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July 14 2011

5 Chrome Extensions That Improve Google+


Already using Google+? Follow Mashable News for the latest about the platform’s new features, tips and tricks as well as our top social media and technology updates.

Google+ has launched to great aplomb, but its “project” status means some tools have yet to be developed. While Google works on adding more features, some available Chrome extensions can fill the functionality gap.

Whether you want to get better notifications, enjoy improved sharing options, or scroll through your stream more quickly, there’s an extension available — for free — to help.

Take a look through the gallery for five tried and tested picks that will help you be more productive on Plus. Let us know in the comments about other Chrome Extensions you’ve found useful — they may end up in a future gallery.


1. G+ Count in Title: Add a Notification Count to Your Google+ Tab




A simple but useful option, this extension adds a counter to your Google+ page tab so you can see at a glance how many new posts you have to view.


2. G+ Extended: Add Shortcuts




Simple and very unobtrusive, this extension adds more shortcuts, as well as offering one-press "+1" options, when a post is highlighted you can press "e" to expand all the comments or "s" for quick sharing options.


3. Helper For Google+: Get Desktop Notifications




This extension has tweaked search and also lets you share to Twitter. Helper gives you desktop notifications for new Google+ posts with a little pop-up window or an audio alert option. There's also a "translate" button, which some may find useful.


4. +Comment Toggle: Hide Comments




If your stream is busy, then this extension will save you some precious scrolling time. It automatically hides all comments on a post, reducing the on-screen info to a simple comment tally (which you can choose to expand if you wish.)


5. Extended Share For Google+: Share Plus Posts to Other Networks




This handy extension expands your sharing options. It adds a "Share on..." button that gives you the ability to quickly and easily share a Plus post to Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

More About: chrome, Chrome Extensions, Google, google chrome, Google Lists, Google Plus, Google Plus Lists, List

For more Social Media coverage:


July 06 2011

15 Keyboard Shortcuts to Enhance Your PC Productivity


This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

If you fancy yourself a PC power user, you know how valuable it is to keep your hands on the keyboard. Constantly switching between typing and mousing can really slow you down when you’re powering through that TPS report.

Lucky for you, the wizards at Microsoft have built some time-saving (if little-known) keyboard shortcuts into their operating systems over the years, with some really handy ones gracing Windows 7 and most modern web browsers.

If you’re aiming to speed up your workflow and impress your colleagues at the same time, check out these little gems.


1. Move the cursor one word at a time




Cut through large swaths of text with this handy trick.


2. Select one word at a time




Similarly, you can highlight entire words in your text without pecking at those arrow keys.


3. Delete entire words




Bulldoze terrible sentences more efficiently with this shortcut.


4. Select all text on the current line, relative to the cursor




Don’t reach for that mouse. Instead of click-dragging the cursor, snap right or left with this fancy method.


5. Minimize all windows




Keep this macro in mind if you tend to browse Facebook at the office.


6. Cycle between windows




If you really want to test the glitz of Windows 7, give this combo a try. Its usefulness will be discussed later.


7. Lock the computer




Stepping away from the screen for a light lunch? Lock that puppy down with one swift stroke, especially if it’s April Fool’s Day.


8. Launch the Task Manager




Applications acting up on you? Need to check your system’s resources? Skip the clicking and get into the Task Manager with this shortcut.


9.Take a screenshot of the active window only




Trimming down screengrabs can be a pain, especially if you have a lot of desktop real estate. This shortcut lets you capture only the window in which you’re working.


10. Rename a file




Forgo that right-clicking nonsense and give this file-renaming trick a shot. It also works great if you’ve selected multiple files or folders.


11. Zoom in and out




This one works in a variety of applications, including browsers, word processors and Photoshop, among others.


12. Return to default zoom




When you’re ready to return to the normal view, strike this keyboard combo.


13. In Browser: Open a new tab




This one may be common, but it’s worth mentioning if it will save you from clicking among a mess of browser tabs.


14. In Browser: Reopen closed tab




This one can be a life-saver, especially if you accidentally close a webpage you’d been searching diligently for.


15. In Browser: Focus cursor on URL/search field




If you need to navigate the web quickly, this combo will get you moving in two keystrokes.


Which time-saving macros do you use at your desk? Share them with the class in the comments below.

Keyboard images courtesy of chromatix d-sign.

Tips via Reddit.

More About: business, keyboard shortcuts, List, Lists, productivity, shortcuts, tips

For more Business & Marketing coverage:


July 05 2011

10 Accessories to Cheer Up Your Office Break Room [PICS]

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

If your staff room’s highlights are a handful of tattered magazines, a tired vending machine and a half-dead plant, then shame on you. With a little effort and a small amount of cash, you can offer your employees so much more.

The staff room is just as important as any other area in your workplace — work shouldn’t exclude fun, after all. Just look at how successful companies like Google manage to bring serious fun into their workplace.

Take a look through our photo gallery of some great gadgets and accessories to cheer up your staff room and let us know in the comments how you think is best to bring fun to the workplace.


1. Meninos Recharge Pillow





This great graphic will help reinforce the theory behind taking a break from your workstation to "recharge," while bringing some Meninos graphic charm to the room.

Cost: $29.99


2. Geek Coffee Wall Decal




Available in a variety of colors, this vinyl wall decal will add geek interest to a wall without boring anyone to death with insipid artwork.

Cost: $9.95


3. DIY Chalkboard




Why not turn an entire wall into a chalkboard? Just add chalk and your staff can use the wall for doodles, messages, lists, quotes, games and more.

Cost: Benjamin Moore Studio Finishes Chalkboard Paint costs $17.99 a tin


4. Jumbo Mustache Magnet




Because sometimes, just bringing a smile to someone's face with a silly touch is enough to lift the mood of the day.

Cost: $10.99


5. Vintage Board Games




Anyone can stick a Wii in a staff room, but we think a carefully curated selection of vintage board games is much more fun. Take a look on Etsy or even eBay and you'll be amazed what classics are out there for relatively little. Older staff will enjoy the nostalgia, and younger staff will relish the retro touch.

Cost: Varies


6. LoveSac Bean Bags




Bean bags maybe a bit of a cliche, but there's a reason for that -- it's hard to be stressed when you're lounging on a LoveSac.

Cost: From $249


7. Customizable Photo Display




Show your staff the love with a photo wall offering a glimpse of life at your company. A photo rail like this is easy to refresh when you have new pics to display.

Cost: $5.99


8. Jelly Bean Machine




Take a leaf out of Google's book and bribe, sorry incentivize, your staff with candy. Keeping a dispenser topped up won't cost very much but put a sugar-induced smile on your employees' faces.

Cost: $34


9. LOLMagnetz




Fun fridge magnets can be a great distraction while you're waiting for the kettle to boil or microwave to ping. We like this LOLCats-themed set. With 256 "LOLWords," just add a couple of kitty pics for tons of collaborative fun.

Cost: $19.99


10. Meninos 8-Bit Hand Coasters




These pixelated coasters are the fun way to protect your surfaces from watermarks in a rad, retro style.

Cost: $29.99

More About: accessories, gadgets, office, office accessories

For more Business & Marketing coverage:


March 25 2011

6 Deliciously Designed iPhone Apps for Better Baking


We all like a sweet treat now and then, and they always taste better when they are homemade. Thanks to the wonders of the App Store, there are a plethora of recipes readily available at your fingertips.

Whether you crave a cupcake, fancy a fruity flan or are desirous of a delicious dessert, we’ve found six apps that offer some scrumptious recipes for you to have a crack at.

So, don your apron and take a look through the app selection in this tasty gallery. Let us know which apps you’ve cooked up a storm with in the comments below.


1. Chocolate - Irresistible Recipes




With 55 choc-tastic recipes, this is a good buy for any chocoholics out there. Categories include sweets and drinks as well as the more standard hot and cold desserts, cakes and cookies.

Ingredients for recipes are listed clearly, and the method section includes some step-by-step photos which you can choose to play in a slideshow for a quick overview.

With easy no-baking recipes right through to advanced treats for special occassions, you'll be sure to find something to tempt you.

Extra features are thin on the ground (a little disappointing for the price tag) but there are the useful options to favorite and email recipes.

Cost: $2.99


2. BBC Good Food Cake Recipes




This is a fantastic example of how a foodie app can go beyond the ebook experience. In addition to a solid library of yummy cakes to make, Good Food Cake Recipes boasts some well-thought out features.

These include the ability to add a recipe to the app's shopping list (the ingredients are then, rather handily, listed in order of supermarket sections), a built-in timer, and the ability to show recipes in both metric and standard measurments.

The photography is nice, the instructions are clear, and other extras - which include nutritional info, tutorial videos, trouble shooting, tips, and the option to share recipes on Facebook and Twitter, make this a great app, and well worth the two dollar download.

Cost: $1.99


3. iCooking Desserts




What we like about this app, aside from its reasonable price tag ($0.99 for 58 recipes) is the international flavor of the recipe selection.

As well as more traditional Western desserts, the app offers a few choice options from Asia and Africa, giving you the chance to try something new.

Recipes are divided into three sections -- a photo of the finished product, a list of ingredients and a preparation guide.

Extras include the ability to email recipes, add to favorites, and the handy option to add your own recipes to the app.

Cost: $0.99


4. Cookie Nook




Cookie monsters will love this app, which offers around 25 cookie recipes in a simple, no fuss format with fun graphics.

You can select the type of cookie you'd like to make from the baking tray display, then tap through to see a list of ingredients, easy-to-understand directions, and nutritional info.

Cost: $1.99


5. The Photo Cookbook – Baking




The most expensive app we've picked is also the best looking, with over 500 photographs illustrating 60 recipes.

With a designer layout to match, the Photo Cookbook is a pleasure to browse. It offers a photo view of ingredients as well as great step-by-step pics.

In addition to some delicious sweet options, this app also covers a range of breads and great savoury baking recipes, so is a good all-rounder for more adventurous cooks.

Cost: $4.99


6. Cupcake Recipes




Ideal for baking beginners or kids, this app offers a wide range of cupcake variations, many of them offering easy baking options using cake mixes rather than ingredients from scratch.

Sadly, with no photos, the illustrations are none-the-less fun and the ingredients lists and instructions are simple and clear.

More experienced cupcake makers may still find interest in this app's more unusual recipes -- "Maharani," chai, and even chocolate zucchini!

Cost: $1.99


Interested in more iPhone resources? Check out Mashable Explore, a new way to discover information on your favorite Mashable topics.

More About: app store, apps, baking, cooking, Food And Drink, iphone, iphone apps, List, Lists

For more Mobile coverage:


March 09 2011

5 Useful iPhone Apps for Analyzing Your Website’s Success On the Go


This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

You don’t have to be tied to your desktop to check up on your website’s vital statistics — there are a wealth of great iPhone apps that will help you do it on the go.

Whether you could be called on at any time for an update, are a one-man-band wanting an at-a-glance stat attack, or need a portable way to present the latest figures to partners, customers or clients, these apps should assist you.

Have a read below for five solutions to keep you in the loop away from your office and let us know in the comments which iPhone apps you’ve previously used to track your website’s success story.


1. BAM Analytics Pro


BAM Analytics Pro from Blast Advanced Media (a Google Analytics Authorized Consultant) is a quick, easy and affordable solution for anyone who wants to view their Google Analytics information on their iPhone. Using the app, you can create up to 65 different reports that can be exported via CSV, XML and e-mail with options to receive 50, 100, 200 or “all” results. This is notable as rival apps only offer the top 100.

Comparison functionality is also strong with the ability to compare advanced segments and date ranges on the go and gain insight from those stats.

Cost:: $1.99


2. Ego


Perfectly suited for smaller businesses that are interested in a wider range of less in-depth stats, Ego is a one-stop shop for all your vital figures from Ember, Feedburner, Google Analytics, Mint, Squarespace, Tumblr, Twitter and Vimeo. If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to view your company’s Twitter followers count, feed subscription totals or visits to a certain site, then Ego offers a good-looking way to do so on the go.

Cost:: $1.99


3. SimpleSense


If you’re signed up to Google’s AdSense for Content program, then this free app is a must-have. The app connects to your Google AdSense account and shows you all the major stats wherever you might be. With this free app, you can view your AdSense for Content earnings for yesterday, the past seven days, the past month and the current payment quickly and easily, while $0.99 in-app purchases offer further data on Channels, AdSense for Search and AdSense for Feeds.

Cost:: Free


4. Analytics App


Here’s another app that brings Google Analytics info to the palm of your hand. The Analytics App claims to offer a better experience than checking on your computer, with handy overview reports giving you the info you need at one glance and a today report to keep you up to date. Delving in deeper, you can generate up to 55 reports with custom time ranges and view integrated charts for many metrics — all on a clean and tidy interface.

Cost:: $1.99


5. ABuzz


Although hits, clicks and conversions are popular ways of measuring a website’s success, they are certainly not the only ones. The other, less measurable (although in some ways just as important) method is through reputation.

Are you tuned into just exactly what’s being said about your brand online? While you may have alerts and searches bookmarked on your main computer, accessing that info while out and about might not be so easy. The ABuzz iPhone app will search Digg, Twitter, Buzz, public parts of Facebook, blogs and forums for mentions of multiple keywords and phrases of your choosing to help you monitor and manage your company’s public image when away from the office.

Cost:: $4.99

Which features do you look for in analytics apps for business?


More iPhone Business App Resources from Mashable


- 5 iPhone Apps For Avoiding International Business Faux Pas
- 5 iPhone Apps to Boost Productivity
- 3 Useful iPhone Apps to Help File Your Taxes
- 14 Essential iPhone Apps for Small Business Users
- 12 iPhone Apps for Surviving Conference Season

More About: analytics app, business, iphone, iphone apps, small business, Web Development

For more Business & Marketing coverage:


February 28 2011

9 Apps To Make You Super Productive on Windows, Mac & Linux


The Cross-Platform Apps Series is supported by VMware Fusion, the best way to run Windows on your Mac. Click Here to learn more about VMware Fusion. To keep up with VMware Fusion updates, follow the “TeamFusion” blog or on Twitter or Facebook.

You may think you’ve reached the peak possible productivity on Windows, Mac and Linux, but if you haven’t tried this collection of timesavers, it’s time to think again.

We found software that will help you type less, enhance your efficiency, help you find a needle in a haystack, keep track of the world and probably even help you sleep better. Many of these apps are cross-platform for Windows, Mac or Linux — and best of all, most are free.


1. Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking


You talk and it types. Even if you’re the fastest typist in the world, you can probably talk faster, and Nuance likes to say Dragon NaturallySpeaking lets you “type at the speed of thought.” This latest version doesn’t require lengthy training sessions, and its accuracy is astonishing. Pricing starts at $99 for the Home Edition, money well spent if you want to put your productivity in overdrive. The Premium Edition comes with a workable headset and is available for $154 on Amazon.

Platform: Mac, Windows
Price: $99 and up


2. KeyText


Don’t waste your time typing phrases, addresses and boilerplate text over and over. Here’s the solution: KeyText 3, an extraordinary convenience that makes it easy to slam down routine phrases with just a few keystrokes. That’s just the beginning of this powerful utility’s prowess, giving you multiple clipboards, a built-in scheduler to run programs and reminders, and automatic password filling.

Platform: Windows
Price: $30


3. f.lux


When you stare into a computer screen all day, you’re pretty much looking straight into a lightbulb. No wonder you’re having trouble sleeping at night — your body still thinks it’s the middle of the day. Enter f.lux — it knows what time of day it is where you’re located and starts shifting the color of your screen from the blue end of the spectrum toward a slightly reddish tinge at sundown, telling that lizard part of your brain that it’s no longer the middle of the day. Try it, you’ll probably sleep better.

Platform: Linux, Mac, Windows
Price: Free


4. Dropbox


Haven’t used Dropbox yet? Grab it now. It gives you a folder on your desktop that’s backed up in the cloud, and you get 2GB of storage space for free. It’s especially useful if you’re collaborating with others, since you can invite colleagues to access the same files. Once you discover Dropbox’s wonders, you might want to spring for the $10-per-month plan to get 50GB of storage, or even $20 per month for 100GB.

Platform: Linux, Mac, Windows
Price: Free


5. TextExpander


This text expansion tool is not only a steady mainstay on the Mac desktop, but now it’s available in iPad and iPhone/iPod Touch versions. Like KeyText 3 for Windows, TextExpander is adept at expanding text, letting you enter a few keystrokes and then pouring out boilerplate text for you. TextExpander makes creating those “snippets” a breeze with lots of easy keyboard shortcuts, and it even has a useful way of leaving open certain places within those snippets for user input.

Platform: Mac
Price: $35


6. Omnifocus


Here’s an app that’s more than a personal task manager, it’s a way of life. Whether you’re using it as part of the “Getting Things Done” (GTD) system or on its own, Omnifocus takes to-do lists to a whole new level. Fire it up with a keyboard shortcut from anywhere on your Mac, and then you can add your to-do items, categorize actions and sync them all up with iCal, or on iPhone or iPod touch versions. We especially like the way it lets you add tasks directly from an e-mail account, and then all the info in that e-mail will show up in a task, all in one step.

Platform: Mac
Price: $80


7. LastPass


This is the best password manager on the planet, and it works on browsers running on Linux, Mac and Windows machines, as well as on all mobile platforms. Type in one ultra secure password, and LastPass will remember all your other passwords, and even enter them automatically if you wish. It’s your loyal assistant, filling in forms and credit card numbers, and dreaming up impossible-to-crack passwords and automatically entering them, and best of all, it’s free. Access it from anywhere, get your password act together — this is the way to do it.

Platform: Linux, Mac, Windows
Price: Free


8. Tomboy


Here’s a note-taking app for Linux, Mac and Windows that you Linux users might already have, because it’s built into most distros. Tomboy is well-suited for everything from tiny reminders to lengthy research, and once the notetaking’s done it gives you a muscular search capability to find anything you’ve stashed away inside. It’s also adept at synchronizing, so whatever you’ve typed on one machine, you can access it from another, and search it, too.

Platform: Linux, Mac, Windows
Price: Free


9. Pidgin


Do a lot of instant messaging? Even if you use a dozen different platforms to chat with your friends and neighbors, the Pidgin multi-chat client has you covered. You only have to enter your credentials one time for AIM, Google Talk, IRC, and many others, and then Pidgin handles them all. Working equally well on Linux, Mac and Windows, this baby’s been around long enough to attract third parties to write plug-ins that make it even more convenient.

Mac OS X users should also take a look at the very similar free instant messaging application Adium, which is based on many of the same libraries as Pidgin.

Platform: Linux, Mac, Windows
Price: Free


Series Supported by VMware Fusion


The Cross-Platform Apps Series is supported by VMware Fusion. Built by Mac users for Mac users from day one, VMware Fusion 3 is the best way to run Windows on a Mac without rebooting. With a built-in PC Migration agent, it’s easier than ever to bring your entire PC to your Mac. With VMware Fusion 3.1, you can run you Windows apps like Mac apps using the most reliable Windows-on-Mac platform. Key features of VMware Fusion include:

  • Ultimate Windows 7 Experience. VMware Fusion is the first to enable the full Windows 7 experience, complete with Windows Aero and Flip 3D.
  • Switching Made Easy. VMware Fusion is the fastest way for users to bring their entire PC to their Mac without the added cost of a one-time use cable.
  • More Mac-Like than Ever. Run Windows applications like Mac applications with features like an “always-on” applications menu to find and launch Windows apps, even when VMware Fusion isn’t launched.

Users of previous versions of VMware Fusion or any version of Parallels Desktop for Mac can take advantage of upgrading to VMware Fusion 3 for a limited time promotion of only $19.99! This offer expires on March 15, 2011, so act now!


More Productivity Resources From Mashable:


- How 5 Companies Are Using the iPad to Increase Productivity
- HOW TO: Beat Writer’s Block Online
- 5 Fresh and Free To-Do List Apps for iPhone
- 11 Essential Apps for Managing Your Real Life Social Networks
- 5 Free Ways to Improve Your Typing Skills Online

More About: applications, Cross-Platform Apps Series, Linux, Lists, mac, productivity, Utilities, Windows

For more Tech & Gadgets coverage:


February 24 2011

How 5 Companies Are Using the iPad to Increase Productivity


The iPad for Business Series is supported by LogMeIn Ignition, the #1 third-party Productivity app for iPad and iPhones in 2010. Get one-touch access to all your applications and files, on all your remote computers with LogMeIn Ignition for iPad/iPhone.

If the iPad follows in its iPhone predecessor’s footsteps, it will likely create enough distractions (i.e. Angry Birds) to effectively cancel any productivity it enables.

Less than a year after the device’s launch, however, the jury is still out on its net productivity. And these five companies are making a pretty strong case for how Apple’s tablet (and it’s competitors, when they catch up) has a lot of potential to make business more efficient.


1. Zoom Room: Scheduling, Checkins & Checkouts


Dog agility training and canine social club (it’s a gym for dogs) Zoom Room uses iPads to run its three, soon to be eight, locations. Every member of the facility is issued a credit card-sized ID and a dog collar tag that have barcodes on them, much like the swipe in cards that many people use. Zoom Room uses a scanner that works with the iPad to check dogs into the facility for classes and other events. Because owners can handle this process themselves, employees are free to answer questions, ring up sales, and interact with dogs.

“All of our nationwide locations are required to use a 3G-enabled iPad model,” says COO Mark Van Wye. “In the case of an Internet outage — or even a power outage — we can still run every single aspect of our business from the iPad (ringing up sales, scheduling appointments, signing people in to classes, etc.) Thanks to the long battery life, our entire business can run a full day with no hardware and no electricity — just the iPad.”


2. Auto Racing: Data Visualization


IndyCar Series drivers, like Tony Kanaan and Jay Howard, and developmental drivers, like Andretti Autosport’s 16-year-old USF2000 Zach Veach (pictured above), use the iPad in pit lane during practice. Instead of handing the driver a data sheet with information like the number of laps and lap times on it, the pit crew hands him an iPad.

“Basically having this device streamlines the pit stop process,” explains Klint Briney, the CEO and a sports agent at BRANDed, a company that represents drivers. “The engineers have always had laptops in pit lane that allow them to see where the car is at on the track, where the driver is breaking, and when they are shifting. The iPad allows the driver, when he or she comes into the pitbox, to view timing and scoring, see how many laps they have done, and who is leading and also view a track map.”


3. San Francisco Art Exchange: Sales Presentations


Jimi_Hendrix

The San Francisco Art Exchange specializes in the art and imagery of popular culture. Before it implemented an iPad into its sales process, the team would fill requests like, “I’d like art featuring Jimi Hendrix” by collecting all of the physical Jimi Hendrix inventory.

With a new system developed specifically for the gallery, the sales team now uses the iPad to control a presentation of the artwork that might be of interest to a specific customer. The customer can compare pieces side by side, see what the work would look like on a wall, and see prices and sizing options on a large monitor at the gallery. They can also save their favorites in order to show a spouse or get a second opinion.


4. WhiteGlove House Call Health: Prescriptions, Forms, Surveys & Translation


whiteglove

Nurse practitioners at WhiteGlove health care visit patients at work and at home. Since 2010, they’ve also been bringing an iPad along with them. Previously they used laptops with paper consent-to-treat and end-of-visit surveys, but the iPads have allowed them to go wireless (a demonstration of a visit is pictured above).

“Nurse practitioners use the WhiteGlove platform running on Apple iPads to chart and submit Rx medication orders, review the members’ medical history, complete consent-to-treat forms and enable members to take end-of-visit surveys that are automatically transmitted to corporate when completed,” says Michael Cohen, WhiteGlove’s vice president of marketing. “WhiteGlove’s Nurse Practitioners also use the iPad to translate conversations with members that do not speak English.”


5. Steve Gray Renovations


iPad

High-end home renovation company Steve Gray Renovations has given iPads to all four people that work in its Indianapolis office to increase their productivity. Employees use the tablets to keep renovation schedules, bring new project specifications to pricing meetings and track job costs. They also use the gadget on site.

“We are able to create job notes while on site, then send [them] directly to contractors,” explains CEO Steve Gray. “We also create notes and keep them on the iPad until the job is completed — less paper and easier to track tasks. Before I used to walk around with a notepad and hand-write information. I can now forward my notes to the team, so everyone knows what we need to do on a job site.”


Series Supported by LogMeIn Ignition

The iPad for Business Series is supported by LogMeIn Ignition. Contrary to popular opinion, iPads aren’t just for games any more. Unleash it’s full potential and make your iPad work for work, download LogMeIn Ignition and get one-touch access to all your applications and files on your remote computers from your iPad/iPhone. You’ll be more productive anywhere, anytime thanks to the App Store’s #1 third-party Productivity App of 2010.


More Business Resources from Mashable:


- How The iPad Is Helping Businesses Go Green
- How Facebook Deals Are Helping One NBA Team Connect With Fans
- 4 Small Business Mobile Predictions for 2011
- How Brands Can Make the Most of Facebook’s New Pages
- HOW TO: Optimize Your Social Media Budget

More About: ipad, iPad for Business Series, productivity, small business

For more Business & Marketing coverage:


January 19 2011

HOW TO: Beat Writer’s Block Online


Nowadays, we are all content creators. Whether it’s work or a school project, the next blog post, or even that next tweet, we all suffer from writer’s block from time to time.

Traditional advice suggests taking a break from your monitor and getting some fresh air. That’s great old school advice, but it isn’t a useful suggestion for anyone tied to their computer. We’ve pulled together some top ideas, tools and services for beating writer’s block in an online environment, so you can break through that barrier without leaving your desk.

Have a read below for our quick tips to help you beat writer’s block online and let us know in the comments about any methods that have worked for you.


1. Get Inspired


Staring at your choice of word processing program is not likely to inspire you. If you can’t physically get outdoors, why not let the outdoors come to you. Take a virtual break — hop over to YouTube and refresh your brain with a seascape video, or stimulate your senses with the sounds of a forest.

Alternatively, music can help with creativity, but don’t just hit play on the usual suspects. Why not try some classical music that can lift your spirits without the distraction of lyrics. Or how about a foreign language radio station far removed from your usual choice of music to offer your brain some different input.

Images can also trigger a creative response. Flickr offers slideshow functionality — just tap in a keyword, hit the “slideshow” option on the top-right of the screen and let your mind wander as you view the images.

Finally, reading some classic literature is a great way to kick your brain into writing mode. You’ll find classics and more available to view for free at sites like Project Gutenberg and Google Books.


2. Improve Your Focus


If you are stuck in an office and can’t tailor your work environment to suit you, you can at least make on-screen changes to try and make you more productive and get rid of the many distractions of Web 2.0.

If you just need to sit down, get over the creative blockage and for goodness sake type, there is software available for both Mac and Windows users that can help. Writing is all about the text — you can worry about frills and formatting later on. Full-screen, no fuss text editors offer no distractions from other programs you may have open. There’s no on-screen clutter to hinder you and it can be a great way of forcing yourself to write.

Paid-for software WriteRoom is the seminal distraction-free writing tool for Mac users, while Windows users can try DarkRoom or WriteMonkey.


3. Use Language Tools


Sometimes writer’s block can strike when it comes to one line of text you can’t move past, or even just the one word you need to complete the perfect paragraph. There are online tools that can help. Rather than the obvious standard online dictionaries and thesauri, you may find alternatives can better help your creative process.

You can take advantage of a rhyming dictionary, an urban dictionary for slang and street speak, an online graphical dictionary or a visual thesaurus.

Lastly, a semantic dictionary might be the answer if you’re not even sure exactly what it is you’re looking for. Princeton University’s WordNet project groups words into sets of synonyms and then shows the semantic relations between those sets. It is arguably more intuitive than traditional methods, and might just be what you need to grab that bon mot out of the ether.


4. Develop Ideas


If idea generation is the problem, then going back over your old, similar work (especially the successful stuff) is a worthwhile exercise.

“Brainstorming” software can also help develop loose ideas into something concrete by giving structure to your thought process. As shown in the screengrab above, Bubbl.us is a good example of such a tool done right — it is so simple to use you can concentrate on your ideas rather than how to use the software.

If you like the ability to draw freehand, as well as create flowcharts, then DabbleBoard might be the service for you. It also lets you upload images and documents and share your screen with others.

LanguageIsAVirus.com is more suited to creative writers, offering a ton of tools for idea generation, including writing games like the “random line generator,” a text collage and a poem engine.


5. Get Social!


Two brains are better than one. And 10 are better than two. If you are really stuck then don’t be afraid to reach out to your social circle. Whether it’s fact or opinion-based help from Q&A services such as Quora or Aardvark or a quick bit of crowdsourcing on Twitter or Facebook Questions, your online buddies are there to help — just as you’d assist them in return.

If you’re lucky enough to have longer term collaborator(s), you can always employ some software to help the feedback process. Wridea is ideal for this use. You can note down, categorize and search your ideas on the web service and then share them with friends for feedback.


More Productivity Resources from Mashable:


- 18 Online Productivity Tools for Your Business
- HOW TO: Choose a News Reader for Keeping Tabs on Your Industry
- HOW TO: Use a Start Page to Stay Organized
- HOW TO: Use Social Media to Connect with Other Entrepreneurs

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Pgiam


Reviews: Aardvark, Flickr, Twitter, Windows, YouTube, iStockphoto

More About: blogging, blogging tools, flickr, inspiration, List, Lists, online, productivity, writers, writing

December 22 2010

5 Ways To Optimize Your BlackBerry for Business

bberry image

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

When it comes to smartphones, Apple’s iPhone usually gets most of the love. However, for the business-minded tech-savant, sometimes there’s nothing better than RIM’s workstation workhorse, the BlackBerry. BlackBerrys may not have the fancy apps or retina-display graphics, but they do pack a lot of functionality into one little handheld device.

To help you get the most of your mini-workstation, we’ve picked out five ways that you can maximize the productivity of your BlackBerry. Whether you want to keep your battery running forever, need to boost your reception or want to turn your phone into a hot spot, these gadgets will optimize your BlackBerry.

In the comments below, let us know your favorites or share your own tips for getting the most of your phone.


1. Extend Battery Life


charger image

There are few things more frustrating for the mobile savant than when your phone’s battery dies in the middle of an important task. Anyone using their phone for business is prone to see the battery get drained and fast. Packing an extra battery, available through BlackBerry’s site can be one solution, but for those who don’t want to constantly be swapping between chargers, you might want to look into an emergency charger.

While wireless powermats may be the new trend, it’s hard to beat the reliability of old-fashioned, plug-in chargers like the power! Dual 1850, which at $59.99, can charge two devices back to 100% power. Energizer also offers two slim charging options for $19.99.


2. Protect It


case image

If you run a new business, odds are you’re not sitting behind a desk every minute of every day. Cases are usually overlooked by business types, but cracking your screen or snapping your battery can ruin your day if you’re out in the field. BlackBerry’s site has an impressive range of cases that will make your phone look cool, but they may not be able to protect your phone from serious damage. BlackBerry’s leather designs offer the best protection, partly because they totally cover your phone. For fans looking to actually use their phone, check out OtterBox’s Defender Case or Commuter series. Tougher and more durable than the standard mobile skins, they help protect more of your phone while letting you actually use it.


3. Bluetooth Headset


plantronics savor m1100 image

Everyone has seen those people with Bluetooth headsets seemingly talking to themselves. While they are sometimes ridiculed, handsfree headsets can be a huge boon when you’re in the middle of work or need to scribble down notes in the middle of a call. A Bluetooth headset also makes it possible to conduct calls safely while driving. There are a ton of cheap options out there that can get the job done — and admirably so. For a top of the line option, though, check out Plantronics’ Savor M1100 Bluetooth headset. For $99.99 it is definitely one of the most expensive headsets you can buy — the call quality, simple design and integration with advanced cloud technology make it the Ferrari of business headsets.


4. Increase Reception


reception image

Reception is never a bad thing when you’re talking about mobile. While some service carriers can boast 4G speeds or better coverage networks, none of that matters if you go under a bridge or are in a random reception dead zone. While there are unfortunately no super-portable options for boosting your reception, there are a couple ways to make sure your phone gets as many bars as it can. Wilson electronics offers several options, the most portable being the MobilePro reception booster for $199.99.


5. Tethering and Hot Spots


Love your 3G but wish you could either increase the speed or spread the mobile love to your netbook? Tethering your BlackBerry or using it as a modem can help you turn your BlackBerry into a mobile hotspot. You can head over to BlackBerry’s FAQ page for a rundown on how to turn your phone into a tethered modem and a list of devices that can do it. Anyone looking for an easy route can download an app like Tether. After a seven-day free trial, you’ll have to drop $49.99 to keep the service.


BONUS: Business Apps


Skype for Blackberry Image

While BlackBerry is not known for its apps, a list like this wouldn’t be complete without some high-powered mobile apps to soup up the inside of your BlackBerry. Check out our list of 10 Must-Have BlackBerry Apps for Small Business for apps to help you take notes, connect with clients or manage your contacts.


More Business Resources from Mashable:


- HOW TO: Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile
- 4 Top Employers for Social Media Professionals
- What Does Web Design Say About Your Small Business?
- 7 Tips for Building a Better Branded App
- 7 Tips for Succeeding as a Social Media Strategist

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, hulya-erkisi


Reviews: Bluetooth, iStockphoto, love

More About: blackberry, business, List, Lists, RIM, small business

For more Business coverage:


December 09 2010

9 Web Tools to Keep Your Business Running Smoothly During the Holidays


This post originally appeared on Dyn.com, a world leader in managed DNS, powering the best brands on the web including Gowalla, Mashable, Twitter, Wikia and more. Follow @DynInc on Twitter.

The holidays can be hard for small business owners who need to keep things up and running back at headquarters, but also want to spend time away from work with friends and family.

To assist with this need-to-be-in-two-places-at-once quandary, we’ve pulled together a list of tools that can help you manage your business remotely. This hopefully means you’ll be able to enjoy the break you need (and no doubt deserve) all while staying connected.

Have a read through the nine tools below that can help you keep your business running during the holidays, and let us know in the comments which tools you’ll be using. Fingers crossed that if you do need to use any of them, you’ll be doing it from a comfy chair with a glass of eggnog in hand.


1. Box.net


Box.net enables you to access all of your digital content online via a file and folder system. After all, you never know when you’re going to need a file while out of the office. Having it saved on your office computer isn’t going to do you any good when you’re halfway across the country. Box.net also offers free iOS and Android apps that provide a limited version of the service.


2. DimDim


If you need to organize an impromptu meeting from afar, doing it online may be your only option. There are a host of companies offering web conferencing facilities, but DimDim’s solution is all-platform-friendly, 100% browser based (no software downloads necessary), and very easy to use. Best of all, it’s affordable — a basic meeting with up to 10 attendees is free.


3. Salesforce


Salesforce’s cloud-based customer relationship manager “SaaS” solutions are pretty well known and used by some heavyweight organizations. In addition to letting you log in from anywhere, Salesforce offers subscribers comprehensive free apps for iPods, iPhones and iPads, making staying connected on the go seriously doable.


4. Skype


Many Skype users value the service for its free user-to-user calls. However, there are lots of ways to utilize Skype for business. If you need to help a colleague or employee out with a software or IT issue, for example, Skype’s screen-sharing capabilities are very useful. It’s obviously not as advanced as enterprise-aimed solutions, but if it’s just a matter of sorting a simple issue to prevent a hiccup from turning into a drama, then it’s useful to know that Skype offers this ability.


5. Pingdom


You can’t monitor your site every hour of every day — especially when you’re trying to take some time out of the office — but you do need to know if your site is down, so you can quickly get it up and working.

There are a wealth of uptime monitoring services to suit all budgets, so it’s an area worth researching if you’re looking at this long term. However, if you haven’t put any monitoring into place and just want cover for a few holiday weekends, Pingdom offers a free account and iPhone app to monitor one domain.


6. LogMeIn


Similar to Box.net, this remote access and desktop control software is ideal for very small businesses, or even one-man bands. With a personal LogMeIn account you can securely access your computer (files and applications) remotely. A companion product — LogMeIn Ignition — enables you to do the same from a mobile device, too.


7. Flowdock


Flowdock is a team communication and collaboration tool. Unlike similar solutions, it offers some nifty features that enable you to keep track of what’s been talked about, shared and decided even if you weren’t online at the time. Within Flowdock, you can use @mentions and hashtags to monitor conversations, making it possible to know at a glance what the team has chatted about. History is saved forever and is easily searchable, and you can set Flowdock up to e-mail you a daily digest of mentions.


8. SocialOomph


If you don’t want to drop off the social media radar or miss mentions, then getting set up with a tool like SocialOomph will mean you can schedule tweets. If you go for the paid “Pro” options you can also schedule Facebook statuses and wall updates, as well as blog posts, to go live while you’re away. In addition, the service will alert you to any @mentions so you can respond quickly to customers and commentators if the situation requires it.


9. Delivery Status touch iOS App


Delivery Status touch (available for the iPhone and iPad) helps you keep track of all your packages, so you know when they will arrive. It supports more than 25 services (including UPS, FedEx, USPS, DHL, TNT, Canada Post, City Link, Royal Mail, DPD and more). You can also manually set up tracking from services not supported, so if anyone asks you when something is due to arrive, you’ll have a darn good idea — even if you’re away from the office.


More Business Resources from Mashable:


- HOW TO: Boost Holiday Sales With Commonly Overlooked Marketing Strategies
- Social Media Marketing: 5 Lessons From Business Leaders Who Get It
- HOW TO: Get the Most Out of Your Business Facebook Page
- HOW TO: Develop a Branded iPhone App on a Budget
- 5 Tips for Improving Your Social Customer Service

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, kemie

More About: apps, business, dyn, List, Lists, productivity, small business, software, tools

For more Business coverage:


November 25 2010

5 Important Tips for Better Eye Health in a Digital World

Eye Image

Dr. Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD, is a licensed VSP Vision Care provider based in Tampa, Florida specializing in children’s vision, computer vision, and orthokeratology. You can visit his blog here and follow him on Twitter here.

In attempting to sum up the world in 2010, one word comes to mind: connected. Everywhere we go we carry devices that keep us connected to something important to us. Be it a sleek new tablet letting you share photos with the person helping load your groceries, or a smartphone making sure you don’t miss that late night e-mail from a colleague; we are now constantly connected to the world around us, more than ever before.

We’ve become dependent on these digital devices to survive both professionally and personally, and with the holiday season now upon us and digital devices topping most of our gift wish lists, the amount of time we spend with these gadgets will only increase. Yet many of us forget to consider two devices we are naturally equipped with that keep us more connected to the world than anything else: our eyes. Consumers often don’t think about the impact digital devices might have on their vision, and it can be to the detriment of not just their health, but also productivity.

In an effort to help consumers keep their eye health in mind this winter while enjoying these amazing products, we’ve put together five tips for creating a vision-healthy environment for digital device usage.


1. Customize Your Environment


You can adjust your environment when using digital devices to promote healthier eyes. If possible, use a large monitor or screen magnifier to reduce eye strain. Make sure your chair is close to your computer and you are sitting in a chair with adequate lower-back support. Position your chair so that you are comfortable.

Each person has a preference for his or her chair, so take some time to find what’s best for you. Making sure you’re comfortable before you start using a device will decrease the amount of stress you put on your eyes trying to find the best viewing angle.


2. Think About Lighting


For extended reading, change your monitor settings to a reflective lighting scheme. But don’t only think about your computer lighting.

Good room lighting isn’t just flattering. It’s also healthy for your eyes. So, keep bright lighting overhead to a minimum. Too much lighting overexposes and irritates the eyes, while too little causes the eyes to strain in order to see. Keep your desk lamp shining on your desk, not you. Try to keep window light off to the side, rather than in front or behind you. Use blinds and get a glare screen. Position the computer screen to reduce reflections from windows or overhead lights.


3. Adjust Your Reading Angle


Adjust the screen so you look at it slightly downward and are about 24 to 28 inches away. The center should be about 4 to 6 inches below your eyes. Also, make sure your screen is big enough and with just the right brightness and contrast so you’re not straining to see text or images clearly. Adjust the screen settings to where they are comfortable for you.


4. Magnify Text on Screen


For those with permanently reduced vision, magnifying the text and images on your device will help you avoid straining your eyes from squinting. Almost every device can be adjusted to display larger text, and for those with compromised vision, this can make reading much easier.


5. Blink and Take Frequent Breaks


Devices are set up for virtually nonstop work — but you aren’t a machine. You need to take breaks to recharge, and so do your eyes. Use the “20-20-20 rule.” It’s easy to remember: every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break, and look at something 20 feet away. And don’t forget to blink! Blinking washes your eyes in naturally therapeutic tears. If you regularly wear glasses, also make sure you have proper lenses for the computer.

Follow the above tips, and you can enjoy your slick new technology without worrying about consequences to your eye health, productivity and overall peace of mind.


More Health Resources from Mashable:


- 5 Innovative Technologies Changing Health Care [VIDEOS]
- 5 Ways Social Media Helps Promote Good Health
- 8 Best Android Apps for Health and Fitness
- 4 Tips for Reducing Social Media Stress
- 5 Amazing Infographics For the Health Conscious

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Dmytro

More About: eye health, eyes, List, Lists, productivity, social media, tech, tips

For more Tech coverage:


5 Fresh and Free To-Do List Apps for iPhone


We all lead busy, hectic lives, which means that it’s all too easy to forget a task here and there. A to-do list can really help keep you on track, but pen and paper lists are easily lost, especially if you are disorganized to begin with.

Making a to-do list on the device you take everywhere — your phone — is a great way to get organized. You can whip it out at any point to add an item, or — joy of joys — cross one off.

We’ve taken a look at the to-do lists in the App Store and have come up with five fresh options that will help your productivity in specific ways. Best of all, each one is free.


1. Lucid Lists Free


This list app offers great functionality and is perfect for anyone who needs reminders for recurring tasks. Whether it’s returning library books, de-fleaing the cat, car maintenance or just a nudge to call your grandmother, Lucid Lists helps you set up reminders for repeating tasks.

Tasks are categorized as “raw” denoting a new or far-off task, “ripe,” which means ready for action, or “rotten” if you’ve missed the due date. This system provides an at-a-glance look at what needs doing and should help anyone stay on track of regular chores.

Developer: Kembipro
Best for: Ongoing time management


2. Errands To-Do List


This functional app offers a calendar-based way to manage your tasks and alerts to make sure you remember to do them. Add a new item to your to-do list and you can set up folders, priority levels, due date and due time. Setting a due time means you can accompany the task with an alert to go off at various timed intervals before it’s due.

You can also view monthly calendars that show tasks due on different dates, which is a great way of getting an overview of just what it is your to-do list has in store for you.

Developer: Yoctoville
Best for: Anyone who needs reminder alerts


3. Home&Work Lite


Ideal for anyone who has a very busy home and work life, this app separates the two areas, offering a micro-managed way of keeping on top of all your tasks, as well as personal projects and study.

Within the “work”, “home,” “project,” “school” and “personal” sections, you can add to-do items and other tasks into a plethora of sub-sections such as appointments, documents, events, yard work, etc. There’s even a “to-think” category, if you’re so busy you need to remind yourself to do so.

Developer: Manumatix
Best for: Control freaks


4. Listable


Listable is a very capable option for anyone who shares to-do lists with partners, housemates or colleagues. Once you’ve set up a list, you can share it via an e-mail invite. The new collaborator can then view the list on his or her iPhone, or online if they are iPhone deficient.

The lists themselves are simple — you create tasks as text entries and then tick them off or delete them once complete. The app also offers an “activity stream” view, so if you have shared lists with others, there’s an at-a-glance way to view who has done what, and when.

Developer: StackBuilders
Best for: To-do list collaboration


5. ListPro


The developer describes this app as the “ultimate list making toolkit,” and with its free price tag, we’d definitely agree. ListPro is a seriously comprehensive app that lets you create any kind of to-do list, from simple checklists right through to custom lists as complex as you care to create.

It’s not just the creation options that are complex — the options within the lists leave no stone unturned. Within to-do lists you can highlight, indent, and add categories, priority ratings, flags and more. Once you’ve created your lists, you can then re-arrange items, filter results and send an e-mail reminder.

We’re just touching the surface of what this app is capable of. If you’re a die-hard to-do list fan, or want to try and become one, this app comes highly recommended.

Developer: Ilium Software
Best for: List fiends


More iPhone Resources from Mashable:


- 10 Mobile Apps for Movie Addicts
- 3 Innovative iPad Games That Use the iPhone as a Controller
- 5 Stylish iPhone Alarm Clock Apps to Wake You Up On Time
- 10 Useful iPhone Shortcuts, Tips and Tricks
- 10 Useful iPhone Keyboard Shortcuts, Tips and Tricks


Reviews: App Store, list

More About: app store, apple, apps, business productivity, iphone, iphone apps, List, Lists, productivity, Productivity Lists, to-do lists

For more Apple coverage:


November 19 2010

11 Essential Apps for Managing Your Real Life Social Networks

Google Calendar Image

Rich Aberman is the co-founder of WePay, a payment service that helps people collect money online. You can read more of Rich’s posts on the WePay blog, “Like” WePay on Facebook, or follow WePay on Twitter.

When I moved to Silicon Valley from the East Coast, my real life social network became significantly more distributed. My friends were no longer limited to my small group of college buddies. Now, my network consists of many different groups, each of which has its own personality and social mores.

I’m certainly not the only one. We all share the challenge of managing and communicating with many different groups of friends, teammates, and coworkers. Luckily, there are plenty of online tools that help with that. Here are my favorites for a variety of different situations.


Bring Your Friends Together


The new Facebook Groups is a remarkable improvement over the original group application, and it is a clear indication that Facebook is taking group organization and collaboration seriously. Group Chat and Message Lists do a great job keeping large and loosely defined groups on the same page (no pun intended). My fantasy football league uses Facebook Group Chat to talk trash and discuss important games every Sunday. My (extended) family uses a Facebook Messaging list to keep in touch (the opt-out system is OK in this context because the group only includes family members).

For formal groups like clubs or organizations, GroupSpaces is a great solution. It manages members, organizes gatherings, and shares calendars and documents. GroupSpaces even allows you to collect money from members for dues and group events.

I just joined a soccer team for the first time in years. It’s great exercise, but it’s also an additional 12 friends with whom I need to coordinate. TeamSnap helps manage our game and event schedules, tracks who can attend each game, organizes fees and payments, and even tracks player stats.

Disclosure: GroupSpaces uses WePay to collect money.


Communicate With Your Crew(s)


I just discovered GroupMe, and it has changed my world. GroupMe provides you with a unique phone number for each of your social groups. If you text that number, everybody in the group receives a text. If you call that number, you start an instant conference call. For every one of my social groups (coworkers, family, college friends, founder friends, party-on-Tuesday-night friends), I have a GroupMe number.

I’ve also used it for short-term groups. I went to Vegas with a bunch of friends, and our GroupMe phone number is the only thing that kept us all together when we were on the go.

And going back to the basics, I use Facebook whenever I want to start a long message thread with multiple people. It’s quicker and easier than e-mail, and it feels more casual.


Plan the Party


Facebook Events is not the greatest RSVP-management tool, but it definitely has its place. It’s ideal for events with open guest lists such as big parties or gatherings. It works for me when I want to rally a group of friends around a particular event or when I just want to get the word out about something going on. We just used a Facebook Event to throw a Halloween party at our new office, and it attracted more than 300 people. We also use Facebook Events for the Tech Talks that we host with other startups in the Bay Area. For those, we just want to attract as many people as possible.

Since nobody pays attention to RSVP requests on Facebook Events, it’s not a good option for smaller or more formal gatherings. I use Pingg for formal or intimate engagements because the invitations are elegant, and recipients take the RSVP part seriously. For the really high brow, big-deal affairs, sometimes classic printed invites are necessary. Companies like Paperlinks bridge the gap between the digital and real worlds by letting you add QR codes to your printed invitations to give them another dimension. The codes can link online photos, videos and other visual elements to any paper invites you’re sending out to friends and family.

All that said, I’m a creature of habit, and I still use Evite. It’s a little clunky, and it has a bit of a bad rap, but it does the trick. For casual events with limited guest lists, Evite is (still) my go-to tool.


Show Up


There are a million online calendars and calendar tools, but I simply couldn’t survive without Google Calendar. It’s a classic, and it does everything I need. My Google calendar syncs with iCal, which I run locally on my laptop. They both sync with my iPhone, so I always know where I’m supposed to be (I make sure to set my alerts at least 20 minutes before every calendar event).

But how does it help me manage my social life? Simple: Sharing. I share my calendar with those in my immediate circles so they can always see what I’m up to and know when I’m free.

Working hours: It’s a new feature, but I’ve already started using it. Google now lets you set up working hours so other people know when they should invite you to events and when to leave you alone.

Invites: This might be the simplest and most amazing tool in Google Calendar. If you are planning an event with more than one person, simply invite them to the event when you add it to your calendar, and Google will send them an e-mail invite. If they accept, it will automatically get added to their calendar as well.

Find a time: This feature solves a real problem. When you’re trying to coordinate a meeting time for multiple people, you can easily compare schedules and pick a time that works for everyone.


Keep in Touch


Threadsy Image

Communication is key, whether you’re trying to schedule a one-on-one date or a huge party. I can keep on top of my conversations across social media platforms with Threadsy, which is a site that pulls all my e-mail and social feeds into one stream. So if I start a conversation on Twitter, continue it on Facebook and then e-mail with the rest of the details, I don’t lose track.

Etacts is a Gmail plugin that helps me manage my individual relationships. It’s almost like a personal CRM. My favorite feature of Etacts is that it automatically helps me stay in touch with my friends. For example, Etacts reminds me to connect with my college roommate at least once every two weeks. Making friends is easy, but keeping the relationship alive and strong is tough. For this, Etacts has been my tool of choice.

Once you manage to get the ol’ group together though, don’t forget to set up that “out of office” automated e-mail reply and step away from your smart phone. Those in-person interactions are what it’s all about.


More Productivity Resources from Mashable:


- 10 Killer Firefox Tips, Tricks and Shortcuts
- 37 Productivity Tips for Working From Anywhere
- 10 Dead Simple Gmail Tips, Tricks & Shortcuts
- How Social Media Can Make Us More Productive
- 10 Killer Google Chrome Tips, Tricks and Shortcuts

More About: apps, evite, Google Calendar, List, Lists, pingg, productivity, Productivity Lists, social media, social netoworking, threadsy, web apps

For more Social Media coverage:


October 10 2010

10 Useful Apple iPad Tips and Tricks


We’d be the first to admit using Apple’s iPad isn’t exactly rocket science, and we will also admit that Apple is at the top of its game when it comes to easy-to-use products.

But if you didn’t take the time to read the owner’s manual, we have some quick and neat tips and tricks that can help you get the most out of your tablet.

From managing the sound levels of your tunes, to organization your apps, to muting in the case of emergency, we have 10 handy hints for you to work your way to iPad ninja status.

Check out our tried and tested iPad tips, and impress your friends when they come to you for help with their iPad. Be sure to let us know if there are any shortcuts you’d like to share in the comments below.


1. Open Safari Links in a New Page


Remember that you can have multiple webpages loaded in Safari simultaneously. So if you’re not sure about a link or want to keep your current page open, you can open the link in a new window (a little like tabbed browsing, but without the tabs).

To do this, rather than just tap the link, press and hold it until you see an option to “Open in New Page,” hit this, and Safari will open a new window and load that link.

To manage the pages you have open or to return to another page, look to the top of the browser and there you’ll see an icon that looks like two overlapping boxes or pages. If you press the icon, it will show you all the pages you have open (just like in the graphic below). From here you can tap any of the “X” buttons to close an individual page.


2. Activate AutoFill in Safari


The AutoFill option is a great time saver for anyone who knows and trusts anyone else who might use their iPad, as it automatically remembers your usernames and passwords for services.

To activate it, ensure your details are saved in “Contacts,” then head to “Settings,” choose “Safari,” and click “AutoFill” and then set both options to “On” and select your file from “Contacts” in the “My Info” field.


3. Quick Mute Your iPad


Although the iPad has no “mute” option, you can still quickly silence your device by pressing and holding the down volume button — this quickly drops the volume down to zero in about two seconds.


4. Make Use of the Home Button


The iPad’s “Home” button will take you to your homepage if pressed once, but it has a few other functions worth knowing about as well.

To access these functions, go to “Settings,” press “General,” then choose “Home.” Here you can select which function you’d like a double press of the button to carry out, such as opening up “Spotlight Search” or accessing the iPod.

From this area in “Settings” you can also set “iPod Controls” to “On,” which will mean when you have music playing and you’re in another program or app, a double press of the “Home” button will bring up basic music controls.


5. Add a Website Shortcut to Your Home Screen


Although you won’t need to do this for Mashable (thanks to our free iPad app) there is a quick way to add shortcuts to your favorite sites directly to your home screen.

Head to the webpage you want to create the shortcut to, tap the “+” sign at the top of the page and select “Add to Home Screen.” This will then create a shortcut icon offering one-click access to your most-used sites.


6. Make iBooks More User-Friendly


The iBooks app’s swipe-to-turn the page function is really nice when you first play with it, but the truth is (and it’s especially true if you’re a fast reader) it gets a little old if you’re settling down to read more than a few pages.

You can tweak iBook’s settings to offer a shortcut to go to the next page, if you simply tap the left margin.

To make this the case, head to “Settings,” then under the “Apps” section, press “iBooks,” then “Tap Left Margin” and make sure “Next Page” is ticked, which will change it from the default option — the previous page.


7. Activate iPod Sound Check


You know how annoying it is when your songs play at different volume levels, leaving you either scrambling to get across the room to turn it down, or sighing with frustration as an inaudible track comes on? Well there’s a way to stop that from happening.

All you need do is navigate yourself to “Settings,” click “iPod” and then turn “Sound Check” to “On,” which will help regulate volume levels.

Oh, and while you’re there, take note of the “EQ” menu that offers a ton of different sound options depending on the style of music you’re listening to, or you can regulate sound levels for spoken words to help optimize sound for podcasts or audio-books.


8. Squeeze Six Apps into the Dock


Until iOS4.2 arrives in November, bringing with it the joy of folders, there are a few ways to help organize your apps and make items you use often more accessible.

You can have 11 pages to arrange your apps on, so although there’s no way to make a games folder, for example, you could drag and drop all your games apps onto one page to create a themed “games” page.

Also, the dock can have up to six apps in it, so you can pick two more than the standard layout offers (just touch an app until it wiggles then drag it into the dock to move it) to make more items closer to hand from any screen.


9. Use a Space Bar Trick


In addition to the keyboard shortcuts, tips and tricks we have previously brought you for iOS devices, we have one more spacebar trick to share.

The spacebar will create as many spaces as there are fingers on it, so one finger will produce one space, two fingers two spaces and so on.

We can’t see that this is going to be the most useful trick you’ll ever learn, but it’s interesting if for no other reason than to see how the Apple engineers had fun with the display’s multi-touch capabilities.


10. Download the iPad User Guide eBook


Did you know you can download the official Apple iPad User Guide as an e-Book?

While available in Safari’s pre-loaded bookmarks, for offline access to the guide simply download it for free from the iBooks store, and search for “iPad”.

Download it now, and the next time you have a iPad query and are not hooked up to the ‘net you’ll be ready to go.


More iOS Resources from Mashable:


- 10 Useful iPhone Shortcuts, Tips and Tricks
- HOW TO: Make Free iPhone Ringtones
- 10 Useful iPhone Keyboard Shortcuts, Tips and Tricks
- 10 Best Apple iPad Stands
- 7 Useful iPhone Camera Tips and Tricks

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, matka_Wariatka

More About: Apple iPad, how to, how tos, iOS, ipad, tips, tips and tricks, tricks

For more Tech coverage:


October 07 2010

5 Free Ways to Improve Your Typing Skills Online

Typwriter Image

If you didn’t pay attention in your high school typing class, you might be regretting it now. Hovering hesitantly over the keys with two fingers and poking away is a waste of time — not to mention it doesn’t look very professional. But don’t worry; like any other skill, you can improve.

Think of the time you could save if you upped your speed even by a few words per minute. To help you out, we’ve picked some free services that can improve your technique, accuracy and speed.

So, why not bookmark a few of the sites below, and the next time you have a few minutes to spare, instead of watching hiccuping cats on YouTube, invest some time in improving your productivity.


1. TypingMaster’s Typing Test


To begin, you need to assess your current typing skills in order to monitor your improvement and see how much you’re getting better over time. The best way to do this is with a quick typing test.

There are many sites that offer free typing tests, but we like TypingMaster’s version for its options in length of test, choice of topic to type about and the shareable results that you can post to Facebook and Twitter.


2. TypingWeb’s Free Tutorials


After you have determined just how adept you are, it’s time to start improving and correcting all the bad keyboard habits you’ve been using. According to the accepted wisdom on typing, to touch type most efficiently, your hands should be placed over the keyboard in a particular way.

TypingWeb.com offers some comprehensive free tutorials to get you using the correct hand positioning, even at the beginner level. To start, you’ll learn which hand you should be using and when. Proceed to more advanced tutorials and practice sessions that utilize a combination of letters, numbers and symbols to get your fingers flying properly around the keyboard.

TypingWeb also offers a neat way to start your day — its “News Headline Exercises” will have you typing the top stories from Google News, Fox Sports or ABC, so it’s an ideal way to catch up on the headlines and improve your typing skills at the same time.

If you want to keep track of your progress, simply take advantage of the site’s free registration so you can save your work.


3. Sense-Lang’s Balloon Game


Once you know where your fingers should be, the next thing to do is know where the keys are. This way, you can type without removing your eyes from the screen and you’ll see the biggest boost in speed.

One fun way to do this is with an online game from Sense-Lang. Letters fall down the screen on balloons that you have to burst by hitting the correct key. It’s simple, addictive and a surefire way to get to know where the “K” key is without peeking.


4. Rapid Typing Zone’s TypeDown


Once you have your hand positioning down and feel comfortable knowing the location of every key, the next step is to improve your speed.

Practice, as with anything, is the key to lightning-fast typing skills. And sometimes a game can offer more excitement and incentive than day-to-day typing tasks.

TypeDown is a very minimalist race-against-time game that will get you typing a great selection of random words as fast as you can in order to stop the stack from piling up and hitting the top of the screen.

With some retro gaming effects, it adds a nice dash of urgency to really get your fingers flailing.


5. TypeOnline’s Number Pad Lessons


We aren’t forgetting the numerical side of things and have a service in mind made specially for anyone looking to improve on the number pad.

In addition to general advice on technique for typing on your keyboard’s number pad, TypeOnline offers eight free online lessons to help you improve your skills and speed on the right-hand side.


BONUS: Play TypeRacer!


Once you feel you’ve honed some serious typing skills, here is a fun typing-based web game where you can take on typists from around the globe or challenge your buddies to a type-off.

TypeRacer’s simple online game will randomly match you up live with another player. It will also provide you with a unique URL that you can share to type-race against friends, family or colleagues — it’s what we call good, clean fun!


More Productivity Resources from Mashable:


- 10 Killer Firefox Tips, Tricks and Shortcuts
- 18 Online Productivity Tools for Your Business
- 37 Productivity Tips for Working From Anywhere
- 10 Dead Simple Gmail Tips, Tricks & Shortcuts
- HOW TO: Use a Start Page to Stay Organized

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, narvikk

More About: business, games, gaming, List, Lists, online gaming, productivity, small business, typing, websites

For more Tech coverage:


September 29 2010

10 Killer Firefox Tips, Tricks and Shortcuts

FireFox Image

One of the reasons for the popularity of the Firefox browser is the wealth of downloadable add-ons, and the customization options available via the about:config hacks. However, there are some tidy tricks you can employ from within the “as is” browser that can greatly improve your web surfing experience.

These simple but powerful tips and tricks for the open source browser will have you cruising the web faster and smarter in no time.

So, if you’re a Firefox user, check out these 10 features we’ve highlighted and, as always, please do share any other Firefox hints you’ve found useful in the comments.


1. One-Click Bookmarking


Firefox offers a very fast way to add a site to your bookmarks — simply click on the star icon in the browser’s “Location Bar.”

Clicking once will add the page to your “Unsorted Bookmarks” folder while clicking twice will open up a window that will allow you to edit where the bookmark should be saved, its title, and any tags (see #2 below).


2. Tag Your Bookmarks for Quick Access


One way of organizing your bookmarks in Firefox is to tag them with keywords. You can either do this as you save them down, or retrospectively by going to the “Bookmarks” menu, selecting “Organize bookmarks,” finding the bookmark you want to tag, and adding in the keywords.

Once you’ve added a word, such as “news” as you can see in the example above, Firefox will offer this as a tag option in future, meaning you just have to tick the box to add it as a tag to another site.

Once you’ve set up your tags, typing a tag into the Location Bar will bring up all the sites you’ve tagged with that word, offering quick access to sites you visit often.


3. Shrink Your Icons


You can change how Firefox’s toolbar icons are displayed to give you a little more screen space. This is useful when every pixel counts (as on a netbook screen), or simply to achieve a more minimalist look.

Simply go to the “View” menu, select “Toolbars,” hit the “Customize” option and then tick the “Use Small Icons” box.

If you want to lose the icons altogether, you can follow the same steps, but hit the drop-down menu next to “Use Small Icons” and select “Text” for a graphics-free toolbar.


4. Add Icons to the Toolbar


If you carry out the same actions often, such as printing, viewing your history, or managing downloads, there’s a way to add more functionality to your toolbar.

Go to the “View” menu, then “Toolbars,” then the “Customize” option, and you can drag and drop a number of extra icons to the top of your browser for easy access.


5. Change the Default E-mail Setting


When you click on “Send Link” or “mailto:” links in Firefox, the browser will load up your operating system’s default e-mail program (so likely Outlook in Windows or Mail on a Mac). But it’s quite often the case that these aren’t the mail programs you want.

You can stop the annoyance of Firefox loading up a default mail program by changing your preference in settings, and it’s really easy if you use Gmail or Yahoo Mail.

Go to “Tools,” “Options,” “Applications” and scroll down until you see “Mailto” on the left. Now, just hit the drop-down menu and select the e-mail program you’d like to use in the future. The next time you click on a mail link in a webpage, it will load up your preferred e-mail program.


6. Save a Search Shortcut


You can save time on sites you search regularly so that you can quickly start a search process on that site from anywhere on the web. To get this set up, right-click on the site’s search box and select “Add a Keyword for this Search.”

Once you assign a keyword to a site search, you can simply type “keyword + search term” in your Location Bar to search that website. So, for example, typing “Mashable + Social Good” will search Mashable.com for that content, once the keyword is set up. This will save you the extra steps of loading the site, finding the search box and entering the term.


7. Change the Default Font Size


You can ensure you’re never left squinting at tiny text on your monitor with an option that forces sites to display text at a minimum font size.

Although it should be noted that this may cause some sites to display erroneously, if textual clarity is more important to you than web design purity, go ahead and make the changes — your optician may thank you for it!

Go to “Tools,” “Options,” then “Content” and then click on the “Advanced” button next to “Fonts & Colors.” You can then select a minimum font size from the drop down menu. Rest easy knowing that you’ll never be presented with a sea of 6 pt. text again.


8. Learn Some Shortcut Keys


There is a whole load of mouse and keyboard shortcuts in Firefox, but we’ve highlighted the ones we find most useful:

  • Control + Enter — adds .com to the end of text in the Location Bar
  • Control + Shift + T — reopens the last tab you closed
  • Alt + D — highlights the text in the Location Bar
  • Control + Page Up/Down — Moves to previous or next tab
  • / — Quick find

9. Set Up Multiple Homepages


It’s true, you can have more than one website as a homepage. You can configure Firefox to load your webmail, favorite news site and social network of choice as it starts.

To set this up, simply load up the sites you want as your homepages, go to “Options,” then “General,” and then hit the “Use Current Pages” button.

Now, the next time you start Firefox, you’ll be productive from the get-go.


10. Clear a Single Site From Your History


We’ve all done it — typed “Facbook” instead of Facebook. And now the browser loads up the wrong site every time. However, this need not be the case, as Firefox offers a clever way to delete one site from your browsing history rather than forcing you to clear all your recent activity.

To tidy up any typos in your web tracks, go to the “History” menu, click on “Show All History,” and then type the name of the site you want to get rid of in the “Search History” box. When it has loaded, simply right-click on the site and select “Forget About This Site.” Now it’s no longer history — it’s ancient history.


More Firefox Resources from Mashable


- Back to School: 10 Must-Have Firefox Extensions for Students
- 10 Firefox Add-ons to Beautify Your Browser
- 16 Great Music Add-Ons for Firefox
- 40+ Add-Ons for Managing Firefox Tabs
- 20+ Great Twitter Tools for Firefox

More About: Browsers, Firefox, how to, how tos, List, Lists, mozilla, productivity, shortcuts, tips, tricks

For more Tech coverage:


September 27 2010

37 Productivity Tips for Working From Anywhere


The Non-Traditional Workspaces Series is supported by RingCentral, the leading business phone system designed for today’s small businesses, entrepreneurs, and mobile professionals. Visit RingCentral.com to learn more.

productivityThe days of shackling your business to a brick and mortar office are over. Even people who work primarily in traditional offices occasionally find themselves working on the road or from their kitchen tables. This flexibility is great in a lot of ways, but each new work setting also brings with it a new set of productivity challenges.

We asked people who work from home, from coworking spaces, in coffee shops, on the road and in offices to share their secrets for a productive day no matter where they’re working. The following are the highlights of their collective advice.


From Home


3_monitors

Joel Ohman, the founder of Domain Superstar, uses three monitors to maximize his productivity at home.

Home workers reduce their commuting time to zero, aren’t distracted by coworkers, and can work on whatever schedule fits their style. On the other hand, their work often competes with their children, errands, and other distracting comforts. Here are their tips for staying focused, keeping a schedule, and reducing distractions.

  • Have a work space that has a door that can be closed. It’s hard to be productive with kids screaming in the background or the TV on. It also gives a bad impression to clients. — Rohan Hall, Founder and CEO of rSitez, Inc
  • Even if you’re the only one in the house, try listening to music on headphones while you work. It will help you forget your surroundings and focus on the task at hand. — Emily Widle, E-Commerce Marketing Specialist at Pegasus Associates Lighting
  • Put together a box of toys, games, and books that your children are only allowed to use when you are on the phone. Make sure these ideas are saved for “special” times (when you’re on the phone, or can’t give your child your full attention). Also, load up on popsicles. It always keeps them quiet for a few minutes for an important phone call. — Deb Walker, Project Manager for Contemporary-VA
  • Even if you work at-home, get dressed for the office, go through your typical morning routine and tackle your day like you’re clocking in at 9. — BJ Cook, CEO of Digital Operative Inc.
  • Don’t eat lunch in your office. Use this time to regroup and take a break. Why? Because if you do it right, working out of the house is constant work – no water cooler/cubicle talk, no walking across the building to the copier, etc. So you have to re-energize by getting out of the chair and out of that room. — Roger Grant, Founder of RG2 Solutions
  • Be honest with regard to when you are productive. For example, I am far more productive at night. I get more done between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. than I ever do before noon (when I have the luxury to choose). When I was in a situation where I had that flexibility, I would go to the gym in the morning because that requires no thought and do the hard stuff in the afternoon, evening and night. — Jeff Bogensberger Co-Founder and CEO of SOCO Games
  • To the extent possible, chain yourself to the desk. There are plenty of non-work distractions at home. Spend as much time working at home as you work in the office. — Jon Gelberg, Chief Content Officer at Blue Fountain Media
  • Three monitors is the productivity “sweet spot” for most people. I love using my three 30″ monitors and my “Geek Desk” that is fully hydraulic and accommodates working from a seated or a standing position. — Joel J. Ohman, President of Domain Superstar

From the Office


Blake

Mashable Tech Editor and office productivity master Blake Robinson at work in Mashable HQ

Most offices are designed with efficiency in mind, and some workers focus better if they have a set schedule and a dedicated workspace. On the other hand, a work day is a huge chunk of time to stay focused, and organizing it productively can be daunting. To avoid getting stuck in water cooler talk, organize the workday, and maximize productivity, read these tips.

  • Do NOT check your e-mail for the first 45 minutes that you are in the office in the morning. Don’t even open it. There are never meetings at that time and most people are settling in and reading their e-mails, so it’s a mellow time (not too much talking, few drive-bys, hallway conversations and urgent requests rarely happen). — Amanda Feifer O’Brien, Marketing Manager at Firmenich Inc.
  • Take the first 30 minutes to plan the rest of your day. By plan, I mean make a list of the important tasks that you need to have done today and stay focused on these items. If you start working without first organizing your day, it’s very easy to spend the first 4 hours just reading and responding to e-mails. Most of these e-mails are distractions from the more important tasks that you need to do. Make a list of the things that you want to achieve that day and work from that list until it’s completed. — Rohan Hall, Founder and CEO of rSitez, Inc
  • I stumbled across an application called Freedom. It is actually pretty pathetic that somebody would need to purchase something like this, but it was the best $10 I have spent! The app simply locks you away from the Internet. It removed nearly every distraction possible. — Erick Bzovi, Founder of HealPay.com
  • Block [the] like-minded tasks together. Set aside time to make outbound calls, and make one right after the other. Plan times during the day to check your e-mail, Twitter and social media to avoid a huge time trap. — Lorraine Bosse-Smith, President of Concept One
  • A few years ago I did not change the time on my alarm clock back to winter time. So I got used to getting up an hour earlier than the “rest of the world.” It is probably my most productive hour of the day as the world is still asleep, no phones ringing, etc. — Ann Castro, Investment Banker and Author.
  • I give myself three must-complete tasks each day (usually fairly large tasks) and take short breaks between each one to give my mind a break and switch gears. — Britt Reints, author of miss-britt.com
  • Show up to meetings on time. How many times have you had to get late arriving people up to speed on what was covered in the first five minutes, then again when someone comes in 10 minutes late? That’s a huge waste of time. — Chad Otis, Executive Creative Director of Smashing Ideas
  • Carve out transition time. Devote the final hours of your workday to some of your least-pressured tasks. I like listening to music on grooveshark.com and doing paperwork. You will feel a sense of accomplishment by completing at least one thing before day end. — Susan Fletcher, Ph.D., Author of Working in The Smart Zone

From a Coworking Space


New_Work_City

Workers get down to business at New Work City, a coworking space in Manhattan (courtesy of Alex Hotz)

Coworking solves the lonely independent worker problem, and coworking spaces can be great environments for collaborating and finding feedback on your work. But even though coworkers leave the distractions of their homes, there are other distractions at a coworking space — mainly, other enthusiastic people working on interesting projects that you want to know more about. Read these tips for staying focused.

  • I like to pretend all the people around me are potential clients judging my work habits. Is it a little weird and unorthodox? Sure. But competition and putting yourself “in the spotlight” will always make you work harder. — Eric Fulwiler, Partner at ZAC
  • If the work you’re doing requires some skills that are outside your immediate field, see if your coworkers might be interested in working with you on the project. Or they might know someone in their network of friends who would be perfect for it. Word of mouth referrals from someone you know is still the best way to find good help. — Jay Catalan, Co-Founder of The Network Hub
  • Rather than standing up from behind your wall of monitors and shouting “Can you all shut up?!” you may want to consider, what I call “The Cone of Silence.” It really works! All you need are a nice pair of headphones, (not earbuds), a wave file that plays “white noise,” and Windows Media Player set to “auto-repeat.” — Paul Preibisch of B3D Multitech
  • Surround yourself with the right people. Coworking spaces can be a huge asset or a huge liability, depending almost entirely upon who I’m surrounded by. You want to surround yourself with smart people who have similar work styles as you. For instance, if you’re a loose, fun worker, then being surrounded by just computer programmers hacking away at keyboards all day will cramp your style. The opposite obviously applies if you’re a “get down to work and work long and hard” type of person. — Jesse Davis, Co-founder of Entrustet.com
  • Pretend like you are in third grade again, and return to the same desk everyday. While technically ‘open’ space does not mean you have rights to that same spot, it’s amazing how inherent social etiquette brings us to respect the spots that are regularly staked out. Having a space you return to every day will make you feel like you have an office, and people with offices must be productive because they pay a higher rent, right? — Melissa Pickering, Managing Co-Founder of iCreate to Educate
  • When someone is in your cube space and they keep talking beyond what you consider acceptable, just stand up like you are about to leave to get coffee or go to the bathroom. It’s like magic with some people — they wrap up what they are saying and head out. — Kenneth Carlson, Owner of Authentic Development
  • Plan on wasting time. Instead of keeping unnecessary windows open (chats, blogs, twitter, etc.) all day long, work intently with no distractions for a given time, then give yourself (significantly shorter) blocks of time to be unapologetically unproductive. — Matthew Hall, Jr. Consultant at Mutual Mobile
  • Engage. The whole point of working in public spaces is to be out in public. So, engage the people around you. Ask their perspective on a topic of debate amongst your team. Did you overhear them mention something of interest to your business? Offer to buy them a coffee in exchange for fifteen minutes of their expertise. Or, offer them a few minutes of your expertise on their problem – sometimes, stepping outside your immediate task can be refreshing and re-motivating. Get a stranger’s feedback on your product, website, blog post, etc. You’d be surprised how often you are standing too close to the problem to see the obvious solution, and a newcomer’s point of view can prove invaluable. Your environment should be an asset to your work, even in less traditional workspaces, so take advantage of the opportunity to connect with the people around you. — Erica Benton, Marketing Communications Manager at oDesk.com
  • Bring headphones to a co-working space as an indicator of busyness. Wearing them signals to others that “I can’t be disturbed right now.” — Jonathan Wegener, Founder of Adopt a Hacker

From a Coffee Shop


coffee_shop

For many people, coffee and working go together. The coffee shop itself, however, can be a bit of a challenge. Although it provides a temporary office and free Wi-Fi, it also provides an excellent people watching venue and a wide variety of sugary desserts. Getting down to business undisturbed can be tricky, but these tips can help.

  • Get to know the guy who runs the coffee shop you frequent. Learn his name, make small talk, take an interest in his business, become friends. He usually knows everyone who comes in, and if you’re a freelancer you can get some good — and importantly, varied — business introductions. — Cody Robbins, Founder of Sakuzaku
  • If I feel like I need some extra motivation to work hard, I’ll leave my computer charger at home. This forces me to complete my work before my battery runs out. — Ben Nesvig, Project Manager at Fuzed Agent
  • I buy a drink and give myself 45 minutes to an hour to complete an assignment. I “bribe” myself by saying that I can’t get a pastry (how I love them) or a refill until that assignment is done. So it motivates me to work faster and stay focused because I have an incentive. — Jessica Aguiar, Senior Copywriter at PostcardMania
  • In coffee shops I have a few rules: Try to face a wall and never a busy street, and order a small drink to minimize bathroom breaks. — Corina Kellam, Founder of Life History Books Ltd.
  • Choose a coffee shop that does NOT have Wi-Fi. You can check your email and news later. — Alexander Seinfeld, Executive Director of Jewish Spiritual Literacy

  • From The Road


    road_worker

    Taking a break from the office might not mean taking a break from your work responsibilities. But shuffling between trains, planes and automobiles without your usual workspace isn’t conducive to efficiency. Learn how to make traveling work better for you by reading these tips.

    • I usually check in to airports [on location networks] just to let my family know that I am traveling and getting around safely. However, the tips are what make the app priceless. For instance, I can check in to terminal B at Logan International, and I can find a tip that says, “Logan International has free Wi-Fi and if you go to the Legal Seafood bar, they have outlets for every stool at the bar.” Now that is helpful. — Andrew Lazorchak, Director at WineSoiree.com
    • Keep everything electronically.If you’re working from a coffee shop or in a park, the last thing you want to be doing is shuffling papers. Become proficient in taking notes in PDF documents and get used to reading documents on your computer. It’s a challenge at first, but worth it in the end. If you must, carry one small notebook for notes and memos. — Michael Carney, Founder and President of MWC Accounting
    • Assign yourself a “course” each month during your commute. One month, listen to one of Shakespeare’s tragedies, and then listen to a commentary. The next month, listen to part of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, then listen to it again so you start to hear themes. Does this have anything to do with your work? No. But it definitely gets your mind in the game more than listening to drive-time shock jocks. — Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think
    • Get menial tasks done like organizing your My Documents folder or going through your e-mail client and deleting useless/outdated e-mails (all the stuff you always want to have time to do but just don’t ever get to do during the week). — Ashley Schwartau
      Managed Mischief, Inc.
    • Use the settings on your iPhone or Droid to troll for free Wi-Fi when the traditional bread company isn’t around. If you can connect to it on your phone, you’ll be good to go when you crack open your laptop and get down to work. — Tyler Sickmeyer, Director of Client Development at 5Stone Marketing
    • Get a portable phone number (such as Google Voice) that can ring one or more phones. I am an attorney and work from my home, different office locations and on the road. Being accessible to my clients wherever I am is crucial. — Lara A. Aman, Attorney at Law
    • I scanned and saved my actual signature as a graphic and insert it into Word documents as a picture. If it’s a PDF, I have the same signature saved as a Custom Stamp. I don’t have to print anything. — Peggy Duncan, Personal Productivity Expert at The Digital Breakthroughs Institute
    • Make sure you can cache your e-mail. This way, you can work on planes or in areas where you do not have an Internet connection.– Blake Bookstaff, Vice President of moneymanager.com

    Series supported by RingCentral

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    More Productivity Resources from Mashable:


    - How Businesses Are Unleashing Their Employees’ Social Media Potential
    - 10 Useful iPhone Keyboard Shortcuts, Tips and Tricks
    - 10 Tools for Distributed Developer Teams
    - 40+ Essential Social Business Resources
    - 10 Must-Have BlackBerry Apps for Small Business

    Image courtesy of iStockphoto, hidesy, Photoroller, susib

    More About: Coffee shop, coworking, efficiency, Home office, List, Lists, New Work City, Non-Traditional Workspaces Series, productivity, Productivity Lists, work tips, working from home, Working on the road

    For more Business coverage:


3 Business Tools to Spice Up Boring Work Tasks


This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

The small business professional’s workday can be both tedious and mundane when it comes to necessary daily, weekly and monthly tasks that feel more like chores than accomplishments.

Presentations for meetings or keynotes can take hours, if not days, to perfect. Building dynamic accounting reports is a labor of love (or heartbreak), and everyone dreads monthly must-complete expense reports.

While there’s no escaping these unfortunate tasks, newer web and mobile applications, like Prezi, inDinero and Expensify, make the time spent doing them much less arduous, and in the end, you might be infinitely more pleased with the results.

Which online tools do you use to spice up your daily tasks? Let us know in the comments below.


Make Presentations with Punch


Building presentations in PowerPoint or Keynote is often a laborious experience that can make you want to pull your hair out. More often than not, the end result is a snooze-worthy, aesthetically unpleasing deck of slides that you hope to forget as soon as your meeting or speaking engagement is over.

Prezi makes desktop and web-based software to help you build better presentations. Instead of taking a slide-based approach to presentations, Prezi gives you one large canvas where you can storyboard your masterpiece.

The idea is to transform the presentation creation and demonstration processes into flexible activities that flow in a way that more closely resembles how your brain works. Prezi forgoes the linear model of other presentation software for something more free-form. The application also allows for group collaboration and eliminates the version control issues typically experienced when sharing PowerPoints with team members.

Use the Prezi canvas to associate ideas with photos and videos, and arrange them in a flow that will help tell your story. While you present, you can zoom in to any portion of the canvas for a more detailed look, or zoom out for a birds-eye view of different concepts you wish to present. The end result is a slick, visually entertaining presentation that will change the way you think about building and performing your presentations.


Account for Financial Fitness


Small business accounting software is anything but fun. inDinero was built to make tracking the financial fitness of your small business a much easier and more dynamic experience with an ever-present eye on the horizon.

inDinero automatically consolidates your bank, credit, loan and PayPal account information into a single place to create a real-time financial dashboard with insightful trend analysis.

During the initial setup process, inDinero will download your financial data — with support for more than 10,000 financial institutions — and continue to automatically synchronize on an on-going basis to ensure that your financial data stays up-to-date.

inDinero’s ultimate goal is to help you understand your financial well-being. The application identifies how you spend your money and what you’re earning, and then analyzes change over time. inDinero can also project how much cash you’ll have on hand over the next 30 days and predict future cash flow shortages (and recommend short-term loans should that be the case). You’ll also be presented with graphs designed to help you quickly glance at how to cut costs and optimize product sales.

inDinero also recently added FreshBooks integration, which means you can also use the application to account for all of your invoices and get a better idea of how much you’re owed. Your web-based financial dashboard will also look great on your iPad.


Expense Reports Minus Manual Entry


Expense reports are a necessary evil for employees who want to recoup the money they’ve spent on business-related items and activities. Getting the money back is usually incentive enough to complete the reports, but that doesn’t make the report completion process any less loathe-worthy.

Enter Expensify. The web-based service will do all the heavy lifting for you, which means you can stop manually entering your expenses altogether.

So long as you charge your expenses, Expensify can import them from your credit card. You can also opt to use Expensify’s mobile apps to keep track of expenses on the go, send a text message with “Amount Merchant” to 415.448.7534 to track cash expenses, upload receipt images for processing or send receipts to your account via e-mail. Worst case scenario, you can log expenses the old-fashioned way, as well.

The system is perfectly designed to transform the way employees complete expense reports, but it also works for employers, who can use the system to directly reimburse employees and contractors to their bank accounts.

Let us know which business tools you use to spice up boring business tasks in the comments below.


More Business Resources from Mashable:


- HOW TO: Choose the Best Workspace for Your Business
- 5 Winning Social Media Campaigns to Learn From
- 10 Emerging Social Platforms and How Businesses Can Use Them
- 10 Free WordPress Themes for Small Businesses
- 8 Funding Contests to Kick Start Your Big Idea

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, jwholfeil.

More About: apps, business, Business Lists, Expensify, Indinero, List, Lists, Prezi, productivity, small business, web apps

For more Business coverage:


September 24 2010

10 Dead Simple Gmail Tips, Tricks & Shortcuts

Gmail Stamp Image

Gmail can be tweaked almost endlessly with various Firefox and Chrome extensions, and offers some pretty nifty Labs options too. However, we’ve taken a look at some simple tips, tricks, tweaks and shortcuts you can use without going down the plugin or experimental route.

These 10 features will help you get so much more out of the webmail service, from an enhanced chat experience, to smarter filters, to offline access.

Have a read through now and let us know any neat Gmail hints you’d like to share in the comments box below.


1. Add Emphasis in Chat


Gmail’s instant messaging Chat function is one of the more basic options around, but there are a few bits of formatting you can use to add nuance to your online communication.

To bold a word, asterisk it like this: *Mashable*

To add italics, just underscore before and after the word like this: _Mashable_

And to strike a word through, add hyphens before and after like so: -Mashable-


2. Customize Your Web Clips


You’ve no doubt noticed the “Web Clips” line of text that appears above your Gmail inbox which contains news, blog posts, ads and other info. But did you know you can personalize it to make it more relevant to you?

Simply go to “Settings” on the top right of your screen and select the “Web Clips” tab. From there, you can search, browse from the categories, and add and remove items to your heart’s content.


3. Create Variations of Your E-mail Address


Although technically you only have one Gmail address, you can create as many variations of it as you wish to help manage your incoming mail.

You can do this by adding a word after your name with a plus sign (if the site you’re entering the address into allows it). So, yourname+newsletters@gmail.com, yourname+shopping@gmail.com, and so on.

This alias system then comes into its own if you also set up filters to direct those messages where you want them. For example, they could skip the inbox and be archived, have a label applied, be forwarded to another account, and so on.

To set up a filter, go to “Settings,” hit the “Filters” tab, select “Create New Filter” and follow the simple steps from there.


4. Access Gmail When You’re Offline


This is a useful option for anyone on the go, as it allows you to access your Gmail account when you’re not connected to the web. You can search, read and compose e-mails when you’re not in a Wi-Fi zone, and Gmail will simply auto-update (and send/receive any new mail) when you next reconnect.

To set up your Gmail to be available when you’re offline, you have to download Google Gears, but it’s a simple process from within Gmail. Head over to your “Settings” menu, hit the “Offline” tab, and check the option to “Enable Offline Mail for this computer.”

Once you save the changes, Gmail will auto-prompt you through the process and even gives you the option to create a desktop shortcut for quick access to Gmail when offline.


5. Chat Off the Record


Gmail handily saves your chat history for conversations with other Gmail users and makes them searchable too (use the search term “is:chat” to look for a keyword term). But there might be times you want to chat and not have it recorded.

To chat “off the record,” open a chat window with whom you want to talk, click on the “Actions” drop down menu and select “Go off the record.” The person you’re chatting with will be notified of this change, and you can go back on the record in the same way.


6. Get New Mail Desktop Notifications


Gmail offers a free Notifier as a quick download that will alert you with a visual pop-up and audio cue when new mail has arrived, even if you don’t have Gmail open in a browser.

It automatically checks for new mail every two minutes, with the icons changing to show unread mail in case you miss the notification. The app is available for both Windows PCs and Macs. It should be noted that downloading this will also make Gmail your default e-mail program, which you might need to consider if you don’t want this to be case.


7. Use Gmail’s Advanced Search Operators


While Gmail’s keyword search works well enough for basic queries, there are some advanced options that can help refine your process.

For example, entering to:me is:unread in:inbox will bring up any unread mails in your inbox. Entering has:attachment will show you a list of e-mails with files attached, and after: 20/08/2010 before: 25/08/2010 will offer up a list of messages from that specific time period.

You can view the major search operators over at the Gmail support site — it’s well worth memorizing a few.


8. Improve Gmail Priority Inbox


Gmail’s “Priority Inbox” functions by highlighting what it considers your most important mail, and has launched to positive feedback. But you can improve it as time goes on.

In order to help Gmail better recognize what really is important (and conversely, what isn’t), simply select an e-mail message and hit the little plus or minus arrows at the top of your inbox.


9. Find Out if a Message Was Sent Just to You


Useful for prioritizing replies if nothing else, there’s a setting in Gmail that will enable you to see if a message has been sent just to you, or a mailing list.

To activate it, go to “Settings,” then scroll down to “Personal level indicators” and select “Show indicators.” This will now mean that every message in your mailbox shows how many recipients there were at a glance.

No arrows will show if the message was sent to a mailing list, “>” shows up when the message was sent to you and others, and “>>” indicates the message was sent to just you.


10. Play a Gmail-Inspired Game


And finally, on a lighthearted note, did you know there is a free online game you can play that’s inspired by Gmail?

“Galactic Inbox” was created by Paul Truong, a creative technologist “in part, as a ‘thank you’ to the Gmail team for their ongoing work to improve the webmail galaxy.” If you want to show the gTeam some love too, then hop on over and have a play!


More Gmail Resources from Mashable


- 5 Great Unofficial Gmail Themes
- HOW TO: Undo “Send” in Gmail
- 5 Ways to Spice Up Your Gmail Signature
- Gmail Priority Inbox: 5 Tips for Better Productivity
- HOW TO: Give Your Inbox a Master Cleanse


Reviews: Gmail, Gmail Notifier, Mashable

More About: e-mail, email, gmail, Google, how to, inbox, List, Lists, productivity, Productivity Lists, shortcuts, tips, tricks

For more Tech coverage:


September 21 2010

How Businesses Are Unleashing Their Employees’ Social Media Potential

Young Businessperson with Laptop

Josh Bernoff is Senior Vice President, Idea Development at Forrester Research and the co-author of Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, and Transform Your Business (Harvard Business Review Press, 2010).

We know it’s a brave new world for consumers and brands. If United breaks your guitar, or your Maytag doesn’t work properly, you can take on the company that messed with you via social media — and you may well win.

But technology empowerment works both ways. Consumers can take a stand against poor business practices, and brands can empower their customers like never before.

Mobile is a hotbed of innovation in this department. Point your phone at a restaurant and see if it’s worth an evening out. With the addition of cloud services, you get stuff like the iPhone app from UK car dealer Auto Trader, which can tell you the make, model and the price of used cars just from snapping a license plate photo.

To take it one step further, companies that invest in technology and innovation can not only sell more products with digital tools, but empower their own employees. Below, we’ve highlighted some examples of businesses that are using technology creatively to solve customer issues and spur innovation.


Workers Already Use Third-Party Tech for Business


Based on a survey we did late last year at Forrester Research, 27% of information workers regularly use login-required web sites that the company doesn’t sanction, like LinkedIn or Google Docs, for work purposes. Around 12% download and use their own applications not provided by the company, like video editors, and 8% are using smartphones they pay for themselves for work purposes. Unlike in Dilbert’s office, IT doesn’t control technology within corporations any more — workers do.

I argue that this lack of control inside and outside companies isn’t a sign of the apocalypse; it’s the beginning of a new way of working — one in which employees know their job is to use technology to solve customer problems.

Don’t be surprised if this proposition elicits echoes of The Cluetrain Manifesto. Ten years ago, this idea was radical, and people who espoused it were screaming in the wilderness. Now it’s actually working, even at large companies.


Principles at Work


At Best Buy, CMO Barry Judge encourages staff to come up with “half-baked ideas,” which the company works on and then rolls out. For example, Remix is a project which opened up the company’s website API so others could build sites or apps on top of it. Using Best Buy’s wealth of product, pricing and image data, developers could implement useful third-party applications to track rapidly dropping retail prices, for example.

Twelpforce, a shared Twitter support service, was programmed by Ben Hedrington, a Best Buy website staffer, in his spare time. It was rolled out by John Bernier, who solved problems like how 2,500 hourly staffers (Blue Shirts, Geek Squad, and the like) could share a Twitter service without violating labor laws. These are empowered employees.

At Vail Resorts, CEO Rob Katz radically shifted the company’s media policy, embracing short-lead advertising and social media. He hired social media staffers instead of buying magazine ads, and trained the staff on how to turn pictures, videos and tweets into fast-spreading, word-of-mouth ads.

At Dell, there are so many social initiatives going on that Manish Mehta, who reports directly to the CMO, runs a council of high level execs who share best practices weekly.


The Rise of Empowerment “Heroes”


The companies that work like this act quickly. They blunt customer complaints and turn detractors into promoters. They innovate as a matter of course. The reason is that all the employees feel empowered to create and contribute, rather than leave it to their research and developments departments.

I call these people “HEROes:” Highly Empowered and Resourceful Operatives. They typically know more about customers than they do about technology, and companies need more of them.

HEROes need tools to understand the challenges they face. They need managers who support them rather than squelch their initiative. They need IT people who give them technology advice, resources, and help them to see pitfalls and risks, and identify when their projects are ready to scale up.

This isn’t a pipe dream. I’ve seen HERO-powered companies innovating, and there are more every day. This mentality is the future of daily work, and it’s an inversion in the power structure of companies. The companies that have figured this out have a head start on the rest. Does yours?


More Business Resources from Mashable:


- 10 Emerging Social Platforms and How Businesses Can Use Them
- 10 Free WordPress Themes for Small Businesses
- The Future of Ad Agencies and Social Media
- HOW TO: Run Your Business Online with $10 and a Google Account
- 5 New Ways Small Business Can Offer Location-Based Deals

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, eaniton

More About: api, best buy, business, empower, empowered, Forrester research, iphone, productivity, remix, small business, technology, twelpforce, twitter, vail resorts

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