Tools You can Use
I thought I’d share some of the tools and services that I use to make my working life run just a tad better. You may have better ideas – and if so, I hope you’ll leave a comment and point me in the right direction.
Chrome is light, fast, and reliable. After a few days of using it, both Firefox and Internet Explorer will likely seem ponderous. Like most, but not all browsers, Chrome offers a family of extensions from a crowdsourced development community – some useful, some not. I’ve loaded these five:
1. “Awesome Screenshot” – useful for quickly capturing, editing, and exporting browser screen captures.
1. “IE Tab” – lets you run a Chrome tab that mimics Internet Explorer – since some pages will only work when viewed with IE.
2. “Evernote” – I’ll talk about Evernote later, but this extension lets you quickly capture selected text and drop it into an Evernote note. Useful to help you ingest little tidbits of information that you might want access to later without bookmarking a whole page or site.
3. “LastPass” – I’ll talk about LastPass in a minute, too. This is the browser plugin for a password vault.
4. “HoverZoom” – This just enlarges pictures on some sites when you mouse over them. Seems especially handy on e-commerce and social networking sites.
Adobe cooked up PDF, so we all went out and downloaded Acrobat Reader. But, unless you want to spend the money on Adobe’s pay-to-play products, reading PDFs is about all you can do. Enter “Nitro PDF Reader.” For a free reader, it is feature rich. You can add text to pages, place sticky notes, stamp signatures, and export text and images. There are some nice collaboration tools too. So far – Nitro’s PDF writer seems to be a bit behind, but not dramatically so – and they’ve got some work to do on the browser plugin and snapshot tool. For a free, early release, it is worth your time.
Evernote is a digital pad of Post-It Notes on overdrive. You can capture quick notes, clips from around the web, and retain them in organized, searchable “notebooks.” Since it is cloud-based, you can access your notes anywhere, including over all the major smartphones via custom (and free) apps. You also get a customized email address with your Evernote account. Add this to your email address book, and you can fire off a quick note to yourself from wherever inspiration strikes you. The free version has a 40MB monthly upload limit (which don’t seem to be a problem for mostly text-based notes) – and a premium service is available for $5 per month.
Ta-Da Lists is a dead-simple free web-based to-do list organizer. You make a list, add items, and check them off when they’re done. You can keep multiple lists, and edit items as necessary. Like I said – simple, but useful!
LastPass is a password vault. You remember your LastPass master password, and then use it to fill in password for individual sites. It has a built in password generator, so you can change your site passwords to something secure like a 10 or 12 character random combination of upper and lower-case letters, and numbers. In all honesty – it takes a little messing around with it to get comfortable with how to use it properly – but with browser plugins for easy access, once you have it up and running, you’ll likely enjoy having the kind of control it offers. There is a premium service ($1.00 per month) for those that want to use LastPass on a smartphone.
Paint.Net is a free Windows-based photo editor. It is fully functional, and the interface is much easier to use than GIMP. For fast editing, quick graphics, and the non-professional user, Paint.Net is probably all the editor you’ll need.
And – of course:
Posterous hosts this site. It is simple to get started, and robust enough to handle all sorts of uses, from personal blog to project team website. I’ve used it for both, and have been very satisfied. Once established, you just email your post to your Posterous blog, and the site uploads your newest entry. It does a good job of handling attachments for text, photos, and documents as well.