Life is busy right? So anything that helps give an edge, an advantage, must be good. Especially if it’s free! Here’s a list of the best of the best, along with tips and pointers on making great use of them. These are the most basic of tools, utilities and online apps, yet are so intrinsic that they are incredibly useful.
Top of the list! With good reason. Lastpass is a password manager that installs into your browser of choice, and works across all your browsers. Then you can basically forget about passwords. Whenever you return to a site, Lastpass fills in your username and password for you. Easy! Not only that, but because you no longer need to remember each password, they can all be different and all be strong. With a simple click, Lastpass can generate a random password for you as you sign up to a site.
Lastpass changes the way you browse and find your sites – instead of your bookmarks, you can quick find any site recorded in Lastpass, and a single click opens it on a new page and logs you in.
XMarks is bookmark syncing across all your browsers, on all your computers. This is a must from the outset – that is, when you first set up a new computer. In fact, if you want the three step plan …
- plug in the new computer and install antivirus software,
- install Lastpass (because you don’t know your XMarks password – do you!), and
- install XMarks
Everything is immediately familiar. All your bookmarks, all your regular sites, all readily available.
Put your stuff in Dropbox and get to it from your computers, phones, or tablets. Edit docs, automatically add photos, and show off videos from anywhere. You are probably detecting an “on all of your computers” theme with these utilities, but Dropbox takes this even further with its sharing functionality.
If you have ever had troubles emailing a large attachment, or lacked the patience to upload something huge to a file sharing site, then Dropbox has a sweet sharing alternative. Simply drop the file into your Dropbox folder, right-click on it and select the share link, then send this (URL) to your recipient. Quick, simple, easy!
Evernote is a great assistant. Sitting at your elbow, you can quickly hammer in everything from short lists to lengthy research to detailed notes, into a highly organised and effectively collated store. Added to this, you can easily clip web articles, capture handwritten notes, and snap photos to keep the physical and digital details of your projects with you at all times.
Evernote is available across all your devices. You can start an article (such as this) on your PC, add some thoughts and inspiration on the run between meetings on your smart phone, and then edit and polish that evening in your lounge room on your tablet.
In a slight departure from our other productivity apps, Flipboard is primarily a tablet based app. Flipboard is your personal magazine, and as such is an “evening tool”. Why is this a productivity tool? All that reading you really need to do to keep on top of your profession can often end up as emails and RSS feeds that you have subscribed to, tweets that you follow, and Facebook pages that you like. This is all great content and usually very “must read”, but emails arriving during the day can be distracting.
Flipboard can be personalised to aggregate most of this content and present it to you in a way that is so appealing that it really does feel like you are flipping through a magazine you picked up off the coffee table. The pleasure of this is such that you can find yourself enjoying your “professional development” in the evening!
So there you have it. Our top pick of tools, utilities and online apps that help give you an edge and a productivity boost.
About Neil Brown & Proven Innovation
Neil owns Proven Innovation, developing custom software systems, web and mobile technologies to equip organisations to do business more effectively. Neil's role includes building niche and highly customised systems where there isn't a solution available off the shelf. Proven Innovation specialises in the latest generation of web application development. To explore new technology possibilities please contact us.