The Vanguard View: Insight for Association Websites

Vanguard's 2011 Holiday Productivity and Tech Tool Round Up

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Wed, Dec 21, 2011


Free or Cheap Tech Tools to Increase Your Productivity

The thing I enjoy the most about the holiday season is gift giving. But in today’s tightened economy, many of us are facing reduced budgets and looking for easy gifts to give family and colleagues.

So in the spirit of the season, here is a roundup of some of the best, free or cheap online tools I have discovered in the past year and incorporated into my work and life. Each one has helped with productivity, collaboration or otherwise just getting stuff done.  Enjoy.

    • Screen - Many non-profits and small associations have to share a Webex or GoTo Meeting account, or don’t have one at all.  Well, here’s your free alternative. Simply go to and click on the orange share button to get started and voila... you are sharing your screen with a member 500 or 5 miles away.

    • Screen Capture VideoScreenr – But what if you can’t connect in real time with that member? Meet Screenr.  This web based screen recorder lets you record a quick 5 minute screencast and then creates a link that you can send to someone.

    • File CollaborationDropBox and Box - Emailing is so 2009.  Real collaboration happens in the cloud and these tools make it easy. Simply create an account, store your files and email a sharing invite to your team.

    • Online ApplicationsGoogle Docs – Google is the king of free online productivity tools. If you need a basic word processor, spreadsheet, presentations and more, here’s the place to start.

    • Building Online Forms – Wufoo – For many websites, creating a form to capture information or do a quick poll requires a call to a developer. Enter Wufoo. Simply build your form, grab the embed code and drop it into your site.

    • Note TakingEvernote – With everyone taking iPads and laptops to meetings, it seems like no one is using paper anymore. That’s good because Evernote makes note taking easier. My favorite features include multiple notebooks, tagging, notebook search, multimedia support and plug-ins available through the “Trunk”. But the best part is cross device synchronization. Take notes on your iPad in the meeting  and when you get back to your computer your notes will be there.

    • DiagrammingGliffy – Flowcharts, venn diagrams, sitemaps, network layouts, org charts and more used to require a designer. This basic online tool enables you to get the work done quickly and you can even share your designs online and collaborate with others.

For you Mac users, here are some task specific apps that I have started using as well:

    • TimekeepingStone Hill Time Card - Anyone that has ever worked in a billable situation knows how hard it is to keep track of your time. This desktop app makes it easy to switch between tasks and keep track of your time.

    • Link CheckingIntegrity (Mac)– Webmasters and content specialists need to know when there are broken links on their websites. These tools make it easy to find and fix broken links. (For you PC users there is Xenu Link Sleuth as well but I found the UI of Integrity a bit easier to use.)

    • BrainstormingMindNode – A great mind-mapping tool with a free trial that offers limited functionality or a full featured version. Great for ideation and connecting ideas.

Many of these tools are built on a Freemium model – free version with basic functionality and then paid versions with more options. It’s a great way to try out a tool out and see if it works for you.

I invite you to check them out and let us know what you think.  If you have other tools to add, leave a comment so we can check out your favorite new tools.

Topics: online tools, Communications, Ray van Hilst, Tactics, collaboration, productivity, association technology

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