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Essential tools of the trade
I love to read about the latest and greatest apps and gadgets but, when I do, I have two overwhelming thoughts: Which of these would I actually use? And which, if any, will I come to rely on every single day, as if they were an extension of my very self?
I’m going to assume you already have and use Gmail, Twitter, and a smartphone. (If not, start with these things, then come back and read the rest of this column.) In addition to those staples, there are a few apps that I already use regularly in my work. For tracking clips, bookmarking links, and organizing notes, I swear by Evernote, both its mobile and browser versions. For recording in-person interviews, I am in love with my new Echo Smartpen, a James Bond-ish invention that allows me to take notes on actual paper and then syncs those notes with my audio. My white whale? I have yet to find an app I love for recording iPhone calls. Drop me a line if you’ve got one.
But my short list of favorite apps is far from comprehensive. So I’m curious: What are other journalists relying on every single day? I asked, and here’s what came back.
For organizing notes and links:
Evernote. Turns out I’m not the only one organizing my files this way. Again and again, journalists recommended it. And, says my friend Tim Fernholz, a journalist at the news startup Quartz, “The Chrome widget is like crack.” Free, with limited upload capacity.
For word processing and spreadsheets:
Google Drive. Despite the lack of a track changes functionality in Documents, most editors and writers swear by Google when it comes to cloud-based office software. (I myself will never fully transition to Google Docs, despite its convenience, until they adopt some decent red-lining functionality.) Spreadsheets come most highly recommended. Free.
For storing other documents:
Dropbox. Another popular, cloud-based document-storage solution, good for files of all sizes and types. Free, with limited upload capacity.
For going stealth:
Google Voice. This is apparently both a great way to screen your calls (it transcribes your voice mail, albeit somewhat unreliably) and to use your cellphone without having your personal number show up. It also allows you to easily record calls.
For recording interviews in the field:
The cheap option: QuickVoice. This app is a good free option if you don’t want to juggle both a phone and a separate recording device.
The pricey option: Echo Smartpen. I and others have already talked this up enough. Spend less time taking notes and less time going through tape. $130.
For recording video calls:
CallRecorder for Skype. It reliably records both audio and video calls. $19.
For staying on top of a beat:
Spundge. This tool allows you to track what’s happening with a given person, business, or topic across media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, etc). You can also collaborate with a team and opt to publish what you’re tracking. Free.
For making your copy Web ready:
TextFixer. Sick of hand-coding basic HTML before hitting “publish”? Web editors call this tool “indispensable.” Free.