Essential Keystrokes is…

where I share my favorite tips, tools, reviews and commentary on web design, marketing, blogging, new media and related topics. For more about this site and the voice behind it, check out my About page.


SubscribeFollow me on TwitterLinked In Stumble Upon What I Digg Email me

4 Great Tools to Help You Organize Your Business and Projects from 37Signals

By Char

How do you keep track of your contacts, project notes, files, status updates, emails you send, and sign-offs? For many years I relied on a combination of tools such as an Excel spreadsheet, my email, an address book, folders and sticky notes. As my business has grown and become more mobile (meaning some days I work from Panera Bread, some days from the patio, and others in my main office) I have found these tools just aren’t working for me anymore.

I have looked high and low for a solution that would fit my needs (here are some I tested) and after talking with Leah from Working Solo, I have finally found my answer – Highrise and BackPack from 37 Signals.

37 signals products The team at 37Signals has created a series of web-based products that help you and your organization stay, well, organized! Each of their products serves a slightly different purpose and a slightly different audience, allowing you to get only the functionality you need in a lightweight, web-based application.

I use Basecamp with some clients when managing a large project that requires input, file sharing and deadlines with more than one person. Basecamp is perfect because all the communication is done in one place, thus eliminating the lost emails, constant forwarding and CC-ing that frequently happen with larger projects. You don’t have to worry about missing anything – Basecamp emails you when someone adds anything to the project.

The product I am hooked on that really works for me as a freelance designer is Highrise. Highrise works as a contact management package with a kick. Not only can I keep track of my client contact information, but I can add notes for each one, create my to do list (and get email updates on what is due or past due), and use the dropbox as a back up feature too. When you pull up a client’s name, you get all of their information and notes all at once which is such a nice feature.

BackPack is a great way for your organization to stay on the same page or for you to keep all your notes and files organized. It is a beefed up calendar, file cabinet and white board all in one place. Use it for one person or the whole organization. Get your reminders sent to your phone or email – so you have no excuses.

Campfire is a great way for organizations to stay on the same page even when you are working from multiple locations. Think of it as your own private group IM. The look and feel is no nonsense, elegant and easy to use.

37 Signals has other products that make collaboration and organization work for you – it is just a matter of checking each of them out and seeing which one fits you best. For me, the answer is Highrise with a bit of BackPack on the side. Each of the 37 Signals products comes with a free trial and depending on the size of your organization and project needs, some of the solutions are free. You just have to give them a try.

Do you use any of these products? Which one(s) do you use the most?

Categories : Web Tools



37 Signals may be good for somebody, but the truth is they don’t fit every business :(
I’ve tried Basecamp, but it lacked the features I needed, stuff like Gantt charts for example. I know, I know, it was designed this way and Basecamp advocates hate Gantt charts, but I find them really useful in my everyday work. I found them in Wrike. It’s an excellent tool that may be a great alternative to Basecamp if Basecamp is not what you need.


Well done on writing a post that caught the attention of the guys at 37Signals. You’re on their Product blog today!
Thanks for the mention Char.


Thanks for the headsup on 37Signals. I’m currently using the Zoho series of products and am very happy. The CRM section of Zoho is very powerful (sometimes too much so) and may have a steeper learning curve than most will. All told, though, the breadth of products and the quality of build has exceeded my expectations. For your readers who may require a bit more punch, have them check out

And for anyone who wants to drop by and comment, please visit



Thanks for such great information. I recommend for all the small businesses that want a simple to use web-based product-Clarizen. It is well organized and gives you alerts and allows you to add documents to your projects..pretty neat!


Very interesting along with good detail. I might have to consider the software for the future. Thanks!


Thanks for the recommendation. I went over and signed up for Basecamp. Looking forward to giving it a test drive.

Leave a Comment


Team Training NE Celiac Family