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Being a geek isn’t about joining a tribe: it’s about gaining knowledge. And you can’t gain knowledge of something you’re not willing to explore.

That’s why, when Harry explained how your Apple/Android/Windows hate is irrelevant Your Apple/Android/Windows Hatred Is Irrelevant, Give It Up Your Apple/Android/Windows Hatred Is Irrelevant, Give It Up Getting upset because someone is buying something you're not interested in benefits no one – so why do we get mad anyway? Read More , it really got me thinking about my own preferences and prejudices.

Do I prefer Mac OS X to Windows because it’s better, or just because I preferred Lion to Windows 8 back in 2012? Why do I think Evernote is better than OneNote? Do I think Google is the best search engine for any particular reason, or just because it was better than the competition back in 2003?

And, more importantly, if I try new things out could I become more productive?

Many tech fans don’t ask themselves these questions, and that’s too bad – we’re probably all missing out on something awesome. The only way you’re going to find out is by experimenting, so I’ve been trying to do that more. Here’s what I found out, and how I hope we can all keep learning.

DuckDuckGo Taught Me “Familiar” Does Not Mean “Better”

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Humans tend to conflate what’s “intuitive” with what’s “familiar” The One Reason You Need to Cancel Your Cable TV The One Reason You Need to Cancel Your Cable TV Cord-cutting is an over-reported phenomenon. The bigger trend is the cord-nevers, who have never and will never get cable TV. Why? For the simple reason that cable TV sucks. Read More , which creates a big mental bias against trying new things. A longtime Mac user who switches to Windows is going to think of anything different as hard, because it’s really easy to forget the years spent learning how to use Mac OS. The same goes for switching to any system: you’re going to think of anything you need to re-learn as “unintuitive”, when it’s usually just a different way of doing things with its own pros and cons.

That’s why, to really get a feel for something, you need to work out more than your initial impressions – and be willing to throw yourself into something new. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, which is why I forced myself to use DuckDuckGo for two months. I’d been meaning to do this for a long time, but put it off because I was nervous: blogging for a living means I search a lot, and I didn’t want anything to slow me down.

In the end, when I finally did give DuckDuckGo a fair chance, I ended up loving it. Not right away, mind you – I was annoyed with the differences at first – but after a few weeks of using DuckDuckGo Why This Longtime Google Fan Now Prefers DuckDuckGo Why This Longtime Google Fan Now Prefers DuckDuckGo Most of us don't remember life before Google search. Try DuckDuckGo. Learn its tricks. There could be nothing you miss about Google. Read More I found all sorts of things I preferred, like the excellent !bang system for searching other sites and support for keyboard shortcuts. Now that the experiment is over, I’m still using DuckDuckGo constantly – and my life is just a little bit better because of it.

Now, I’m not saying DuckDuckGo is the right search engine for everyone to use. But I am saying that, if you’re not willing to give other tools a chance, you don’t actually know what’s right for you: you’re just using something out of habit.

A little willingness to experiment could pay off for you.

OneNote Taught Me to Ignore My Prejudice

In the mid-2000s I was a massive Linux fan, and at some point slowly drifted to the Mac side of things. That entire time, however, I’ve read people in forums repeat one simple mantra: Microsoft is stupid. Their products are bad. We hate Microsoft. If you find yourself agreeing with universal rules like this, you’re probably denying yourself access to something cool – whether you know it or not.

onenote-looking-good

Which brings me to OneNote. I’ve been an active Evernote user for a half-decade, using it as my default place to dump ideas and things I wanted to try later. I’d heard a lot about why OneNote was better The Perfect Modern Notetaking App: OneNote For Windows 8 The Perfect Modern Notetaking App: OneNote For Windows 8 Microsoft finally did something right! OneNote turns your Windows 8 tablet into a handy notebook. Quickly scribble down notes and pick them up anywhere. Syncing via SkyDrive automatically makes them available on the desktop. Read More , but never gave it a shot. If I’m honest, it’s my general dislike of Microsoft was no small part of what held me back.

And you know what? That was stupid.

Because for the last few months, I’ve been absolutely loving OneNote. There are so many little features it offers that Evernote just doesn’t, and I never would have found out about them if I let my anti-Microsoft prejudice keep me from using the software. I tried it out as an experiment, and ended up migrating all of my old notes to OneNote How to Migrate from Evernote to OneNote, and Why You Should How to Migrate from Evernote to OneNote, and Why You Should Do you think that Microsoft OneNote is better than Evernote? Or maybe, it just suits your project management style. Either way, here's how you can migrate all your notes from Evernote to OneNote easily. Read More . I haven’t looked back since, and am happier now because I tried something new.

Everyone is Biased, But Experimenting Helps

microscope-experiment

The point of this article isn’t that you should switch to OneNote, or switch to DuckDuckGo: the point is to try new things. The world of technology changes fast, and what was relatively terrible three years ago might be fantastic now. The only way you’re going to find out is by giving things a shot.

Everyone is biased, and its time we all stopped pretending otherwise. If you’ve been using OS X for 15 years, it’s unlikely you’re going to love Windows 10 after one hour of usage. But give a new system like that some time, and you’re bound to find some things you like – and that knowledge can help you get more out of your devices, whichever OS you decide to stick with.

Basically, if you want to get more out of your technology, you have to be willing to experiment a little.

Even if you’re not a Linux fan, the experience of booting up a Linux Live CD and trying it out can show you a different way of thinking about technology – one where you take a more on-hands approach.

Even if you’ve used Firefox for ten years, giving Microsoft’s new Edge browser a try could show you something you didn’t know you wanted.

Even if you prefer Android, observing the reasons your iPhone-using friends and family enjoy their devices can leave you with a better understanding of how people relate to technology.

It’s 2015: there’s very little in tech that sucks right now. Trying new things out is fun, and you’ll learn a lot.

So I want to know: which tools should I give a shot next? I’m willing to learn if there’s something you think is great, so let’s chat.

Image Credit: Dirty and clean work table by Elvetica via Shutterstock

  1. fcd76218
    December 3, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    "Why Brand Loyalty is the Enemy of Productivity"
    Not to be a contrarian but brand loyalty (familiarity with products) is a friend of productivity. Trying new applications may be educational, challenging and satisfying in a no-pressure environment where productivity is of little importance. However, it means climbing the learning curve over and over again, reducing productivity for a period of time. In an environment where productivity is the Holy Grail, the question must be asked whether the possible eventual productivity gain from a new app is worth the reduction in productivity during the learning process.

    • Justin Pot
      December 3, 2015 at 3:41 pm

      Once you learn to use tech, instead of learning specific systems, there isn't a learning curve anymore. You've discovered how to quickly find your way around any system, which means you can be productive with just about anything. But I do agree with you on some levels.

      • fcd76218
        December 5, 2015 at 2:18 pm

        "You’ve discovered how to quickly find your way around any system"
        Which means you have become familiar with it. :-)

  2. Chuck D.
    December 3, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    I am fairly tech agnostic. At work, Linux Engineer, I have a Macbook Pro for my everyday desktop applications use, however I boot up a Linux Mint VM to connect to the servers I administer. I also occasionally boot up a Windows 7 VM to run a VMware client, or for Java based apps, since it runs java better than the Mac. At home I run a Windows 10 desktop, because games, an android phone, Samsung GS5, and an iPad 3 for a tablet.

    • Justin Pot
      December 3, 2015 at 3:41 pm

      That's awesome!

  3. Peter Buyze
    December 3, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    There is the flip side too: trying out other apps can make you realise (sometimes) that what you are using is not so bad after all. For a long time I avoided Microsoft products thinking others were better. I explained my move below from Evernote to OneNote. I have been using Thunderbird for 8 years, but will probably switch to Outlook (desktop version) because it does offer a lot more, it is very polished & therefore pleasant to work with. And that is what I find about the MS products, except for Windows.

    • Justin Pot
      December 3, 2015 at 3:40 pm

      I'm a longtime Linux/Mac user, but I'm finding a lot to like in Windows 10. The OS has come a long way.

      • Peter Buyze
        December 3, 2015 at 4:10 pm

        True, but what about the silent spying/phoning home aspect??

        • Justin Pot
          December 3, 2015 at 4:12 pm

          It's all about proportion. If you're concerned about those things, but still use Google as a search engine and log into Facebook occasionally, your privacy securities aren't quite balanced in my opinion.

        • Peter Buyze
          December 3, 2015 at 4:31 pm

          I use neither Google search nor Facebook. I have a Google account, where I have adjusted all the settings to "not report". I know G scans my every email, which is why Gmail is my lesser account. I use Chrome but have installed a good number of extensions to make it nigh impossible to track & profile me. Nevertheless, in the swings & roundabouts there is info that is picked up & used. But I want to limit it as much as poss, with Win10 Home/Pro that is not possible, which I find highly annoying.

        • Justin Pot
          December 3, 2015 at 7:54 pm

          I can totally relate to being annoyed by that.

  4. Jon Glass
    December 3, 2015 at 11:52 am

    I actually have the opposite problem. (other than switching OS platforms), in that I tend to download and try every new tool that comes down the pike. And yes, I have dabbled in Windows (and without being a user, I even found myself being the "go-to" guy of my Windows-using friends when they had Windows troubles), and love playing with Linux, especially when a new version of Gnome or KDE or one of the smaller DEs or WMs has a major revision--gotta love VirtualBox. ;-)

    I'm also rather software agnostic. I have every major Mac-based word processor on my Mac, and a couple desktop publishing apps, (the entire CC suite), and several photo editing apps, including GIMP. I tend to find that when one app isn't the best tool, another is. I tend, in fact, to use my apps more like single-use tools. Sometimes, for instance, I find Apple's own TextEdit the best tool for the job, other times, TextMate. Others, Nisus or Pages, or LibreOffice, or Word. I may even open the same file in several apps before I decide which one to use--yeah, I've got it bad... and that's my problem...

    One can go too far with this, and I tend to find it a huge productivity killer when I realize I don't know an app as well as I should. Specializing on one OS, and a small handful of apps can allow you to squeeze every last ounce of productivity out of that setup, as you learn and perfect your usage of the tools.

    Taking the time necessary to truly stress-test a new app, or learn a new OS can be time better spent furthering your productivity or learning your current tools better. One thing I've learned through all my playing and experimenting is that today's modern programs and operating systems will all do what you need them to do, and once you learn their quirks and foibles and hidden powers, they all pretty much perform comparably. Yes, there are some differences. I still can't stand how Windows (10) displays fonts onscreen. It feels 1990s to me, still--but maybe that's because I don't know how to change font settings? Who knows? It's just one more thing to learn. I guess that's my issue now. I have to ask myself if I really want to spend all that time learning a new app, or learning the new elements of a new OS?

    Oh, here's another one. Last fall, I switched from iPhone to a Moto X Android. I destroyed my poor X a few weeks ago, and stole my iPhone back from my daughter for a day--after an hour with it, I gave it back, and literally soldered and patched my X back together so I wouldn't have to use iOS!!! I have really come to appreciate certain elements of Lollipop and my Moto X. The next day, I bought a new Moto phone. ;-) I know I could have gotten myself re-accustomed to the iPhone, but I had to ask myself if it was worth it? I decided it wasn't. Sometimes, it's hard to know without trying out the new thing, but in my experience, that, in itself can become a hindrance to getting things done. Not, mind you, that I don't still do it. Thanks to this site, I rediscovered OneNote (when it first came out on the iPhone, it was lame, but now it's quite useful--and better, IMO, than EverNote--now, if only I could export out my OneNote Notes in a useful format--that's where Devon has it all over both of those--maybe i should stick with just DevonThink?) ;-)

  5. Mister.TechE
    December 3, 2015 at 1:14 am

    Justin, this is a well thought-provoking piece. I too am guilty of brand loyalty and like you have started experimenting with other tools like duckduckgo instead of Google, Mac instead of Windows, i-device instead of Android. Let me tell you, it's a great experience. I'm convinced brand-loyalty is an enemy of productivity!

    • Colonel Angus
      December 3, 2015 at 11:29 am

      That's funny. You are looking at a possible switch to an Apple product from Android, whereas I have switched from an iPhone to an Android. I have given serious consideration to a return to Cupertino because of the blanket permissions on Android, but Marshmallow should fix that for me. On the whole, I like my note 4 more than I did my iPhone 5, and being able to customize without jailbreaking is a nice draw.

      • fcd76218
        December 3, 2015 at 3:11 pm

        "You are looking at a possible switch to an Apple product from Android, whereas I have switched from an iPhone to an Android."
        Grass is always greener on the other side of the fence? :-)

    • Mister.TechE
      December 5, 2015 at 3:02 am

      @Colonel. No, I'm not looking to switch; my daily driver is the Galaxy S6 which is rooted. I have and use an iPhone for work but it seems lately that every ios updates makes it a little unstable--for example apps no longer update. Very frustrating.

  6. Maryon Jeane
    December 2, 2015 at 9:45 pm

    I'm quite happy to try new things and when I have to make a change (of device, for example, or because something is no longer doing what I need) then I try out various alternatives based on what they're offering as a match for what I need. With one exception: Microsoft. If it's Microsoft then it just doesn't come into the running.

    And yes, I do have a right to say this, to make the judgement, and to avoid Microsoft permanently. It's not that I haven't given it a fair chance (I had to switch to using it from the start as I was 'temping' in the academic holidays - so that was a very long time ago and I'm still using it, until support for Windows 7 stops). It's not that I don't know it very well (obviously - and I've actually trained people in it over the years, for money). It's what's behind Microsoft that matters when it comes to making a judgement against them. I have seen, over many versions of the OS and over many devices, that the way they put things together (in modular fashion without proper oversight), the way they launch things (without waiting for all the beta testing to be done and without listening to the problems and being willing to go back to the drawing board, largely because they're driven by what they say in their marketing, including launch deadlines), and their superior stance towards users - to whom they simply won't listen will never allow them to produce anything which is good for the end user. I have spent hours - probably months - of my life trying to make up for the deficiencies of Microsoft products so that I (or someone else) can turn in top quality rather than compromised work. So if it's Microsoft, it's a no-go - and no compromise on that.

  7. JT
    December 2, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    I ignored OneNote for years. Used to be a casual Evernote user. Always assumed OneNote was same flavor, different logo. After trying it out, I'm now a die-hard fan. Totally revolutionized how I manage/organize my digital world.

    This was an excellent article. It is certainly true that brand loyalty has a big impact on tech trends...or rather brand prejudice. It's one thing to be a fan of a brand, and it's another to be a basher of another.

    • Justin Pot
      December 2, 2015 at 9:32 pm

      I too ignored OneNote for way too long, but man am I happy I gave it a chance.

  8. Yodi
    December 2, 2015 at 7:13 pm

    This article is right on time. Kudos.

    • Justin Pot
      December 2, 2015 at 9:25 pm

      Right on time for what, if I might ask?

      • Yodi
        December 2, 2015 at 9:32 pm

        Just an expression meaning that it is very appropriate given the hostile front-end of consumers' brand loyalty.

        • Justin Pot
          December 2, 2015 at 9:40 pm

          Got it! Thought this was a specific reference. Thanks for taking the time to read my article.

  9. Colonel Angus
    December 2, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    That's a good tip about Linux Live media. It's a great way to try out Linux for the first time, and also an easy method for trying out new distros for experienced Linux users.

  10. jshaw
    December 2, 2015 at 3:41 pm

    I was going to try Microsoft Edge until I noticed it would only import from IE or Chrome.

    • Justin Pot
      December 2, 2015 at 3:42 pm

      Hmmm, yeah that's a bit of a problem. Firefox user?

      • jshaw
        December 2, 2015 at 4:45 pm

        You got it. I also agree with your feeling about people who trash a platform (or anything) without trying it first. H.L. Hunt used to take prospective hires to lunch. If they salted their food before tasting it, he would not hire them.

        • Justin Pot
          December 2, 2015 at 6:16 pm

          Well I know Firefox can export bookmarks to HTML, maybe Edge can import? I'm on a Mac right now or I'd check.

  11. Archie Maggi
    December 2, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    Thank you for this post. it's good works

  12. Pam
    December 2, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    I totally agree. I continue to be familiar with all the major platforms. I find learning a new OS opens your frame of reference for what technology can do. People only using iOS or Android exclusively have no idea what they're missing, because they don't have any idea what the other can do.

    • Justin Pot
      December 2, 2015 at 3:41 pm

      I really can't stand it when people who don't use a platform talk crap about it. Why would you do that? Learning is more fun.

  13. Peter Buyze
    December 2, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    I tried DuckDuckGo after your previous article, and was prepared to switch over from Google. But there was 1 point that was the deal breaker for me: the inability to sort results by date. 4 years ago already DDg said they would fix that, but they still have not so probably won't in the near future.
    I was also an avid Evernote user till I could not take the workarounds anymore to make things I wanted/needed to happen. I tried OneNote & switched all my stuff from EN to 1N because, as far as I am concerned, 1N is far superior.
    I do agree with your general message to look @ other apps, try them out. 1 caveat: the looking & trying out can become addictive & become the objective in themselves.

    • Justin Pot
      December 2, 2015 at 3:34 pm

      I could understand that about DuckDuckGo, I still switch over to Google when I need features like that. As for OneNote, it is a lot better isn't it? I got a bit of pushback in my original article about that, but more people seemed keen to switch...

      • Peter Buyze
        December 2, 2015 at 4:37 pm

        Don't worry about the pushback: Evernote users are extremely protective of their app & almost don't accept harsh criticism, particularlyif there is a whiff of abandoning for another app. I believe 1N deserves more & better publicity. Keep up the good work.

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