3 pieces of software that made my life easier and my work better

I love the discovery process that precedes new additions to my everyday life. There is something special about finding a new fascination, interest or tool that is intriguing enough for me to make it a permanent thing. It is of course more fun when I can delude myself into thinking that the discovery is due to my own excellent sense of style, trends and design – but like most other people  I rely on lists of other peoples favorites.

It wasn’t until I started listing my favorite software programs that I realized they all had one important thing in common: they were all about synching data between different computers. That, and they are all free.

As someone with flexible working hours and workplace (and a somewhat underdeveloped sense of organization), I often found myself missing files when and where I needed them. Loosing edits on papers or photos of family because I simply could not remember where it was saved on what computer. However, with these small, free programs, I stay “in synch”.

Dropbox

Dropbox lets you basically have a virtual folder for all kinds of files, which is (like the others) based on cloud computing. It is easy to install and the design is intuitive. No need to remember to synch, or do lots of logins. Just save what you want in the dropbox folder, and the rest is automatic.

For me it started with just a few things like news stories and backups of current work, but it quickly ended up as my primary folder for all of my documents and pictures. This month I paid for an upgrade, increasing my storage capacity from 2GB (free) to 50GB, and I am currently uploading files from all three of my computers – watching in delight as it is all gathered in one spot.

tl;dr Before: Lots of similar sounding folders on several computers at home and work but with different content – so things get lost Now: Its all in one place and I am actually able to organize the quickly growing documentfolders.

Evernote

Everynote is simply a program that lets you make notes, with the possibility of adding both pictures, pdfs, links and more into the notes, and sync it between different units. It has many fancy functions I have not really checked out, but the basic features are easy to use (making notes, adding content, organizing them) and best of all: it is also available as a smartphone app.

I have tried similar programs before, but it was the cloud computing+ smartphone app that made it an actual working combo for me. I make to-do-lists, keep a list of good quotes, note down names of good wines, lists of articles I want to read to lists with ideas for blogposts. And since I have my phone with me at all times, I also have these notes and lists with me at all times.

tl;dr Before: Scribbles everywhere, stressing about trying to remember anything important Now: Open phone, then read what to do or add a thought for later

Zotero

Zotero is a citation tool that is installed as a browser and wordprocessor plugin. It is compatiable with most common citation formats, allowing for the digital import of references as well as websites and other documents. You can put on tags, attach files and make your own notes. You can import libraries from other referencing tools, and

I am not going to make a big argument for Zotero over any other referencing tool, but argue the need to use one in the first place. It changed how I read academic literature (immediately adding the rerence to my zotero library, making notes while I read cause I know I will be able to find them again) and how I write (doing literature searches in my own library, citing easily and more freely then without it).

tl;dr Before: Lots of paper drafts with “fix it put in reference here” notes. Now: Reference is put in straight away, making the bibliography is pressing a button

Discovering these programs was a joy. I hope they will bring some joy for you too!

PS

As an STSer who continually fights the good fight against technological determinism I need to comment on my own title. Because it does imply that somehow these technologies changed my life on their own, and that is of course a false assumption.