Technology is supposed to make our lives easier that is if we know what were using. With a variety of free tools on the market, its hard to decipher or find the time to investigate the best of the best. Nicholas Gaffney, a partner at Infinite Public Relations in San Francisco, offers a list of his firms top choices of collaboration and productivity tools for all generations.
1. Co-op http://coopapp.com makes it easy to stay connected with your co-workers without disrupting them. Teams can use it to post updates, ask questions, share links and track time. You can share your daily agenda with your co-workers and scan their agendas. No more daily status meetings and no more having to re-create how the time was spent. Co-op automatically records the transcript.
2. CyberAlert http://www.cyberalert.com has utilized multiple sources to compile a comprehensive list of free and low-cost news release distribution services, none of which provides the in-depth distribution of fee-based services like Business Wire, but nonetheless offer worthwhile distribution and search engine optimization links. As a service to its customers and public relations professionals worldwide, CyberAlert maintains and updates this list periodically.
3. Evernote http://evernote.com/ is a memory tool that allows you to make a better-than-mental "note" of whatever you want using your camera phone, phone, desktop or the Web, and easily retrieve it later. The company's killer technology even reads text in photographs, and recognizes handwriting, converting both into files you can easily search for later.
4. Feng-GUI http://www.feng-gui.com just may win the vote for the most entertaining item on the list. Working on your Web presence and need to figure out how viewers will respond to a Web page or a particular image? At Feng-Gui, you simply upload a photo or screen shot, and a heat map of the image is generated to show how a viewer's eyes (and brain) typically scan and process the image. End result? You'll know which parts of a Web page or photo people would spend the most time looking at- and which parts hardly rate a glimpse.
5. Free Conference Call http://www.freeconferencecall.com is a cool and convenient Web-based service that allows you to record phone meetings and consultations, run teleseminars and turn everything into easily downloadable audios. Combine it with Skype, and phone consults with anyone anywhere in the world are free!
6. GatherGrid http://gathergrid.com is the tool to use when you have to schedule multiple parties for a meeting. You can name your event, click times you're available and send a link for others to click their times. It takes about 30 seconds to poll everyone and render all those back and forth emails obsolete.
7. Google Alerts https://www.google.com/accounts/ServiceLogin?hl=en&nui=1&service=reader&continue=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2Freader is invaluable to the PR professional - and a snap to use. Enter keywords you want searched on a regular basis to receive email updates of the latest Google results based on your choice of query or topic. You can customize the content you want searched, i.e., news, video, Web, blogs or groups, as well as the frequency of the delivery.
8. Google Desktop http://desktop.google.com is the easiest way in the world (as far as we can tell) to search files on your computer, including emails, spreadsheets, invoices, Power Point presentations, PDF files, photos, Web pages you've viewed, and, well, pretty much everything else you've ever saved. Installing Google Desktop also means scoring access to nearly 700 nifty interactive tools. Once you have it, you won't believe you ever lived without it!
9. Google Reader https://www.google.com/accounts/ServiceLogin?hl=en&nui=1&service=reader&continue=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2Freader lets you subscribe to Web sites so that new or updated content lands directly in your e-mail inbox the moment it's posted. You can organize the content by subject matter and can also choose to share items with a list of contacts you create, as well as add your own notes to your shared items. It's a much more efficient way of sharing content than adding to the stream of emails that already flows through most inboxes these days. Using two related apps, Google Gears http://gears.google.com/ or Google Chrome http://www.google.com/chrome you can also read content when you're not connected to the Internet - a great way to catch up on your reading on those cross-country flights.
10. Google Trends http://www.google.com/trends lets you compare the world's interest in any topics you choose. Enter up to five terms (names of companies, businesses, industry bigwigs, etc.) and a graph pops up showing how often the terms have been searched on Google over time. You'll also see how frequently your searched terms have appeared in Google News articles. (Want a quick primer? Enter the terms: Ernst & Young, Deloitte & Touche, PricewaterhouseCoopers. Pretty cool!)
11. Google Trends for Web Sites http://www.google.com/intl/en/trends/websites/help/index.html is similar to the general GoogleTrend search, but focuses on Web site traffic. You can compare traffic for up to five Web sites, as well as geographic visitation patterns, and the most popular keyword searches that led people to each site. A stellar way to suss out how your competitors' Web sites are doing.
12. Help a Reporter Out http://www.helpareporter.com is a mailing list, its true - but don't let an old-fashioned connotation prevent you from joining one of the most helpful free PR resources there is. Sign up, and every day up to three emails will land in your inbox, each containing 15-30 queries from journalists eager to connect with suitable sources. It works like this: Journalists submit queries on the Web site, the queries are compiled by a human (you'll never see spam) and distributed to list members. What's in it for you? The chance to hook up a reporter with a knowledgeable insider at your firm.
13. Iterasi https://www.iterasi.net is ideal if your bookmark list has gotten totally out of hand. Sign up for an account, add an Iterasi toolbar button to your Web browser and the next time you see a Web page you think you may want to view later, you can save it with one click. Iterasi preserves each page - meaning that when you return to check it out, it'll look exactly as it appeared when you saved it.
14. Jing http://www.jingproject.com allows you to capture any image on your screen, mark it up using a basic text box, highlighter and a few other tools, and instantly zap the results to others. You can also record a commentary up to five minutes long. It's the perfect tool for anything you want to weigh in on and share with your team, from a competitor's Web site to new office space. You can also capture and add voice comment to videos.
15. Jott http://jott.com is nearly as good as a personal secretary when it comes to keeping you on task and getting your thoughts on paper -- wherever you happen to be. Sign up for an account, and when inspiration (or, say, the need to send yourself a reminder about a meeting tomorrow) strikes, call (866)-JOTT-123 and record a voice message. The message is saved as a voice file and also transcribed into text. Check your Jott account whenever you like to retrieve your files/thoughts/plans for the days ahead. You can also send Jott notes to yourself, and others, via an iPhone application or on the Web site itself.
16. Mesh http://www.mesh.com is for you if you simply heave a sigh in response to the question: "Do you regularly use a desktop computer, a laptop, a cell phone or multiples thereof?" If keeping track of various documents (and deadlines) seems an exercise in futility, try this application, which enables you to synchronize files across all your devices, and access the files from any of them.
17. PBwiki http://pbwiki.com provides on-demand collaboration to manage projects, share and store documents and collaborate. Have someone new coming onboard? Point him or her to the wiki for an instant debrief on everything from office policies and procedures to a client's history and campaign strategy. A wiki is an extranet without the expense of an IT department.
18. PDF Download http://www.pdfdownload.org magically converts any Web page (so long as it's not protected) into a PDF file - an indispensable tool for creating press clips of your online coverage. To use it, just download it to your browser of choice, including Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari or Google Chrome.
19. TubeMogul http://www.tubemogul.com invites users to upload videos to multiple sites simultaneously, and then track viewership metrics such as audience engagement, attention span and site performance - all in real time.
20. Writeboard http://www.writeboard.com should be on your toolbar if creative collaboration is a key part of your work life. The site allows you to create and manage sharable, Web-based text documents accessible from any computer with an Internet connection. Every time you save an edit, the prior version is saved in an easy-to-review pane, giving you (and your collaborators) the chance to be a bit more creative by being a bit less precious with your words. You can't go wrong, because you have nothing to lose!
21. Your PR Pitch Sucks http://www.yourpitchsucks.com may not be for everyone, but face it: Even a seasoned pro could use a pair of fresh eyes (and perhaps some very candid advice) once in a while. Expert members provide feedback on your pitch and, for a fee, there's a 24-hour turnaround service.
22. Zamzar http://www.zamzar.com converts images, documents, music and videos from one format into another. Upload a file (up to 100MB), choose the format you'd like it converted into, and enter the email address where you'd like to receive a link to the converted file. Zamzar stores all converted files online for 24 hours. If you forget to pick it up, you can always upload it again. For converting heftier files, and access to virtual storage space so you can access them anytime, you'll pay anywhere from $7 to $49 per month.
23. Zapproved http://www.zapproved.com is another application that aims to circumvent the endless back and forth of emails. It's like Evite for business proposals. A user creates a proposal and can send it to anyone with an email address. The recipients receive a formatted email that requests a specific response by clicking either the "Approve" or "Deny" buttons. The group can collaborate in a single place online and the decision is stored in a trusted repository for future reference.
24. Zoho http://www.zoho.com offers a suite of powerful productivity and collaboration applications that scale in cost depending on the size of your enterprise. Infinity likes the on-demand CRM, which is free for three users. Getting started is easy - you can import contacts from a CSV file - from there you can keep it as simple or complex as your situation demands, from generating reports and forecasts.