Archive for the ‘Tools and Resources’ Category
Suspending projects, leaving customers unsupported, jetting off to somewhere warm, sunny and relaxing may be how holidays are supposed to be – but I always panic that as I fly off to the middle of nowhere, servers will crash, bugs will be uncovered and customers will need assistance which I am unable to provide.
Of course, disaster can be averted, and vacations can be turned into a more relaxing experience through some simple preparation.
Whilst this preparation will vary depending on the type of freelancing work you do, the number of existing customers you have, or number of projects on the go, some preparation activities will work for all freelancers.
My own check list of top twelve pre-vacation activities for restful and stress free holidays are as follows:
- Holidays over public holidays and weekends – Let’s start with the simple ones. Scheduling your vacations to include as many non-working days as possible not only means you are not wasting potential money earning working days, but also reduces the number of days when customers will need supporting. Of course, vacations over public holidays will cost a little more.
- Cut off of Work – I have a two week window before any overseas travel where I will not install software changes of any kind on any customer’s site. In the past, I have found that the bad-luck demons will happily sit back and watch that typo turn into a nasty data corruption bug, which of course will only be discovered 20 seconds after your plane takes off. Leaving a settle in period means any problems should have been discovered by customers before you leave.
- Have an Email Filter - You know all those emails you get with small business tips, blog posts, LinkedIn updates and the like, you don’t need them on holiday. Create a filter which automatically moves them to a holiday folder which you can review on your return. Also worth noting that the rules need to be in your core email store (such as exchange) rather than your email client (outlook) as otherwise the rules will not be applied.
- Have a email Check schedule – and agree this with your partner and friends that are traveling with you. Nothing will annoy your husband or wife more than them feeling like there are on holiday on their own as you always have your phone in your hands checking emails. Two email checks a day is a good compromise, and schedule those times based on the time difference between your holiday destination and your customers.
- Tell the customers – If your customers know you are a one-man-band freelancer, tell them when you are going to be away. Tell them as soon as you book your vacation, so everybody has plenty of time to prepare for the window of ‘no support activity’. Of course, if you are ‘pretending’ to be bigger than you are, tell them anyway, and direct them to a generic support or issues email address.
- Check you can get to the Internet – Don’t leave it to the last minute to check that you can get on the internet at your selected holiday location. Can you access internet via hotel WiFi, via your mobile phone operator – and what will be the speeds and costs involved? Most hotels have a web site these days, and most will indicate what ‘business’ facilities are available. If there are problems, have a backup plan ready before you fly.
- Arrange external support? – If you are supporting important projects or customers, it is always worth speaking to other friendly freelancers to see if they will help support your customers whilst you are away getting a tan. This will need some serious preparation time in terms of technical knowledge transfer, setting up access to the project files, access to the customer files, and of course contracts between you and them. Such agreements do not necessarily need to be for money (you can arrange a situation where they cover you, and in return you cover them), but generally, paying them for their time can be money well spent if it means you can relax on holiday.
- Make key files accessible – Just in case you do end up getting dragged into a support or question-answering situation, it is well worth making sure key files for key customers are to hand and in a format that is usable. For making files accessible, nothing beats cloud storage such as dropbox (which allows access via browser or mobile phone). Just remember that you need them in a format that you can view without a full computer (unless you are taking your laptop). It is no good having your SQL server database backed up to dropbox if you don’t have a server to load the data onto – better to have the table formats and scripts exported into a text file that you can read on a text viewer (same goes for application source files, graphics files (you wont have photoshop available), etc). Also, if in doubt – push all customer files to the cloud as it’s the ones you don’t have access to that you will undoubtedly need.
- Look for common problems – Another good exercise prior to leaving for vacation is to review your old customer support issues and look for common problems. For my customers, the same problems crop up over and over again (forgotten passwords, query on the movements of data through a data system, etc). A lot of pain can be eased by creating a quick ‘how to overcome or answer your most common questions’ crib sheet which you send out before you fly.
- Remote Project Management – For me, there is no better feeling than having a project start off as I fly out to holiday – and knowing that some poor freelancer I have subcontracted to is working hard whilst I drink frozen cocktails by the pool. If you have a cloud based project management system (see below), this can make staying up to speed a breeze.
- Remote issue logging system – As discussed, having a central support email address for incoming issues is good, but having a cloud based issue logging and resolution system is so much better. Your customers will feel more in control, and you (or your friendly supporting freelancer friend) can respond to and resolve issues via an internet connection.
- Possible Remote solutions – The final option is to see if you can organise a remote support situation. I give more details on my particular solution below.
Remote Project Management
One of the cloud based tools that I have been using for the past couple of years has been the TeamworkPM project management system. Having a project system which controls work flow, and that myself, my customers and (in some cases) my outsourced developers can see has been a gods-send.
I am even happier now that I have found that Teamwork PM have mobile phone based applications which run on both Android and iOS based mobile phones. A great tool is now even better – allowing me to track progress on projects, update statuses, chase for progress and keep track of projects whilst I am traveling or enjoying a break with the minimum of fuss and the minimum of data bandwidth (which saves a lot of time and cost when on a roaming data plan).
Using Teamwork and the mobile based client, I am able to keep working whilst sipping a drink, and the project continues along without me – keeping all my customers very happy.
My own Remote Support Solution
In terms of my own remote support system, I recognised that for me, a lot of my support questions came about regarding the data that is held on my customer databases (generally Oracle or SQL Server). Therefore, to aid in remote support, I invested a day and developed myself a remote support system.
The system comprises of two parts:
1) I developed a web form on my own internet server (where I host my business web site) which presents me with a text entry window and a drop down list of my customers. In this window, I can type some freehand SQL script (or pick from a set of 12 common queries), and select a customer. The customer code and the SQL script is then written to a file on my web server
2) I also developed a customer end service, which runs on each customer site (in the background) once an hour, and reads the text file from my web site. If the customer code is the code of the site, and the save time is within the last hour (to stop duplicate runs) it connects to the product database, runs the script, gets the results into an HTML grid table, and emails me the results
It’s crude, quick and nasty – but is very effective.
When a customer logs a support call saying that they need to know why something has happened, I can bring up my web form on my phone, and type in my SQL command (“select * from audit where data = ‘the problem code”). Then I go off and get a drink. One or Two hours later, I get a response email back from the customers database server with an HTML formatted set of the results, as if I was dialed into their computer.
In my leisure, I can look at the data on my phone display, and using my cloud based customer support form, quickly type a response. If needed, the SQL script that I send to be run can be an update (to sort out data), a select on a database object (to view a stored procedure) or can even reboot a server. All from my sandy beach location on holiday.
Whilst my solution is designed to work on client databases, maybe a similar solution will work for you to get web details, page files, documents, or whatever else your freelance business deals with for customers?
If you have never used Google Alerts, it allows you to define a Google search term, and whenever new web pages or sites are created which match your search criteria, Google sends you an email with a summary and link of the new web pages that Google has just added.
If you have never used Google Alerts before, they are well worth playing around with. You just register as a Google user, set up an alert, and say how often new results should be sent to you (most of my alerts are set to be daily). But even if you are a long term user of the service, here are:
10 Google Alerts a Freelancer, Contractor or Small Business should be setting up now:
- Your company name – Get notifications when ever anybody mentions, references or talks about your company.
- Your own name – For the same reason as your company name, but know when they are talking about you personally
- Your land and mobile numbers – Useful to know if your numbers are listed in any directory based service
- Your email address – Not only will you know if you are personally referenced, but also know if your email address is made available on a spam list (which are sometimes published on the web)
- Your post/zip code – To find out what’s going on in your neighborhood
- Your industry (i.e, Freelancing) followed by ” major news”, “import news” and “major changes for ” – Keep up to date with the industry news
- “New mentoring group” for . . . – refine for your geographic location to find mentoring groups when they are set up or hold events (if you need a business mentor)
- Your competitors company name – If you know of multiple companies that do the same thing, keep an eye on what they are doing in terms of marketing, sales, news, products etc – useful for new ideas.
- Your co-working freelancers company names – the same as above
- Your dream and hobby subjects – Be if for travel, photography, fashion or food, there is life outside of work. Keep up to date on new sites and news.
A quick one from me on a internet service I have just discovered – Meetup.com
If you have an interest (be it a hobby, interest, desire, need or even a business aspiration), there will be a group of people out there in your local area who meet on a regular basis to explore and share that interest.
Meetup.com is a free service which allows you to connect to these groups, and attend the meet-ups for a nominal administration charge (typically £1 to £2 per event).
For personal activities, I attend interesting photography events (I have a passion for photography, and the meetups are always at great locations with great subjects) and personal growth events. But I also attend London based business mentoring meet ups as well, where small business owners give each over advice, review each others plans, and allow people to sanity check their ideas.
If you are into business networking, there will also be multiple networking groups in your local area as well.
Meetup allows you to search in your area (or any other specific areas) and you can set a geographical range for meet-ups.
Once you have identified interesting groups, you can join groups to take part in on-line discussions and to be notified of new face to face meet-ups. If a meetup strikes your interest, just RSVP and you will be sent details of the event by email.
As I say, a very useful resource for finding other business (or personal interest) groups for…. as the name suggests…. meeting up.
A lot of the tools I use today are web/cloud based. This is great in terms of functionality/flexibility, but can prove problematic when I want to transfer or quickly capture data.
I have recently discovered a FREE browser add-on called Table2Clipboard, a Windows, Mac and Linux tool which makes copying tables from web pages to offline office applications a lot easier.
This browser extension simply adds a single item to the Edit and right-click context menus. Right hand click anywhere on a table and options appear to copy the entire table, the column or row within the table.
But the best bit is that the option to “Copy whole table,” retains a table’s formatting and makes it far easier to paste and manipulate in Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint or any other Windows/Mac software (including pasting into emails).
If you work with lots of browser based table data (such as FreeAgent, online banking, etc), this free utility is a life saver.
This can be far from ideal, and I often find myself sandwiched between Alison from accounts and Malcolm in Marketing (*names changed to protect the innocent).
Now whilst it can be good to rub shoulders with other people (saves going stir crazy at home), one of the problems that a busy freelancer can face is the distraction of office talk. Who is going out with whom, what happened at last night’s party, and what happened in the program that was on TV last night.
All of this can be very distracting when you are desperate to complete a project and get the invoices raised.
One solution of course is to plug in some headphones and code/write/design to the sounds of your favourite tunes. But sometimes concentration is required, so having the Spice Girls tell you what they really (really) want can be equally off-putting.
Sounds of Nature
So let me suggest to you, the sounds of nature. Rather than having 9-inch nails, Nirvana or Girls Aloud screaming at you, why not drift away with natures ‘white noise’.
As I type this, my ears are filled with the pleasant sound of surf on a tropical beach. There are birds in the distance, the sound of the breeze stirring trees– it’s all nice. It is calming, soothing, blocks the sounds around me, and best of all, it does not distract from what I am doing.
It’s a perfect solution. And you don’t have to stick with the sound of waves. Rain (with thunder) is great, as are the wild animals of Africa or crickets in the grass – there is lots of choice.
Give it a try – for FREE
Want to give it a try? Well I am providing you with two 20 minute tracks for free (from a copyright free source) – one track of the surf and one track of the rain – both are very good. Download the free natural audio tracks here. (zip file containing media files – about 57mb)
Going One Step Further
If like me, you find that your concentration levels go up when listening to the sounds of nature, than I would also direct you to a site which offers very high quality and very good nature sound collections (reasonably priced). Listening Earth is an Australian small business formed by a Husband and Wife team, who travel the earth recording (and photographing) nature. Their downloadable CD collections are what I now listen to whilst working – they are very good.
And I am all for supporting interesting small companies such as these, regardless of what they do as a business, or where they are based. Recommended.
For me, I love reading blogs by other freelancers, marketers and small business owners. Some can lead to advice and ideas which I can directly link to growing my business. But whilst I like reading blogs, I never let the blogs get in the way of my normal day job. Reading blogs for me is an activity reserved for when I am waiting in a queue, or on a train or erm, busy in the smallest room.
I also find myself reading a blog, understanding what the author is trying to say, thinking to myself that “that sounds like a reasonable idea” but never acting on it. I must have read hundreds of posts which caused me to take no action (for whatever reason). I am sure you are the same.
Well, rather than waste any more of your time, can I present to you a list of some of my action suggestions?
Any one of these actions (and associated posts) cover changes I have made in my own business. Each and every one of the suggested actions has grown my revenue, customer base and profits.
Pick one or try them all – I promise all will boost your business.
Ditch your accountant and go Cloud Based I wasted so much money on my accountant that in hindsight it scares me. Since moving to a cloud based accounts system, I have more control, more visibility, and I am saving so much money.
Get Your Terms and Conditions in Order. I know it does not sound sexy, but I know that having a straight forward, short but good set of T&Cs has landed me business whilst boosting my own business protection.
Be Bold, and Ask for the Business. I am a strong believer in asking for what you want (after all, nobody is a mind reader). I have won a lot of business simply by asking for it.
Set Goals. Your business needs goals in order to give it direction and something to aim for. Setting ambitious business goals has really helped me move forward
Reuse your previous work. This is one of my best tips for generating more revenue (cash) each and every day. Try it – you will be amazed!
Add communication and Control through Cloud Project Management. I have been using a cloud based project management system for the past 2 years and it has saved me so much time, effort and money. And my customers love the visibility it gives them. Perfect!
Streamline reading blogs and other content. I have moved reading content onto my mobile devices – and it means I can squeeze more productive time into the day. Free and Easy.
Keep the cash flow by Chasing Customers. My accounts system automatically chases overdue invoices with different levels of warning – which means I no longer have cash flow worries.
Offer a Bonus. And as my bonus suggestion, I recommend any serious Freelancer or Small Business Owner read The Wealth Freelancer – its packed with a whole lot more useful ideas for growth.
In my previous post, I talked about how I have started sending out regular newsletters to my old customers and future prospects. Today, I wanted to cover why, who and how.
Keeping In touch – The Why and Who
I have no doubt that when it comes to marketing, out of sight is also out of mind. Which is why I wanted to start sending out newsletters. But I am also a believer that its easier to win back old customers that it is to find new customers – you never know when that old customer will need some help on a new project, or some additional consultancy time or help on a new project.
With this in mind, I decided that the initial target of my newsletters would be my old customers. So a quick email went to each of them saying that I had been working recently on some exciting other projects and I thought that some of the things I had created whilst working on these other tasks could benefit them to (pretty much those exact words). I said that I was going to be sending out a regular update of some useful routines and tips, and also stressed that the updates would only come from me every 2 weeks or so – so it would not be overload. I also pointed out that if they were not relevant, they could unsubscribe at any time.
My feedback was good – I got 100% sign up on everybody I emailed (although it did help that I had worked with them in the past, therefore they knew what I did and how I liked to share useful information).
Of course, I then took the opportunity to contact my current handful of prospects and offered to sign them up in the same way. So far, the uptake from prospects has been 45% – which I am fairly happy about.
The newsletter – The How
From the beginning, I wanted my newsletter to be no effort for me. I also wanted to keep track of my subscribers, and see if anybody was actually reading the newsletters (no point in wasting time producing something that nobody was reading). After a quick bit of research, I decided that I would use the marketing email system – mailchimp.
Mailchimp is an internet based mass emailing system. It is really designed for sending out large numbers of emails as part of a marketing campaign (you know the ones, the ones we all get every day and curse (50% off sprockets in our Spring sale)). But it works just as well for sending out newsletters.
Mailchimp is not designed to be a free service, but it is free for the first 2000 subscribers with 12,000 emails a month (enough for everybody who could run a small business to keep in contact). If your newsletter gets more than 2000 subscribers or needs that number of emails, you are doing so well you can probably afford to may the $10 a month usage fee.
Setting up a newsletter is a snip – you can quickly design a sign-up form, manually add your subscribers if needed, and then design your newsletter (in terms of Mailchimp, each fortnightly email I want to send I setup as a campaign so I can track who is reading it).
One of the magical things about Mailchimp is that when you register, you give it your personal details including web site, and it does so much work for you – it goes to your web site and finds your web site style sheet and graphics – so straight away it sets up a template with your company logo, fonts and address. All I had to do was enter the text. Text editing is a breeze – you can change the look feel, fonts, colours and so much more within your text. you can also include graphics if required.
Once you have your first newsletter done, you can then duplicate it for the next week, and the next – and just have to paste in the text you need – for that weeks edition. The creation of a newsletter really just takes me 4 or 5 minutes (once I have the text from my Evernote files – see my previous entry).
Once defined, the mail can then be sent straight away, or (as I do) scheduled to be sent at a point in the future. I already have newsletters set up taking me into the summer.
When the emails are sent, MailChimp takes care of everything – the email is sent from your email address, and appears in both text and HTML format (depending on the recipients email client and preferences). Once sent, everything is tracked – for each weeks newsletter, MailChimp tells me how many emails it went out to, how many people it was sent to, how many opened the email , how many clicked embedded links in your mail, how many unsubscribed and how many people it was forwarded on to.
I am sure if I was a big company, I would be using MailChimp for sending offer and sales emails – but even for something as modest as my newsletter, it does everything I need.
So everybody’s happy. My old customers and prospects get some (hopefully) useful information, I get to be noticed by them every week (which should lead to more work), and I get to get on with my day job, leaving Mailchimp to track how well my newsletter is performing.
If you would like to take a look at my sign-up form or even read what I am sending out (my tips are about SQL Server databases tips and useful functions), my sign up form is here.
One year ago today, I evaluated a number of cloud based project management systems to help reduce my administration effort for my customer projects. In the end, I boiled this down to 2 strong candidates (having discounted such products as BaseCamp as being very light on features for a typical freelancer or small business), and finally selected TeamworkPM as the solution I would use.
Having used this system for a year now, I thought it would be useful to re-review TeamworkPM, and explain why it has transformed my business.
Providing a Customer Project Portal
Initially, my main requirement was to introduce a cloud based project system which in turn would provide an easy to use method where my company and my customers could communicate whilst working on projects. I wanted a system which would allow my customers to keep track of their deliveries, to be able to track progress, communicate any design/time issues and so ultimately reduce the amount of administration I would need to provide. I thought such savings should lead to reduced management time, therefore reduce any risks and associated costs.
Whilst a number of project management systems provided a customer portal, I initially selected TeamworkPM as my preferred solution because not only did it tick all my client portal boxes, but the use of the client portal was crystal clear and could be fully branded with my company domain, colour scheme, logo and titles. As far as my customers are concerned, the project portal is part of my own web site. I even provide a link to my branded TeamworkPM login screen as part of my main company web site.
All of the customers who have used the portal have commented how easy it is to use, how clear the information is, and how they can find the information they need. Most of these comments were given to me generally as part of a project wrap up process. For customers to report this to me as part of general project meetings proves to me that TeamworkPM most definitely is an asset to my communication with my customers.
Clarity, Focus and Time Saving
Beyond my initial requirements, I have continued to find more and more uses for TeamworkPM when working both on internal projects (I have a marketing project in TeamworkPM) and with my customers projects.
Whilst initially intending to use it only for external customer projects, I found that the reporting, alerts and screens were so clear, it was actually easier to use TeamworkPM for tracking other internal projects within my business. The whole process of having a clear list of tasks, with tracking, alerts if not completed, and a central associated file store ( for specs, designs, scripts, delivery files, etc) brings clarity and focus. It really helps when juggling multiple projects at the same time.
Whilst I initially hoped that TeamworkPM would help reduce the amount of project updates my company would need to produce, I am happy to report that it virtually eliminated project based discussions. In my last four fairly complex projects, once the project was defined and included in the portal, I cannot recall a single email or phone call regarding dates, status updates, slippage or next actions. All communication could therefore be focused on the design and delivery, so administration time and costs associated with running the projects virtually vanished. Customers could simply log into the portal and see for themselves what was being delivered, when, and what the current status was.
We also ended up using the TeamworkPM file storage system for delivery of all files associated with the project (designs, source and run-time). All of my customers loved the fact that they were automatically notified when files were available, and that they could retrieve them at their leisure. They also loved the fact that all previous versions of files were retained, and so they could go back to older versions should they be needed.
The only feature currently missing from TeamworkPM in regard to using it as a file store for projects is the ability to see when a customer downloads a file. This would be a nice feature, but having checked, none of the other cloud based project management systems I originally looked at recorded or audited this information.
There has been no doubt that using TeamworkPM has been a real boost to my company. In terms of reduced administration for project management, it is equivalent to having an additional member of staff who is running the projects for me. Certainly, the reduction of time spent updating customers on project status or emailing files has meant that TeamworkPM has paid for itself many times over.
But in addition to the time and money that has been saved, it has made my company look more professional and has made the flow of information between my company and my customers virtually seamless. I cannot praise TeamworkPM in this regard high enough.
TeamworkPM is a near perfect cloud based project management administration system. I say near perfect, as there are still a few options which I would like to see introduced. Whilst it produces lots of nice reports and gantt views for project overviews, it still lacks project task gantt views – but this is only a small consideration as the task list works well enough and standard MS project files can be uploaded and viewed. As I say, I would also like to see a flag (or get an email) to say that a customer had downloaded or viewed attached files – but that is just me being picky.
I am very glad that I took the plunge a year ago to start using a cloud based project management system. I dare say that one of the others would have done the job equally as well, but TeamworkPM has proved itself to be the right choice for me.
In fact, two of my customers who used TeamworkPM to track the projects I did for them have now adopted it as their own project management system for their own customers.
If you or your business runs any form of projects, I can really recommend using a cloud based project management system. And whilst there are many products out there, I can highly recommend TeamworkPM.
When I produce estimates or quotations for customers, I generally produce them quickly and easily using the tools available to me in FreeAgent (the on-line accounts system). This works for the majority of quotations as I can use the price list system to easily apply standard items, and the quotations are emailed to my customers using my pre-defined template layout.
However, now and again I have to produce more detailed proposals – with lots of text, examples, concepts, terms and payment profiles. The sort of quotations we all have to produce now and again – the multi page proposals for those ‘larger’ projects.
Recently, I have come across two new cloud based applications which could make the process of quotation generation that little bit easier. Especially where the quotations are repetitive in nature (where the same text is used over and over again).
Both systems are designed around producing quotations. Both allow you to define customers, define price lists of common tasks, templates for look and feel of quotations (colours, fonts, graphics etc) and allow you to add free text. Both systems then allow you to quickly generate new quotes by pulling in items from your price list (then saying how many items/hours/days are required) – and will do all the maths for you including adding sales tax/VAT.
Both systems will also allow the quotations to be sent to your customers by email, to view the quotations in web or PDF views, and both will even let your customers accept (or comment) on the quotations on line.
So initially they appear very similar. However, it’s the way that they generate the quotations, and the integration that sets the two products apart. Whilst both produce similar cost breakdown in the same way, its how they deal with the text that surrounds the figures that is of interest.
Quoteroller is the newer of the two, but for me, has more potential. The big plus for me is that it integrates with FreeAgent. Whilst this is currently restricted to pulling your contacts in (which saves a lot of setup time), the developer says it is early days and hopes to push quotes back out to freeagent in due course. However, it also integrates with Basecamp, Highrise, and Fresh books.
QuoteRoller allows the definition of template ‘pages’ – you can have standard text of any pages which cover any subject required. Within this text you can paste ‘tokens’, so it can insert the client name, company name, project name, quote number and so on in the text for you.
You can define as many templates as you like to cover all kinds of different quotations – and use the same layouts, words, proposals and information over and over again. The templates can include text, images, tables, video, HTML and even links to external web sites. Templates can also be imported from ‘the community’ of users, so regardless of what type of company you run, there will be a template out there to get you going – you just need to customise the text to the way that you prefer to work.
Whilst QuoteRolloer is good, the one thing that is missing for me is a common catalogue of text BEYOND the template that I could pull in before the quotation is complete. As an example, I could create a template which covers everything I do, but have a section that I wanted to pull in for overseas customers which talks about conversion rates. If they could include this, it would be perfect. It also has one major limitation (at time of review) that when entering the cost breakdown, you can only enter whole numbers as a quantity (so if you charge per day, you have the option of 0 or 1, no half day options).
QuoteRoller is free to register and use. However, once you get past the set limit of quotes per month, you need to pay to add additional quotations.
Quoterobot is similar to QuoteRoller, but seems less flexible on the setting of templates. Whilst it is just as powerful on the pulling in of cost items, you have to enter more text at the time of creating quotations rather than using templates (of standard text blocks).
However, quoterobot is stronger in terms of payment terms planning. You have the ability to put payment terms per week and it will include a payment plan chart for your customers which is a nice feature.
The one disadvantage with quoterobot is that its price model is designed around a pay to try pattern – so to give it a try you have to have a credit card handy which I didn’t like (although you can cancel after 30 days if you don’t like it).
If you have to produce any large or repetitive proposals/quotations, either product could save you an awful lot of time.
There are lots of software tools I use on a regular basis. Other than the always open email client (I use outlook), Word is generally open, as is Evenote. However, there has been one tool which I must always have to hand – it’s in constant use and has saved me so much time. That tool is SnagIt.
Snagit is a Windows and Mac screen capture application. It sits in the Windows icon tray, waiting to be called in to action.
One click of the mouse (or activation using the alt+printscreen keys) and it produces a control form which allows the capturing of screens, text and parts of screens with ease in a variety of different formats. It can capture whole screens, windows, multi scrolling windows (perfect for web sites which go beyond the fold) and small areas of screen using a window ‘click and drag’ selection box.
All versions of windows have had their own screen capture methods (such as the Windows 7 snipping tool), but none of them make the process easy, fluid or produce pleasing results.
Snagit’s features also go beyond simple screen capture that makes SnagIt so powerful. You can add borders (like fade or torn edges to indicate a partial screen is shown), annotation (in the form of circles, boxes, arrows, text, etc) and save captures to a catalogue for future use.
When preparing presentations, proposals, manuals, specifications, user guides or even emails, this tool has been a godsend. I can quickly include visuals with the minimum of fuss and distraction.
Snagit is not free (£39 or $59), but it is a tool worth having.
If you like the features of SnagIt but are not willing to pay for the software, then there is a free alternative in the form of GetGreenShot.
This alternative product has many of the same features as snagit, but is not quite as easy to use and does not support as many options for edging of captures and catalogue storage.
But you get what you pay for.