Moving your address book and your Dymo to the Mac

Well, I think I just cut the last chain that bound me to Windows.

I used this tip to move my address book from Outlook to Mac Address Book.

And of course, since I wanted to use my Dymo 400, I downloaded the Dymo Drivers for Mac, which worked like a champ as soon as I figured out that you must use their application to print; you can’t print directly from Address Book.

I still have Quicken and QuickBooks running on Vista, but for the most part, I’m happy to say that I am now mostly Mac/Linux based. 🙂

Adventures in Accounting – dealing with PayPal payments

So I decided that it was about time I moved beyond my hokey “spreadsheet-based” accounting and did something more professional. First stop: Intuit. I’ve been a Quicken user for 12 or 13 years now, I guess, and it does the job – but it certainly does have its quirks. In particular, pretty much every time I upgrade I’d say it breaks something that takes quite a while to figure out. So I was a bit nervous about buying QuickBooks on the off chance that I couldn’t get it to work. I wonder why they don’t have trial copies the way every one else seems to?

As it turns out, the mighty Microsoft has released their own QuickBooks killer called Microsoft Office Accounting. And they have a crippleware “Express” version that allows you to try out some of the features for free. Great!

I thought I’d try importing my PayPal data. An interesting challenge!

Importing data to Microsoft Office Accounting

You download your transactions from PayPal as a CSV, then you create an Excel spreadsheet from the CSV (in a specified format so that you don’t have to go through a “mapping” step). You then tell MSOA to import the data. This image shows the import dialog (click to see full size). But when you hit the Next button, you get this lovely error dialog telling you that you must create a customer record for every one of the people who PayPal’ed you money.


Argh!! 🙁

Well, obviously this isn’t something you want to do by hand (especially if you have a large number of customers), but you can automate it. Take the same PayPal spreadsheet you just downloaded, and copy it into the Customers template that Office Accounting provides for uploading customer data. The mapping is pretty obvious, but there’s an undocumented trick that you MUST use (and it won’t work unless you do it). Here’s the trick: copy the Customer Name data (column B) to the Contact Name field (column L). So column B and column L now have identical data. Then your import will work. As an extra added bonus, copy the email field from PayPal to the Customer Email field (column Q) not the Contact Email (column O) – this way the email will show up in your customer list.  You also must be careful to check your data to remove duplicate customers or the import will complain.

Having done all this, I took a step back and wondered whether it was really worthwhile using Office Accounting for this critical data, since it’s not clear that Microsoft has a serious commitment to this program (they’ve dumped other programs in the past and left people in the lurch).

I chatted with Steuart over at Big Red Consulting, and he thought pretty much the same way. He reminded me that QuickBooks has most of the market, and “there’s probably a reason for that.” He also thought that because QuickBooks is a completely different application, my fears about prior Quicken problems cross-contaminating other Intuit products were unfounded.

To ease data import from PayPal to QuickBooks, Big Red Consulting sells a piece of software called PayPal to QuickBooks Link. I bought a copy, because the majority of That Software Guy‘s payments come in through PayPal. It works like a dream! The annoying manual copy and paste based process of creating customers and then accepting their payments that I described above for MS OA is completely automated by Big Red’s software for QuickBooks. And they offer a “trial version” good for 100 transactions so you can try before you buy. Great job, guys!

I would definitely recommend this piece of software (which is very reasonably priced) for anyone who’s dealing with importing PayPal data.

Backup Strategy

Part of my PC to Mac migration is figuring out a backup strategy.  On my PC I have a thumb drive that I periodically drag files to; on my Mac I’ll use Time Machine and an external USB drive.  I’m mostly satisfied with this, but I’ve always wanted to augment local backup with offsite backup.  To this end, I’m looking at Athena Backup (a company some former Nortel colleagues started).  I’ll blog about my experience next week.

Moving to a Mac-based PIM

I took the jump this month and bought a MacBook so I’d have a small computer to travel with that came with Linux tools. I wanted to migrate my Outlook Notes to a similar application on the Mac. I installed trial versions of

I looked and but did not install

Of course, first, I had to move my data off the PC.

Outlook offers a variety of export formats for notes, but when a group of notes are selected, a single output is produced. Selecting 10 notes and choosing to output in RTF, say, creates one big RTF file. Probably not what you want.

Another option is to select all notes, use Edit/Copy and paste them into a folder. They come out as .msg files, which can then be opened (using double click) and saved as .rtf files. Probably manageable if you have a small number of them.

The most scalable option is to export all notes as an Excel spreadsheet, and then use AppleScript to generate an entry per item from this spreadsheet.  This can be done in DevonThink Pro (but not DevonThink Personal Edition) and probably in OmniOutliner. This post on the DevonThink forum was instructive in this regard.

I’m leaning towards DevonThink  – I like the SOHO Notes interface, but the web is replete with horror stories about Chronos and SOHO Notes.  I’ll keep you posted!

Big Tent

I listened to Donna Novitsky speak on the Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Podcast about her new venture, Big Tent. I wanted to ask her a little more about the philosophy behind Big Tent and why she felt there was value there:

CartGuy: Where does Big Tent fit into the “collaboration space” of Wikis, SharePoint, blogs, forums, and so forth?

Donna: We believe that the strongest, longest lasting ties are in communities where there is an offline as well as an online connection. The most trusted sources come from established relationships with common ground. A great example of this is parents clubs, which often begin with playgroups that meet in parks and moms-nights-out and grow to be vibrant online communities for parenting and household management advice. These groups are lifelines for busy moms and the friendships formed last many years as their children grow up. It’s not uncommon for the members who move away to stay connected via the online resource, similar to but more intimate than an alumni association. Big Tent‘s members-only web platform supports these types of communities where there is both online and offline interaction.

CartGuy: If I run a soccer league, why would I use your service instead of, say, PHPBB? Do you feel the value you’re providing is in the fact that it’s a hosted service?

Donna: The primary reason is that it’s a turnkey solution, requiring no development or programming skills to set up, maintain or use. We also offer a lot more functionality than PHPBB such as rsvp to events, classified ad services, membership and dues management, etc, in addition to threaded discussion forums. It is a secure, private, members-only platform that lives behind a group’s public website.

CartGuy: Is your revenue model based on AdWords, or do you anticipate charging for different tiers of service in the future, or perhaps adding additional pay services?

Donna: We have our own ad products based on demographic segmentation and context. We do not anticipate charging our members or groups.

A very interesting product – collaboration for neighbors! We’ll be watching Big Tent to see where it goes in the future.