Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Apps You Should Have (Not Just For Nerds)

I recently posted about Trello as a service that I think even non-IT-professionals may find useful.  Continuing that vein, here are four other services that I think anybody with a computer should have.


Evernote is a “second brain” (no comment on the first one).  It runs on just about any computer and phone, and lets you very easily capture text, photos, files, and more.  Every note gets synced to every device, and there is rich support for tagging and search.  You can quickly jot notes, send emails into it, and even snap pictures of business cards and labels you want to remember, then pull them back on any device. Here are some ways I use it:

  • Notes for work.  I constantly have to remember “what did I do to fix XYZ”.  Now, if I fix something, I’ll record it in Evernote.  I have literally hundreds of solutions in my own personal “Knowledge Base”.
  • Shopping lists.  For trips to “the Man Store” (ie Lowes), or grocery, I’ll jot down what I need and refer to it at the store.
  • Paint numbers.  Whenever I’ve painted or had things painted, I snap a picture of the label they put on the can that has the color numbers.  They can then use this to match a color later.
  • Favorite wines/beers.  If I find something I like, I snap a picture of the label on write it in a note so I can remember later.
  • Gate codes.  I put in gate codes for storage and the pool.  Since notes are marked with a location, I can easily see the notes near me and pull up, say, the storage gate code when I’m at the storage location.

So, go get Evernote.  If you want to read more about how to use it, Evernote Essentials is a great book about exactly how it works and things you can do with it.


If you don’t have _some_ backup for your photos and other files, then you are doing it wrong.   Your computer will fail, and when it does, all those picture that only live on your computer are going away.  There are lots of ways to do backups, but Carbonite is dead simple and cheap.  For $5 month you get unlimited backup of all of the important files on your machine. 

Google Reader

News readers let you get content from just about any website or blog in a easy-to-read and relatively ad-free user interface.  Think of it like an electronic newspaper where you control what makes the front page.  In fact, when Simeon asks “what you doin on your iPad?” I reply “reading the newspaper”. Of all of the news readers I’ve tried, Google Reader is the best.  I can check dozens of sites in a matter of minutes, as opposed to wasting time browsing.  As a result, I’m always up to speed on news in my field, hobbies, as well as general national and local news.  If you have an iPad or iPhone, Reeder is a great client for Google Reader.


If This Then That automates tons of online services in a very user friendly way.  I know that sounds like something only nerds would care about, but here are some ways I use it, only some of which are uber-nerdy:

  • When it’s going to rain tomorrow, it sends me an email.  This alone is worth it.  I don’t care about the weather unless it’s going to rain tomorrow!  Unlike those annoying weather alert sites, these are short one-line notices.
  • When there is a new movie on Netflix, it emails me.
  • When I post to my blog, it posts automatically to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
  • When I upload a painting to Flickr, it posts automatically to Twitter and Facebook, and uploads to DropBox.

If you have a blog, those automatic posts to FaceBook and Twitter are gold!

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