I’m often asked about the technological tools that make up my toolkit. I still depend heavily on my trusty fountain pen and Moleskine. But, let’s be honest. I’m a digital guy. I spend many, many hours each day working on my laptop (MacBook Pro), iPhone 5 (iOS 7) and iPad retina (iOS 7) each day.
The list that follows itemizes the tools I use at least once a week, and in many cases, everyday. I’ve listed them in alphabetical order, identifying if I use the online, desktop or mobile versions (or some combination thereof) and I offer a brief description of the tool.
- 1Password (OS X and iOS app)
Frank Epton recommended 1Password to me last year as part of a conversation in which we compared our favourite iPhone apps. Frank made a compelling case for using a central password manager. It’s a great tool which allows me to synchronize my passwords across all of my devices – and create complex, unique passwords for each account I maintain.
- BossJock Studio (iOS app)
BossJock has made podcasting on-the-go easy. Created and actively maintained by Dave Mansueto (one of the founders of Libsyn), BossJock puts an entire podcast production studio at your fingertips, borrowing from on air radio-style production. It’s real time. Thank you Bill Deys for the introduction.
- CleanMyMac2 (OS X app)
The Omni Group put OmniDiskSweeper on ice after OS X 10.9 was released, leaving me without my go-to tool for identifying bloated folders which I could clean out to free up needed disk space. So I did a Google search and found CleanMyMac. It scans your drive and identifies ways to clean up your drive.
- Daylite (OS X and iOS app)
While not the platinum-level productivity dashboard I believe it could be, Daylite is a great contact, calendar, project, task and note management tool. You could call it a CRM. I believe it’s much more. I sometimes wonder if it’s the right tool. I wish it would (it doesn’t) allow me to natively manage third-party (e.g. Google, Mac Calendar) calendars in a single interface. Third-party calendars are read-only. One day…
- Delicious (online service with mobile app)
Delicious is the social bookmarking site that refuses to die. In this case, that which doesn’t kill it, only makes it stronger. The site and its apps have been given an interface overhaul. Whether or not others benefit from my use of Delicious is irrelevant to me now. I use it.
- Dropbox (online service with desktop and mobile app)
I think it’s generally a bad idea to rely on cloud storage and cloud apps these days. They do little for you when your Internet connection or power is interrupted. And, sometimes the services suffer their own outages. However, cloud storage offers many advantages. I use Dropbox for personal and professional storage, and for exchange large project files with clients.
- Evernote (online service with desktop and mobile app)
My reliance on Evernote has increased substantially in the last year. I used to use it for light note taking. When Tod Maffin and I started working on our book last June, Evernote became my cloud-based research scrapbook. Besides storing notes on the site, I scrape relevant web pages and methodically curate my cache of reference material.
- EyeTV (hardware with OS X and iOS app)
I lived without cable for 16 years. With the increase in paywalls and my go-to broadcast news stations (CTV News Channel and CBC Newsworld) not yet streaming live online (they do make segments available online after they air), I relented. EyeTV allows me to pipe my cable connection into my computer and have the television feed appear as a window on my screen. It has a built-in VCR and crude editing capabilities, and I can stream from my computer to my iOS devices anywhere on the Internet.
- FluidSurveys (online service)
I used to use Survey Monkey for the few surveys I ran online. I learned about FluidSurveys nearly a year ago and discovered many amazing benefits, not the least of which the company is based in my home town (Ottawa) and the servers are all in Canada, meaning all data is collected and stored in Canada. This is much appreciated by clients concerned about foreign privacy laws.
- FreshBooks (online service with mobile app)
This is the time-tracking and billing tool we use at FullDuplex. It’s missing a few obvious features like retainer management. In fairness, it was initially developed for freelance designers/coders. Now it’s user base is growing to include law firms and public affairs firms (like our own). The design of the website and mobile app is fantastic and their customer service is outstanding.
- Hootsuite (online service with mobile app)
Hootsuite is my online dashboard. I use it on my laptop, iPhone and iPad to manage social media properties, communications and relationship building on my personal and professional accounts, and for those of some of my clients. I haven’t yet exploited their reporting services. That’s on my list of things to learn and exploit this year.
- iAWriter (iOS app)
It seems redundant to use both Evernote (see above) and iAWriter. However, I really appreciate the simplicity of the iAWriter interface and the expanded keyboard it offers (features include taps to move the cursor to the previous or next character and word, and some shortcut punctuation keys). I find those features beneficial when working on my book and blog posts. The Pro version isn’t worth the money, yet. Stick with the basic version.
- Paper and Pencil (iPad retina app and hardware)
This is admittedly a very new addition to my list. I’ve been a user of Paper, the amazing iPad drawing/painting app for over a year now. The arrival of my newly purchased Pencil, a companion stylus-on-steroids, has made Paper a more valuable tool for sketching and developing ideas, and a more enjoyable creative tool. This combination will likely make my iPad a more valuable tool for me.
- PayByPhone (mobile app)
This app allows me to use my iPhone to pay for centrally-metered parking run by the City of Ottawa. It’s handy. And, on frigid days (there have been many this year) allows me to pay from my warm car before racing to the nearest door, rather than pumping a meter with change or my credit card with a bare hand. The big question is, how is it possible this mobile phone app isn’t location aware?
- PhoneClean (desktop app)
You’d be surprised how much junk will fill your iPhone. Files you delete sometimes stay behind — like the voice memos I removed which apparently still occupied the flash drive. PhoneClean helps you identify and clean up those files, and other caches.
- Quicklytics (OS X app)
I’m a data geek, particularly when it comes to my company’s website and those of my clients. Quicklytics offers a clean and intuitive interface to access your Analytics accounts. It’s particularly handy when you’re on the go or heading into a meeting and want to grab the latest and greatest data.
- Reeder (iOS app)
I use the iOS version of Reeder on both my iPhone and iPad to stay on top of my news and blog sources. It allows me to post article to Delicious directly from the app. I rarely tweet from the app since it doesn’t allow me to schedule the tweets or shorten the URLs using ow.ly, my preferred URL shortener (see Hootsuite, above).
- RingCentral (online service with desktop and mobile app)
Bringing on employees meant finding a way to provide phone access to my entire team. I decided, the simplest solution was getting a virtual phone system and have individual extensions forward to the cell phones of my various employees. It’s much cheaper and less hardware dependent than a traditional office PBX. My friend and co-author, Tod Maffin, suggested Ring Central.
- Scrivener (desktop app)
Scrivener is a non-linear word processing environment, specifically designed for the writers. Non-linear, you ask? It allows you work in small chunks which can be sequenced and resequenced at any time. This makes organizing the structure a more flexible and less time-dependent process. I’ve also started using Scrivener for reports and blog posts. There are two significant disadvantages at this time, though: the iOS version is not yet ready, and Scrivener does not yet have an effective cloud-based solution to facilitate collaborative writing.
- Sysomos (online service)
Sysomos is my online intelligence gathering co-pilot. I use both Heartbeat and MAP for client work and ongoing research every day. New features including community graphing only make this tool more valuable and keep Sysomos on the leading edge of an increasingly competitive space. As a bonus, Sysomos is Canadian.
- TextGrabber + Translator (iOS app)
I went from manually transcribing quotes and excerpts I wanted to keep from books I read, to dictating them to my smartphone to, at the suggestion of my wife Andrea Ross (who had teased me for the dictating) using TextGrabber to scan and OCR what I wanted to keep. TextGrabber is amazingly accurate.