Monday, April 04, 2011

Tools I Use…Productivity Tips

A number of people, most recently Eli and Richard, have asked for suggestions and guidance on “which tools I use” to manage all of the information efficiently.

Instead of doing one-offs, I’ll just put it all down here. I’m not sure how to organize all of it since there’s a lot of overlap, so I’ll just let ‘er rip and hope you can glean some useful info here.

I probably won’t link to everything, so you may just have to “Google” or “Bing” it. You’ll find it. Winking smile

Away we go….

For Reading

  • I use Google Reader to manage my blog subscriptions. About 100 of them. Usually, I read these blogs on the iPad, but sometimes on my PC or smartphone, since it is all web-based.
  • When I find an article I like in the blogs, I click “Share” at the bottom of the feed. Thanks to Twitterfeed and, this info is automatically syndicated to my Twitter account and my Facebook Fan Pago.
  • I’ll use the Twitter app on the iPad, TwInbox and TweetDeck on my PC (desktop and laptop) to scan Twitter. Or, the Twitter for Android app on my phone.
  • When I find an article that I like there, I use the “Read It Later” function provided by Instapaper to save it for later. You can do this on Android as well.
  • Then, I’ll use the Instapaper app on iPad (most of the time) and on PC (some times) or Android (sometimes) to catch up on them at the right time (kind of like batch processing, I suppose)
  • Another tool I use a lot is Dropbox. If I get a PDF, I’ll drop it in there while on my PC and then read it later on my iPad or using the Dropbox app for Android (my EVO smartphone)
  • I also am a heavy Kindle reader and have a Kindle device, but also use the Kindle app on Android, PC, and iPad…and they all synchronize beautifully
  • Every so often, if I know I will be disconnected for a while, I use FeedDemon to synchronize my Google Reader with my Netbook and catch up with my reads, re-synchronizing them when I am connected again.

For Calendar/Contacts/Email

  • I still think MS Outlook is the best power tool around. Categories in contacts is one of the best things around.
  • I pay for a hosted Exchange service and it’s well worth it (about $20/month)
  • I also use the Outlook Social Connector to get additional insight about what those who are writing to me are talking about.
  • I do use Gmail for a personal email
  • also have Google Apps for your domain for another account, but don’t use it that heavily.

For Email Management

  • OtherInbox is an indispensable tool (for my personal accounts) to make sure that non-important and spammy emails get processed automatically and not into my main inbox, sucking up valuable time.

For Blogging

  • Windows Live Writer is the best tool that I’ve found. I also use the Zemanta plug-in to round out the content offering.
  • I use Blogger for my personal blog.
  • Use Graffiti CMS as the platform for

Blog Commenting

  • I use Disqus, since it allows me to respond to blog comments via email


  • Big user of lists. I assign each person to a list and that way, say “Clients,” I can make sure that I see the News Feed of the right people at the right time.


  • Use Microsoft Office Live Meeting and it’s fantastic.

Keyword Listening

  • use to pay attention for mentions of my name, URL, etc.
  • also use TweetDeck for specific keywords

Data Synchronization

  • Dropbox does a lot of this, of course, but I also use Windows Live Mesh (which is great) for multiple computer synching. Plus, I can share certain folders with my assistant to foster collaboration.

For Browsing

  • I use RockMelt browser primarily these days, but also use Firefox, Chrome, IE for various reasons. I like Firefox’s extensions, Chrome’s speed, and RockMelt’s social integration. IE is solid and most secure.
  • Also have the shortener in the toolbar of all browsers to facilitate sharing and tracking
  • Automatic form fillers are a MUST. I use Sxippr on FF and there’s one built into RockMelt. Huge time savers.

For Note Taking

  • I use both OneNote and Evernote
  • I find OneNote better for organizing ideas. Now, you can also access OneNote via iPad, which is cool.
  • Evernote is great for clipping stuff from the web and you can email notes directly to Evernote. For example, it’s where I save ideas for future blog posts.
  • Plus, you can access Evernote on PC, iPad, and Android (as well as browser), so that’s very useful.
  • I should add that I am a power user of the voice recorder function on my phone. A critical tool that I use.
  • And, as documented before, I have a LiveScribe smart pen to take notes on pad/paper, but then save/search/share electronically.

Spreadsheets, Word Processing, Presentations

  • I’m old school MSFT and think Excel is just awesome. I have the PowerPivot add-in for deep analysis. Also use PowerPoint (both of these are Office 2010, of course). I don’t do much in Word, but do use it. Have set up a bunch of custom templates as well and do a ton of Excel-Word-Outlook mail merges (e.g. billing and networking follow up) to save time.
  • I have tried Prezi and SlideRocket, but haven’t made the full scale switch there (and not sure I will).


  • Google Voice for incoming/outgoing. Also, easy way to send texts from your PC.
  • SkypeIn for when I am abroad (and some international calls)
  • Vonage at home


  • have an HD Microsoft LifeCam and it works great
  • use Skype for video conferencing, but also

Photo Management

  • First off, have an Eye-fi card to simplify the upload of pics from my camera to my hard drive
  • Then, use Windows Live Photo Gallery and/or Microsoft Office Picture manager to edit, delete, rename, and/or tag photos

Video Creation

  • If I want to make and/or share a video, I use Windows Live Movie Maker.
  • To capture video, I will use my digital camera or my phone, of course, but I do use UStream (and less often, Qik) to broadcast live to the Net.


  • Have a Windows Media Center DVR so I am more efficient in my TV watching. I also synch those shows with my Zune so I can watch on the go. Recently found an app (testing it out) to convert those to iPad as well.
  • Have an Xbox 360 as a media center extender for watching in a different room.


  • I subscribe to TED talks on my Zune
  • Subscribe to HBR ideacast on iTunes
  • If I want to create a podcast, I’ll use the Cinch app.


  • Pandora Radio is great
  • Use to play the music from my home PC on multiple mobile devices (phone and iPad)

Mobile Internet

  • I use a “wireless tether” feature on my phone to create a wi-fi hotspot. This allows me to connect my laptop and iPad when travelling.


  • my “workhorse” is a 64-bit Windows 7 PC with 4 monitors. Also have a trackball mouse and a mechanical keyboard (Das Keyboard. Expensive, but so worth it)
  • also have an ASUS Netbook
  • iPad 2
  • EVO 4G Smartphone
  • Kindle
  • Zune


  • use to synchronize status (most of the time)
  • use a tool called Twype to have my twitter status show up as Skype message

I probably can’t offer tech support on these. That’s my disclaimer on this post.

As for the hardware that supports this (at least while I travel), check out this post.

I may think of a few others, but this is probably a good start.

Now …how about adding yours in the comments below?

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