Free software services for productivity
I use a lot of free software as a service applications to do everything from create and manage documents, to publish Style Sample magazine. I love free stuff, so if it looks interesting and doesn’t cost money, I’ll try it! Here are some of my favorites:
You can use Google Apps to create and manage documents, develop free websites, create embeddable forms, and if you own your own domain name, manage your email. So instead of firstname.lastname@example.org, you can be email@example.com. I use the free Standard Edition to manage just about everything for the magazine ’cause it’s easy. And free.
Create screencasts quickly and easily with ScreenJelly and a microphone. It will record your screen as well as any audio, so you can create screen caps, site tours, and anything else that suits your fancy. At work, I use it to create quick video tutorials for the tech-challenged.
DimDim provides a platform for free online conferencing, and allows you to share your screen, write on whiteboards, upload presentations, and record your audio, visual, and chat. I’ve used it to host and record training webinars, remote meetings, and brainstorming sessions. They recently changed their policy so that meetings can no longer be recorded using the freebie version, but it’s still free for up to 20 users.
Dropbox is a cloud-based storage service that has saved me from the days of forgetting my USB drive. You can upload files online or save them in your downloadable drop box, which functions the same as any other folder on your hard drive–except that it’s accessible via the web. Sign up is easy, files are share-able, and it’s free for up to 2GB of storage space. If you need to manage files across multiple computers, it’s life-changing.
Described as a simple yet design-y web-based task list, Teux Deux was created by a graphic designer and allows you to add day-to-day tasks as well as long-term items to your weekly list. I like to plan my entire week at once, so it’s perfect for me.
Some people may find it disingenous, but it can be difficult for us easily distracted folks to remember to tweet important stuff at the appropriate time. Enter Twaitter, a service that allows you to schedule your tweets in advance–perfect for when I know I’ll be at work and may not have remember/have time to post.
Evernote and Instapaper
I have a million ideas and a short attention span, so I often don’t remember those ideas if more than 8 seconds pass before I write them down. You can frequently find me squinching my face in a fruitless attempt to remember something I just thought about.
Thank the tech gods for Evernote and Instapaper, which allow you to bookmark pages, record inspiration, and capture ideas just about anywhere. Both tools have a handy bookmarklet for when you’re browsing the web. (I wrote about these on StyleSampleMag.com, too.)
Firebug is a nifty Firefox add-on that I use to check under the hood of sites I like and sites I run. I wanna see your code ’cause I’m nosy that way. Firebug is invaluable for learning how websites are put together and testing to see how changes affect design and layout.
Another design-y tool I use is Color Scheme Designer, mostly to determine the hexadecimal values of colors for print and the web. There are a lot of color scheme generators out there (Adobe Kuler, Color Schemer, Color Wizard, etc.), but this one has a lovely, sleek interface and is just generally fun to play with.
Some people clearly have too many fonts installed and always seem to find more (not me, of course). Font Picker is a simple but ingenious tool that reads all of the fonts installed on your system and allows you to type in a word or headline so you can see what it looks like in all of your available fonts. Typeface geeks love stuff like this, and I’m no exception.