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Software I Love

Editor’s Note

This is a compensated review for BlogHer and Intel.

I’m a tech geek. Not enormously so, just enough that I take full advantage of technology, and end up getting most things done on my computer– anything from organizing my to-dos, doing finances (both personal and business), finding recipes, buying diapers, running my businesses, to even buying groceries.

Running several businesses on one (not so) little laptop has been the story of my life for the past few years. These days, with the addition of a very active and curious 10 months old baby, being productive and efficient while I have time on the computer has become increasingly important (try ignoring a crawling baby with four teeth for 5 minutes, and he’ll make sure to get your attention – with his teeth on your knee.).

A week ago, I received a new computer from the generous gals at BlogHer, powered by the Intel® Core i5 processor, with a gazillion bytes of hard drive space.

Apparently, the new processor is faster and designed to help you run many programs at the same time.

I hope it doesn’t suck, and if it does, I will write about it.” was my last thought when I agreed to review it.

I have to say, I was pretty surprised at the speed of the new processor. It sped through all my tasks faster than my current laptop.

I could run Photoshop, have several dozen Firefox tabs open, listen to music in iTunes, and be writing the next blog article, while several batches of images are being processed in the background in Lightroom. That made me happy.

TaDa! Me with the laptop containing Intel’s new fast processor, Intel Core i5.

In case you’re curious, in today’s article, I will detail the software I use on all my computers. This is a slight divergence from our usual topics on personal happiness, but I do get asked about this regularly, so I’ll just lay it out here in the spirit of helping you be more productive when you’re on the computer.

Like I mentioned last week, I’m not a total GTD geek, but I am a keener, (Canadian slang. Click on link to learn a new word.) who strives on being efficient and productive with her time.

So, of the tools I use, I use them for a reason. They work, and help me be productive with my limited time on the computer each day.

I must warn you that my setup may not work for everyone, so be gentle on me if you disagree. All I’m saying is, “this is what I do.” Okay, here we go.

Software I Use:

I use Gmail for email. Firefox and Google Chrome for web browsing. I don’t use IM or a RSS reader, if I want to subscribe to RSS, I do so via email, since emails are easily filtered into labels while skipping the inbox. This way, I check specific labels when I want to.

MS Word and Excel for writing and spreadsheets, I use Google Docs for file storage, and to create simple spreadsheets and documents (I recently discovered WriteRoom, and am trying it out).

I use Google Voice to send text messages (for free), and use its phone number each time I fill out a form somewhere asking for my phone number, so I never get spam calls on my actual cell phone. I use Skype for video calls to family and friends.

For my wedding photography business, I use Adobe Lightroom 3, Photoshop CS3, and iMovie.

For managing my finances, I use Excel spreadsheets and Mint (I love mint, and recommend it. It’s free.). To manage my weekly activities, I use Google Calendar, which is super user-friendly, free, and has many useful features.

In addition to scheduling, I use Google Calendar to remind me every year of people’s birthdays, for example. It sends me an email a week in advance, then 3 days before and then on the day of. I also use the scheduled reminders to remind me to order new contact lenses for my husband and I, or to give our dogs monthly flea shots. Reminders can be emailed or text messaged to your cell phone. Super convenient. I love Google, as you can tell.

For running a local instance of my websites, I use MAMP (Windows equivalent is WAMP). WordPress is my software of choice for blogging. Running a local web server means that I don’t have to FTP each time I make a small tweak just to see how it looks. For FTP, I use FileZilla.

For communication with employees (I have them through out the year for Internet Marketing projects), I love Jing, which allows you to easily record your voice and capture what you do on your screen. It’s free.

For storing passwords, I use KeePassX (ever since this site has been hacked, I locked everything down securely and changed all the passwords to such complicated long strings that I can barely type them). I store the backup files in Dropbox, a secure online storage solution (both free!!).

For watching videos and DVDs, I use VLC. I love VLC, because it plays DVD files stored on your hard drive as if it’s spinning in the DVD drive. This way, you can drag your DVD movies directly to your hard drive, and each time you watch them, it doesn’t damage the original disk.

On a PC, I’ll also setup one-click dvd rip, because it’s awesome and quick to backup DVDs in one click (even copyrighted ones – *which I own*).

On a non-PC (like the brand with the logo that resembles a fruit) I’ll also setup VirtualBox, and then install Windows for Windows specific software that I need – mostly for Internet Marketing.

I spend a lot of time in Gmail. Not just for emailing, but use it to create to-do lists. I save to-do lists as a draft, so I can quickly access them with a click to the draft link. I rarely delete, but use labels for filing, and the archive feature. I also use Gmail drafts to store random thoughts that I have to write down, and notes for things. Before Gmail, I just used a txt file on my desktop.

Firefox has many extensions you can install. The up is that there are many useful and shiny programs. The down is that the more things you install in firefox, the more memory leaks happen, the more RAM gets eaten up, the slower your computer will perform (after a certain point). So install what you need, and uninstall or disable the rest.

Here is a list of all firefox plugins (add-ons) I have installed on all computers. I’ve broken them into two groups. One for normal people:

  • Delicious Bookmarks – the best Universal bookmark solution in the world. Accessible from anywhere. People who I’ve converted all agree that it’s amazing.
  • Alexa SparkyAlexa ranks all the websites in the world based on traffic and gives you a score. It’s interesting to see where a site is ranked, to determine its popularity. For example, YouTube is #3, that means the 3rd most visited site out of all the hundreds of millions of sites out there, on average, in the last 3 months. Anything under 100,000 means it’s a professional site with some real traffic (ie. several thousands of people visiting daily). This is kind of a geeky tool, but for you analytical and curious minds, give it a try.

… and one for geeks like me and web designers:

  • Firebug – best css debugging tool. If I could marry one firefox add-on, this would be it – we’ve spent many hours together.
  • MeasureIt – ruler to measure anything you find online – super convenient.
  • Rank Checker – find out Google search results for your website on a particular search term.
  • SEO for Firefox – lots of useful site data in google search results.
  • Web Developer – essential for all web programmers.
  • ColorZilla – eyedropper, color picker, page zoomer too. Useful for web designers to quickly pick up colors on their screen.
  • Organize Status Bar – to make it so the status bar icons can be moved around to my liking.

Win $250 Gift Card

Like last week, you can comment in this post for a chance to win a $250 Best Buy gift card, sponsored by the generous BlogHer and Intel.

Each person gets two entries/comments per post. You can comment here and at last week’s article. Comments will be combined and randomly selected after Dec 22, 2010.

To enter in the $250 gift card giveaway, simply Leave a comment with a short answer to any one of the following:

  • what do you spend time doing mostly on the computer?
  • what will a faster processor do for you?
  • what software do you love?

Alternatively to voting, you can enter into the sweepstake by doing any of the following (official rules for alternate form of entry):

  1. Tweet about this and comment with the tweet url.
  2. Blog about this and comment below with url to that post.

To read more details, or simply to learn about the productivity system I use, check out my article from last week: The Simplest Productivity System.

Remember, to increase your chances, you can submit additional entries to last week’s post. Good Luck!

No duplicate comments.
You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:
a) Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
b) Tweet about this promotion and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
c) Blog about this promotion and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
d) Read the official rules for alternate form of entry.

Sweepstakes ends 5 PM PST on December 22, 2010.
This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older.
Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail.
You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.
The Official Rules are available here.

P.S Check out the round-up page to enter into the sweepstakes to win 1 in 4 laptops.

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About the author

Tina Su is a mom, a wife, a lover of Apple products and a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) for our motivational community: Think Simple Now. She is obsessed with encouraging and empowering people to lead conscious and happy lives. Subscribe to new inspiring stories each week. You can also subscribe to Tina on Facebook.

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450 thoughts on Software I Love

  1. I spend most of my time on my computer running a dominoes league at . I got into it about 6.5 years ago and hosted on and off until about 2.5 years ago when I got really into it! Thanks for the opportunity!

  2. Debbie M

    I spend my time on the computer looking for coupons deals at the grocery store. I am a huge coupon queen and I love to save money at the grocery store. I also check email, surf the web checking out news and the latest gadgets and gossip.

  3. My fave software is Adobe Photoshop.

  4. Rita M

    Family is pretty much spread out all over the country – so, Facebook, e-mail & Twitter are used daily.

  5. tallcapp

    I spend a lot of time online keeping in touch, via e-mail, with friends all over the US. I also read a lot of news sites by NY Times online.

  6. Janice Whitaker

    I want to buy me a Kindle

  7. Debra

    Mostly keep up with other blogs, work, email…

  8. Lisa G.

    Most of my computer time is looking for great deals online and staying in touch with family and friends.
    lisalmg25 at gmail dot com

  9. Lisa G.

    I Tweeted this giveaway.
    lisalmg25 at gmail dot com

  10. Sand

    I spend a lot of time doing research for work and using Gmail!

  11. dawn

    A faster processor will allow me to video chat with my sister in Canada

  12. R Hicks

    my fav software is probably microsoft office. I get so much done with it

    ardy22 at earthlink dot net

  13. Eva Zamudio

    I spend a lot of my time reading or watching personal development blogs and videos. Of course, besides checking my mail =)

  14. Christina

    what do you spend time doing mostly on the computer?

    Other than work…Mostly internet browsing!

  15. Eva Zamudio

    The software I like most is Skype because it enables me to communicate with my family who live in another country.

  16. Shannon

    I visit various websites and email mostly, sometimes I play a game

  17. Diane Baum

    Sadly, I spend most of my computer time creating lesson plans and entering contests.

  18. Cathy W

    I mostly spend time entering sweepstakes on line.
    cjwallace43 at gmail dot com

  19. I use it to work since I work from home and enter sweepstakes when I can. Thanks! thebubbledies(at)gmail(dot)com

  20. heatherzilla

    I spend most of my computer time social networking.

  21. Btrflywmn

    love photoshop

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