Over the last few years I've come across a few different tools that I use on a daily basis and absolutely love having at my disposal. These are not necessarily free tools, but well worth the investment in my opinion.
I use this tool a ton for creating animated gifs showing off some functionality, or for marking up screenshots with arrows or grey boxes. It's not the most elegant tool, but the functionality is hard to argue with. As platforms like JIRA and Slack (which support animated gifs well) become more common, being able to create good gifs will be a valuable skill to have. I've found gifs to be incredibly handy when describing a piece of functionality to a remote teammate or a third party vendor. For example, here's one that I created a while back to demonstrate a bug in a third-party toolset that we use at work:
You can read more about screencast-o-matic on their website. Other options which are free, though not as feature-rich, are Jing and ScreenToGif. You need to be making animated gifs, regardless of what you use to do it.
Everyone on the internet has heard of Dropbox. That said, I want to make sure that people understand how valuable it really is. It's not just an extra folder for those work documents that you want to have available on your desktop, laptop, and phone (though it works really well for that). Here are three things about Dropbox that I absolutely love:
- For $10 a month you get a Terabyte of storage. I now have access to all of my old school projects, honeymoon pictures, animated gif collection, etc anywhere I go. And I'm barely using one fourth of the available storage!
- Whenever I want to share a picture or file, all I have to do is put it in my Public Dropbox folder, right-click the file, and click "Copy Public Link". Then just paste that link into a chat, email, or whatever, and it's done. So much easier than relying on a shared network drive or a website like Imgur.
- All of my iPhone's pictures and videos are automatically backed up for me. I get this by using the Carousel app which is also developed by Dropbox. The only thing I have to do is open the Carousel app every now and then due to some Apple imposed restrictions. I do wish the uploader was a bit smarter (currently it just puts everything in the root level of the "Camera Uploads" folder in Dropbox), but that's okay for now. One day I'll need a tool for better consuming my pictures and videos anyways.
Go here to read about the different plans that Dropbox offers. There is a free version, so you can at least get a taste of the goodness.
Did I mention that this puts my gif collection at my disposal at all times?
The last tool that I think everyone could benefit from is a quick launch utility. There are a number of them out there, but the best that I've found is Executor.dk. I've reached a point where Windows feels severely limited without this installed, even though Microsoft has tried to add similar functionality in some recent versions. Here are some use cases where this tool provides value:
- Opening any app is an absolute breeze. No more hunting for the icon on the desktop or cluttering up the task bar. Just hit
Space, type the first couple of characters (i.e. "chr" for Google Chrome), and hit
- Defining custom keywords is very handy. This is something aimed more at power users, but if you have a script that you run regularly just create a custom keyword to run it for you. Then all you have to do is, again, type the first couple of letters of the keyword and hit
Enter. No more navigating windows explorer looking for the script deep in some project folder.
While I use executor.dk there are a couple of other options out there. Alfred is a good one if you are on a Mac, and Launchy is another option if you are on a PC.
Here's a sample of what opening Internet Explorer and Notepad++ looks like with Executor:
The technology landscape is changing everyday, so always be on the lookout for new tools that can help you do things quicker and smarter. Definitely let me know if there are any that you simply cannot live without!
I'm a software engineer in beautiful Birmingham, AL; just trying to make things happen and learn a little along the way. Roll Tide.