This is my running list of tools and resources that I use at my 9-5 and for personal projects. I only recommend tools that I use and like, and I have used every resource below.
Evernote – Evernote is by far one of my favorite apps, if not one of my favorite technologies. It has helped me greatly reduce the amount of paper documents I have, allowed me to save all my favorite articles, log ideas on the fly, automatically save electronic bills, and more. Because Evernote uses tagging to sort and organize your content, I found The Secret Weapon, which combines the efficiency of GTD with Evernote, to be the best tagging strategy for the program. I also recommend signing up for and using IFTTT in combination with Evernote to automate much of your note taking and document saving.
Dropbox – I use Dropbox as my go anywhere hard drive where I save most of my project and working documents. Having begun a couple of different business projects recently, Dropbox has enabled me to create and share dedicated project folders to collaborate with others, but still maintain my private folders for personal projects. Dropbox is yet another service I would recommend using IFTTT for, which you can also combine with other apps on this list. Dropbox has free (2 GB), premium (100-500GB) and business (1TB) versions of its service. For free users like myself, you can refer other users to earn additional storage space. I have already doubled my storage space after just a couple referrals. Here is a great DropBox hack I use at home and at work.
Feedly – I use Feedly to track and read all of the blogs I follow. I was using Google Reader, which I actually liked better, but I switched to Feedly after Google Reader shutdown earlier this year (2013). I was also using Flipboard on my iPad for this same purpose, but dropped it due to the lack of RSS feed support. Switching from Flipboard to Feedly seemed like a step back at first, but Feedly has since improved visually and functionally, enough where I would say they are pretty even in my book. Your Feedly account can also be connected to IFTTT (see below) for automation, but I haven’t found a “recipe” that i like yet.
Unstuck – I was tipped off about Unstuck from someone at work. Unstuck is a virtual coaching app that helps you in a difficult situation by asking you the questions you’re putting off or can’t see, then it helps you understand what your plan of action should be. I have used it a few times for particularly difficult tasks that I was procrastinating on. At the end of the day, the questions it asks seem simple and obvious, but its just a nice reminder or shortcut when you’re not in the right frame of mind to see what your next step should be.
Get Unstuck: iPad
Quicklytics – I have downloaded several different Google Analytic apps, but this one is by far my favorite. The UI and overall feel isn’t too far from the web version of Google Analytics, so it is easy to use, provides access to all the key stats I track, and only has an one time cost model, versus a monthly cost like other apps I have used.
Textastic – I don’t generally recommend coding while on the go, but for whatever reason you need or desire to do it, I recommend Textastic. I use it on my iPad for when I am stuck in a situation where I am waiting for a prolonged period of time, like at an airport, riding the bus to work, etc. I was stuck at the San Antonio airport for over 8 hours due to severe weather, and I used textastic to code and entire project. After some practice, you become pretty accustomed to using it.
Paper – Paper is a free form drawing application that is extremely basic, but people are using it to create really impressive art. To see some of the great work being created, check Tumblr for the hastag #madewithpaper. I use it for two main reasons, to sketch out my ideas, and to recreational drawing. For a stylus, I use and recommend the Jot Pro by Adonit.
Get Paper: iPad
Notepad++ – Notepad ++ is a very popular text editor for programming and web development. I have used it quite a bit and have found it very intuitive. Since it is so widely used, there are great plugins that you can download and install to expand the options and capabilities. I use the NppFTP plugin to connect to my Bluehost (see below) account to code and publish my webfiles.
Tableau – Tableau is an industry standard application for creating data visualizations using simple and complex data sets. I have used it at work for advanced reports, but I also use it personally to create some pretty cool stuff (I don’t mind saying). In my post, Smart Passive Income Reports Charted, I used Tableau to visualize income reports. The business grade version of Tableau is actually very expensive, so for personal projects I use the free version, Tableau Public, which works perfect for me. Check out the Tableau gallery for some great ideas for using the tool, which is very easy to use. If you like data and research, its actually addictive to see all of the ways you can quickly visualize and analyse the data.
Bluehost – Bluehost has been my main hosting platform since 2009, and all of my sites are hosted through it. If you are new to web hosting, the interface may seem overwhelming, but its pretty easy to learn after watch a couple videos. Bluehost does provide video tutorials to walk you through the process of how to setup a site, even how to install WordPress (see below), which is easy enough for anyone to do. If you use Treehouse (see below) to learn how to install WordPress, they show you how using Bluehost, but unfortunately that process now looks different, not harder, just different. Besides WordPress, you can also install other popular website technologies like Drupal, Ruby on Rails, Joomla, and more. When I joined the monthly fee was $6.99 a month, now its dropped to $4.99 a month, which is extremely affordable.
Dynadot – The only domain registration website I use is Dynadot, and I currently have more than a dozen domains registered through them. I am not going to claim that they provide superior service compared to their competitors, but I have used them since 2009 and have never had an issue. Their prices are not rock bottom, but are comparable and sometimes cheaper than more popular services like GoDaddy.
Treehouse – In one of my posts, Website Development for Beginners, I wrote about my path toward learning proper web development. After trail and error, I eventually found Treehouse and have stuck with them since. See my post for more details.
WordPress – Using WordPress, I made my first hosted site in 2009, and it was the very reason I wanted to start a hosted site. I saw what other people I knew were doing with WordPress, found out how easy it was, and decided to try it myself. Without regret, I have been enjoying WordPress ever since, and although I would not consider myself and expert, I know enough about it to be dangerous. If you are just starting outbuilding a web site, I highly recommend using WordPress. If you become a Treehouse member (see above), they have great tutorials for learning how to pretty much do everything you need to know to create a great site. If you are using WordPress, I also recommend WpRecipes.com and WeLoveWP.com for tips and inspiration.
Clearly – Built by Evernote, Clearly is a browser plugin specifically designed for saving web articles in a clean, easy to read format that works perfect for Evernote. I love saving articles to Evernote, but I hate when it saves the miscellaneous website images and ads. Clearly removes all the noisy content, and just saves the article title and contents.
WhatFont – WhatFont lets you quickly see what fonts and styles are being used on website content. Technically you can use Firebug for this same task, but WhatFont is much faster and easier to use for this specific task.
IFTTT – I mention it several times in this list, but IFTTT is just crazy cool. IFTTT lets you link different web services and even physical devices together to automate some pretty cool and useful tasks. When you link solutions together, its called a recipe. Recipes can be used to do things like text message you weather alerts, blink you home lights when your favorite sports team wins a game, and many other off the wall options. There are more and more sites and devices joining IFTTT since it started, so its been interesting to see the different recipes people continue to create. I don’t have any mind blowing recipes, but I have a few that I really depend on. I have one recipe that sends all of my e-bills from Gmail to Evernote, another that text messages me on my wedding anniversary, and another that marks my Google calendar whenever I check into a location using Foursquare.
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, which at no cost to you, earn me a commission if you choose to make a purchase. I only recommend these products because I have used them, find them useful, and would be willing to recommend them to anyone.