Top Seven Free Software Tools – for either PC and Mac

Technology can be defined as the knowledge and usage of tools, techniques, and crafts. I am not a PC, and I am not a Mac.  I am a human that uses technology.  I may not resemble the average technologist.  I use PC, I use Mac, I use mobile.  What I do share with other technologists (and most males), is that I love tools.  I especially love finding new tools that let me work and play more effectively and more efficiently.  This list of seven free software tools work on both major operating system platforms (and many others).  I have many other tools that are specific to a platform that I would recommend, but the tools I selected for this list had to meet three conditions: work on PC/Mac/iPad, be a tool I use everyday, and be FREE.

  1. Kindle.  Not the physical device, the Kindle Apps.  While there is no order to this list, the Kindle App is first and foremost.  You may or may not know, but I have been using a Kindle for quite a while.  I still love everything about it – wireless access to new books, lightweight, simple, easy to understand, easy to use, easy on the eyes.  The eyes have it – the Kindle 2 device is one my all time favorites.  However, since acquiring my iPad, I leave my Kindle at home.  I use the Kindle app everywhere – on my Windows laptop, MacBook, iPhone, Blackberry, and my iPad.  I’m never far away from an extensive and varied library of books that I can read at any time.  I can also switch from nonfiction, technical manuals over to fiction at the press of a button if I need a change of pace.  Also, for those of you who aren’t aware – there are thousands of FREE books that you can read on your Kindle applications.

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  2. Evernote.  My favorite note organizer.  I have been a huge fan of Microsoft OneNote for years.  I’ve gotten other people hooked on OneNote.  OneNote does many wonderful things – screen caps, notes, organization, audio recording, video recording, synchronization of notes with audio/video, note sharing, searching, OCR…  the list goes on and on.  Evernote does not have the full functionality of OneNote.  However, what Evernote is missing in functionality, it makes up for in ease of use and convenience.  Evernote stores all of my notes ‘in the cloud’.  Evernote is available on my PC, my MacBookPro, my iPhone, and my iPad.  If I jot down a note, or take a screen capture, it is available to me from anywhere.  I don’t have to have my PC with me – I can access all of my notes from my phone.  Priceless.

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  3. DropBox.  Very similar to Evernote – but with files.  It’s my personal external hard drive in the sky.  I can upload files, read files, share files, and keep private files.  Word docs, Excel files, text files, photos, videos, zip files, PDFs, and more.  It’s my file backup location.  I can access and upload from any device – PC, Mac, or iPad.  Also, if you sign up for DropBox using my recommendation – then we both will get additional free space: https://www.dropbox.com/referrals/NTc5MTE3Njc5 
  4. Google Voice.  One number to rule them all.  Google Voice lets you pick a new phone number, and uses that one number to dial out to your other numbers.  People don’t have to chase me down – dial my Voice number and it rings through to my office desk, my cell phone, and my home phone – on my terms.  Google Voice allows you to screen your calls or send them to voicemail, block calls, provide personalized calling, and make conference calls – all for free.  Google Voice also does voicemail transcription – it will text or email you a text version of the voicemail someone just left you.  Awesome.

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  5. Google Picasa.  Everyone I know has a digital camera and takes hundreds of photos.  Only the amateur photographers I know have full control of their photos.  Most people have directories scattered all over the computer (or multiple computers), share photos via email and Facebook, and couldn’t find a specific photo on demand.  Picasa is a great, free tool to manage your photos.  The Facial Recognition features are very neat as well.  You can also post your photos and libraries for FREE to Picasa Web Albums (though I prefer Flickr).
  6. Google Reader.  I use RSS feeds to keep tabs on all of the sites I frequent.  News sites, blogs, photo sites, and many others have RSS feeds that I can quickly and easily subscribe to on my Google Reader.  The web address for Google Reader is always available for me to catch up, review, and read any of the feeds I want.  There are also a ton of tools available for platform specific reader that will synchronize with Google Reader to provide a better end user experience depending upon the device I’m using at the time.
  7. Google Toolbar.  The number one reason I use Google Toolbar is to keep my Bookmarks (or Favorites) synchronized and available to me from anywhere on any platform, but I also use the AutoFill and Custom Buttons to have simple access to weather, Facebook, maps, and more.

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What resources and tools do you find indispensable?  I am shocked at my own reliance on Google tools.  I am a HUGE Microsoft fan – especially of SharePoint 2010.  I use Microsoft tools everyday.  Unfortunately, none of the Microsoft tools fit the original three requirements that I’ve laid out here.   I also didn’t include email, I really consider that a commodity.  You can get email from anywhere, and they all do the same basic functions.  If I did include web based mail, I would have listed Hotmail.  The new Hotmail version is superb – excellent features and great UI.  Also, I can use my Microsoft SkyDrive instead of DropBox, and I can use my Live Toolbar instead of the Google Toolbar.  However, third-party app providers (particularly on the iPad) have adopted DropBox directly into their apps – SkyDrive does not have the industry adoption (though it integrates perfectly into Office).

By John Stover

John Stover Bio.

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