If Everything Looks Like a Nail


“If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

You’ve certainly heard that truism, usually in the context of some individual or group with a fixed repertoire of reactive behaviors that limit their ability to respond effectively and with precision to a particular problem or issue.

I use the phrase to justify my perpetual search for more and especially better tools in my daily efforts at information gathering, communications and creativity by way of the computer.

If your everyday hammer is email and a word processor, you can do some things, but there are boards you can’t saw and screws you can’t set with only those general purpose tools. And I know some very diversely-busy people who have very small tool boxes and wonder why they aren’t more curious about alternatives.

Since I already lost both of my regular readers by now, I’ll just recommend a few daily-use Mac / IOS tools, and you can be on your way.

TRELLO: a “cork board with ordered notecards” digital tool based on the Japanese Kanban system. If you’re a visual think-and-remember person, give a look. There are 4 million active users.

WORKFLOWY: I’ve mentioned before because it is the best “do one thing well” app I know of, and the thing it does well is to manage ordered text (lists) even if there are hundreds of thousands of words in your bulleted list of lists. I have been using WF as my first-choice writing tool since it first appeared. Can’t understand why everybody with a brain and thumbs does not use it.

TODOIST and FANTASTICAL and SUNRISE CALENDAR: For keeping order of date-sensitive stuff mostly. There are OS-wide hotkeys for quick entry that recognize ordinary language for dates and times, and these automatically go to SUNRISE.

REALTIMEBOARD: I’m still waiting for a legitimate reason to share a board collaboratively, and in January SustainFloyd is going to be creating a calendar for 2016 and revising our web site. I’ll suggest we create these outcomes using this tool.

If there’s anyone left at the end of this blog post who has a Mac tool they swear by, let me know. I’m always ready to find supplements to replace former working neurons.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. These apps (except Fantastical) are all cross-platform and freemium. I paid for Todoist, have a free Pro account at WF, and use the free versions of realtimeboard and trello.

  2. Your brain is still working like a young man’s brain. My techie 80 year old husband is losing neurons so extensively that he can no longer easily use the software he has been using for years, much less learn new stuff. I get soooo0 frustrated with software that I can’t face learning a new tool. Even going to an unfamiliar website to buy something is hell. I have to stick to Amazon. I have been that way since the start of the computer age. So, in my opinion, that is why we aren’t trying new things!

  3. I am all about new stuff and trying to at least keep up. But my smart phone has apparently died after only 2 months (yes, I know things happen). I am trying to be a tablet/phone person; I know that’s where everything is; I liked my phone until it died today – and there is no troubleshooting in the manual other than “plug it in”. and I bought it at WalMart. Who is going there before Christmas?