For you non-Mac people out there, Entourage is Outlook for the Mac. I don’t really understand why Microsoft made the two products so different, but I’m glad they did. Entourage is better suited for a good off-the-shelf GTD implementation. The key, which I overlooked for months after getting my Powerbook, is the "Project Center." This little feature is pretty sweet. It’s not a silver bullet, but it does a lot. I understand that DavidCo is putting together a workflow process for Entourage. I’ve been waiting long enough and I decided to figure it out on my own, as best I could. What follows is what I’ve learned so far…more to come, I suppose. One great source of information was the ‘Take Control of What’s New in Entourage 2004‘ ebook. It’s a bargain at $5 (all of their titles are bargains, actually). Another great source was this MacZealots article (with pictures!).
The top left corner of any Entourage screen contains six icons: Mail, Address Book, Calendar, Notes, Tasks, and Project Center. You can access these by holding down the ‘command’ key and numbers 1-6 (cmd1=Mail, cmd2=Address Book, cmd3=Calendar, cmd4=Notes, cmd5=Tasks cmd6=Project Center).
TIP: In any screen but the Project Center ‘Overview’, you can hit the command key and the letter ‘N’ to quickly pull up a new email/task/note/whatever.
For our GTD project purposes, we’ll be focused on Notes, Tasks and Project Center, though the following applies to any Entourage data including calendar events and email messages. Each of these share some common features:
- Links. Notes and Tasks can have multiple links to other information in Entourage and elsewhere. You can link to individual emails, contacts, contact groups, calendar events and other Tasks and Notes. You can also create new Tasks, Notes, etc. when needed. Additionally, you can link to individual files on your computer or network. Links are indicated on all screens by the presence of a gray link icon to the left of the Note/Task/email/whatever. Clicking once on the link icon will bring up a dialog box that allows you to view currents links, edit them or create new links. Clicking in the link column next to an item that has no link will also bring up the dialog box for that item, allowing you to make new links for it. Links are cool, but can get messy real quick.
- Project association. You can associate Notes and Tasks (and pretty much anything else in Entourage) to specific projects, on a one-to-one basis. That is, each Task or Note can only belong to a single project. When you associate an item with a Project, that item immediately becomes available via the Project Center. Depending upon the nature of the item, it will either show up in the Overview screen, or in one of the other screens in the Project Center.
- Categories. Entourage has "categories", which in GTD-speak would be "contexts." Each Note or Task (or email, calendar event, etc) can be assigned a single or multiple categories. Categories can be managed in pretty much any screen in Entourage. As any dedicated GTD’er will tell you, next to the Weekly Review, categories/contexts (Merlin’s got some good ideas here) are probably the most important aspect of the philosophy.
Notes are just that. Simple notes with rich text formatting that can be added to any project. From a GTD standpoint, Notes are useful as reference information. If you have links or snippets of information that should be associated with a project, keep it in a Note. As mentioned previously, Notes can have multiple links throughout your system as well as multiple categories and can also be assigned to a single project.