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Essential 'Gifts' to Enhance Your Working Life

December 23, 2008

Last week we shared a couple of ideas for Christmas gifts.  This week we're going to continue that theme, but with suggestions for essential "gifts" that will enhance your working lives as they do ours.

First on the list of "can't live without" are a set of products from Techsmith. The first is Snagit, which we use for capturing and annotating PC screen images. In our opinion there's nothing else out there that can match its versatility and ease of use and at a single user license fee of less than $50 it's an absolute bargain. While Snagit can capture simple action videos in addition to screen shots, you need its big brother Camtasia Studio if you want to produce training or demo videos.  Again it's very simple to use and at under $300 for the single user license won't break the bank. If you don't need the full power of Camtasia then don't forget Techsmith's Jing, which we covered in our i5 EXTRA article on documentation, along with Snagit. Jon loves Jing because, sadly, the other Techsmith products are not yet available for the Mac--any day now hopefully. But in the meantime Jing does a great job when we need to show a client how to do something that would take too many words to describe.

Talking of words, if you gave up on previous generations of speech-to-text tools, it may be time to try again. Jon has been using Dragon Naturally Speaking (from Nuance for a couple of years now and uses it whenever he has a lot of text to dictate. For smaller amounts however, the accuracy level didn't make it worth the effort. That has changed with Dragon 10, the accuracy level, even with less than five minutes training, is stunning. Paragraph after paragraph without a single error--and if you've heard Jon speak you'll understand what a feat that is! The downside? It's PC only. Hopefully that too will change before long--or at least Nuance will bring its Mac products up to the same level.

Since we're talking about Nuance, we should also mention that the company has a great line of PDF tools. Those of you who curse under your breath at the prices Adobe wants for its products would be wise to take a look. Nuance's PDF software may not look quite as "pretty" as Adobe Acrobat but it matches or exceeds Acrobat feature for feature and at only about half the price. In our experience it also produces smaller PDF files and is far more stable than Acrobat, which on our systems often requires a reboot to clear up the problems after it crashes.

Another big help for us recently has been Boingo. We realize that most of you don't travel as much as we do, but for those who need Internet access while traveling this can be a godsend. Our account with Boingo has given us access to many different wireless hotspots without having to create accounts with service providers that we may never use again. Its handy-dandy pop-up tells you when a Boingo network is within range so there's no guesswork. In some cases it has saved us more than its monthly cost by allowing us to use our Boingo account instead of paying a hotels ludicrous Internet charges. Of course we could have gone the whole hog and got a mobile account, but they're still very expensive and Boingo more than meets our needs at a significantly lower cost.

We couldn't possibly end this list without a mention of our perennial time-saver--RSE. We recently were forced to do a little programming without the use of our favorite programming tool and we hated it! How can anyone be productive in SEU?  No decent help, no Outline view, no Verifier, only 18 lines or so of source visible, no tabbing without prompting and on and on. Get WDSC  (it's "free") or buy RDi--but leave SEU behind and move on. 

This is our last entry until Jan. 6, so we'd like to take this opportunity to wish all of our readers the very best of the season. Whether you're celebrating Christmas, Hanukah or simply looking forward to a break, we wish you all the very best. May the New Year be kind to us all and all of our recessions be little ones!

Also a note to our readers: The magazine is launching a digital version in January. The digital version is free worldwide. To subscribe, click here.


Posted December 23, 2008| Permalink

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