My Five Favorite Tools – so far today


Here are 5 tools I find indispensable on a daily basis. My work centers around them. vi aside (and that’s no small aside. “set -o vi” is the first line of my .bash_profile), here are The Big Five. I’ll deal with Firefox add-ons separately, as there are a few I find irresistible as well as indispensable, and Firefox itself deserves its own post. Maybe several.

And why is it irresistible, indispensable?

In no particular order, the Big 5, without any of which, my life and work become that much more difficult.

Gmail: First, having the subject and the first few lines of a message in your Inbox view is enough to make you take a closer look. The ability to trash or unlabel anything from a single view is invaluable. Such a relief to no longer have to click on an email with the subject “Person’s Name” and the body is “Out to Lunch.”

Labels are a better way of organizing than folders – they’re more like tags. An e-mail can be from the boss and relevant to a particular project (or not), and labels are a great way to do this.

As an extra special bonus, your chats can even be integrated with your e-mail “conversations.” Oh, and Google Apps – they’ve got your whole company covered. Bye bye e-mail server! So long, battling with anti virus and spam appliances and all that crap!

And you can get to it from anywhere, including my Treo 680. So when someone stops me in the hall to request some feature or change or report a bug, I can immediately gmail my Ticketing System, which is …

Best Practical’s Request Tracker, which isn’t a “Computing Cloud” service in the strictest sense, but it is to me as I’ve installed it on my company’s private servers.  Queues, assignments, priority, deadlines, comments. All organized here in a manageable system delightfully simple to use – send an e-mail to it, or reply to an e-mail it sends. It can be a bit exciting to install and configure. But once e-mail aliases are assigned and queues set up, you’re off to the races. Exports plenty of reports, too, so you can really start getting your estimates spot on.

SlimTimer: Easily time tasks, share them, assign them, and run reports. How I wished I’d had this in the mid-90s. Alas, would that it were integrated into RT (or vice versa? Or LiquidPlanner? ) – I could take a ticket, assign it, and boom, have it appear on the particular person’s slim timer – assigned, timed, reported and tagged for me to analyze.

Bubbles: “Webtop” your favorite web sites/ services with Bubbles. Click “X” to close ’em but wait! They’re still running, just minimized to your tray. No wasted taskbar space, no dozens of tabs (or worse windows) open, your desktop remains delightfully clean and devoid of distractions.

Twitter: and so we come to Twitter. Wait. What? Twitter? That tweet thing? You bet. The art and practice of “mindfulness” (well, mine anyway) is very much enhanced by being forced, in 140 characters or less to think about what I’m doing right now. That’s powerful. Read/ listen to what you need to do. Think about what you need to do. Write it out, send it to the world. Wow. Your autobiography 140 characters at a time, as Brian Shaler said in a recent tweet. Think about what you’re doing … right now.

Honorable Mention: to the good old fashioned Yellow Legal Pad and Bic Pen. Aside from my mouse, the only other thing on my desktop is a yellow legal pad and a pen. OK, there’s also a phone, but I never answer that unless it’s a scheduled call. Write it down, get it into the To-Do stream (for me, that’s RT) cross it off. If I don’t get everything into the To-Do Stream before closing time, I revisit after dinner and a nice long walk or run. Every morning I start with a blank yellow pad. And an up to date To-Do stream ready for me to dive in.

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