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Life could be easier ... with plants!

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Looking for a boost? Studies show that plants make people happier and more productive in their work.

A study published in the journal of Landscape and Urban Planning shows that employees with windows overlooking vegetation report that they are more satisfied than those who do not (Kaplan, 1993). Another research study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology shows the effect of plants on worker productivity (Raanaas, Evensena, Richb, Sjøstrøma, & Patila, 2011). Two groups of participants performed the same task, one in a room with plants and one without. The group with plants improved their scores the second time they performed the task and the other group did not.


These are just two examples of many studies that show how nature can improve cognition, focus, satisfaction, lower stress levels, blood pressure, and reduce road rage (Jaffe, 2010). But why plants? University of Michigan psychologists claim that we can restore mental fatigue when we shift to an effortless form of engagement like nature. Although there are other ways to restore attention, plants are more efficient because of the oxygen they release into the air (Wolverton, 1989), and their need to be tended.

Stop by your local co-op or find a garden center near you.

No windows in your office? These are some plants that can do well without direct sunlight. These are plants NASA suggests are best to filter air.

Get growing!



Jaffe, E. (2010). Discovering why the human mind needs nature. Observer, 23.

Kaplan, R. (1993). The role of nature in the context of the workplace. Landscape and Urban Planning, 26, 193-201.

Raanaasas, R. K., Evensena, K. H. Richb, D., Sjøstrøma, G., & Patila, G. Benefits of indoor plants on attention capacity in an office setting. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 31, 99-105.

Wolverton (1989). A study of interior landscape plants for indoor air pollution abatement. Retrieved from

Photo courtesy of Dave Kleinschmidt via Flickr

Life could be easier...

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The PIM group is relaunching the Life Could Be Easier series, this time featuring users of tablets and other devices. Our first post is from Jon Jeffryes, who was awarded an iPad in November's Emerging Tech Expo Device Competition.

Here's a quick overview of the Apps that I've found most useful since getting a work iPad in January 2013. I'll admit I started out skeptical about how useful an iPad could be in day-to-day work and have found myself pleasantly surprised.

I'm like contractually obliged to mention the EndNote app, since the reason I got the iPad was to offer EndNote Support. I've got to admit it's a pretty nice allows the user to download the citations from their EndNote Web account. You can also connect to Dropbox (if you have the app on your tablet) to connect full text to citations. Once you've got the pdf in the EndNote app you can annotate the pdf in the app itself (it allows highlighting and writing (with your finger or a stylus) directly onto the pdf). It's one of the pricier apps (at least for me)...but the functionality and connection to EndNote Web makes this a pretty powerful tool for mobile access to citations. The one caveat that might be of interest to users is that in the Settings the default is set to on for "Send Anonymous Usage Data" -- that might not be popular.

User feedback in the app store has been mixed, with issues on sync-ing citations and annotations.

Since I was looking ThomsonReuters products I also downloaded

This app is supposed to let you take a photo an article's DOI with your phone and then search Web of Science for the citation information (which you could then export to EndNote Web and download to your iPad).

As of yet I haven't been able to have it work successfully. So not something I use a lot, but I have tested it. If someone has got it work I'd love to learn what I'm doing wrong!

My favorite thing to use the iPad for professional reading. To that end I've downloaded


...which everyone already knows and loves. I store the pdfs there and then open them in


iAnnotate PDF

Reading pdfs on an iPad is so much more pleasant than reading paper (I never thought I'd enjoy the electronic version of anything more)...but my usual practice was to carry multiple printed pdfs around in my bag for months and months and they'd get coffee stained or ripped up. Now I have a bunch in DropBox and can read them in pristine condition. The annotation features in iAnnotate are much more advanced than those available in EndNote -- multiple color highlighting options, typing notes, etc.. Another nice thing for all those folks wishing they had a standing desk is that with the tablet you can stand up and read them.

and finally my unexpected gem is


I'm a meeting doodler and that has always been my least favorite aspect of laptop notetaking. This app provide a screen that looks like a napkin and you can doodle your thought processes to your heart's content during meetings. You can also type in notes, draw diagrams, etc.

I've also found the iPad to be useful during informal presentations...during two recent poster presentations I used my iPad to supplement the presentation by taking people to live examples on the Internet I use


to access the Internet.

I'm also still interested in exploring the possibilities of project management using

Corkulous Pro

I'm hoping to use it for stickies and other reminders to have a virtual, transportable bulletin board. I just haven't gotten around to integrating it into my workflow yet.

And if you love dictionaries you can't beat

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

I downloaded this after Peter Solokowski's speech in Walter Library and it's wonderful...a quick search that feels more reliable then my old Googling technique to find definitions. It also has a "word-of-the-day" feature that I quite enjoy! It fits perfectly in my tablet milieu (today's word of the day!) It also allows you to favorite definitions for easy access and tracks your "recent lookups".

Gmail's People Widget

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I stumbled onto a Gmail feature I didn't know about last week, and verified with the PIM collaborative that I wasn't the only one who hadn't noticed it. It's called the People widget.

You know how when you open an email, you see a pane on the right side that shows a list of people in the conversation? Oh, you know; like this:


You might have noticed the icons that allow you to start a chat, email, or schedule a meeting with the whole group:


And you might have even noticed that if you click on one of the people, you can chat, email, or call that person:


But have you clicked that Details link? Try it: You'll see a list of recent email conversations you've had with that person, their current availability from their Google Calendar, and a list of documents they've shared with you:


As one of the PIM Collaborative members so eloquently put it, there's just nowhere to hide anymore.


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wunderlist-icon.pngWe've listed a couple of list-making apps in our Life Could be Easier: On the Go series, and I wanted to put in a plug for one we haven't mentioned, but that I have been using a lot lately: Wunderlist. Not only is Wunderlist fun to say, it's also super easy to use and it syncs across all of my devices (android, iPad, desktop, web.) Per Paul Zenke's suggestion, I've been using it to keep my inbox empty (well, close to empty at least) by adding items to my Wunderlist if I need to follow up on them, and archiving them if I don't. I keep a list for each of the collaboratives I'm on and I can view them either by the categories, or by due date. It's really helped me stay on top of things. Wunderlist also has the option to create shared lists which can be useful for collaboration on work projects or for sharing things like grocery lists with your family.

Not least of all, I like Wunderlist because it has a very simple, intuitive, and sleek design. Here's a picture of one of my lists:


Coffee Club: Collaboration in the Cloud

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Black Coffee
Current Issues Coffee Club
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
1:00pm - 2:30pm
Wilson S30A
Reading: Collaboration in the Cloud: Untethered technologies for scholarly pursuits

As a follow-up to last week's Emerging Tech Expo, the PIM Collaborative will be hosting a coffee club tomorrow to discuss tools that help with group collaboration. We've provided a short article as a jumping-off point. Come equipped with your own tips, tools, and questions to share.

Image "Black Coffee" CC BY-NC-ND Professor Bop"

More Apps

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Bonnie Swogger has a post over at the Undergraduate Science Librarian blog on her favorite iPhone apps for research and collaboration. Some, but not all, of these have come up in our "Life Could be Easier: On the Go" series, so I encourage you to check it out. She also has an older post on iPhone apps for scientific literature that may be of interest to some of you.

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