Best Online Productivity Tools for 2012
There are so many online services, platforms, applications and tools, it can be difficult to wade through it all. So I’ve updated an older list of productivity tools for the coming year. These are some of the best tools I use or found through research and recommendations.
Tools that help us become more efficient, organized and productive are important. That way we can accomplish more and stop work at noon every day, right?
When all of your important stuff is available online, you can access it from anywhere. The disadvantages? It’s all there while you’re on vacation too. There are also security concerns, so think about what you upload.
With most of these tools you don’t have to download or install anything. Many but not all are free or have free trial periods. Many have a corresponding mobile version too. Let us know about your favorites. (All the links open in a new window, so you can easily get back to the list.)
Backing up your work online keeps you productive because they say to save everything in three places. Replacing lost work takes a lot of time. Also, with an online backup, your files are always available as long as you have an Internet connection. How many times have you hit your forehead and said, “Oh, I forgot that file!”
Mozy is often recommended as the backup tool of choice. As you know but probably ignore, backing up your data to an offsite location means that in the event of a system failure, natural disaster, or other unpleasant , you’d be able to recover all of your work. It’s low cost and easy to set up for both Mac and Windows.
Dropbox has an understated and simply intuitive interface. You can use it to backup files as well as to synchronize files across computers and devices. They provide several gigabytes for free and have cute ways of giving you more space.
Bookmarking and clipping the web keep you productive because you don’t have to do a deep search all around the web for that article you saw two months ago. It does take some thought to create a smart tagging system that doesn’t have a lot of overlap, which makes it easier to search through in the future.
When you use an online tool like Delicious to bookmark websites or specific pages, you always have those important bookmarks with you. The social element comes in when you share the bookmarks for others to see. Also, when you need good information quickly, you can search Delicious to see what other’s have bookmarked on that topic.
When Delicious was ditched by Yahoo and bought by another company, some things changed. They now allow multiple word tags (allowing for a space between words) and they have a new feature called Stacks. Stacks are a way to organize bookmarks into large categories with varied tags.
Similar to Evernote, Diigo has capabilities for bookmarking, capturing images and web pages, annotating the web with sticky notes and highlights and basically collecting and organizing most virtual objects.
The elephant branding of Evernote stands for their tag line, “Remember Everything.” At it’s most superficial level, you can use Evernote for saving bookmarks and lists, but it does much more. It allows you to capture entire web pages or selections of web pages. If you download Evernote, it will sync all your notes across all of your computers, phones, devices and the Web. Or you can just use it online.
Keeping your calendar online, getting notifications and syncing with your smartphone is a joy. Considering what we know about how memory works, you can’t expect to remember the dates of many deadlines, events and appointments.
30 Boxes get good reviews and lists a ton of features. Here are a few of them according to their website: natural language entry, full screen, blazing fast, invitations, sms reminders, repeating events, integrated maps, tagging, share by tags, customizable, multiple themes, simple sharing, weather, track myspace, flickr, webshots, livejournal, blogger and more, instant photo sharing, your calendar is a timeline, add rss + ical feeds, all data is exportable, calendar badges + widgets … and so on.
Most people know about Google Calendar, but have you tried it yet? It’s simply an easy to use, free, shareable and straightforward way to keep track of events and tasks. I like the way you can add tasks to the calendar, and then view a list of all your tasks, though seeing this long list can be depressing. You can set notifications and it syncs with an iPhone.
Being able to meet and work online with others saves loads of time and money. Working in real-time is more productive than sending documents back and forth, where you might misunderstand someone’s comments or revisions.
(Also, see Google Docs and Visual Collaboration tools below.)
Mark up, fill out, and collaborate on PDFs, Word documents, PowerPoint slides, and web pages for free. Pay to get it secure and password protected.
Share organizational knowledge, plan and track projects collaboratively and get feedback in a wiki. Wikispaces has a flexible pricing structure, from free to private label wikis.
With Google Docs, you have access to a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, drawing and form tool. You can keep documents private or share them with your team or clients. All for free and you can be sure they’ll be adding more tools.
Zoho is pretty impressive. Go to their site and see all the apps they offer—everything from email to document creation, presentation builder, collaborative tools, wiki builder, organizer, contact management and so on. They offer both free and professional (paid) access.
This is the reverse of what you usually need, but sometimes life is backwards. Use their PDF-to-Word conversion technology to easily create editable DOC/RTF files. There’s a downloadable version too.
This seems like a great way to save time, because Mint pulls in your balances, purchases, investments, etc. to give you a complete picture of your finances. Their site says that Mint connects securely to nearly all US banking financial institutions that have Internet banking capability. My question: Sounds awesome, but do we really want to put all this info in one place online? Your opinion?
Go To Meeting is a much used online service that makes it easy to meet online. By sharing your desktop, you can perform live demos, give presentations and collaborate on documents. A newly added feature allows for videoconferencing. There are no limits to the number of meetings you can hold and no limits to their length. They have a free 30-day trial. For presentations with hundreds of people, Citrix offers Go To Webinar.
When you sign up for Google Plus, you get access to their hangouts, which is a live video chat service for up to nine people. You need to install the Google audio and video plugins, however. Read more about it at the link above.
KeePass is a free open source password manager, which helps you to manage your passwords in a secure way. You can put all your passwords in one database, which is locked with one master key or a key file. So you only have to remember one single master password or select the key file to unlock the whole database. According to the publisher, the databases are encrypted using the best and most secure encryption algorithms currently known (AES and Twofish). It’s free.
With Mitto, you save the passwords to all of your favorite sites, then log in to them by simply clicking a button. You can access your passwords securely from any computer, organize them with tags, and share them with trusted friends and family.
I had doubts about this sharing feature, but reader Ed was kind enough to explain it. He wrote, “The Mitto password sharing feature is for sharing passwords you need to share with people. For example, my wife and I share access to a Netflix account, and we also share access to all our online billing for the house. By sharing passwords with each other via Mitto, she can update the password, and it get’s updated transparently to me (and vice versa). This way I always have access to the most up to date information.” (Thanks Ed!)
Basecamp is considered by many to be the best browser based project management app around. It’s endorsed by high profile companies and the data integrates with lots of other apps, like Harvest Time Management (see below). It’s easy to use and in addition to PM functionality, there are some collaborative tools for sharing files, lists and messages.
Nozbe is another web-based project management tool that offers a few unusual ways of doing things. It’s Contexts mode lets you process related tasks in context, such as things you can do by Phone, Home or the Internet. And it’s Next Action functionality lets you process one next action at a time.
SOCIAL MEDIA AGGREGATORS
FriendFeed is a popular online tool for sharing content across Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and other social networks. You can create groups for sharing different content. You can publish your feed to a website or blog.
This Twitter dashboard streamlines your Twitter feed. On one screen, you can easily see your Twitter stream, direct messages, sent tweets and more. You can also schedule tweets and if you have more than one Twitter account, you can integrate that too.
Because Meebo integrates all social network and communication channels into a single, simple-to-use interface, users can easily share content and communicate in real time with the people who matter to them.
If you use more than one social bookmarking site, like Delicous, then Socializer can save you time. It lets you submit a link to several social bookmarking systems at once, instead of having a link to each to each individual site. One link goes to all!
TIME TRACKING AND INVOICING
Harvest has a sweet user interface and is ideal for small business and individual time tracking, logging expenses, invoicing clients, running reports, and keeping track of account receivables and revenue. Multiple users can log in to track time too. This is the time tracking app I use and love it! They have a free plan so you can check it out before getting started: 2 projects, 4 clients, unlimited invoicing for 1 user for free.
Paymo works on a similar model as Harvest. Use it to track time, manage project hours, invoice clients and run reports. They also have a free plan where you can try out the service for a couple of projects.
TO DO LISTS
Remember The Milk is totally connected. You can manage tasks from anywhere, get IM, SMS and email reminders, share your tasks, access it from your phone, use it with Google Calendar, add tasks from iGoogle and manage things offline too. Use it for free with the option to upgrade.
Creately is a visual collaboration platform used by project teams to communicate with each other. This means that everyone on all your teams (design, development, business) can collaborate through diagrams easily.
With Flockdraw, you’re not just annotating documents. You can perform real-time drawing and painting.
Although Vyew is another meeting and collaboration tool, it’s listed here because of its capabilities for visual collaboration. Participants can review and annotate documents, see each other’s comments, use a sidebar for comments and handles images and videos too.
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