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The sharpest tool in the shed

by Lauren

I’ve had technology on the brain this week.  Recently, our server failed us in catastrophic fashion (apparently Outlook doesn’t like it when you save all your emails forever and ever just in case you need information later–who knew?), and as the company’s liaison to our IT company, it’s been my good fortune to orchestrate its replacement and the lengthy process of moving from one to the other.  On top of the system upgrade, I’ve been working on a couple new things for the blog (stay tuned for fun changes coming up!), so I’ve been thinking a lot about how dependent we are on technology and how tough it can be to figure out what’s new and worth investigating.

Finding a new tool can change everything.  My mind was blown a couple years back when I found out that you could change existing text from ALL CAPS to various other options in MS Word with the press of two buttons: Shift+F3.  And I can’t imagine how I managed to regularly read any newspapers or magazines or blogs before I found Instapaper and Feedly.

So I’m wondering, as writers or editors or readers, what technological tools do you find that you couldn’t live without?  Have you found, say, a trick in a common program that changed your life?  Or an app that makes you more productive?  What websites make your social networking efforts easier to manage?  Any techniques to make editing easier?  Let us all know below–who knows how many hours you might save of us!

12 Responses to The sharpest tool in the shed

  1. IanBontems says:

    I'm new to twitter and have just discovered tweetdeck. It makes everything more organised and a lot easier to follow.

  2. Mindi Scott says:

    Shift+F3! I'm pretty sure I will never need to use this, but I love that I now know about it. :-)

  3. Tamara says:

    Tweetdeck! Definitely. I didn't get Twitter until I installed it. Plus it's easier to follow Facebook and other social networks.

    For those who don't have Photoshop: Irfanview, a free image editing software.

    And of course everyone knows about control-C (to copy), control-V (to paste), and control-X (to cut)? An easy way to get text between programs.

  4. Victoria Laurie says:

    I'm a gadget girl, and when the iPad came out I was all over it like white on rice! I primarily wanted it for the eReader function, but I've found it offers so much more. One function that I absolutely love is that it's allowed me to completely give up the 17 million notebooks I used to keep on hand, strategically placed all around the house just in case I was in a room other than my office and inspiration struck while I was say…folding laundry. (Yep, I even had a notebook over the washing machine!)
    As my iPad is never far away, (it's sitting right next to me in fact) I just grab it, type the idea or note into my Notebooks app and I am off to the races! I've saved a tree (or ten) and my sanity all in one cool little gadget! :)

  5. M.A.Leslie says:

    I think if you create personal folders on your outlook they will not effect the server and save directly to your harddrive. In doing so you won't screw up the system.

  6. Liesl says:

    Find and Replace is my friend.

    And Gmail is my friend. Never delete emails and I can find anything in my email with their search tool.

    And I love my Macbook. No blue screen of death!

  7. Suzi McGowen says:

    Document Map in Word. I don't know how I did anything without it. In the years since I've learned of it, I *can't* do anything without it!

  8. jseliger.com says:

    So I'm wondering, as writers or editors or readers, what technological tools do you find that you couldn't live without?

    Devonthink Pro, as described by Steven Berlin Johnson here. Especially in conjunction with the Best Book Stand Jasmine.

  9. Mike Mullin says:

    Dropbox.com. Creates a secure online backup of my work-in-progress and syncs the version on my laptop with the one on my desktop automatically.

  10. Che Gilson says:

    Pencil and paper. I'm not kidding. I am woefully not up with technology.

    I enjoy Livejournal because it doesn't have a word limit like Facebook. I don't have Twitter because I won't pay for internet on mycell phone.

    I am dying to get a Kindle but realized that I would also need the money not only to buy one but also to put books on it.

    I adore Photoshop but I use it for my art :)

    iPad looks like fun but I really need a new laptop more.

  11. Liz Hollar says:

    I love meetup.com and all the internet groups for writers to find critique partners and just other writers.

    I like timer programs – On tough to write days they force me to fulfill my quota. On writing fast days, they force me to step back and figure out where to go next before I write myself into a hole.

    I don't have one, but I fantasize about iPads.

  12. DGLM says:

    Thanks, guys! A lot of great tips here, and some of them should be helpful to me, too, even though I'm not a writer!

    I also fantasize about iPads, but I try to pretend that's not true, because it's quite clear that I don't actually need one and will therefore never convince myself to part with teh cold hard cash to buy it.

    Tamara, thanks for the rec on Irfanview–I feel like that'll come in handy.

    MA Leslie, thanks for the tip! We'd actually started archiving onto separate folders on the server (because we back that up instead of our hard drives), but then had to upgrade our server anyway since we'd basically killed the old one with our copious email. There's no limit on the size of Outlook on the new server software, fortunately!

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