Thing 10: Productivity Tools (2013 version)

(2014/15 workshop begins in November 2014. These older pages will remain, but look for updated versions and new topics as the workshop progresses.)


You made it! This is our final lesson. And it pulls together many odds and ends of tools under the broad topic of  Productivity Tools. This topic doesn’t really need much introduction does it? Really, who doesn’t want to get things done more easily and efficiently? And have more time for other stuff? Many of the tools covered during this course have been  productivity tools. Hopefully some of them have already made it into your regular routine.  This week you’ll have a chance to explore even more. With so many great tools available for us to pick from, the challenge is to find ones that work for us and then stick to it and actually use them.  For our students: Beyond just helping with our own productivity, some of the tools are ones that we could be teaching our students to use as well. Some ideas include:


There’s a long list of tools below and there are many more terrific ones that I haven’t included. You obviously don’t have time to learn them all! BASIC ACTIVITY:

  • Pick 2 tools from the list below. (Or pick something else that you’ve been curious about exploring.)
  • Explore how the tools work and check out the help files to see what features are available.
  • For your Thing 10 blog post, share what you picked and how it worked for you.
  • Do you think you’ll continue to use it? How might you use it with your students?


  • Do you already have a great routine for keeping organized and on track? Share your strategies with us! We can all use some great new ideas. 
  • Do you already have tools that you’d like to use, but haven’t had time to sit down and decide how best to use them? Take some time this week and share your thoughts. 

LOG YOUR LESSON: Don’t forget to log your blog post when you’re done! When you finish this lesson by fill out the log form. You’ll need the URL of your blog post to complete the form.


Notes, bibliographies & more: These are two core tools that are great places to store “stuff.” Zotero is very research oriented. Evernote is a  place to store any sort of information regardless of format.

  • Evernote – Organize and remember everything. Select text & photos on a web page and add it to Evernote. Evernote remembers where you took the text from. Use it to write notes during meetings, store ideas for projects, email photos from your phone and more. Organize your notes into topical folders, add tags to describe the content and aid indexing. Synchronizes across multiple computers and mobile devices. Your notes are always with you. Share folders of notes with others ( eg: Archive of lessons from CoolTools or Polly’s public recipe folder!). Introductory Tour
  • Zotero – a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources. Integrates with your browser, making it easy to use. Works with the Firefox browser, though there are ways to work with other browsers as well. Introductory Tour for Zotero.

Automate everything (well almost)

  • ifttt – If This Then That – A magic tool that simply takes care of repetitive tasks for you. For example: let it monitor Amazon’s feed of free books and send you an email when there’s a new one. Or if you see a photo on flickr that catches your eye, fave it and ifttt can send it to your Evernote account for you to check out later. When I post something to delicious, ifttt also posts it to my diigo account, which keeps my bookmarks safely stored in two places. There are thousands of ideas for using ifttt. Spend a few minutes exploring their tools and recipes to see how useful this can be.

Backup & file storage: We’ve all been there, files get deleted by mistake, the power goes out and work is lost, hard drives fail, panic ensues. Back things up!

  • Dropbox – So handy! Dropbox simply adds a folder to your computer. Drop a file in the folder and it automatically uploads to your account on the Dropbox web site. It also synchronizes with any other computers or mobile devices where you’ve installed Dropbox. Public folders let you share files with others. Free account gives you 2 GB of storage, this isn’t enough to back up you’re whole hard drive, but it’s handy storage space. I use it to make sure I have all the files I’ll need for presentations. Full disclosure! The link to Dropbox is my personal link, if you sign up, I get some extra free storage space. Thank you! 🙂
  • Box – Major competitor to Dropbox. Free account gives you 10GB of storage space. Similar types of features to Dropbox, with one very notable exception. Box lets you collaborate on a document online, at the same time. Dropbox doesn’t do that.
  • BackBlaze – ($) This service backs up content on your computer and does it continuously, in the background. $50/year. Another popular service is Carbonite.
  • Lookout – Don’t forget to protect your mobile devices. If your device came with backup and security options, use them! If not, consider a 3rd party tool like this one. (I love the “locate and scream” function!)

Social Networking & Sharing: How do people manage to post content & updates on multiple social networking sites quickly & easily? They use tools like these!

  • Bufferapp – Handy browser and mobile device add-on for sharing content to your social networks. Schedule post for the future so they’re spread out over time and seen by more people. Analytics show you how many people have shared your post.
  • HootSuite – Web-based service helps you organize your twitter and Facebook news feeds for more efficient monitoring. And adds a bookmarklet to your browser toolbar to quickly update all your social networks at once. Also simplifies sharing a web page or blog post on twitter, etc. Shortens URL’s of the items you post to your news streams and provides usage stats on those links. And lets you schedule updates for a later time.
  • TweetDeck – Very similar tool, helps you see your social media streams all in one place. Tweetdeck is desktop-based rather than web-based. Recently purchased by Twitter.

Reminders, To do Lists

  • Workflowy – Keep Workflowy open in a browser tab – add, delete, organize ‘to-do’ items very easily.
  • Wunderlist – manage and share todo lists across multiple devices.
  • IDoneThis – Simple way of keeping track of what you’ve done everyday. You receive an email once a day, you quickly dash off a reply with a list of what you did. And that’s it, you’re done. Keeps a simple calendar for you that you can refer back to and export for safe-keeping.
  • Remember the Milk – Web-based tool, with app available for iPad & Android. Integrates with Google Calendar, Gmail & Twitter.
  • Reminder Fox – Firefox addon to keep you organized.

Bookmarking (even though we covered these already, I thought it made sense to include them here too)

  • diigo – Another very popular bookmarking tool that has many added features, including groups to pool resources and note-taking options.
  • delicious – Delicious stores a list of your favorite websites online so you can access them from anywhere. AVOS bought delicious from Yahoo in 2011. It seems to still be going strong.

Share your computer screen 

  • Surfly  – This handy service lets you share your browser screen with others. It’s great for showing someone how to use a library search tool or some other tool. And it’s terrific for helping others troubleshoot a computer problem.
  • ScreenLeap – Similar service, free for limited use.

Reading on the web

  • Clearly – This tool is a one of my personal favorites. I hate pages with tons of ads. Clearly strips out all the advertising clutter so you can view pages without distraction. It installs a handy button on your toolbar and all you do is click the button to reformat the page. Highlight text on the page and Clearly sends the document and your highlights to your Evernote account. This tool is amazing!
  • Readability – Similar to Clearly, strips out the junk on a web page and makes it easier to read.
  • Instapaper/Read it Later – When you run across an article, web page or news story you want to read later, use the “Read it Later” bookmarklet to quickly add it to a list of articles that you can access via your computer or mobile device. Very handy.

Odds and Ends



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