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

Archive for Essential Tools

essential toolsSince today is International Freelancers Day, it seems fitting to feature freelance writer Laura Spencer of Writing Thoughts and Freelance Folder in this installment of Essential Tools. Laura has 19 years of professional business writing experience and is an excellent resource for writers and freelancers alike (I personally like her round up of 12 Must Reads for Writers – on getting started, what to charge, how to grow and more).

So, what tools does a freelance writer use on a daily basis in today’s technology based economy? In Laura’s own words:

  • WordPress. I realize that probably everyone says this, but it’s true. WordPress is one of my top tools for the various blogs that I write for.
  • Microsoft Office. Most of my non-blog clients require that I use MS Word.  I’m also a heavy Excel user for keeping a wide variety of statistics.
  • Twitter. Although I have other social media accounts, this has become my social media of choice primarily because of the ease of use. I also like the DM feature.
  • Google Docs. I’ve found this to be a great way to collaborate with others and share information.
  • Flickr. This is a great source of Creative Commons licensed images. Many of the photographers are quite gifted.
  • Gimp 2. I’d actually like something a little more full-featured than this, but for now this works well.
  • WOT. This little Firefox add-in tells me whether I’m on a reliable site or not. It’s in my toolbar, and I don’t even have to think about it. The color lets me know if a site is safe.
  • Skype. I use Skype to connect with clients as well as to stay in touch with family that’s not local.

To keep up with Laura and her insights on writing and freelancing, be sure to follow her on Twitter.

Subscribe to the Essential Keystrokes feed so you don’t miss a single Essential Tools feature. If you are interested in sharing your essential tools for business, drop me a line at cpolanosky [at] gmaildotcom.

Categories : Essential Tools
Comments (1)

Essential Tools of Amanda Bucklow

Posted by: Char | Comments (1)

This week’s Essential Tools series features Amanda Bucklow, a commercial mediator, instructor, blogger (at Mediation Times) and consultant who is a leader in her fields’ technology use. Amanda, along with Tammy Lenski, co-founded the Mediation Business Summit virtual conference, where I will be speaking later this month on the topic of website essentials for small businesses.

In Amanda’s own words:

My interest in technology and the web goes back many years. I had an email address and no one to email! I am naturally an early adopter and while that has been an expensive exercise, it has been fun. I am completely self taught and enjoy the adventure of being absorbed in learning a new skill. (I consider an essential tool as it provides the best tutorials on everything from web design, digital photography, Excel and more.)

I do all my own graphics for my web sites and I am a passionate photographer so life would be very difficult without Photoshop and IllustratorTopaz filters are an essential tool for my graphics as they allow me to create a more arty feel.

As for my daily tools:

  • One of the best additions to my toolbox this year has been Evernote . I particularly like that I can send a tweet that I don’t have time to explore when it whizzes by. I gather them all up on Evernote for reading later together with web pages and screen shots. Having them grouped together like this often gives me a great idea for a blog post and the links are already there for me to create connections.
  • 1Password (Mac only) has been a blessing and helped me develop a better protocol for creating passwords. I am now happy to use a complex password because I know that I have the info on hand, secure and backed up. I just need to get it on my BlackBerry.
  • For my web site I use AdaptYourCMS.  This is not a perfect set up but it makes updating my web site very easy indeed. I can add documents, videos and, best of all, any number of secure zones and membership areas which I use extensively for my training. Each course is a community of its own and I find that providing the platform for people to engage with each other before and after the classroom sessions makes for better outcomes at assessment. The friendships created during training can become a real source of support and encouragement for fledgling mediators. I know I still value mine from 15 years ago. Providing students with a ready made home has been a great success.
  • Twitter. I haven’t taken to Facebook at all except to keep in touch with my nephews and niece who don’t seem to be able to communicate any other way! I do remember it took me about a week to send my first Tweet – I couldn’t imagine that all those strangers could possibly be interested in what I might have to say! Phil Gerbyshak is entirely responsible for my besottedness with Twitter. He was one of the first to follow me back and start a real conversation. The discipline of saying something interesting in 140 characters is a very good one to have.
  • One of the best gadgets I have ever used are my Flip video which is with me wherever I go. I can’t believe such a small thing can produce such high quality video and audio.
  • Even more cherished is my Livescribe 2 GB Pulse Smartpen. I have no idea how I managed without that before I had one. Interviews are a doddle now. I like very much that I can pay attention to the person I am talking to rather than be looking at my notes. One keyword and you can find the part of the interview just by pointing the pen at the paper. Magic.
  • The tool I would really like is Blackberry Messenger on the iPhone. I would love to switch to the iPhone as I am a complete Apple fan but the BlackBerry Messenger is so good especially when I am working abroad and need to keep in touch with my training partner. I takes the stress out of meeting up and changes in plans. I like the encryption on the BlackBerry but it is useless for browsing the web.

Thanks Amanda for sharing such a great assortment of tools – some of which are totally new to me and I can not wait to go try out!

Subscribe to the Essential Keystrokes feed so you don’t miss a single Essential Tools feature. If you are interested in sharing your essential tools for business, drop me a line at cpolanosky [at] gmaildotcom.

Categories : Essential Tools
Comments (1)

Summer is in full swing, and let me just say that while I am having a lot of fun and spending plenty of quality time with my kids, it is not really good for my blogging schedule. However, thanks to some well planted seeds in the spring, I am able to have this crazy summer schedule and not really feel the impact on my business’ bottom line. Today’s Essential Tools features another busy Mom who has a series of successful web sites – Shannon Weidemann from Marketing Elf. Shannon is able to run her business from anywhere – Starbucks, vacation and her home office – without missing a beat – and often from the palm of her hand.

Shannon’s iPhone is truly the heartbeat of her workday -  it has completely changed the way she handles email and social media. She is no longer tied to a computer to send out emails or keep up active discussions on Twitter. Her  iPhone love has no bounds, so with that being said there are several apps that she finds priceless including:

  • Gmail Shannon switched two of her main email accounts to Google apps and that has made checking email via her iPhone so easy.  She is also a bit of  an email packrat so the ability to keep just about everything is very appealing.
  • Twitterlator Pro makes managing social media while on the fly so easy. You  can snap a picture on your phone, upload and tweet it out. Plus Shannon can manage multiple accounts with ease.
  • Simplenote – Shannon just started using Simplenote, but loves being able to start a blog post, write down a thought, and then when she has a moment to sit down at her computer later, she can log into Simplenote online and it is all right there. No need to sync or download anything.

The other essential tool for Shannon is a simple pad of paper. Like so many of us, there is still something about putting ink to paper. Shannon has been known to map out entire website ideas or write down full blog posts on a legal pad or composition notebook. It just really helps the creative process creative process.

I’d love to know what other iPhone apps you use (or apps for other Smartphones) to help keep your business moving forward when you are not in the office. Share them in the comments below, please.

Subscribe to the Essential Keystrokes feed so you don’t miss a single Essential Tools feature. If you are interested in sharing your essential tools for business, drop me a line at cpolanosky [at] gmaildotcom.

Categories : Essential Tools
Comments (0)


Team Training NE Celiac Family