13 technologies I can't live without

We all have technologies that are absolutely essential to our day-to-day lives. Here is a baker’s dozen of mine…


  1. Google Reader. It took me a while, but I’ve now organized all of my feeds into category folders in Google Reader. I now can simply click on a folder name, scan the post titles for anything that grabs me (I keep Google Reader in List view, not Expanded view), star anything that I want to read and/or blog later, and then click on Mark All as Read to clear the list. I’m currently staying on top of 434 feeds and it takes no more than 30 to 45 minutes per day. If I get behind, no worries. I just clear it all out and figure that topics will come back around if they’re really important.
  2. Google Chrome. Chrome is quite simply the fastest Internet browser out there, both in terms of page loading and initial startup. Google Chrome feeds my need for speed. Firefox seems to drag in comparison. Chrome’s new ability to handle extensions is rapidly eroding Firefox’s plugin advantage.
  3. MiFi. I replaced my wireless broadband USB modem with a Verizon MiFi wireless hotspot. Now, rather than only one computer having Internet access through Verizon’s cell phone network, my family can connect up to five devices, including laptops, cameras, iPod Touches, etc. The coolness of this struck me when we were driving East this winter as my wife checked her e-mail on her laptop, one of my sons played an Internet game on my laptop, and my daughter downloaded new apps for the iPod Touch, all at the same time. Nice!
  4. BlogJet. I don’t always have Internet connectivity when I want to work on a blog post. BlogJet is a powerful desktop blogging client that allows me to work on posts whenever I want. I like that it allows me to post to multiple blogs and it is much easier to use than TypePad, WordPress, or Movable Type. I also use BlogJet occasionally as a HTML editor.
  5. iPod Touch. We have two iPod Touches in our family. When I can pry one of them out of my kids’ hands, I’m increasingly using the Touch instead of my laptop. My two favorite apps are MobileRSS (an awesome RSS reader) and Kindle for iPhone. Although I’m still buying nonfiction books, I’m purchasing and reading more fiction on the Touch rather than buying paperbacks. I don’t have an iPhone because AT&T’s coverage in Iowa is abysmal; I often pair the Touch with the MiFi if I need Web access.
  6. SnagIt. There are lots of different screen capture programs out there, many of which are free. I have yet to find one with the functionality of SnagIt. I use it to capture images from the Web, Adobe Acrobat, PowerPoint, Excel, Visio, and so on.
  7. PhraseExpress. If you haven’t yet used text-expanding software, I promise it will make your life easier. Once you have it set up, you simply type in an abbreviation or short phrase and - presto! - an entire sentence or paragraph appears! I use PhraseExpress for all sorts of things, including customizing my e-mail signature and replying to all of the Did You Know? (Shift Happens) inquiries that Karl Fisch and I get.
  8. EverNote. I’m using EverNote more and more to take notes, capture snippets from the Web, etc. I’m sure that I’m only using a small portion of its functionality. I like that I can access my content from my laptop, the Web, and/or my Blackberry.
  9. LastPass. This is a password manager and form-filler for my Internet browser. I like that LastPass keeps its files on the Web, meaning that my wife and I no longer need separate files on our respective hard drives.
  10. Readability. If you haven’t yet tried the Readability bookmarklet for your Internet browser, give it a shot. I use it far more than I expected to. It’s been a godsend to one of my older relatives whose vision is not what it used to be.
  11. Notepad++. Notepad++ is my favorite Notepad replacement software. I use it to get rid of unwanted text formatting, do basic HTML editing, etc.
  12. Readtwit. I stumbled upon Readtwit because of a tweet from Will Richardson. Readtwit turns your Twitter stream into a clean RSS feed. If there’s a hyperlink in the tweet, it also shows you the first 2000 characters of the target web page; this is incredibly useful. Try Readtwit for a week in your favorite RSS reader. You’ll be hooked too.
  13. Launchy. I’m much faster on the keyboard than on the mouse. Launchy allows me to launch programs, files, etc. with a few keystrokes. My wife: “How did you open that program so fast?” Me: “I can’t tell you all my computer secrets. Then you won’t need me any more!”
  14. I use every one of these technologies nearly every day. They make my life easier, more efficient, and more effective. What are you using that improves your day-to-day productivity and well-being?

    Related posts

    • 8 indispensable items for presenters
    • My computer setup
    • ​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

      Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

      Big Think Edge
      • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
      • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
      • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
      Keep reading Show less

      Is this why time speeds up as we age?

      We take fewer mental pictures per second.

      (MPH Photos/giphy/yShutterstock/Big Think)
      Mind & Brain
      • Recent memories run in our brains like sped-up old movies.
      • In childhood, we capture images in our memory much more quickly.
      • The complexities of grownup neural pathways are no match for the direct routes of young brains.
      Keep reading Show less

      Trauma in childhood leads to empathy in adulthood

      It's not just a case of "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

      Mind & Brain

      • A new study suggests children who endure trauma grow up to be adults with more empathy than others.
      • The effect is not universal, however. Only one kind of empathy was greatly effected.
      • The study may lead to further investigations into how people cope with trauma and lead to new ways to help victims bounce back.
      Keep reading Show less

      Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

      It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

      Videos
      • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
      • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
      • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.