social media relatively speaking. The posts I’ve made to theroc-group web site, to LinkedIn and to SCN (which I don’t think I’ve even gotten around to publishing on thoughtasylum yet!) have been where I’ve publicised them and when you include the thousands of additional reads they’ve had I’m pretty sure it broke the 100K mark which is a good step back toward the 2012 standards.

10. A Flexible Progress Window in VBSCript (~2,300 hits)

Published 19 July 2009.

This post showed up in the number 10 spot on the 2013 review is the earliest written post to make it onto the top 10. The post describes and specifies some reusable VBScript for displaying a progress window using Internet Explorer and some dynamic HTML regions. It’s surprising how often a bit of VBScript can still quickly fill a gap that PowerShell and other tools seem like overkill for or surprisingly arcane and complex to get a similar result.

9. Notepad++ Workflow: Find Lines Not Containing (~2,400 hits)

Published 30 April 2013.

This post wasn’t on the 2013 top 10, but sometimes it does take a while for posts to bubble up into reading (this isn’t a news blog after all). The post describes how the popular free text editor Notepad++ can be used to quickly filter out lines which do not contain a particular string of text. A useful process to know when analysing data sets and logs.

8. VBScript to Convert Microsoft Office Files (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) to PDF (~2,500 hits)

Published 20 December 2012.

Dropping a place this year is the post explaining how to create a piece of VBScript that will take an Office file in Windows explorer and convert it into a PDF. It’s a script I use at least a couple of times a week to this day and has more than earned its place on my send to menu.

7. View your Android Device on your PC using DroidScreen (~2,600 hits)

Published 30 January 2014.

The only post from 2014 to make it onto the 2014 list is about how to configure a piece of software to display your Android mobile phone on your Windows PC (for screen capture, screencasts, etc.) I recall at the time having to research and try many variations in the steps to get this working for something at work and when I could finally reproduce it reliably to share the process with colleagues I figured that it was something worth sharing wider.

6. Send to Evernote on Mac OS X (~2,800 hits)

Published 11 May 2010.

Dropping down from number four last year (and the year before), this is a useful post on how to configure your Mac so that you can send files directly to Evernote from the Finder. A Mac equivalent of send to Evernote from Windows Explorer.

5. Colour Code Notes in Evernote (~2,800 hits)

Published 7 June 2010.

I was surprised to see this on the list last year, but this year it’s actually gone up a place. It seems everyone is still keen to colour their notes in Evernote. This process describes a simple ENML (Evernote Markup Language) hack to set a note’s background colour.

4. Evernote Watched Folders on OS X (~3,000 hits)

Published 11 May 2010.

Down one place from last year but with about the same number of views is the ever popular post on how to set-up a folder on the Mac to automatically import any file dropped into it into a note in Evernote. The Windows version of Evernote has had this built in for some time, but the Mac never did. Fortunately it isn’t too difficult to set-up a folder action to do this and for good reason this raging post holds its usefulness an popularity.

I’m currently working on revising my home office set-up with the introduction of a Mac server. I’ve already begun creating what I think are some interesting automations and some I have in mind will relate to taking this up a notch. Hopefully there will be a few blog posts to cover some of these automations (and notably some Evernote ones) in the next twelve months.

3. Creating a Daily Journal in Evernote (~3,000 hits)

Published 15 March 2010.

In the 2012 review, this came in at number six and last year it disappeared entirely from the top 10. This year it’s jumped back into the top 10 and at position number three no less. I’m a little baffled to be honest as to why it suddenly reappeared but as something I used to use every day I can certainly appreciate why people would have significant interest in it.

I’m sure at least some of you will have spotted that I said I used to use this. It isn’t that I’ve stopped using Evernote or that I’ve stopped keeping a journal. Far from it (in fact I have 1,300 notes in my daily work journal in Evernote) - I’ve just found another way that I’ve been using for over a year now and haven’t quite gotten around to blogging about. Definitely this year though given the popularity of this post.

2. Auto Incrementing in Excel (~4,900 hits)

Published 29 June 2013.

Published over eighteen months ago, the first time on the top ten and in at number two. An Excel post on getting numbers to progress sequentially … really? Well it’s a little bit more than that. With the use or a relatively clever formula structure it allows you to deal with sequential numbering more easily in spreadsheets where you may be adding or removing rows within the list. Not sure what the fuss is? Take a look at the post as it goes into more detail about the various methods you might be using, their shortcomings and of course, the alternative.

1. Using SED on Windows (~6,000 hits)

Published 30 September 2011.

Flying high at number one for a second year is a brief post I did on SED (Stream Editor). A stalwart tool of the *NIX command line dweller this was something I pretty much needed to use on Windows when I started in my current role as I really didn’t want to try and manually process a rather hefty log file for errors! I had a few false starts and issues when trying to use GNU SED for Windows at first, to the point that when I’d gotten it to do what I wanted I figured I’d share a little example of what I did in case it was of use to anyone else. Given the number of hits it’s had I’d hope that there are indeed some people out there who have got some use out of it.

If 2014 was anything to go by I can imagine work is going to be bringing me an exciting new range of challenges and I’ll be looking for various ways to balance my work, home life, volunteering, tinkering and of course my writing. I’ve certainly got a list of blogs in the pipe including some more on TextExpander (I shared quite a few of those towards the end of last year when my available time was a bit low), that Evernote journal and Mac automation ones I alluded to above as well as some relating to iOS automation using tools like Pythonista and the relatively new Workflow app. In fact I’d better get back to working on those right now.

Happy New Year Everybody!

Author: Stephen Millard

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