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.


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Essential Tools – Keystrokes Style

By Char

Essential ToolsIt all started with Liz. A phone conversation for her BAD blogger series and suddenly an idea for a weekly feature is born. I gave it test with Practical Blogging, Bloggertunity and ConverStations and the response has been positive. So the series will continue.

To usher in the New Year, I am doing an expanded version today featuring, me! I can’t narrow my list down to the three most essential tools so I will share with you what I use daily!


I work from home and am very fortunate to have to have a high-tech office. My main system is a Dell Dimension 8400 with a 21″ flat screen monitor. I also have an iMac G5 that I use for print projects mainly. The newest member of my hardware team is my Sony Vaio laptop which sits on my desk next to me or goes with me to the living room when I want to work in there. We have a wireless network set up so all my computers are online. I have 3 printers – HP Photosmart 2510, HP Laserjet 1012, and Minolta Colormagic laser.


Up until recently I was an IE6 kind of a gal – but that has changed since I got brave and tried Firefox. I love Firefox! So I use Firefox to browse the Internet on the Dell and the laptop, Safari on the Mac. I have IE7 installed just for checking sites when I develop them.
I use Google’s Feed Reader and Technorati to keep up with my favorite blogs and bloggers.

Also a former Outlook chick, I have switched to Mozilla Thunderbird. Since I have multiple email addresses all feeding into the same inbox, it has some features that really work for me. I love that when I am composing a message all I have to do is click a drop down to decide which account it will be sent from. Another feature I like is that is shows that there is new mail, but doesn’t actually download it until I am ready.

I keep track of my time spent on projects as well as income using Microsoft Excel. I know, I know, I should be using something more sophisticated like Quick Books, but this system has always worked for me and the accountant is very happy with the detail.


Currently I have sites being hosted at Host Gator, Jumpline, and Triangle Web Solutions. Host Gator is my favorite at the moment, but I won’t put everything there. My attitude is that if it isn’t broken, don’t move it. Jumpline has provided incredible stability for the sites (mostly static business web sites) I have hosted there for 8 years. They have had almost NO downtime and you just can’t argue with that. Their tech support is great.

Fireworks is my favorite for creating quick, web-ready graphics. Again, it’s all what you get used to, but Fireworks is so easy. I do have Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, I just don’t use them as much.

I do most of my development in Dreamweaver. Some people will tell you that using a WYSIWYG editor is cheating, but I’m all about efficiency. I do code by hand using notepad from time to time, but Dreamweaver is my first choice.

Three of my blogs are now WordPress blogs. WordPress has been very easy for me to work with and is so powerful. I do have a lone Blogger blog. It is still there because my 10 year old son helps me with it.


I love that my Host Gator sites come with about 8 different web stats packages pre-loaded. My favorite is Awstats. I also use Webtrends on my Jumpline sites. I have tried Google Analytics (I have it on my Blogger blog) and think it is pretty good for the price (free). Recently I have started using MyBlogLog to keep track of my blog stats. Awstats does fine in this department, but MyBlogLog gives me just a little more info in the format I can use it best.

Are you asleep yet?  I’ll gladly answer questions about any of these tools if you want more information. And as always, let me know what you use daily – I may ask you to be my next feature.



I learned about MyBlogLog from your post and followed that link. I did my very first HTML when I installed the statistic script to my Blog. Yeah! It works!

I use Firefox, too. It is great. I use Outlook now after using Thunderbird because Outlook is on my cell phone organizer and that makes it easy to synchronize.


Yeah! That is cool and I am so glad you have decided to jump in to the blogging arena. You will be amazed at how much you learn and how fast you learn it!


Good topic. You convinced me to download Thunderbird. Although I can see any of my accounts. I’ll have to fiddle.

Another Plus I wanted to add to your list for day to day things is Firefox portable. ( mini firefox for portable applications)

I can take my bookmarks, bookmark sites, anywhere including passwords to forums etc. It all goes on my little data stick. So no matter which computer I am on I have all my things at my fingertips.

This works out very well as the computers at home get formatted a lot so I don’t lose things I had saved in some random place.


Mel – thanks for the tip. I’ll have to try that one since I have Firefox on multiple computers in this house and I work on three in any given day.


Thanks for your personal sharing – such useful info. Just a quick qn: What is your experience using Mac platform for web and internet marketing? I have a iBook and PC laptop but favour my Mac more. Trouble is I’m faced with compatibility issues on some software esp ftp. Yes, I do like Firefox too.


Honestly, I use my Mac for doing print design, some web surfing, Skype, and some games. I do the bulk of my web design and internet marketing work on my Dell. My laptop gets used for e-mail, surfing, some blogging, and some web updates.

It probably seems extremely inefficient, but it is a system that has evolved over time and just works for me.


Hi Char,

Love your series.

I took time to read this again and found the info on Thunderbird. I’ve been struggling with my email and this might be the answer I’m looking for.

I’m also looking forward to checking out Awstats.

Thanks for the tips.


Thanks again Sandy – another episode will arrive momentarily. I have been very pleased with Thunderbird. It is very easy to use if you are managing multiple accounts.

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