Big Changes to 5 Important Online Tools

Some of my favorite tools and services have gone through some pretty big changes recently – enough so that felt it warranted a post just to point the changes out.

The first three, Gmail, Evernote and TweetDeck, are tools I use every day to run my business. The last two, Yelp and Foursquare, are familiar rating and location tools that have morphed a bit to go after the lucrative local search market and deserve a good hard look from local small businesses.

1) User interface changes for Gmail – This is a pretty big change as far as I’m concerned and addresses a number of needed enhancements for handling mail. You can switch back and forth from the new view to the old by clicking on the new view link in the compose window.

  • Composing Messages: One thing you may notice about the new interface is the way you compose a new message. It looks similar to a Gmail chat window but a little bigger. This makes things simpler by allowing you to check old emails and saved drafts because you don’t have to leave the current page you are on to write a new email.
  • Profile Pictures: It is now much easier to keep up with who is saying what within your email threads. Your contact profile pictures now show up within a conversation.
  • Themes: New HD themes are now provided by iStockphoto. Simply choose the theme that suits you in preferences.
  • Labels and Chat: These are constantly shown in the navigation panel on the left side. You can now customize that by size as well as completely hide your chat area.
  • Search Box: Gmail’s new interface has incorporated a better search function allowing a drop-down advanced search box, which makes things much easier to locate.
  • More here

2) Evernote 5 brings new look – probably the biggest news here is the totally overhauled and more visually appealing look of Evernote.

  • Sidebar: The new Evernote 5 has implemented a left hand sidebar. With this sidebar comes a section for shortcuts that enable you to use a customized variety of notes, previous searches, tags and notebooks. Along with this you have the ability to view your tags, notebooks and latest notes.
  • Notebooks: With the new changes you can now integrate your notebooks with shared notebooks that other people have allowed you to access.
  • Note Editor: You will be able to see how many people have access to the same note you are viewing. You will see that at the very top of the note. There is also a function to shared notes updates, as they are integrated with Mountain Lion’s Notification Center. This is helpful so it won’t overwhelm you as they come in.
  • Atlas Function: Simple way to view and access your notes is using this function. It allows people to search for entries geographically.
  • Card View: This will show you text notes and images in a thumbnail preview.
  • Type-Ahead: This is a search field that finishes your inquiry with ideas from previous entries, to include saved searches, keywords, and related notebooks. You are also able to improve your searches in more detail with advanced options.
  • More here


3) Tweetdeck get a long overdo facelift – Now that Twitter owns TweetDeck it has finally ushered in some enhancements.

  • Twitter Cards: You can now embed a photo or other media into a tweet with the 2.1.0 version. This makes your twitter stream appealing and attractive.
  • Font: From your settings pane, you can now change your font size. There are only three options: 13 pt.-Small, 14 pt.-Medium or 15 pt.-Large.
  • Color Scheme: You now have a choice to change your colors to the white background which has dark gray text. The links, URLs, hash tags and twitter addresses are blue, making them much easier to see.
  • Columns: You are able to add a new column and check your twitter lists from the Tweetdeck toolbar. You can decide what you would like to incorporate into your columns, like a specific tweet stream from a particular group or person, or from one of your lists, or from a search. When adding a new column Tweetdeck will come up with suggestions for that particular subject, interactions, mentions and timeline.
  • Shortcuts: The toolbar has many shortcuts to make things easier and simpler. For example, it has buttons that control the columns that will enable you to move through it seamlessly. You can also conduct a Twitter search and start a new tweet. When creating a new tweet you can add pictures and schedule that tweet for when you would like for it to go out or you can email that specific tweet. If you press ‘N’ on your keyboard you can instantly create a tweet. To send it, simply press “command” and “return” at the same time.
  • More here

4) Foursquare Business Pages

The new business pages feature allows business owners to provide status updates, post deals, special promotions, photos, message and tips to the activity feeds of loyal or repeat customers who may be in the same vicinity. It automatically updates for those customers who are where the business is located.

Additionally, when a customer searches for places in the Foursquare app or through the web, these important updates will show up in search results.

The merchant dashboard has been redesigned to where merchants can manage updates more efficiently. This also allows SEO services, social media marketers and business owners to see data on businesses with numerous locations with improved analytics.

More here


5) Yelp keeps enhancing its Local Directory

In 2012 Yelp and Bing partnered to bring Yelp’s local business content to the local search pages of Bing. With this partnership, Yelp is able to bring its photos, business qualities and reviews to Bing’s search engine with hopes of strengthening Microsoft’s attempts to be competitive with Google+ Local.

Yelp listings are used in Apple’s Siri iPhone assistant, Yext listings and in the navigation systems in BMW, Mercedes and Lexus.

Local small businesses have plenty of reasons to get more active with Yelp and other location based tools. Facebook recently revamped it’s “nearby” feature that allows people to discover businesses based on location.

More here

One thing is certain – we live in a rapidly changing world of business and technology that calls for staying on top of a never-ending stream of new and emerging tools. But, hey, that’s what I’m here for!

10 Apps I Use Every Single Day

Transmit app

More and more, we’re becoming an app happy world – Apps that run on our laptops, apps for the mobile and apps for the iPad or tablet. Even better are those apps that sync across all of our chosen devices, keeping us on task and on track in an increasingly online world.

Below are ten applications that I use on a daily basis to get more done, manage more information, communicate more ideas and generally keep the plates spinning.

TweetDeck – This is my primary social media dashboard. It’s a desktop application that runs on Adobe Air and while there are lots of alternative choices, I’ve just always stuck with TweetDeck. I do however use the Twitter app for the iPhone too.

I have groups, lists and searches set up at all times and use the scheduled Tweets feature to meter out content I want to share throughout the day.

Evernote – This is my brainstorming, idea clipping, bookmark storing powerhouse. Evernote syncs beautifully across all devices and allows me to outline my life in so many ways without having to commit anything to memory.

I’ve stored everything from ideas for my books to wines I want to remember. Here’s my Evernote routine in case your interested.

Dropbox – This is my online backup and file storage tool of choice. I probably overuse this tool, leaning on it as a file server for my team as well as a backup for important files, but it just works so well.

I also use it to share large files and grant conference attendees access to my PowerPoint presentations.

You can see my Dropbox routine here.

Reeder – This is an app that turns my chosen RSS reader, Google Reader, into something much more functional and much more attractive.

I do most of my blog reading on my iPhone or iPad and the Reeder app gives me a ton of functionality. I can easily share a post on Twitter, clip to Evernote and bookmark to delicious right from the post in Reeder. Great time saver.

Dragon Dictation – This iPhone app (at least that’s the only version I use) allows me to speak a memo and have it converted to text. I’ve not really tested this out, but I think I could compose a blog post using this tool.

The app then allows me to email the text or manage it in various other ways. I use this tool whenever I get a flash of brilliance while driving or think of something when trying go to sleep and want to capture the idea right away.

HelloFax – Actually this is billed as a fax machine replacement, but I don’t really use that function. What HelloFax allows me to do is receive a document, like a contract, agreement, vendor form or non disclosure (I get lots of these.) that need edits and my signature.

Instead of editing, printing, signing, scanning and emailing back I simply download the document, upload it to HelloFax, make my edits, drop in my stored signature and email it back.

And 4 just for the Mac

text expander

Text Expander – There are dozens of snippets of text that I need to use frequently. Text Expander allows me to write chunks of copy once and then paste those chunks whenever I need to with a couple keystrokes.

I have entire emails that I send in response to certain requests, email signatures, blog sponsorship messages, and even HTML code snippets that I use frequently committed to short, time saving keystrokes that are easy to recall.

Pixelmator – This is my replacement to Photoshop. Now, I’m not a graphic designer, so I don’t have major league design challenges, but I’ve used Photoshop for years and for $29 this tool does everything I need it to do and is much easier to use than Photoshop.

I’m sure Adobe would challenge this statement, but this tool is at least on par feature wise with the $99 Photoshop Elements.

Adium – I use Adium for all things related to IM – this Mac only client allows me to converse with folks via instant message regardless of the IM platform they use – Facebook, GTalk, or AIM. .

Transmit – This is my file transfer tool. It’s lightening fast and allows me to upload and manage files via FTP to my web sites. I also use it to access my Amazon S3 file storage as I use Amazon’s cheap hosting and streaming for my videos and other larger downloads that I make available on my sites.

I also use Transmit to move files around on my laptop. Instead of using two instances of the Finder on my Mac, I use a split window in Transmit that allows me to drag and drop files more easily.

Social Media Management Tips

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