Tools I regularly Use
Now, updated for 2015. Now reduced to 22 commonly used tools.
1. Gmail+Outlook: all of my email comes here. Can’t beat its anti-spam and virus protection. After nearly a decade, Gmail is still my go-to spot, and retains the top slot on the 2015 list. That said, I rarely ever actually go to the Gmail web client nowadays, because the latest editions of Outlook have, for me, been so powerful and easy to use. Outlook on the iPhone quickly won my heart when it came out – it was so much simpler and faster than any other client (including the Apple Mail app) in my experience. Based on that, I quickly tried out Outlook on the Mac, and found it equally useful – and then installed it on my PC at home. Haven’t looked back after that.
2. Evercontact: This is an indispensable pay service, but it’s pretty cheap. It works with Gmail. It scans incoming email for contact information and automatically updates your Google Contacts list, bringing in things like email addresses, phone numbers, physical addresses, etc. It’s a great time saver. Since my Google Contacts address is automatically synced to my phone, and becomes my phone address list, it’s also helpful for updating the phone book on my phone. Now, the trick with this is, since I’ve started using Outlook, I have yet to figure out the best way to integrate Google’s Contacts list with Outlooks. Evercontact has a variant that works with Outlook as well as one that works with Gmail, but the two aren’t the same and don’t sync.
3. Dropbox: I abandoned Google Drive back in 2014 because I had so many files that they became problematic to find and organize without folders. (Google Drive’s folders were always problematic for me, and I just didn’t have time to mess around with it.) I tried Sync for a bit, but I’ve run into a lot of people who have problems with Sync, so I have reverted to Dropbox. I have a Pro account and this is where I store most of my files. As of 2015, I have nearly every file I own in a 1TB Dropbox, and right now wouldn’t think of changing. I also use it to store my photos; the Dropbox App Carousel has completely replaced Picasa for me.
4. Twitter. Twitter is the center of my news world. I have several carefully curated lists which cover breaking news, top news sources, global thinkers and influencers, activists, mission agencies, and the like. I use Flipboard on the iPad to access this, as well as Tweetbot (and often Twitter on my desktop Mac).
5. WordPress+Siteground is where I host my blog. I moved there from Hostgator, because it seems to have better integration with WordPress, and it’s relatively cheap. However, I have a founder account at TheGrid, which is what I’m planning to try out (once it gets out of Beta). So I may be moving there, and eliminating both Siteground and WordPress.
6. Mailchimp. This is my email newsletter manager of choice. I do an autofeed from my blog to a daily Mailchimp newsletter, and also send out a weekly detailed report on a different email list.
7. Microsoft Excel (+Word). Despite what most might believe, I’m presently simply using Excel sheets for virtually all my database work. The District Survey is an enormously large spreadsheet but Excel handles it with ease. I will say that Excel on a PC works faster than Excel on a Mac, but Excel on a Mac is still fine. And I use Word for documents on the Mac, when I need that (but most often I’m working on Indesign documents, see next).
8. Adobe Indesign. This is what I use when I’m writing any reports or longer documents (e.g. the Outlook the Cluster Forecasts, etc). I have a subscription.
9. Scrivener. I use Scrivener less right now, but I still recommend it and wouldn’t delete it from my system. I mainly use it for long-form writing. I have used it in the past for Cluster Forecasts, essays and other projects. It’s available in both Mac and Windows editions.
10. Vsee. Organizationally we use VSee as my primary VOIP application now, thanks to its better security model and low bandwidth footprint. For those who aren’t on VSee, I do Skype.
11. Facebook. I normally go here about once a day. Twitter dominates my social networking time. If you want to catch me online, http://www.facebook.com/justindavidlong is your best bet.
12. Camtasia Studio. This is what I use for recording videos. I got it pretty cheap through a non-profit license via Techsoup. (I haven’t made a video in a very long time, unfortunately.)
13. Tripit maintains my travel calendar automatically. Anytime I purchase a flight, Tripit (which monitors my Gmail account) automatically sucks the flight data in and gives me a nice itinerary. It syncs to the iPhone/iPad app as well, so that’s always up to date, and shares the itinerary with my wife, so she has quick access to my schedule.
14. Kindle: I love Amazon Kindle. I probably have 200 books/files in it. Apple’s iBooks is nice, but at this point I have so much in my Kindle that I would be hard pressed to abandon it. I actually use my Kindle App on iPhone/iPad far more than I do my actual Kindle, at this point. I’m also on a 30-day free trial of Amazon Unlimited.
15. Paypal/Gumroad. I have used both services. We use Paypal at ActBeyond for monthly donations; I use Gumroad to offer small files for free/donation-based download. I’ve found Gumroad to be exceptionally easy to use and well integrated with Twitter.
16. FileZilla: this is my FTP transfer program of choice. I’ve tried a bunch (including CuteFTP Pro) but this is the one that’s the simplest.
17. Putty: This is my SSH terminal of choice. I use it when I need to login to my host server and make minor changes or run programs on it.
18. Sketchbook. This is my Mac-based drawing pad. It’s not as nice as Smoothdraw, but it works.
19. iTunes: what I use to play and scan in music. I know, others find it kludgy. It works for me. Besides I pretty much need that because of the iPhone and iPad.
20. Pandora: what I use to play streaming music (radio); I’ve tuned some channels for instrumental music that plays during work.
21. LastPass: my password manager. My passwords are typically phrases (not crazy alphanumeric codes) but Lastpass is great for automatically logging me into sites so I don’t have to remember all the passwords I’ve used. (Wish it worked with Safari.)
22. Chrome/Safari. Since moving to a primarily Mac client, I have switched to Safari. I wish Safari was available for Windows, but it’s not, so on my Windows box at home I use Chrome.