The Top 8 Cloud Apps You’ve Never Heard Of

All of us are already spending a good deal of time leveraging cloud apps for our business. SalesForce, DropBox, EverNote, Google Apps, etc. are all ubiquitous at this point. There are, however, some newer tools that I’ve been dabbling with that are not as widely known.

Prezi

 The biggest downside of using PowerPoint is that it is primarily static and overused (read: boring). Prezi is a very different form of presentation tool that allows you to zoom in/out on themes rather than progress linearly through a pitch. You can see how ideas relate. And your presentations are available anywhere so they can be easily shared or collaborated on.

Workflowy

I can best describe Workflowy as a way to organize any information in a parent-child relationship. It’s similar to a Mind Map in theory, but the presentation is vastly more elaborate. It’s an excellent tool for implementing GTD, for note-taking, and for brainstorming. It’s one of those tools you really need to play with for 5 minutes to understand.

RealtimeBoard

  RTB is your online whiteboard. For those of us with complicated product architectures, you can create, save, and publish your designs so that you can share them collaboratively with clients as needed.

Doodle

 Doodle is something both you and your rep need to know about. Say you have a big group of people you’re trying to wrangle for a next step call, instead of sending endless invites back and forth send them a link to your meeting invite and let them all select the times they can meet. Then simply send one invite with the time you know the folks that you really want on the call will be available. Works with Outlook too.

Gliffy

 Gliffy is your Visio-in-the-cloud alternative. Collaborate and share drawings with prospects. Super easy to use.

Screenr

 Screenr lets you record a quick demo or troubleshooting step and then share online with your team or customer. It uses a Java recorder so no software to download. Way simpler and faster than a Camtasia+YouTube+Dropbox combination.

PDFescape

 If you only occasionally edit PDFs and you need to make a quick change without going through the hassle of exporting and reimporting through Word, PDFescape is a great option.

Coggle

 If you like to use Mind Maps for organization, Coggle is a great option. No software to install and it’s completely free (at least for now). And of course as a cloud app you can easily share with others.

— Do you know about any hidden gems I may have missed? Tell me in the comments

Snooze an email, perfectly size a window, never misspell

1351443473~SnoozeButtonPlzI have a trio of new utilities I’ve been using that are great little timesavers. The first one will help with those annoying email messages you don’t want to look at right now. The second will always get your windows the perfect size for those screen shots, and the third will ensure you always have a spell check available.

Boomerang for Outlook
Website description: Boomerang works like a snooze button for your email. If you get a message that needs your attention at a later time, just select the message, and choose a time from the dropdown. Boomerang will move the message to a storage folder (named Boomerang), and will bring it back to your Inbox at the time you requested. That way, the message gets your attention when you need it. Boomerang can even return the message flagged for follow up and marked unread.

I use a combination of GTD and Inbox Zero techniques to always get back to clean inbox. There are, however, some emails that I just don’t want to process into a task or respond to right now. For example, you get an email addressed to 5 people. You could provide an answer, but you’re probably not the most authoritative source. Rather than drop it into a Waiting task, you can just snooze it for a day so you don’t see it. If no responses come by the next day, I go ahead and answer.

Note this is a paid app. There are some freeware options available that may work depending on your setup such as Snooze your Email for Chrome or some Outlook views tweaking.

Sizer Software
Website description: Sizer is a freeware utility that allows you to resize any window to an exact, predefined size. This is extremely useful when designing web pages, as it allows you to see how the page will look when viewed at a smaller size. The utility is also handy when compiling screen-shots for documentation, using Sizer allows you to easily maintain the same window size across screen grabs.

My main use for this is creating screen shot walk throughs and demos. Rather than using the Snipping Tool with varying results, it’s faster to get the window to the exact size you need using Sizer (for PPT for example) and then use Alt-PrintScreen to grab just that window.

tinySpell
Website description: Occasionally you need to check spelling in an application that does not include a spelling checker and you don’t want to launch your word processor just for that. This is when tinySpell becomes handy. It is a small utility that allows you to easily and quickly check and correct the spelling in any Windows application. 

We often write text in a variety of applications like Notepad (or Notepad++) that don’t have spell checks; or even if they do, it’s a manual process. This is just much easier to correct on the fly no matter where you’re typing. Make sure you take advantage of the feature to exclude some popular apps like Office that have type-as-you-go spell check already. It’s annoying to have redundant alerts.

Managing Your Desktop and Screenshots

I have a trio of tips including a free utility that will help you better manage your demo and documentation. First, we’ll look at a couple simple tricks will help you save a lot of time writing documentation and capturing screenshots. Next, we’ll look a cool utility that will help make your demos super-professional, no matter how messy your desktop is.

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Keep your screensaver at bay

Keeping with our tools theme for the quarter, here is a great little gem for those of us with policy-based (read: mandatory) screen savers on our laptops. Have you ever been in the middle of a presentation or demo when your screensaver came on that interrupted you? MouseJiggler comes to the rescue…

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Plow through log files in no time

Taking a break from some headier topics, I’d like to explore a few utilities that may make your life a little easier. To begin, have you been in the lab or at a POC stuck troubleshooting a problem and finding yourself in logging hell? Have you ever wished you could tail a file on Windows or keep many log files open at once? There’s a great little utility called BareTail that might be perfect for you.

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Top apps for SEs

I must admit to being fairly intrigued with my new iPhone. This is probably because 1) I’ve had the same old Blackberry for 5 years now, and 2) I had to wait for such a long time to get it on Verizon because I wouldn’t switch away.

During my conversion I of course plunged head first into the world of apps. The first of course being an Angry Birds download. In my research I came across many top 10 lists for various audiences and I thought we (SEs) warranted our own.

I went about this list in a couple ways. First, being cheap, I prioritized apps that are free that do the job well enough. While a couple apps are iPhone specific, I specifically selected some apps because they had wider availability for our android friends. Finally, I assumed you spent a lot of time at customer sites and a moderate amount traveling regionally within the US.

Some of these I’m sure you’ll be well aware of, but hopefully there’s a few nuggets in here worth your time.

So, in no particular order:

Dragon Dictation (free)

While the speed at which high school students can whip out a text via thumb-typing is certainly impressive, there are better ways to writing that 2 paragraph reply on the fly. Dragon provides a free mobile version of their desktop software that records and transcribes your voice. I can attest that it actually works very well and saves me time on anything over a 1-2 sentence reply. Simply open up the app, dictate your message, make a few (if any) corrections, and copy it into an email, text, clipboard etc.

It’s dirt simple and really shines because of its accuracy.

Mapquest (free)

Mapquest is the only free app that gives you voice prompted turn-by-turn directions and is GPS integrated. I’m sure there are many better solutions out there for a fee, but I get by just fine with this app and it rarely can’t locate the place I’m going. It does lack a good general map-based search feature which Google does so well, hence I do have to switch back and forth sometimes. That said, it allows me to skip carrying a second stand alone device or paying the 10 bucks at the rental car counter.

Award Wallet (free)

Assuming you travel you probably have a few different accounts for air, hotels, cars, etc. and it can good to see what rewards options you may have with each one. Award Wallet syncs all of that data and makes it available on your mobile while traveling. That should save you some hassle of having to log into a half dozen single purpose vendor apps. By keeping all of the data in one place it gives you a single view itinerary of your trip. Very handy.

Another companion app is TripIt, which was recently purchased by Linkedin. It also manages your travel and has a easy email option to load data, but it doesn’t monitor reward data as Award Wallet does.

Mocha VNC (free)

As much as we try to compartmentalize and make ourselves self sufficient on the road, there are always times it would be great to have access to our home or other desktop systems. This app gives you remote access to your VNC server from your phone. Navigating takes some getting used to, and you definitely wouldn’t touch up a photo using this, but if you need to get to something to attach in an email, or start an FTP upload, it will allow to get it done.

SalesForce.com Mobile (free)

For users of the SFDC CRM tool, this gives you quick access to perform reference checks and quick searches for something you may need onsite.

EverNote (free)

This note-taking app narrowly beats out the Microsoft OneNote app simply because its host version is free online. It has all the features EverNote users expect and the interface is quick to move around in. This doesn’t replace taking notes in a meeting, but does allow you jot quick notes and record critical bits that you need synced when you get back to your laptop.

iBooks (free)

iBooks is here not because of the app itself, which everyone likely already has, but what you can use it for. Most folks overlook the PDF option. Simply take your product manuals, whitepapers, and other docs and load them in bulk. Whenever you’ve got some downtime you can make a little progress or look up an important tech fact when your laptop isn’t nearby.

Linkedin (free)

I find the mobile app useful when you’re at the customer site and you find out you’re going to meet someone unexpected. During a 5 minute break (restroom or otherwise) you can do a quick search and get some good data about the prospect. usually it turns up at least something in common you can use to build rapport.

Card Munch (free)

Snap a quick photo and it gets turned into a contact record. Good for removing clutter and having to keep track of them for later.

Side tip: Keep the cards out and accessible while in the meeting. Arrange the cards in the seating order of the table to keep names straight. Only after the meeting should you scan and discard.

O Player HD (free)

If you’ve tried to take some movies with you on the road, you know what a pain it is to convert everything to Quicktime format. O Player plays pretty much everything. Even better, it can wirelessly access a Windows/Samba share to copy files (in addition to via iTunes). While the entertainment value on the plane is good, it also is great for productivity. Similar to iBooks, you can load up the webex recordings and other (e.g. .avi) content. Fill in your downtime into some training cycles.

ApptDialer ($4)

This is a gem of an app for iPhone users. I’m sure you’ve noticed (and if you’ve used a Blackberry you definitely notice) that you can’t direct dial a conference number+passcode from the Location field in a calendar entry. Since some of them have 10-digit passcodes this quickly had me searching alternatives. Outside of jailbreaking your phone, ApptDialer is the way to go. It gives you a slide wheel of all numbers in an invite and constructs the complex dial code for you. Don’t tell them, but I would have paid $10 for this.

Side tip: If you’re always dialing into a certain bridge like yours, your reps, boss’s etc. you can construct the same dial sequence in a contact record which is even quicker than using ApptDialer.

Why Apple blew this feature so badly I don’t know, but I’m sure it involved a kickback from someone.

Calendar Alarm ($2)

This is another app for the blackberry->iPhone converted crowd. You quickly notice there is no way to snooze a calendar invite. Cal Alarm does a bit more but that’s the killer feature that actually made me shell out a couple bucks for it.

Webex Meeting Center (free)

Most of us spend a good deal of time delivering webex-style presentations to remote customers. This app is handy for two reasons. First, it allows you to view
presentations that your rep might be giving or while you’re sitting at the airport dialing in to some corporate training. Second, while I wouldn’t recommend you
use this to do a screen share, it’s good enough that you can pull over to the side of the road and share a slide deck and advance the slides. Sometimes that’s enough.

While I mention Webex, GoToMeeting and others are available that have a similar featureset.

Dropbox (free)

I don’t keep it a secret that I love dropbox and use it for a great many things. The dropbox app works as advertised and comes in very handy for accessing notes and any other files that natively open on the iphone. Since I keep my active customer folders inside Dropbox it gives me access to pretty much everything else I need on the road. My one complaint is that I can’t set it to sync all files in certain folders. That would be the icing on the cake.

Toodledo ($3)

With a myriad of free options why pay 3 bucks for a task list? The answer is simplicity in my case. Toodledo is the only free web service that allows for Outlook synchronization. I wrote about this in depth in my GTD series. Toodledo made a smart business move charging a 1-time fee for an app (something I would do) to pull money in from an otherwise free service that many rely on. This allows me to keep 2 different computers, and iPad and iPhone all synced and it works very cleanly.

Side tip: Many people sync Outlook via “contexts”. The Toodledo app relies on folders. Therefore, you’ll need to reset your sync app to map Outlook categories to folders.

Flight Aware (free)

This app simply gives you the most reliable flight status of any source/app I’ve tried. They must have a mole in flight traffic control because I get time updates several minutes faster that competing services. The first update is almost always the eventual arrival/departure time as well; contrast that against SWA/AA/UA/etc updates that seem to update in increments of 15 minutes (my guess is to let passengers down easy?).

Productivity Boost – Managing License Keys

Every so often an event happens that makes you realize you need to be better organized in a certain area. For me, wasting the better part of a morning dealing with license key headaches prompted some investigation. Since many SEs have to manage a suite of keys for themselves and the products they sell I thought I few pointers relevant.

1 – Gather existing keys
Since almost everyone deals with Windows and Office let me start there. Reader JS pointed me to a great little app called the Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder. It can be used to extract MS license keys from your OS for later reference.

Many products allow you simply to go to Help>License/About/Activation/etc to view your key. For those that don’t, about.com put together a nice reference list of several key finding applications. If you still can’t get a specific key Google may be able to turn up someone who has solved that problem for your product.

2 – Storing keys
Since we’re basically talking about storing paired names (apps and keys) you can work in pretty much any solution to store your keys. I used to have a Google doc I could access from anywhere. You can even buy a special purpose application or freely download a slightly more robust Product Key Manager, though I don’t recommend it.

For the more security-minded, I recommend leveraging your existing password manager. Set up the name of the application and use the password field for you key. This keeps them secure and ensures you don’t need yet another single-purpose app.

3 – Keeping it updated
I sync my password app among multiple computers so I always have it with me when I travel. Depending on how your company manages demo/trial keys, you might be able to set a standard task in your calendar to get a new key set monthly (or whenever it makes sense). That way you never have to worry about showing up to a customer without a key or needing one for a different expiry timeframe, etc.