As the year ends, I was reflecting on which free web applications helped me the most in my work. We all work in different ways and environments that influence our choices. I’ve taken a stab at my four favorites. Each is free and provides great value, but also offers a paid component with additional features. In addition, if you have a favorite, please let me know by taking a short survey at the end.
Evernote is a powerhouse of a product. The easiest way for me to define it is as a ubiquitous information capture and retrieval system that is available anywhere you want. The information doesn’t have to be just text as you could capture pictures, maps, handwriting and so on. There are clients for the web, Windows, iPhone, iPad and Android smartphones.
What makes the service most appealing is that I can tag and categorize the information in many ways. The most obvious method is to assign tags to the item by using the # sign such as #regex for tips I’ve found on working with regular expressions. Alternatively, I could create separate notebooks dedicated to an area such as receipts. Moreover, the service offers encryption.
Like most users, I started using the Evernote web clipper that integrates with your web browser. As I found information I wanted to save, I highlighted the text and saved it to my Evernote account. From there, I opted to download the Windows desktop client that synchronizes with my online account. One word of warning, after several months of using the service, you may be inclined to upgrade to a paid account that offers more storage and features.
Periodically, I need to bill people for services. While there are plenty of accounting and invoice services, they seemed to me complex and expensive. In contrast, I find FreshBooks to be simple and responsive. One of the items I appreciate is being able to construct automated emails if someone is past due or if a payment was recorded. They also provide useful information like the average time it takes someone to pay you.
What really sealed the deal for me was their support. Most free services have a minimal amount of support, but not FreshBooks. Each time I’ve called them, they’ve been prompt, courteous and helpful. The company also sends out meet up type requests when someone from the company is in town. They clearly like to get feedback from their customers.
I may not be the “great communicator,” but MailChimp sure makes it easier to get my emails out to a distribution list. One of the many hats I wear is working with nonprofits, lots of them. The number has gotten large enough that it warranted finding an email service provider. I had been doing the process locally on my desktop, but realized the limitations when I needed to send an email while traveling and didn’t have a current mailing list on the notebook.
MailChimp offers a free service for 1000 subscribers and 6000 emails that is feature-rich. The service takes the drudgery out of campaign creation and monitoring. This last part is important to me since nonprofits tend to have a high turnover so I need to know which emails bounced and why. The reporting system tells me who failed and provides stats on overall effectiveness. For example, how did this campaign fare against industry benchmarks. Yes, you still need to write a compelling email and headline to increase the odds someone will act.
And don't let some of the graphics fool you into thinking it's not a current and powerful service.
One of the problems I find with having multiple devices on different operating systems is keeping them in sync. Sure, you could copy files from a USB thumb drive, but not all devices have the same options. You end up using a mix and match of different technologies. The easiest way I’ve found to keep information in sync is Dropbox.
Regardless of device, I can drag and drop a file into the Dropbox on my device and it will securely sync to my other devices and my online account. As example, I’m often working with PDF files and like to have them handy regardless of which computing device I’m using. With Dropbox, I can get the same file onto my desktop, netbook, iPad and smartphone. What’s also nice is that any file changes are also synced so if I’m editing an article on one device, the saved changes appear on my other devices.
The service is free for 2gigs, which is more than ample for my needs.
I’ve given you four free web applications that make me more productive. Now, it’s your turn. Let me know what your favorites are by taking this short survey that I created using the free version of SurveyMonkey.
Last Updated (Saturday, 05 May 2012 10:08)