It is no secret that I need to be incredibly organized. I also need to be as frugal as possible, as I make it a goal to be able to save my client’s both time and money. The easiest way to do this is to buy as little software as possible. So how do I manage to accomplish an infinite variety of tasks with minimal software investment? With free software of course! Here is a list of my favorite, can’t live without programs that I have not paid a single penny for, yet allow me to do my job incredibly well.
Organization & Productivity
For organization, I have recently started using Evernote. It has become my one-stop shop for organizing all of my various projects and clients. Evernote allows me to store absolutely everything – text, images, emails, web sites, videos, voice notes, and even my text messages – all in one place, which is accessible to me at any given time, on any device I have access to (Yes, ANY device – PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Blackberry, AND Windows Phone). I can create a “stack” of “notebooks” for projects, and store every medium or communication for that project, which is a lifesaver when I often receive communication in many different forms. And it can all be tagged with keywords, to make finding information easier. Evernote even includes options to create task lists with reminders and the ability to check them off as completed. Really, I wouldn’t be anywhere near as organized as I am without Evernote, and I haven’t even used it to its full capabilities yet. And the best part? No more endless piles of actual paper.
*Evernote does offer paid account options, however I have not required that yet.
Outside of my cell phone, which is not free, I have 2 favorites for communication, and both save me a LOT of money on my phone bill.
#1 is Google Voice. As long as I have an internet connection, I can make a phone call to anywhere in Canada or the US at no additional charge. That means no long distance bills. Big bonus. All that is required is a gmail address and a small plugin and away you go! Though I personally use a handset attachment that I plug into my computer which makes me feel like I am talking on a “real” phone.
#2 is Skype. Yes, I know Google has the capability for Video calls. however that requires me to be logged into my email and sitting in front of my computer, which isn’t always ideal. With Skype, I can have a video conference at any time on my phone. I can also use it to send and receive both text-based messages and data files on the fly, a super convenient option.
PDF Creation & Conversions
The “standard” PDF creator is Adobe, but it is large, cumbersome, and expensive. “Expensive” is not an option is my world, so to solve my PDF requirements, I use 2 different programs.
The first is Primo PDF. It is small and easy to use. Once installed, it acts as a printer to which I can print from any program – including my web browser. It also has a handy drag and drop desktop feature, where I can drag anything to have it converted to PDF. It provides several options for how you want the PDF created, from tiny file sizes perfect for sharing, to image-rich file sizes to send to your printer. It is the perfect basic PDF creator, and completely free.
I use the second program when I require more options on what I want to do with that PDF.
With PDFill’s Free PDF Tools, I can convert PDFs to image files and back again. I can merge files, split files, increase or decrease resolutions, rotate, crop and a host of other requirements that regularly come up. PDFill fills in the gaps between the very basic and the overly cumbersome. PDFill’s downfall, however, is that it is NOT easy to use, which is the reason why I keep PrimoPDF around. PDFill is also archaic in design; reminiscent of the Windows 95/98 days and has a horrible, egocentric habit of constantly wanting to be front and centre. (In other words, you have to manually minimize it, otherwise it will remain on top of every other open window.)
I am no graphic designer, so I have no need for programs like Photoshop, or even The GIMP, the free alternative, but I do have a need to alter images to suit my purpose. Obviously, the Windows standard, Paint, just doesn’t cut it.
Enter Paint.net, (one word). Paint.net is a free image editing and creating program. Like PDFill though, it is a little archaic in design, but cut it some slack – it’s entirely freeware, and it is overseen entirely by volunteers. While the website claims Paint.net to be easy to use and “intuitive”, if you’ve never used anything other than Windows Paint, you’re going to want to start HERE for some tutorials.
People use Cloud storage for a variety of reasons, but for me, the biggest selling point of Cloud storage is the ability to access my files from any computer or device. Another huge selling point of Cloud storage is the ability to share large files. You know, REALLY big files that are too big to email – like videos of your kid’s Christmas concert, or that 102-slide PowerPoint. By storing them in the Cloud, you can easily share these files by simply sending the recipient a URL; they can then download that file at their leisure.
When it comes to Cloud storage, there are a lot of options out there, and what you use will probably depend on your devices and how you use them. I personally use Skydrive & Google Drive, but will be venturing into Dropbox shortly as it has a benefit that no other Cloud storage offers: the ability to share files with people that DO NOT have a Dropbox. (Skydrive and Google Drive both require the recipient of a file to have an account in order to download files.)
Looking for more money-saving ideas for your business? Drop me a line, I can help you find where to “cut the fat”!
Share your comments & favorite free programs here!
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