I've seen a lot of products and services in the last couple of weeks, and it's started me thinking about the tools that make a real difference in the way I work -- the tools I would really have trouble doing without. Not surprisingly, most of my critical tools deal with managing information and publishing articles -- and doing both of them from wherever I happen to be. Let me give some examples:
I use Outlook to keep up with my multiple e-mail account from my laptop computer. Xobni, a free plug-in for Outlook, helps me when I'm looking for attachments or trying to figure out how a particular conversation has gone. Xobni gives Outlook the kind of message threading that Google Mail users take for granted, and makes searching for particular messages easy. It was a closed beta for a long time, but has gone public now, so head over to the web site and give it a try.
Cell Phone Modem
The day a vendor engineer showed me the final step in using my cell phone (with its unlimited data account) as a modem for my computer, my work life changed. No more urgently searching for Panera (with free WiFi and nice soup) or Starbucks (not-free WiFi and nice caffeine) in order to file stories from the road, and no more feeling like travel time was time lost. I can honestly say that 3G modem services are the biggest improvements in my work life since broadband Internet access. This is big. Huge.
This one is still building, but I think it's ultimately going to be a critical part of the way I work. The N800 is a WiFi tablet, and it come pre-loaded with some very basic apps. A quick trip out to the Maemo web site to grab some community-developed communication and note-taking applications, a Bluetooth link to my 3G cell phone, and I have a very portable, very connected way to stay in touch and keep reporting on the things I see and hear.It's not that I don't enjoy using my laptop computer, but there are times when the 15" screen carries a heavy cost in weight and bulk. I'm going to keep working with the N800 to see just how far it and my cell phone can take me.
Microsoft Live Writer
If writing to a blog is part of your work life, then Live Writer is a great tool. I resisted this one for a long time, trying things like Scribe Fire for Firefox, but as good as Scribe Fire is, Live Writer is better. It's especially good if you contribute to multiple blogs -- it's great at helping format to a particular blog style, and adding photos and video links to blog posts. I'm not a Microsoft apologist (don't get me started on Vista...) but this is a great tool.
So those are some of my key tools -- what are yours? Is there a single tool or application you couldn't do without? Let me know -- there might be a collection of SMB tools that everyone should know about. Let's see about putting it together...