Information Technology can be both a savour and equally a frustrating time wasting burden. Using IT effectively does enable the individual to make the best use of your most valuable asset, time. A number of years ago we were all lead to believe that IT in it's broadest sense would allow us to work in the paperless office and make us all very efficient. There are times when you do wonder if the IT solution takes much longer than simple technology such as pencil and pad or a phone call.

I have set out in this Blog how I work and hope that you may find the odd snippet which will help you. I don't proclaim to be the most efficient but I do manage to get things done and enjoy learning and adapting to new ways of working. Some background - I am a Chartered Surveyor and have been working in the corporate sector and more recently for myself over the past 25 years. Upto October 2012 I was a PC user with an iPad and IPhone. Main software was MS Outlook with Dave Allen's GTD Addin,MS Office Professional, MS Project, ArcMap and a raft of "apps" on the Apple devices.

In October I took a leap of faith and moved to a Mac Book Pro Retina (MBPR). The main reason for not doing so sooner was the ArcMap software which is a windows only package. More of that later.

The main reason for buying a MBPR was my aim to have compatible hardware and software across all platforms. Prior to this working life was a compromise with the inevitable complexities of swopping software and work between PC and MAC platforms. This wastes time. However the move itself has prompted me to adapt and change more than I envisaged.

Here is what I use;

That is the easy bit, now the software.

I purchased MS Office for Mac when I got my MBPR. I used it exclusively at the onset, 4 months later and I am using it less and less. The main reasons are that each application does have a huge amount of under used functionality and lacks cross hardware availability. I have set up an iCloud account which allows me to synchronise mail, contacts, calendar and documents across all hardware.

Email - many, the majority, will use MS Outlook which is perfectly adequate. I used Outlook at first and now rarely open it. Apple Mail has fewer bells and whistles and is perfectly adequate. With iCloud all mail is synchronised across all devices so keeping unto date is easy. I store the majority of current email on the iCloud account so again that is accessible across all devices. When projects are complete or over 6 months old I move the emails so that they are on my MBPR. I have a number of folders set up on my iCloud account, one folder per project.

Calendar - I use Apple's iCalendar. It is OK but I think there are better Calendar's out there, haven't found one I like yet. I also have Fantastical loaded on my MBPR. It is a calendar which sits on the tool bar and allows quick diary entries by typing for example "Nick, Feb 22nd at 14.00".

Contacts - Using Apple Contacts and IQTELL (see below) contacts. Not ideal having two separate lists though.

Word Processing - as stated above I used MS Word as my primary WP package. It is good but I found it frustrating that I couldn't work with or edit documents across platforms. Since November I have used Pages more and more and now is my preferred WP package. Creating a document in Pages on my MBPR and saving it in the "cloud" I automatically have access to that document on my iPad and iPhone. I can edit the document on my iPad when in the field and again that automatically updates the document back on my MBPR. Completed documents as sent out as PDF's. The downside is if you need to work on a review a document with others, the industry standard is MS Office and that's what I have to use. I do however create the original in Pages and then convert to MS Word, not ideal as some of the formatting goes wrong.

Spreadsheets - MS Excel in my opinion is the clear leader, I don't use Numbers a huge amount. However the benefits of "Cloud" synchronization may sway me to use Numbers more.

Presentations - I don't use Powerpoint or Keynote - manage to avoid them.

Project Management - I use MS Project as again it is an industry standard. I am looking though at finding a MAC based alternative, maybe Omniplan.

ArcMap - Geographical Information Systems are a key part of my work. Quite simply I haven't found anything which competes with ArcMap. ArcMap is a windows software package. To run this on my MBPR I use Parallels 8, never had any problems.

Getting Things Done (GTD) software - there are numerous options. For many years I used Dave Allen's GTD Addin for MS Outlook. I like the GTD system but had to find an alternative as I stopped using MS Outlook. I have experimented with a few but now use IQTELL. This is an internet based package and therefore works across all platforms. IQTELL allows you to manage projects, actions, email, contacts and much more. In addition IQTELL have an iPad app that allows you to manage projects and actions.

Document Management - Dropbox is excellent. Dropbox allows you to move documents between devices easily. With Dropbox installed on your PC/MAC it is a simple case of dragging the document into your Dropbox folder and it will then be available on other devices e.g. iPad.

Other applications - On my MBPR I have Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and the usual Apple applications.

iPad Applications - In addition to the preloaded Apps I have the iPad versions loaded for Pages, Numbers, Keynote and Dropbox. There are number of preloaded apps which I also use on a regular basis, main ones are Safari Camera and Facetime (cheap and cheerful video conferencing). I use the following apps, they are in no particular order and I use some less than others. All can be purchased via the Apple App Store.

ESRI ArcGis - access to mapping, choice of maps, quick to zoom in/out, can measure distances and areas.

iAnnotate PDF - does exactly that - you can load a PDF and mark it up as necessary, save and email.

Evernote - very popular. Allows you capture information when you are out and about. Its can be pictures, text, location data. Evernote syncs across devices and also is integrated into IQTELL

Daily Notes - effectively an electronic diary/note taker. Use at times to keep records of telephone calls. Sometimes use in meetings.

iGIS HD and GISRoam - both are able to use and display data I have generated in ArcMap (see above)

AutoCAD WS - allows you to view CAD drawings

Sketchbook - only just loaded this but looks OK, Enables you to produce simple drawings.

Snapfile GeoJot - I have tested this and think it does have potential. It enables you to take photographs on site and add your own attribute data. With cloud synchronisation the photos and data are then automatically downloaded to your PC/Mac. I can also use this information in conjunction with ArcMap.

OS GB 250k - OS map of the UK, always useful to have.

Team Viewer - this allows remote operation of your PC/MAC. With Team Viewer I can sign and and use my MBPR from my iPad. This obviously I have left the MBPR on!

Ignition - same functionality as Team Viewer.

Dragon Dictation (on iPhone) - have started to use for dictating short notes and reminders.

You can see from the above I have very much gone down the Apple route. I appreciate that isn't going to be possible or even desirable for everyone. I find the distinct advantages are the simplicity of the hardware and software applications and the ability to synchronise across all platforms. If you do go the Apple route whenever you buy hardware (Mac/Mac Book Pro/MacBook Air) purchase the One2One package. It is incredible value for money (£75?) as it allows you to have much training as you want over the first 12 months. I have been to four sessions and without exception they have been fantastic. The trainers really do know their stuff.

One final thing - BackUp BackUp Backup. No excuses whatever you do make sure you have a robust backup regime. It can go all horribly wrong although I have been lucky so far. I do use Apple's Time Machine which once set up keeps my MBPR backed up all the time.

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