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Tools I Use (part I of II): Software

July 24th, 2009

One of my favorite series was Char Polanosky’s Essential Tools posts where she interviewed web developers and freelancers about what they used in their jobs.  I figured I’d share what I use with you… I might have forgotten a few things but these are the main software tools I rely on pretty much daily.  In no particular order:

Gmail: it took a while to get used to, especially since I couldn’t file one message into a folder, but as I caught on I fell in LOVE.  I can access it from anywhere, and searching for old emails is awesome.  I use my gmail account as much as I use my JibberJobber account.

Microsoft Outlook: I’m an Outlook guy… always have been.  I love some things about Outlook, and I haven’t been able to replace those things anywhere else.  By the end of this year I suspect I’ll have my gmail and my Outlook 100% integrated, so I get the best of both.  Also, ALL of my calendaring is done on Outlook.

JibberJobber.com: I meet a lot of people and have a lot of conversations.  There is NO WAY I could do what I do without having a “customer relationship” tool.  Many people know JiberJobber as a job search tool, or a website to replace the job search spreadsheet, but I, as a business owner and CEO, use it to manage my relationships.  I login in the morning and it stays open in a browser all day long.

Firefox: As a web developer from 10 years ago I grew to dislike the “browser wars,” since coding something would have to work in multiple versions of multiple browsers.  They all sucked, as far as I was concerned.  But I was introduced to Firefox (FF) as a browser that was highly superior to Internet Explorer (IE) by a group of uber-geek programmers, and I thought I’d give it a shot.  I quickly fell in love with a few things… the most important for me is how fast it is (or, how much faster it is than IE).  This is my browser of choice… although I do some testing and other stuff in IE.

Skype: My business phone number is a “skype-in” number… I make all of my business calls from a headset hooked up to my computer through Skype.  There have been a few quirks here and there, but overall I’m really pleased with the service.  And the ability to chat with other skype people is icing on the cake, since it’s become a backup place to chat to my team members, who all work remotely.

Microsoft Live Messenger: I love what used to be called IM (the tool, which was “Instant Messenger”) and is not Live Messenger.  I tried Trillian, which would allow me to put all of my chat accounts in one place, but it didn’t satisfy me.  My messenger of choice is Microsoft’s.  I LOATHE Yahoo messenger (sorry).  But, as mentioned above, if it goes down (not totally uncommon), I can always jump on Skype chat… and increasingly I’m chatting with people on Gmail.

Notepad: This is one of those Microsoft utilities… lightweight and easy to use.  It has become my “sticky notes” or “post-it notes” … when I have a thought I’ll open up a new one, jot my notes down, and then when I’m done I’ll close the file without saving.  For example, the list of stuff in this post is on a notepad file that I’ll close as soon as I’m done writing it.  Another example: when I’m on the phone I’ll take notes in Notepad.  When I hang up, I clean up the notes and then copy and paste into a log entry in JibberJobber.

SnagIt: I grab images from the web regularly – whether it’s a screenshot for my development team or a picture of YOU (if I add you to JibberJobber)… it’s super easy to do with TechSmith’s SnagIt… which allows me to put annotations, borders, arrows, highlight, etc. on the image.  Any image on my blog will have gone through SnagIt before it gets to my blog.  If I don’t have SnagIt I feel lost.  I’ve used this tool for at least five years.

Twitter: Love it or not, Twitter does it for me.  It’s pretty cool.  If Twitter can figure out how to keep the spammers out/down, it would be better.  Meanwhile I’m enjoying it, and am able to communicate to a group of people who want to hear from me.  You can follow me at Twitter.com/JasonAlba.

LinkedIn: I use this when I see a name of someone I want to learn more about. If we are going to be on a phone call, go to a lunch, or have communicated via email and are taking our professional relationship to the next level, you can bet I’ve gone to your LinkedIn Profile to figure out who you are.

PayPal: I know there are PayPal haters out there, but I’ve not really had a problem with it.  There are many people I’ve paid with PayPal, and many people who have paid me through PayPal.  I’ve also been able to purchase a number of things using PayPal instead of my credit card, which has made it easier/faster to purchase what I’ve needed.

Honorable mention: Camtasia: Another TechSmith product, this is what I use to do the JibberJobber tutorial recordings.  LOVE IT.

I hope this has been helpful … I’m not saying you have to use any of these, but I find many of these indispensable.  What do you recommend?

21 Comments »

21 responses to “Tools I Use (part I of II): Software”

  1. Great post and wonderful resources! I LOVE SnagIt and Camstasia, too! I also recommend Screencast to upload your videos (large files)–you can customize it to co-brand the look and feel of your website.

  2. bill says:

    Agree with most of these tools. What tool do you use to compose your blog posts? I use Microsoft Live Writer (a free desktop blog editor). I thought it was a pretty useful tool.

  3. Jason Alba says:

    @Kristen, thanks – I haven’t tried that yet.

    @Bill – I just login to my WordPress admin page and do it from there – I like clean code and sometimes have to tweak what I do, so I like the ability to preview and tweak as I go…

  4. Jeff says:

    Hey Jason-
    Have you ever logged into your Office Live Workspace from Microsoft? If you have a LiveID then you have a Workspace, which is like a free 5GB online thumb drive.

    Cheers,
    Jeff
    MSFT Office Live Outreach
    http://workspace.officelive.com/en-us

  5. Thanks for the list of tools. Really helpful information. I’m getting ready to set up a blog or a website to promote my life & career coaching work. There seems to be disagreement out there about which one to start with. Do you have a recommendation?

  6. Martha Valerio says:

    Jason, I’m sure you’ll include tinyurl.com and other similar tools in part II of your post. I find these indispensable, especially when posting links on twitter and facebook.

  7. Sean Ashe says:

    Hi Jason, thanks for the great post and recommendations on tools. I like you share the use of Gmail and Outlook (and Jibber Jobber of course) and just recently discovered an add-on for Outlook called Xobni which speeds up searching on Outlook and alows you to access LinkedIn, Google, Hoover’s, Facebook at the click of a button. It’s like a super charger for your Outlook. Another great feature is that it automatically grabs your contacts photos from their online profiles and displays them together with their key contact details.

  8. Hey Jason, I completely agree with you on PayPal. I’ve never had a problem with it (knock on wood!) and it’s made payment easy for both me and my clients. I’d rather not have any fees of course, but the percentage they take out is not bad.

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  10. jonathan says:

    99% of the known world seems to use word or word compatible software for documents.

    Most of them don’t know that pasting from word (into a blog or webapge, or virtually anything) can often paste the code that word uses behind the scenes for formatting. (Its a bit like css)

    I tend to paste into wordpad AND THEN paste into where ever it’s going so I would add wordpad to the list.

    Oh and facebook as well

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  12. Jason Alba says:

    @Jeff – wow, someone from MS comments on my blog? I’m flattered.

    The diff between the online offering you are talking about and a thumb drive is that I don’t have to be online to access my data on a thumb drive. But good to know, nonetheless.

    @Jeanne – I’m a huge fan of WordPress.com – is that what you are asking?

    @Martha – Good suggestion. I do go to tinyurl.com regularly, but only to grab my own customized URL … however in Twitter they automatically shorten, so since they do it, it’s not a must-use site for me.

    @Sean – I’ve been meaning to check out Xobni… thanks for the recommendation and info :)

    @Charlotte – one other thing I’d like to explore is the ability to pay with an Amazon account… I’m excited about that…

    @Jonathan – cool, good suggestion. My habit is still Notepad… but wordpad is a good idea.

  13. Sue Brettell says:

    Jason: great post. As the number of platforms, social networking sites, appis, widgets and tools increases by the day, it becomes harder to sort the wheat from the chaff. Lots of people blog about these topics and opinions differ widely. It’s useful to see what particular people use regularly, especially those who have gained recognition as experts in their field.

    @Martha: I use Tinyurl too, but was recently recommended Bit.ly as being a better choice by William Arruda. So I signed up for it, but couldn’t get the bookmarklet to embed on the toolbar. (Mac/Firefox) Anyone else had this problem?

    @Jeanne: I agree with Jason about WordPress. It’s generally considered the best platform to avoid spam and is incredibly customisable. However, it’s not the easiest to learn if you’re a complete novice. Take a look at the other options, which all allow a degree of customisation. Choose one that can be ported to WordPress at a later date – that way your site can be developed as you gain confidence. If you have some experience, you will find WordPress quite easy.

  14. Jason,

    Thanks for all the cool stuff. I sending out my news/jobs letter to my customers (68K) and am urging them to check your site out. Your responders are also a wealth of knowledge. These are great communities with really interesting individuals who are very approachable.

    I have an idea that I want to run by you so I’ll give you a buzz early next week.

  15. Char says:

    Thanks for the mention!!! Its fun to see what tools everyone else uses and how this tool set evolves over time.

  16. Thanks, Jason,

    I was actually asking whether to start with a blog first, or a website first?

    Jeanne

  17. Jason Alba says:

    @Jeanne – … good question – I’d wonder what your long-term goals are. Ultimately I’d recommend a website that uses blog technology, which doubles as a content management system. You can see how my buddy does this at KentBlumberg.com – it is his “website” that uses blog technology.

  18. Katherine says:

    Here’s an odd question — do you use WordPress to manage just the blog, or all of your website? Just curious because I’m very familiar with WordPress.org software, but my organization is talking about making a new website, but the problem is that there’s tiered memberships — some things on the site will be totally public, others to members on Tier 1, and still other things only to Tier 2. I’ve been trying to think of which sites I know that do this well and I know you’re one of them.

    Many thanks for any advice you can provide!

  19. Jason Alba says:

    @Katherine: Depends on what you are looking for… I could not do what I need just with WP because it is so intense on the database side… but if you are looking at delivering just content at different levels I’d imagine someone built a plugin for that on WP.

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