We’ve been gone for a bit of a holiday break. We thought we’d make up for it with our top ten apps; a “best of” compilation from a year’s worth of hands-on experiences with the apps and services. These are the tools we use every day and depend on to keep our sanity and keep our businesses running.
Rate us on iTunes
The Top Ten
- VyprVPN (Ep14) Keep your online activities safe and private, especially when using a coffee shop or hotel WiFi.
- 1Password (Ep01) Easily create a unique password for every website that needs a login. Securely keep account numbers handy (like frequent flyer or hotel account numbers) and a lot more.
- Square (Ep33) & Stripe (Ep32) Take credit card payments in person or over the web. Create invoices, sell products. Provide receipts to your customers via text or web.
- TextExpanderTextExpander (Ep07) Save time with shortcuts for commonly used text snippets (even with images). Simplify email signatures, boilerplate text for contracts or form letters.
- Freshbooks (Ep48) Invoicing, payments (online & offline), time tracking & billing, project & time tracking for teams.Grammarly
- Grammarly (Ep17) Like having an editor look over your shoulder to fix your spelling and grammar errors. Never send out another email or newsletter with errors again.
- Zapier (Ep26) Tie together over 1000 applications. Automate one app to send data to another and trigger events like emails, invoices, etc.
- Buffer (Ep01) Schedule your social media posts across multiple platforms.
- MileIQ (Ep4) Track your personal and business mileage without having to remember to start an app at the beginning of your trip. Export your business trips as expenses to services like FreshBooks.
- Evernote (Ep30 & Ep31) So many features we had to give it 2 episodes. Take notes, web clippings, photos, PDFs, audio recordings. There’s more. Lots more.
Honorable mention: Ecamm Live (Ep41) with Ecamm Call Recorder For Skype (Ep35) A desktop app to do Facebook Live. Have mini-webinars with viewer chat windows, add text overlays to your video, use your camera or recorded video. Bring in Skype video chats to broadcast your interview as a Facebook Live session. Make recordings.
We hope you find some or all of these apps valuable. We’ll be back after we’ve had time to gather up a fresh crop of new apps and services and test them. We share only the best with you. If you have a favorite app, let us know and we’ll check it out.
Glen: Welcome to productivity zone, a podcast about business solutions with a twist of social.
Kimba: And we’re back.
Glen: And we’re back.
Kimba: Have you missed us?
Glen: It has been a little while our holidays were a little longer than we expected.
Kimba: I was a little sick. A lot sick. A lot sick. So we have been not recording. But there’s been a couple of reasons why.
Glen: Yes. We didn’t desert you. We’re still here.
Kimba: It’s just a temporary break. Until…
Glen: Until we can… be able to evaluate stuff that we think is worthy about talking about.
Kimba: Yeah, right now we just sort of need to reevaluate and figure out where we’re going to move from here. And yeah, find some new stuff. So we are going to take a break, but we’re not leaving permanently.
Glen: Well, we’ve… yeah, we’ve been looking, a lot of stuff is coming out. Most of what we’re seeing, frankly, we just don’t think it’s worth talking about because it hasn’t been up to our standards yet.
Kimba: It hasn’t been up to snuff.
Glen: Yeah, we only want to tell you about things that we believe in and we think that are going to be good and they’re going to do the job for you and things that we are using ourselves. So there’s some stuff out there we’ve got to evaluate and see if it makes the cut. And that’s going to take a little while to put this stuff through its paces Plus, you know, give a little chance for some new products to come out and hit the market
Kimba: and I need some time to heal.
Glen: Yes. At least you’ve got your voice back.
Kimba: Yeah, part of it. It’s still to me. It still feels tinny.
Glen: Yeah, that was one of the big delays. We had to wait for him to get her voice back so we could record this.
Kimba: Okay, so today we’re going to talk about our top, Glen:‘s top five, my top five apps, the things that we keep coming back to that we keep using that we just really enjoy.
Glen: And we have not shared our lists with one another. So we’re gonna have to see
Glen: what kind of duplicates we have here.
Kimba: So well, there’s gonna be a part of winging it.
Glen: That’s right. Well, I have a couple backups just in case
Kimba: You have it written down. I have nothing written down in. It’s all up in my head. Okay, so you want to go with your first one?
Glen: It’s a dangerous place to be. Yeah, actually this… with a lot of stuff that’s been going on; government rulings, FCC expansion of the section 702, Communications monitoring with the NSA, all that stuff, privacy is becoming a lot more important on the internet. And we had talked previously, actually way back in Episode 14, I talked about VPNs and one of the ones that I had discussed at the time and said I believed in the company I liked what they were doing. They had a strong presence in net neutrality and privacy. They support the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and their product was Viper VPN by the company Golden Frog, and I said that I was going to give this thing give this thing a try. I had been using another one I still have the other one which used to be called Cloak. They’re now called Encrypt.Me. But I picked up Viper back in November. I put it on my phone or on a tablet, put it on my laptop and have been been using it and find out that it’s, it’s works much better than it did I think two years ago was the last time I tried giving it a good evaluation. It had a little, little bit of an issue with the time with recognizing networks that it should not start on that they were trusted, like your home or your work network. And that’s taken care of it’s works nice and smooth now. They’ve got lots of access points throughout the world.
Kimba: I love how many access points they have.
Glen: Yeah, and they also have a… they use their own DNS servers. So you don’t have to worry about, you know, where you’re going being tracked through logs on the VPN servers. And if you’re actually going to be in a situation like, I know you’re a journalist and going to China. They have, at least for the desktop apps, they have a Chameleon VPN protocol that scrambles the packets so that whatever provider you’re using can’t detect that you’re actually using a VPN. Because there’s usually there’s a fingerprint left that says, “Oh, look, they’re using a VPN. We can’t see what they’re doing, but we know they’re doing something that they’re keeping from us.” Well with this, it scrambles it up so much that it doesn’t have that fingerprint.
Kimba: Okay, let’s get really, you know, into the spy mode here.
Glen: Yeah, well…
Kimba: I have it on mine and I have it on all ofah John’s stuff too, because we’ve been using it and I’m really happy with it. John gets a kick out of I’ve seen where he’s coming out of. He likes checking out the access points. He gets a kick out of that.
Glen: Yeah. And, of course, one of the settings in there is just to tell it to choose the fastest.
Kimba: Yeah, that’s how I have mine set on.
Glen: Yeah, which is fine. And you can set a couple of couple of favorite locations, like I have several of the US locations selected. Because if you’re going to do something like oh, you know, Amazon or the Apple store or other things, and you live in the US, you want to make sure that when you go to visit those stores, you’re going to get the US version, otherwise you run the risk of getting a notice that says, I’m sorry, we don’t ship outside the US. So it’s, yeah, it’s it’s just convenient. As a nice middle ground in there.
Kimba: Okay, so that’s VPNs.
Glen: That’s VPNs.
Kimba: Okay, so my first one is one that I use every single day, several times a day. 1Password. There’s I’m sure that was on your list here. Right, Glen:?
Glen: I actually didn’t, just because I use it so much. And I was kind of thinking that password managers are way more mainstream these days. So I really didn’t have it in there. But yes, it would be.
Kimba: I use it so many times and I have recommended it to so many people. But 1Password just saves me all the time. I mean, I have all my credit cards in there. I have my my bank stuff I have all my client passwords. I just have everything in there so I don’t have to worry about where everything is.
There are times that I can’t remember a website. You know, where I can’t remember what what’s the name of the website where I got those, like Deposit Photo? You know, I can’t remember and then I’ll just look through all my sign ons on 1Password, you know all the passwords and there was like oh, that’s the name of that one. I do that quite often because I forget.
Glen: And what’s handy too is that you can have multiple vaults. Yes, that information in there. So I have a shared vault that I share with Julia, my wife, because there are… Oh, things like our banks, that they’re not set up to be able to handle each person having an individual login that they will not,
Kimba: Yes, you have to have one
Glen: You have to share an account is what it comes down to. So it always was a nuisance because I got a call from her or a text asking me did I change a password because she can’t get into the account now. So by putting it in a shared vault, it’s always kept in sync. And it’s always going to be the current info. And I know that they did had one other feature too, with again, you know, border inspections, things like that, that there is now a travel mode so that you can create a travel vault which would be things that you might need while you’re in route to your destination. So frequent flyer numbers,
Kimba: passport number
Glen: Yeah, passport numbers, the logins for your airline to get flight tracking and check in information, things like that hotel rental car
Kimba: Credit card numbers
Glen: The stuff that you would need while you’re on the road, something that you might need to access and everything else is removed from your device when you activate travel mode. It’s all stored in the cloud, but it’s not on your device. So if somebody wants to search it, you’re fine. And then when you get to the destination, then you can just take it out of travel mode, all your other passwords and logins come back and then you’re free to go to your work or your vacation and it’s you know, life is normal.
Kimba: And that is one password. The number one password. That’s the site. So that’s my first one. Okay, what’s your second one?
Glen: Mine actually kind of mash two of them together. That was from Episode 32 and 33 on taking payments was taking payments.
Kimba: No, it’s that you remember, you figured out … I know you’re so crazy.
Glen: It makes it easier to link to this way.
Kimba: I have no idea where my episode numbers are
Glen: Square for taking payments in person, but they’ve evolved to the point that they have a great online store so that you can set up you your online online business there and because you can do real world transactions in persons like out at trade shows, flea markets, art shows, wherever you might be or just visits to client sites, you can take payments in person. You can have an online store, if you’re selling a book…. Transactions between the two, your inventory levels are going to be kept in sync so you don’t have to worry about running out. There’s a local sandwich shop here that…
Kimba: Yeah, that’s right.
Glen: They do their ordering through Square.
Kimba: I’ve been, I’ve been doing all my invoices through them.
Glen: Yeah. And they do invoicing, they now have recurring payments.
Kimba: Which I added and I have that for my clients too. But I have just switched everything over to Square, and I’m really liking it.
Glen: They’ve got customer loyalty programs. Now you’re now getting access to the email addresses of your clients, which you didn’t have before. You’re getting better metrics, tracking for recurring customers, they’ve got loyalty programs you can use and if you decide that you need to actually hire some help. They will also do payroll for you and handle getting all the numbers and things together for tax reporting purposes for employees. So it’s been really great.
A companion to that of course, is Stripe which is purely online transactions. But it just integrates with so many different things. Matter of fact, one of the tools that I’ve been using to be able to put proposals together, they’ve now added a feature in that you can take the when somebody accepts the proposal, they can also do like that initial 50% deposit. And they also have a recurring thing in there. So if say if it’s a website, here’s the amount for the design of it. And then here’s the month to month recurring for hosting and maintenance and that can all be set up through stripe, and in this case through this proposal app. So they’re just game changers, they’ve just made things so much easier. Yeah, so many different industries.
Kimba: So yeah, those two are really good.
Okay, so my second one is also one that I use every single day, which is TextExpander. Did you have that one on your list?
Glen: No, I didn’t. I wanted to, but again, I thought you might be using it.
Kimba: I just love text expander because I use it so many times a day where I wonder, what would I do without it? I mean, really, what would I do without it because I love it so much? It makes everything so much easier than typing in like just my email, because my email is long: Kimba: at White Lion Social dot com. And so now I just type in “kwls”, and there’s my email address.
Glen: And emails are one thing that you want to make sure you don’t accidentally mistype.
Kimba: Correct and when they have, you know, they say your email address and then confirm your email address. It’s so nice just to be able to type that in or, you know, typing my signature, the name of the company or addresses and all of that. Just anything you can think of like I know you use it for emails, right? Like where you have whole emails written?
Glen: Yeah, like for example, when we get a new member here at Cowork Frederick, one of the first emails that goes out to them is a welcome message, and then it also includes a scan of their membership agreement. So one of the nice things about TextExpander that puts it a step above some of the other tools that are available is it can prompt you to fill in fields. So if you put the placeholder in for these things, when you invoke that shortcut, it pops up a little dialog box and kind of shows you what the emails going to look like and the cursors waiting for you to finish typing the person’s name in there. And when you then, you know, hit enter when you’re done and it just pops all that stuff in there. You can do like date calculations. So if you need it to be two weeks from today, well, it’ll do that calculation for you.
Kimba: It’s a pretty broad tool. And it definitely is something that I use multiple times in a day. I mean, I use I use that and 1Password so much that I don’t think about it. Yeah, they’re just they’re always open. They’re up on my top bar. And I use them constantly.
Glen: Things like webinar registrations. The forms that say first name, last name, email address. I’ve got that set up as a shortcut. And it automatically fills that out and presses enter for me.
Kimba: That’s nice. Anything that can save us time. Okay, so what’s your next one?
Glen: As a matter of fact, I just got my monthly update from TextExpander telling me how many shortcuts I expanded in the past month and that it saved me 19 minutes of time, like 391 shortcuts. 19 minutes.
My next one is Freshbooks. Because we’re currently using that for my IT Concierge business and also for Cowork. Although we’re actually trying to get a different solution at Cowork, it’s tough to replace what we’ve got. I did just try the new Freshbooks, though. And I just switched back to the old classic style, just because there were some tools that I had to do timekeeping and enter the time into the system and they’re not compatible with the new new layout. So it’s nice that they give you choice and that it switches back. And they’ve changed up their plans to their different pricing. So the Getting Started model is $10 a month, I think it is for five users might have been $15 a month, but I know it’s five years and then it jumps to 50 users. So I’m still back on a plan at 25 users.
Kimba: And I’ve left freshbooks and I’ve been using Square and I’ve been really happy especially with the reoccurring invoices. So since I have that ability I’m just finding I don’t need Freshbooks now but I know you use it for IT Concierge so you can put expenses on there. You do…
Glen: And mostly it’s reimbursement. Yeah, I’ve looked at square and that’s really the one thing that they don’t do. You’ll have timekeeping for an employee’s hours, but not project-based timekeeping, where you’re billing for that time. And it would just be really awkward to set up Square. Yeah, I’ve looked at moving too and that plus the fact that over everything is already set up. People already have their credit cards saved and I don’t want to ask people for the cards again.
Kimba: You’re almost too far into Freshbooks to change. Right? You’re You’re just too far gone.
Glen: Oh, that’s been said about me a few times.
Kimba: Yes, we realized that Okay, so my next one is Grammarly. Did you have that one down? Or you figured I’d talk about it?
Glen: I figured the odds were good you would talk about it, but Grammarly would be on my list.
Kimba: Grammarly is something that I use constantly and when I had that little hiccup where it wasn’t working in Facebook, I was going crazy, because I’m like, wait, wait, wait, wait, am I doing this wrong? I mean I rely on it for everything because it catches my “thens” and “thans” and it catches my “you” and “yours”, it catches all of these little things that you know, my “is” and “are”. It just it catches all those things so I can actually type without thinking. I can just get the thought out there on the screen, and then it corrects it. And I do like getting my email where it tells me how many things it’s fixed. I do I get a kick out of that.
Glen: And what your biggest problem area is so they kind of know, “oh, this is this is my bad habit. This is what I really should learn the rules for.”
Kimba: And actually I just paid my I think my yearly just came up. I think it just pulled it from my account. But I love it. It’s not something I feel like I can ever live without now, now that I use it all the time. It’s it’s just so nice to have that grammar corrected and not having to think about it.
Glen: Odds are if you go out and you’re watching YouTube videos, you’re probably going to see one of the Grammarly ads. They’ve got a pretty good campaign going with that.
Kimba: It’s a it’s an amazing app. It really is. And that’s, you know, another one I used every day without even thinking about it. But I do realize when it’s not being used and it drives me crazy.
Glen: And it does integrate really well in multiple different web browsers. Mostly on forms, like, you know, customer feedback form. There’s little modal pop ups that you get. It’s even working in there. I see the little ball down in the corner that’s going to be green or yellow or orange to see whether or not there’s any problems and it does little spinning arrow thing to let me know it’s proofreading all of my stuff.
Kimba: `I’ve been doing these for one of my boards. We’re doing mailers through constant contact. And it’s been working with that with with the emails that I’ve been writing. It’s been working and fixing that. I mean, I just love how broad it works. Really is nice. Okay, so that’s mine. What’s your next?
Glen: Oh, this should be no surprise to you. Zapier.
Kimba: God, that’s right! What number are we on?
Glen: That’s number seven. And like we talked about Zapier in Episode 26, they have just crossed the 1000 integrations mark. So they have 1000 different applications that it will integrate with and let you tie all these things together to create automations and process flows and make things simpler for you. And you can do so much with it, so much of it that’s just on their free plan that it’s great. They did some pricing changes, I’m pretty sure I think the paid plan I’m on is like $15 a month now for things to happen here, but it just works out really well. They’ve got a lot of their own services that normally you would have to go and pay for. Things like; you want a text alert to come to your phone. Well, you would think you might have to use a third party solution like Twilio to be able to do that. Now Zapier offers text notifications. Now they have parsers so that it can go into an email and you can tell it patterns to look for. And it can manipulate dates and dollar amounts and things.
Kimba: Now you are so into Zapier.
Glen: Yeah, it’s just a good product. It’s easy to use. It’s a nice menu driven thing. You know; here’s the product that you you want to integrate with, what do you want it to trigger on? Oh, when I get an email with this word in the subject line, then do these other actions. It works well. It’s the business version of If This Then That.
Kimba: So my next one is Buffer. I use Buffer every day. Again, another one that I just constantly use, where it’s just set. It does what it does. It schedules everything. It drops everything when I wanted to drop. It integrates with everything with LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest. It’s everything. And it’s so nice to be able to have all this data stored in the little queue and a little buffer, and then just have it scheduled out. Or when I find something, I can say what date I want it to go or just drop it into the buffer. I use it for clients. I can’t live without it. It’s everything. And with that I use Quuu a lot too Q U, U, U. Three U’s, right? And that feeds buffer, the content that then buffer puts out, and Quuu was one of those things that we got the lifetime membership. I am surprised at the quality of content that I’ve been getting from them, where I am now exclusively using them for content, just for all my clients, all of my stuff. I’m, I’m loving it. And in fact, I’m going to jump out there. And I’m going to try it the other way. I’m going to…
Glen: Do Quuu Promote?
Kimba: Yes, I’m going to put some content out there for one of my clients. And we’re going to see how it goes out. Because we had decided we were going to do some advertising. So we’re going to try Facebook advertising. And then I was thinking about and I was like, wait, I think we need to jump into Quuu. Because they they’re so good with sourcing all their information. And it’s it’s good quality. And if I’m liking it, I know there’s other people liking it.
Glen: Yeah, and they have humans curating the content that’s submitted to them so it’s not just junk.
Kimba: Yeah, it’s good stuff! And his work fits right in with the categories and I think it’s something we’re going to try and pay attention to and I think it is $40 a month for one push through them and I think it’s $70 a month for two pushes from them or from us through them. AndI love Buffer and Quuu are again things I can’t live without. Okay, I sort of squeezed two into there like you did. Okay.
Glen: When they fit together that well you treat it as one.
Kimba: They both are set it and forget it.
Glen: Yeah, they are. Number nine, another oldie but a goodie going back to Episode Four: Mile IQ.
Kimba: Oh, yes, we both use mile IQ!
Glen: It’s a workhorse. It’s one of those things that, to be fair, I don’t use it often only because I’m not doing a lot of driving for work where I have to worry about recording mileage and possibly expensing that back, charging clients.
Kimba: But when you do use it…
Glen: When I do, it’s simple. And if I was going to be traveling on a regular basis, again, it’s that set and forget. You say, Okay, this is this is my work day. So anything between nine and five or nine and six, depending on how bad traffic is, oh hey, this is my commute And any travel during those hours, it’s going to be business related. So it’s automatically going to classify it as business and then you can just go in and just select, oh, this is the client that this gets billed to and being able to export all of that and I can export it into Freshbooks very smoothly where it automatically creates mileage expenses in there. And one of the nicest things is, regardless of what date it is, it pulls in the IRS mileage allowance that covers that date period. So, again, you don’t have to worry about, oh, the IRS did a mid-year change on this and the amount either goes up or goes down, which either means you’re, you know, falsely claiming too much money or you’re not claiming as much as you’re entitled to. So it’s great that it stays on top of all that. And I believe they’re still at 40 trips per month on their free tier. And there, I don’t remember what their pricing is for the paid tier because I haven’t had to use it. But I know it was fairly inexpensive.
Kimba: Every real estate agent that I know I recommended this to, and because they do so much driving, and this way, they don’t have to write… they don’t have to keep a log because it it tracks it and most of the time, that’s all their car is doing.
Glen: And you’ll get an email reminder at the end of the month if you haven’t classified your trips, it’ll point that out that, “hey, you’ve got you know, 37 trips that you need to classify.” And it only takes a few minutes to go in and take care of that. And you can either do it on your phone, you can do it through the website from your desktop.
Kimba: It’s a great app. Okay. My last one is pretty simple. Evernote.
Glen: Oh, another oldie but a goodie.
Kimba: For which I love Evernote. Evernote is like everything to me. And in fact, I was just meeting with that new client and she was like, do you use Evernote? And I was like, Yes, and she’s a organizer. So she’s like, I use Evernote for everything and I was like so do I. So we were comparing our Evernote stories of the things that we use it for. It’s so nice to have these books, have all your information and you can just drop it in and you can keep your your blog post topics in there. You can keep any kind of receipts. I keep a mailing list in there. I have business cards that have been scanned. I have book ideas. I mean, I have so many different things in there.
Glen: Photos video, audio clips.
Kimba: It’s great if you go to a conference because you can record a conference session and you can take notes alongside of it. What else do we use it for? We use it for so many things. And it’s something that’s always open.
Glen: Using their mobile app Scannable…
Kimba: Oh, yeah, that’s right!
Glen: …take pictures of receipts and automatically have it uploaded into Evernote into a folder for your expenses for that year.
Kimba: You can send emails to your Evernote account and designate which which book you want it to go in. You can designate the tags as well. And it’s I love the searching power because it is so powerful with searching.
Glen: It is it will take, it will take documents. So if it’s a PDF, even if it’s a photo, and it will try to do that optical character recognition, OCR, and it will pull the text out. Of course, it doesn’t do well with my handwriting, but typed words, you definitely don’t have a problem there. it’ll pull that out of the text that’s in the document and it becomes searchable then, great to be able to find it. You mentioned conferences. Yeah, if you use the app, you’re taking notes on it. And the conference, you even have the ability to record what the presenter is saying. And then if they’re doing flip charts or whiteboarding, you can go up after the meeting, take pictures of those things, and they get stored in there. So you’ll have everything related to that particular session in one spot, you can refer back to it.
Kimba: It’s very powerful app and I know they’ve changed their pricing tier and I’m not sure, I think it’s $49 a year, I think is what I’m paying for John, and for myself, but what they have changed is that you can only upload X amount of content every month. And I think it’s like four gigs or something like that a month, which is it’s tough to hit that. Yeah, it’s pretty. You know, that’s very broad. But I know they’ve done that. And I’m imagining that they did that because they were having some kind of a problem with people uploading large chunks of Dynamo data, but I really love it. So that’s how the mind Do you have bonus ones?
Glen: I do have one honorable mention. And this was mainly because of a feature that they’ve added in their most recent update. And it’s the companion piece thing again, it’s by the the Ecamm Network, guys.
Kimba: Oh, yes!
Glen: Yeah, Ecamm Live, which we did a good in-depth discussion of in episode 41, basically the desktop version of a tool to let you do Facebook live sessions and you can really turn it into a webinar with that. It’s got the tools, you can do little text overlays, you’ll have the chat boxes for the people that are watching your session. It can record it so that you can have it saved on… not Evernote, you’ve got that stuck in my mind now… YouTube! Save it on YouTube, Facebook, all that and this latest update the other product they have is the Ecamm Call Recorder for Skype – Episode 35, I have to get a chuckle out of you…
Kimba: You’re such a nerd.
Glen: Yes I am. …That would like to record, audio, video or both and from both sides of Skype conversations. So there are some big names out there that use that for doing podcast interviews. Well, it now ties in with Ecamm Live as essentially as a camera source. So you can pull in Skype sessions and use them in your Ecamm Live. So again, the whole kind of webinar thing and just being able to do some really nice advanced video stuff without having to pay outrageous sums of money and get a really complex production app.
Kimba: Yeah, there’s They’re really good. The guys that are doing that are really quality. So that’s all of them. Well, we could talk all day about more apps, but we decided we were going to keep it to 10. We gave you an honorable mention. So that’s pretty much it. So we are on break. But we have lots of good content. Actually, what’s this number?
Glen: This is 52.
Kimba: So we did it for 52 months…
Kimba: Week. 52 months? Yeah. 52 weeks. So we made it through a year and we’ll be back with more things. That’s it. Okay, see ya.
Transcribed by Otter