26 Oct

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Programs to help you work faster and spend less time in front of a screen…. or get more done when you are.

We are all spending more and more time in front of our computers. The computer is now the centre of our work, finance, communication and entertainment worlds. It’s almost impossible to be a productive worker these days without computer skills and we spend an increasing amount of time at our computers. But how can we reduce those hours? How can we work smarter and not harder in front of our computers? Here is a list of four programs that will save you many hours each week.

1. NaturallySpeaking ($150 and up)
This program has been around for many years and to be frank it has only recently began to live up to its promise. Naturally Speaking is the ears of your computer. It listens and outputs type on your screen. They could be in your e-mail program, word processor or in fact any program that accepts text. So if you are a slow type like this author, you can save many hours by simply talking to your computer. A quiet and solitary location is preferred for this program as talking aloud may disturb other workers. This program is ideal for people with RSI as no keyboard use is required.

2.Text Aloud (free)
This program was originally designed for sight impaired people. Text Aloud is the voice of your computer. It allows you to select text from any source and have the computer read it out to you. This makes reading large e-mails, blogs or tutorial sites much faster. Note that the default voice that comes with the program is rather robotic and can be replaced by any number of others that are easier to listen to. These other voices are paid for.

3. CardScan ($325 with hardware)
Do you have a pile of business cards you have collected from various sources? If so, do you ever look at them or get any value out of them? If not you need CardScan. CardScan is a little software program that comes with a special business card sized scanner. The scanner that allows you to scan business cards in bulk. The software then performs OCR on each card and captures the address, phone number, e-mail and web addresses. You can then create customised categories and assign a contact to a category. Later you can select records based on these categories. Your database of contacts can be used for e-mail and direct marketing as receiving a business card from someone is implied consent to e-mail them.

4.Roboform ($35)
This little program is a genius. It runs in your Windows system tray (bottom right, beside the time) and stores web addresses with their associated logins. It can be run from a USB stick or installed on the desktop. There are no limits to the number of logins you can store in the program. Passwords are saved in encrypted form behind a master password (make it long). The Roboform program will save you endless hours and frustration by storing and managing your logins. The above programs will take away some of the drudge of using a computer and allow you to be more focused and productive… or spend less time in front of a computer.

5. Dropbox (free for the first 2GB)
Dropbox is a backup, file sharing and storage system. You can create and share online folders with your workmates meaning you may be able to do away with your small business server (and its Microsoft license fee and tech support costs). It means you have files backed up to “the cloud” and not on an external hard drive in your office which is prone to theft, fire and failure. Businesses using cloud storage are not prone to file loss as in the Christchurch earthquake or Brisbane Floods.

6. Evernote (free)
Evernote is a note taking tool that sychronises with the web. This means you can take notes anywhere, on any device (desktop, laptop, phone and iPad) and have those notes synched across all devices. Great for saving travel itineraries, things to do lists, wine notes… whatever.

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