Resources

 tools

I am a bit of a tech geek when it comes to tools. I like to be as efficient as possible, and with the work I do around marking, content creation and social media, I like to optimize the quality of content I produce. I am also an organizational freak, and I rely on systems and tools to keep my life and my projects organized, and be able to continuously readjust when life throws hiccups at you (which is every day as we all know).

I am always testing new tools and techniques so people are always asking me what I use and what’s my latest tip.

So… to try to help others, I have put together a list of tools and resources, my “best-of-the-best” in hopes that I can help others be more productive, more efficient, get more done, and better enjoy the tools they use.

 

Productivity

Evernote
I’m nuts about organization and being paperless, and Evernote IS my organization. I totally depend on it every day. Hands down, the best most robust cloud synched note and information repository out there. As user # 159,702 out of now >65,000,000, I have used Evernote for five years as my digital brain, storing all my notes, clippings and reference files for immediate retrieval from any of my digital devices. The interface is fantastic, cloud sync is seemless, storage is almost limitless, and all my information is available in digital form wherever I am.

Nozbe
My getting things done tool. Also synched via the cloud, enables me to capture, manage and process my life’s actions. Based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology, this is far more than a task manager or to do list manager… and it’s easy and intuitive. My can access my actions on any of my digital devices wherever I am. I run my life on Nozbe. Thank you Michael. As a great bonus companion to Nozbe, Michael Sliwinski, found of Nozbe, created a great concise 10-step video Productivity Course. Each video is only 5min, and covers different parts of a comprehensive approach to being more productive and getting things done. 

SugarSync
My backup system in the cloud, protecting everything on my laptop… and accessible from any of my digital devices. Continuously backing up my files, as I work on them, I can revert to down versions with only a couple clicks. Set it and forget it. If my laptop blows up, I have lost nothing. As someone who is obsessive about backup (I learned this lesson the hard way), I never worry about backup anymore.

Feedly
When I found out Google Reader was sunsetting, I was bummed. 60 seconds later, ironically thanks to Google, I discovered Feedly and have never looked back. What an awesome RSS feed reader. Also available from any of my digital devices (you can see I live in the Cloud). It’s beautiful, easy and far better than Google Reader. Everything happens for a reason.

Send to Kindle
Great little utility to rapidly upload pdf files I need to read to my tablet kindle account. I call this my airplane prep tool that allows me to quickly create a pdf reading list for plane rides.

Plantronics Voyager (bluetooth headset)
I am a big big fan of Plantronics – to me the are the Apple of headsets. I went wireless when the CS50 headset was introduced in the early 2000’s and have used wireless Plantronics headsets ever since. I tried a few other brands, but found them to be just horrible and I switched back… I won’t even try other brands today… what’s the point, Platronics will be better, seriously. The Voyager is be far their best yet. I literally put >5,000 minutes a month on this thing. Incredible sound quality, auto sensing on/off (best feature), and auto connecting with both my tablet and iPhone. Did I say how good the sound is….

BusyCal
My family is synchronized because of BusyCal, connecting about seven family calendars across iPhones, MacBooks, PC laptops, iPhones, Nexus 7 Tablets, iMacs…. BusyCal is our calendar glue.

Pocket
The easiest best read it later app I have found. Great way to save articles, videos, whatever… to read later. Also accessible from all my digital devices. I just need time now to read all the wonderful things I am so curious about….

Pixelmator
As a retired graphic and digital designer, I am a total snob when it comes to graphics tools. Since I am “retired”, I no longer have access to Adobe Photoshop… just too expensive for what I do now. I found Pixelmator, which is very reasonably priced, and immediately forgot those old pangs for Photoshop. It has ‘most’ of what I want, but overall, I have to say they have done a great job with this app. I don’t know of any better price to value option out there.

Pixa
A totally viable alternative (read replacement) for iPhoto, but I use Pixa specifically as my image library management tool for all my production image library. Pixa integrates nice with Pixelmator for image editing, and support a wide range of image formats. My only complaint, is that Pixa doesn’t support video files which would enable me to manage my entire media library. My favorite two features is that Pixa allows you to store your images in any folder you like (unlike iPhoto) and you can connect a “live folder” so that any image added to that folder, is automatically and immediately added into your library in Pixa.

Coffitivity
Recent discovery based on a study that found that the specific decibel and type of background noise in coffee shops increased productivity for creative work. I have said for years, “I am my most productive in coffee shops, and often leave my quiet office when I need to write”. Science now supports this feeling. This is an online audio loop of recorded coffee shop background noise, optimized for decibel levels and mix. I use it when my kids are running around and I need to focus ;).

Writing

Scrivener
Michael Hyatt turned me onto this writing tool specifically architected for book and script writing. This is not a Word replacement, this is a totally new approach to the process of “writing” that is based on observations of how writers tend to work in developing characters, chapters, outlines, etc. Honestly, I found it a little unclear “out of the box”, but after watching a walk-thru video, the interface made total sense. Now, I do all my writing here: book I have in progress, my blogs, my podcast scripts, my video interview scripts and more. As a former interface designer, I love this working “space”… they nailed it!

Byword
My go to markdown text tool when I need a writing environment with no distractions on the screen and when I need to work with text stripped of all formatting.

Audio

Audio Hjiack Pro
This is the best tool I have found so far to use for audio skypcast interviews. With a couple clicks, it instantly Hijkacks my laptops audio system and controls to configure for a skype recording. And, it has great built in audio processing tools to ‘soft’ process audio on the fly, with the ability to customize for each recording channel ( i.e. my mic input and the incoming ‘phone’ audio input).

Audacity
My audio software processor of choice, and seemingly the defacto standard on the Mac. Robust array of tools and filters for compression, noise removal, gate limiting, equalization, amplification and much more. Very easy to split stereo tracks, say from an interview, and edit and process each speaker independently. And, it’s free, which is amazing because this is as good any many sub $250 applications out there.

Multi-media Gear

Audio-Technica ATR2100
I’m a bit of a closet audiophile, I have tested many mics, and honestly I have found this to be my top recommendation for value to price. There are better mics out there…. lots of incredible Heil’s for instance, but you would have to pay >$500 to get a mic that records noticeably better audio than this sub $100 mic. I am very happy with this mic.

Logitech HD Webcam C615
The best HD webcam I have found that’s plug ’n play on my MacBook. Logitech has a couple of better webcams for PC, but I think this produces good quality audio, has a great built-in microphone and has great light sensitivity. The difference between the built-in webcam and the Logitech is like night and day, HUGE difference.

Social Media

Kompozer
The best HTML editor I have found, at any price point (Kompozer happens to be free). So solid, so clean, this is my HTML workhorse and I recommend this to anyone, even if you just need it for basic HTML table layouts.

MarsEdit
MarsEdit is my blog interface for all my blog posts. I just find it easier to work with than working directly in WordPress. It’s an app so I can work on my laptop, I can easily create custom pages and I can schedule publishing posts. I do have to go into WordPress to do the SEO optimization work, but this handles 95% of the heavy lifting. I haven’t found anything else that even comes close.

HootSuite
What’s there to say about Hootsuite other than it’s the arguably the best twitter management dashboard tool…. Highly customizable, easy to configure for “listening”, easy to schedule posts, connects to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn… whatever you prefer. For businesses, the corporate edition is powerful, enabling teams to manage twitter accounts and aggregate performance/impact metrics and analysis. I love the built-in link shortener that also ties to the analytics capabilities which makes it easy to see what links are more productive. Tip – use Fluid (on Mac) to create a desktop app, rather than using in the browser.

Update >> While I do love HootSuite, I have to say that I am test the newest version of TweetDeck. I am liking the interface, the realtime updates/responsiveness, the user interface, and most importantly, that TweetDeck shows inline photos – my #1 complaint with Hootsuite (a major flaw I have to say).

CallRecorder
This is what I use to record video SkypeCasts. You can use it to record audio Skype calls, but I prefer the power and features of Audio Hijack. This is a great tool that allows you to split and edit video and audio tracks to optimize interview recordings. Easy to create side-by-side format. The one thing I still want to try with this is to record a 3 or 4 way video interview.

 

Relationship Management (new category)

Nimble
This is a recent addition for me… and am still trial testing but I am really impressed with the capabilities of Nimble. Nimble is a social relationship manager in a class of it’s own, I just have not found anything else that’s as comprehensive as Nimble. What does it do? Essentially, Nimble is a social selling CRM, suited for selling in today’s connected and social economy; Nimble provides a consolidated view into all the email and social network engagements with an individual – instead of having to check LinkedIn for your last interaction, checking Twitter for your last interaction, checking email for your last interaction, you can view it all in one place. Nimble provides ‘signals’ to help you spot opportunities for purposeful engagement to help members of your network, to provide real value. While designed around a sales focus, you don’t have to use the ‘sales’ elements; I find it really helpful just as a way to better manage relationship with key contacts in my network, where I have interactions across a range of channels. The net, is that it’s helping me to provide greater value for my peers, colleagues, business influencers in my network cloud. Jury is still deliberating and testing, but I am really excited about my experience so far with Nimble. Kudos for @jonferrara who totally gets living in a social and connected economy.