When you’ve got the right tools for your business, things just seem to run smoothly. Then you begin to take for granted all the great software programs and applications that you use on a daily basis to simply get the job done.
Let me take a moment to celebrate these tools - some of which I’ve praised on previous posts, some that I have yet to mention, but I think you should really know about them.
These products and applications help me accomplish tasks each day to be more professional, more efficient and more productive. And most of them are free or pretty darn affordable. So without any further ado…
Here are my top 12 software products and applications that are helping me be a better business owner.
1. Google Docs
I’ve blogged about my big computer crash and also about working in the clouds or “cloud computing” which is the popular trend of saving and working on documents and with applications that are exclusively online. Google Docs is part of any smart cloud work. Your documents are secure, and you can upload and work on word documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Then you can share them with others and download them in a variety of formats including PDF back onto your computer as needed.
Once you stop using Microsoft products, you never really want to go back. NeoOffice for Mac and OpenOffice for PC are free, open source software products that do everything that you may be currently doing with Microsoft Office - word processing, spreadsheets and presentations. And the kicker is that they have been totally compatible with all Microsoft products so I can open MS docs without a hitch and save NeoOffice docs in to standard MS formats. And did I mention it is totally free?
3. iPod Touch
I wasn’t sure how my iPod Touch could help me in business, and I’m still exploring applications to make it even more of a business tool, however lately I’ve been using the Evernote app to review web site clippings I’ve made as well as reading articles I’ve saved to read later using Instapaper. On a recent business trip, I found it so much easier to whip out my iPod Touch rather than my laptop to read emails and news. I’ve also downloaded MightyDocs to access my Google documents and several To Do applications to test them out for a handy To Do list manager.
4. PhotoShop Elements
Even though I’m not an artist and not a designer, I find myself using my pared down version of PhotoShop - PhotoShop Elements - almost daily, mostly for tweaking images for my blogs and making posters and tshirts for my events and clubs in Second Life. While the full PhotoShop software runs you over $700, PhotoShop Elements is an affordable $79 and gives you all the basic capabilities you need to manipulate images for the Web and for virtual worlds.
I love love love Skitch. I’ve been looking for a flexible tool for grabbing screen shots, and Skitch really fits the bill. It also lets me add notes, arrows, boxes, circles and other doodles to screen shots as needed. Perfect for pointing out a detail on a web page to a client. Or giving somebody instructions on how to use a Web tool. Plus I use screen grabs to illustrate blog posts (like this one).
6. Kompozer & Fetch
I don’t really do a lot of Web development any more - instead I hire teams or developers. But I do have an almost daily need to tweak a site for a client or friend so I needed a WYSIWYG authoring tool that wasn’t as costly as Dreamweaver. Kompozer is doing the trick. And to upload files to FTP sites, I still rely on the cute little dog from Fetch, a no-nonsense application I’ve been using since the 1990s.
Who needs paper Post It notes anymore when Macs come with Stickies? There are a variety of sticky notes programs out there for PC and Mac, but I just stick with the one that came with my MacBook. I’m a sticky note fanatic and use Stickies not just for reminder notes but to easily access information without having to open documents or applications.
When it comes to long distance calls, nothing beats free VoiP calls through Skype. I love Skype. I even love video Skype - at least on good hair days. Sign up for free and call Skype to Skype for nothing (of course, you are paying for your Internet connection unless you are on a free one). You can even use Skype to call regular phone numbers - for a reasonable cost. And I use Skype for many of my conference calls between Australia, California and Alaska. Works like a charm.
Every week, I record podcasts using GarageBand - the audio recording and editing program that comes with Macs. I also use a Rode Podcaster microphone that I bought at B&H Photo. The combination is just right for producing nice quality MP3 files.
10. iCal, 30Boxes.com and Spanning Sync
To keep track of my appointments, I’m using iCal on my desktop synched with my 30Boxes calendar online that I can share with my assistant. Then I use Spanning Sync (a new addition to my daily apps) to sync my iCal and Google Calendar. And the last piece of my calendar syncing puzzle is my iCal on my iPod Touch. If I forget an appointment these days, it isn’t because I’m not covering all the calendar bases!
I’ve mentioned Basecamp before, and I’m still using it, now more than ever, for managing project correspondence, files and To-Do lists.
And I can’t make a list like this without mentioning Freshbooks. I can prep estimates, issues invoices, and track payments so easily that it has made invoicing a breeze.
What software products and applications do YOU use every day that makes you a better business owner?