Do you have a set of productivity tools that you consider essential? I do and here I’d like to share them with you. But, to prevent the post from being all over the place, I limit the scope only to programs that I install on my computer (which is a Windows machine). I don’t include any web application here.
Of course, the tools that work for me don’t necessarily work for you. But I hope that you will find something useful here.
I’m not the kind of person who likes to change my tools whenever something fancier comes out. Once I find a tool that works, I usually stick with it unless I find a very strong reason to move to something else. That’s why I’ve used most of the tools below for years.
Here are my essential productivity tools:
Firefox with its add-ons has become an integral part of my online life. I often don’t realize how important it is until I come across a computer that doesn’t have one. I feel powerless when I use such a computer. I can no longer do things that have become second nature to me. That’s why the first thing I do when I use a new computer is to install Firefox and my favorite add-ons.
Here are the add-ons that I consider essential:
Scrapbook has been my reference system for years. There are already thousands of articles and clips in my Scrapbook library.
- Alexa Sparky
When I come to a site, I usually take a quick glance at its Alexa rank to have an estimate of the site’s popularity. Alexa shows the traffic rank of a web site, so the smaller the number is, the higher the traffic it has. Alexa is far from perfect, but it serves as a rough estimate for me.
- SEO Quake
Being a blogger, I often need to do an online research about other sites or certain search engine queries. SEO Quake has become an indispensable tool for this. It makes my research way easier to do.
I often bookmark interesting sites I come across. Xmarks backs up my bookmarks and synchronizes them across different computers.
2. Microsoft OneNote
OneNote has become an “extension” of my brain. Getting Things Done states that you need to put everything out of your head into a trusted system. OneNote is a core component of my trusted system. I put practically all of my notes and ideas there. I also use it to manage my to-do list.
I especially like OneNote’s collapsing and expanding feature since it helps me see my notes and ideas in the level of detail I desire. When I want to see more details, I just need to expand the node. When I want to see the big picture, I can just collapse it. This feature has helped me tremendously over the years.
On a side note, I’m currently exploring Evernote. I recently bought a Mac and I need something that works on both my Windows and Mac machines. Evernote fills this need nicely because it syncs data automatically between machines. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have OneNote’s collapsing and expanding feature (or perhaps I miss it?). My primary note-taking tool is still OneNote, but I might expand my use of Evernote in the future.
3. Microsoft Outlook
I use Outlook to manage my calendar, not my emails. I actually hesitated to include it here because it’s easily replaceable with other alternatives (such as Google Calendar), but I decided to include it anyway because calendaring system is an essential part of my productivity system. I use Outlook simply because it synchronizes with my cell phone.
4. Cool Timer
There are many benefits of using a timer. In essence, using a timer helps you become more productive. I use timer a lot in my daily workflow and Cool Timer has become my timer of choice for several years. It’s a simple timer that you can set to function either as a countdown timer or as a stopwatch.
5. WinKey + MemoKeys
I’m a fan of using keyboard shortcuts. WinKey allows me to set shortcuts for commonly used programs and files so that they are only one keystroke away.
On the other hand, MemoKeys gives me shortcut keys for commonly used text. For example, I have a shortcut for my email address. Whenever I need to give my email address in an online form, I just need to press the shortcut and it’s done.
Have you ever forgot where a file is in your computer? Perhaps you have to create a report and forget where a file you need is. I often found myself in such a situation and it was frustrating.
Everything solves the problem for me. Unlike many other desktop search tools (such as Google Desktop) that searches the content of all files, this tool searches just the names of the files. That’s exactly what I need. Furthermore, since it works only with file names, it’s also way lighter and faster than other desktop search tools.
In addition the the tools above, there are other tools that aren’t directly related to productivity but which I consider essential. Here they are:
1. Microsoft Money
Money is the tool I use to manage my personal finance. Though I miss some transactions here and there, I’ve been recording my financial transactions in Money for years. Money makes it easy for me to see where my money went in any period of time. It also helps me see how my investment portfolio performs.
Money is now discontinued by Microsoft, so you might want to use other programs like Quicken or Mint to manage your personal finance.
If you want to have a secure online life, using good passwords is important. Moreover, you should use different passwords for different sites. This way when someone stole your password for one site, he wouldn’t be able to use it to attack your other online accounts.
KeePass is the solution I use for this. It helps me generate good, strong password for every site I ‘m interested in and store them in an encrypted file at my local computer. I need to remember just one password, the one used to open the KeePass file.
Isn’t it nice if you have all your important files backed up automatically without you even being aware of it? That’s what DropBox does. DropBox is the newest tool in my toolbox. I now save all of my important files in the DropBox folder so that they will always be backed up to an online storage.
This tool is essential for me not because of its music playing capability but because it helps me find a lot of great content. I love to learn and iTunes has become an important source of materials in the form of podcasts and lectures.
These are the tools that I use practically every day. What about you? What tools do you think are essential?
Photo by flattop341