7 Tech Tools to Supercharge Your Productivity in the New Year

By Linsey Knerl on 22 December 2009 (Updated 1 March 2010) 7 comments
Photo: istock

This article is Wise Bread's contribution to Life Scoop, where ordinary people learn how to make surprising things happen with technology.

We all want to work better, faster, and smarter. Thanks to the ever-changing tech landscape — we can! We’ve highlighted some of the best tools available to help you make a good impression and meet your goals in 2010. Here are our top seven solutions for making next year — “your” year!

Snag It (www.techsmith.com)

Free for 30 days, then $49.95 for the full-rights electronic version

 

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Nothing says “Look how far I’ve come” like a screen shot of your latest online accomplishment. Whether it’s a place at the top your company's home page, a mention in your local paper, or a recent flurry of Twitter activity, you can keep all your new media achievements in a permanent digital file for future bragging rights (and a killer resume kit). SnagIt lets you choose whether to capture the entire page, or just a small section, for easy saving in the format of your choosing. Just push the big red button, and you’ve got instant street cred for when people want to know what you’ve been up to lately.

All-in-One Wireless Printers (I like the HP Photosmart C4780)

$140 - $250

 

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If you haven’t made the leap to going Wi-Fi for your printing needs, then you may just be missing out on one of the biggest opportunities to save time, money, and frustration. With wireless all-in-one base models on the market for less than $150, you can now own a printer/scanner/copier/fax that can print from any room, with any device. Perfect for printing off a last-minute report for that unexpected client call, you can have a hard-copy solution without cables, cords, or configurations — no matter if you’re working from your netbook, notebook, PC, or Mac.

Social Oomph (www.socialoomph.com)

Free for most features, $29.97/month for Professional level

 

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Everyone knows that consistent Twitter activity can be a boon to your business, but most of us can’t justify spending hours on the platform. If you want to convey the appearance of being “on” all the time, consider a tweet scheduling service like Social Oomph (formerly TweetLater.com). Not only can you set up tweets to go out when you’re not around (which is perfect for those who travel frequently or find themselves in a different time zone than their Twitter audience), you can take advantage of other clever features, including: URL shortening and tracking, auto replies, auto follows/unfollows, and keyword tracking. The service takes a bit to get used to, and with new features added all the time, it’s worth taking a day or two to learn all the benefits. If you’re not using Twitter, you should be — and now you can, even with a limited amount of time to do so.

FreshBooks (www.freshbooks.com)

Free for up to 3 clients, $19 - $149 a month for more features

 

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If managing invoices via spreadsheet has you wishing for something more polished, the very affordable Freshbooks system may be for you. With integration of your business logo into the design of your customized invoices, you can easily send professional-looking bills to any of your clients via web or U.S. postal service. A handy feature that allows you to bill expenses on the back-end of any project and the iPhone application options will keep your accounts receivables flowing in — without the expense of more costly invoicing services. Businesses with less than $300K a year in billable expenses may find the web-based Freshbooks to be the only accounting software they need (which is good news come tax time).

Picnik (www.picnik.com)

Free for limited features, $4.95 a month / $24.95 a year for premium features

 

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Looking to spice up that recent iPhone photo you took at last year’s conference? Hoping to create a perfect profile pic for your LinkedIn account? If you have a decent picture to start with, Picnik can help you turn it into something fabulous — with little to no technical know-how necessary. Turn any graphic file into a button, avatar, logo and more, using the user-friendly tools offered in this nifty web-based program. Special effects include those featured in more powerful Photoshop offerings (collage, sepia coloring, speech bubbles) but without the complicated learning process. Photo sharing, storage, and printing services are included for premium users.

Future Email Services (www.futureme.org or www.emailfuture.com)

Free

 

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Wishing you had a note from the past reminding you of that important conference call? If putting major events on your calendar isn’t enough, and the thought of sending an email today (only to be lost in the shuffle later) has you down, consider sending an email to your future self. Schedule emails to be delivered on a boss’ birthday, when an important personal goal is due, or just after you arrive home from a lengthy business trip. There is no complicated registration for either of these free services, and as long as you don’t change email addresses before the scheduled delivery, you can expect your future email to arrive in your inbox just in time! (Note: Both sites give you the option to make your emails public, so if you don’t want everyone to know the contents of your message, be sure to mark it as “private.”)

Energizer Energi 2 Go XPal Xp2000 Power Pack (www.amazon.com)

$39.99

 

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It’s a common scenario: You’re out and about and your cell phone dies. While battery-boosters can prolong the life of your phone, they are bulky and often require that you remove your phone’s protective sleeve to use it. The Energizer XP2000 Power Pack, however, lets you plug your cell phone directly into the battery pack, using one of the many included tips. (Energizer is so confident in their ability to include a tip that works with your phone, they’ll even find one for you if it’s not included.) This handy power pack can be charged up to 500 times, giving you no reason to not be powered up on your next business trip. Convenient and reliable, anyone with a juice-sucking model will want to stash one in their laptop case for the long road ahead (and you can be sure that won’t be stuck in the airport without a working phone — no matter how long the flight delays!).

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Guest's picture
Craig

I prefer to use Camtasia for screencasts but it is costly. Snagit is a solid option.

Guest's picture

I have used SnagIt at the office for a couple of months now and find it very helpful. I use it when I have a report that I've run which only contains a few lines of data. Its much faster and simpler to "SnagIt" and attach to an e-mail than to download the report to Excel, save the file, attach to the e-mail and THEN send it.

Several of other of these sound interesting as well, thanks for sharing the list!

Guest's picture

Thanks for the pointers.
My favorite is the printer which looks great and so easy to carry around.

Guest's picture
Kevin Eldridge

Instead of using SnagIt, I started using Green Shot and it is very powerful. Much easier to use than SnagIt. It is open source software. If you find it useful, donate a bit of cash. Say $15, 20, 25, depending on how much you use it and how useful you find the software.

Guest's picture

Kind of disappointed that all but one of these services/products cost money (and some even have high cost monthly subscriptions - a personal finance cardinal sin). What's even more disappointing is that many of these services have free alternative versions. For instance, SnagIt, has a free alternative product called Jing which is developed by the same company. SocialOomph doesn't sound to be much more advanced than Tweetdeck.

Guest's picture
Aiden

You don't need extra software for screenshots. Every keyboard has a "Print Screen" (or Prnt Scr) button. Just press that. It copies a screenshot to the clipboard which you can then paste into Word, Outlook, or the free Paint program that comes with all versions of Windows. No extra software required. Alt+Print Screen will capture only the currently open app.

Guest's picture
KyleB

This is a disappointing post as several of the "tech tools" you recommend can be found elsewhere for free.

Screengrab! - Is a great screengrab tool for Firefox, Jing was mentioned above, it is also good - http://bit.ly/4ThzkM

There are several free applications that allow you to schedule tweets - Hootsuite and CoTweet are two of them - http://bit.ly/820nBL & http://bit.ly/5k5R8e