Tools of the Trade, Part 2 – The Software I Depend On

Last week I focused on the “hardware” I use on a regular basis in ministry.  This week I want to focus on the daily productivity software I use to “get the job done.”

Microsoft Office.  Why MS Office?  Well, #1, because our church has put it on all of our machines.  I use Word and Excel every day.  I actually use Google Drive documents as well as Open Office and iWorks on my MacBook Pro, too.  But, only MS Office on my Widows machine has Publisher.  And that’s reason #2.  It certainly is not the best desktop publishing program in the world, but it is what they’ve given us and I’ve found it capable to do most of what I need it to do if I play with it some.  Couldn’t live without it.

GMail.  Our church made the switch to having our email hosted by Google and I couldn’t be happier with the way my email stays synced in Outlook (if I’m in the office), on my phone and tablet, and if I open a browser to go look at my email.  Everything always in sync.  Beautiful.

G-Tasks.  With our switch to Google Apps, I have slowly started walking away from Outlook, using it only fo
r email right now (slowly trying to teach an old dog new tricks).  Google Tasks and the G-Tasks web and device app lets me always keep my to-do list in sync between my desktop, laptop, home computer, phone, tablet, etc.  Couldn’t live without that to-do list and it staying in sync everywhere.

Google Calendars.   Just like the move I made away from Outlook’s tasks, I’ve done the same with calendars. Google’s calendar allows me to keep several calendars all at once and view others. I can also give different levels of access to them to whomever I like. And once again, they all stay in sync everywhere.

Google Reader.  Several years ago I wasted all kinds of time bouncing from website to website, blog to blog to see if there was anything that was of interest to me.  A good friend told me to start using Google Reader to pull in all of the content I was trying to read every day.  What an amazing time saver.  If there’s a blog that I want to see regularly, I subscribe in Google Read and it always gets delivered to me.  I can scan all those blogs every day and if there’s something that interests me, I read it.  I can file it away for later under Google’s labels that allow me to search.  I can stare it to read later.  Now I can get all kinds of great content delivered to me and chose whether or not it is important enough for me to read.  An amazing time saver that allows me to keep learning and growing.

Google Talk.  Google’s instant chat program works great for quick chats back and forth between colleagues, friends, other leaders, and missionaries around the world.

Google Chrome.  I still like Mozilla Firefox but most of my web browsing is done in Chrome.  It is so simple, so fast, so intuitive.  The tabs are great (I know, everyone else is doing it now, too).  I love being able to “pin” tabs so that they always open every time I open the browser.  Another huge time saver.  And you can sync your browser across computers and other Google Chrome browsers.  When I log into Chrome at home, all of my bookmarks from my office PC’s Chrome browser show up there.  Same with my MacBook.  Google is getting even better with the sync, too.  What you have open on one machine will automatically be open when you pop your browser open on your phone, tablet, at home, etc.

Evernote. If you don’t use Evernote, you are missing one of the greatest productivity tools out there.  Think note pad, filing system, web clipper – all wrapped up in one.  It is the best place out there to take notes, copy notes and file notes.  Searching is so simple.  Tagging is equally simple.  You create as many different notebooks as you’d like.  The place your stuff in them.  I keep notebooks in Evernote for IT stuff I do here at the church, my Middle School Ministry, High School Ministry, staff meetings, illustrations, message ideas, quotes, personal stuff.  The potential is endless.  Best part – it’s free . . . at least up to 60MB per month of info uploaded.  You can pay if you want more.  Share our notebooks with family and colleagues.  if you’re not using Evernote, give it a try. You’ll never go back.  Oh yeah, and it syncs to all of your devices, too – apps for iOS, Android, mac, Windows.

Tweetdeck. My Twitter client of choice, it manages all three of my Twitter accounts (this one, my @leadership__101, and our student ministry’s @aucyouth).  There are hosts of twitter clients out there.  A friend got me started on Tweetdeck and it works well for me.

Dropbox. Cloud storage that syncs and couldn’t be easier to use.  I find myself using cloud storage more and more.  Also using Box and Google Drive.  Of all of them, I prefer Dropbox and it’s simplicity.

WordPress. All of my blogs (this one, leadership 101, our student ministry, etc) run through WordPress.  It works well, is simple, has free options, has apps for all of your devices so you can edit from anywhere.  Need a website or just want to blog, WordPress is the simplest way to go.

Next time I’ll discuss some of the software I use for ministry specific tasks.  In the meantime, what software/apps do you use to be more productive that I’m missing?

Tools of the Trade – The Hardware I Use

Every now and then I see folks post the tools they use to “get the job done” in ministry.  For some reason I always find myself gravitating to these posts to see if there are any tools that I’m missing that could enhance the ministry.  I figured that I would throw the stuff I use out there.  Maybe this will help you.  Maybe you can comment and suggest better tools for me to use.  The goal: To help each other do what we’ve been called to do and do it well.  This will be a series of three posts over the next couple of weeks covering hardware, general productivity software & apps, and specific ministry software.

Hardware

  • Desktop Computer – Dell OptiPlex 390 (Core i3 w/ 8 GB RAM, running Windows 7 Professional).  This is my main office PC.  I use it because our church uses Windows machines.  I find it works well for my daily work.
  • Laptop Computer – 13″ MacBook Pro (2.53 GHz Core 2 Duo w/ 4 GB RAM, running OS X 10.8.2 Mountain Lion).  I jumped into the world of Macs about three years ago.  It is fast, was much thinner and lighter than comparable Windows machines back then, and did things like video editing so much easier.  I use it for traveling, at home, around the church, in meetings, and of course I still use it for all of my video editing work.  I am actually planning to upgrade this machine in the coming months to a newer 13″ MacBook Pro.
  • Motorola Droid 2 phone.  So i really wanted to move into the world of the iPhone two years ago.  But as a Verizon Wireless customer for many years, I simply got tired of waiting for Apple to release an iPhone on Verizon (which they finally did about 3-4 months after I stopped waiting).  So I went with the Droid 2.  I really like the Android platform and have thoroughly enjoyed this phone.  However, I am looking forward to upgrading some time over the next few weeks as I renew my contract.  Looking seriously at the Motorola Droid Razr M or Motorola Droid Razr HD.  I just can’t move to an iPhone now that I’ve experienced the Android OS.
  • HTC Flyer 7″ tablet.  Yes, this is also on the Android operating system.  I planned to get an iPad but just didn’t want something that big.  All of my friends tried convincing me that I did want one that size, but after playing with several, as beautiful as they were, I just didn’t want a tablet that big.  I wanted something smaller around 7″.  Loving the Android OS on my phone, getting an Android tablet was a no-brainer.  The 7″ format is perfect for preaching from (about the same size as a half sheet of paper which is what I used before), reading from on my Kindle app, using at meetings, and hitting up a website when there’s no laptop around.  It’s WiFi only which is all I need since our church and house are all WiFi enabled as are most places I’d go to sit and chill for a bit.
  • iPod Classic.  Gotta be able to have music for youth events and when I need to relax.  160 GB.  Plenty of room for that without all of the extra stuff that my phone and tablet handle for me.

Those are the five main pieces of hardware that I use as tools for ministry.  Yes – I am an equal-opportunity-OS-user (2 Apple products, 2 Android products, 1 Windows product).  My motto – use what works and works well for you.  What about you?  What are you using that I’ve missed? Or why are you using something different?