Here is a list of my top 10 productivity tools that a small business can use. Although these tools are most suited for IT professionals, they are valuable resources for any small business. Although I use them in Windows environment, some of these works in other environments like Unix, Mac etc.
Given below are some of my thoughts on these tools. What is your most favorite tool?
- Pidgin - Let's say your colleague uses gtalk but friends uses Yahoo Messenger and some of your customers have IRC chat client. Once upon a time I used to have multiple IM tools open on my task bar. This became a nuisance as you have to deal with running multiple processes and would contribute to longer boot time of your computer. Pidgin like few other tools in similar category allows you to keep one program to connect to all the chat clients. That way you can keep yourself sane and communicate with all possible Instant Messenger of the world!
Missing: Version 2.6.1 does not support XMPP Voice and Video on windows. So you will probably need to use Skype for voice.
- Google Analytics - This probably needs no explaining. It is a free (still free!) tool to analyze your visitors and how they use your site, also let you look at the conversion rates etc. Over the years this has become more user friendly and powerful. There is no longer any need to buy a tool to analyze the visitor statistics. You get all of it online!. All you have to do is to put google analytics code on all your web pages!
What to watch: Remember Google is also capturing statistics for all your visitors on their server. In their Terms of Service they say that you cannot use their service to track user identifiable information. However, Google can keep your visitor statistics on its server and use it to create profiles for your company which can probably be sold in the near future. Also, the customer support is totally lacking. I once had a problem with my keywords not linked correctly between adwords and analytics. When I filled in their support form, I got an automated answer asking me to read their FAQ, when I replied again, I was again sent another automated email (disguised as a human being) to look at another FAQ. After the third time I gave up.
- Subversion - We switched to this after using years of Visual Source Safe. This free source control platform allows your developers to store versions of their file in a data store. On Windows environment, VisualSVN server is a breeze to install and use. Also there are clients (e.g. TortoiseSVN) that integrates seamlessly with windows explorer, visual studio and various other development environments.
- Notepad++ - I am not sure why the Windows Operating systems is still bundled with the Notepad program, use of Notepad directly translates to loss of productivity time. Many people do not take enough pain to associate their favorite editor with the explorer interface and keep using Notepad. Notepad++, once installed removes most of the restrictions of the notepad. Try it and you will never go back to the notepad!
- MS Security Essentials - This is the latest Anti-Virus and Spam protector software from Microsoft. This will replace the Microsoft One Care software and also may put other competitors (like Norton, McCafee etc.) out of business. I have been using it for a while and am happy with it so far. Microsoft used to have a windows defender program before (automatically bundled with the OS) and the first thing I used to do is to switch it off (which isn't very easy to do!) because it would run in the background and makes your other program go slow. I have not noticed too much slowness with the Security Essentials yet!
Caveat: This is not available for Server Operating System so will not work on windows 2008.
- Serena Prototype Composer - I stumbled upon it when I was looking for a quick prototype tool for a User Interface design. There are times you may want to show your developer a quick wire frame design of the screen you want without getting your hands dirty with html coding etc. After researching through a lot of other tools I settled on this one because of the expressiveness and features.
Disadvantage: This is still designed using the Microsoft.Net Framework 1.1, and still has some minor flaws.
- Jing - Many of us sometimes needs to send screen shot or images to our colleagues or partners. The usual process is (assuming you do not have a screen capture utility installed) to click PrtScr on the keyboard and then copy and paste to MS Paint and then save it and email it using a client. Jing (by the maker of Camtasia) makes life easier by allowing you to store images (and videos) online free of cost. You can then email the link to your contacts.
- Logmein Free - What do you do when you need to connect to your Office Computer from Home or to a bunch of machines from one location (if you are an administrator)? Logmein Free is an useful tool for this purpose that lets you connect without bothering about proxy and other hassles. Best of all it is Free! I even do not mind paying a small amount for these kind of service.
- Xenu Link Sleuth - Ever wondered how many broken links are there on your website? They are sometimes hard to find. Broken links contributes to visitor frustrations and also may bring down your ranking on Search Engines. Xenu Link Checker is a free multi-threaded link checking software that will tell you which links are broken.
- 7-zip - If you are in the windows world, don't forget that there are other options than buying WinZip! In my opinion 7-zip is much better! it can unpack a host of different formats like tar, gz, zip and of course .7z (its own). With little effort (reading online manual etc) you can even create self extraction zips. In download.com, it has about 2 million downloads!
Do you know of any other such tools, Please tell us. Remember it must be useful and Free!