Tips, Tricks, & Tools

10 Tools I Can't Live Without When Working Online

After a conference call with a client the other day, I realized that many of the tools I use day in and day out, I take for granted. A lot of people out there don’t know they exist. I might as well face it — a year ago, I didn’t know they existed! To give everyone some insight into my new habits, I thought I’d share some of my favorites:

1. Firefox — This may seem like getting back to basics to some people but when I started at SEER Interactive, I didn’t know what Firefox was — which was a complete shock to the rest of the team. Now, I can’t understand how my husband can live with Internet Explorer 6 — yes, 6 (he hasn’t upgraded to IE7). That means he surfs the Internet with multiple windows — and without tabbed browsing and awesome user-friendly extensions — which I can no longer remember how to do.

2. Multiple Homepages — Now that I’ve got tabbed browsing down, it’s great to be able to set Firefox to open multiple homepages every time it runs. There are two ways to accomplish this: 1) open the pages you want set as your homepages in separate tabs, then go to “Tools,” “Options,” click on “General” and then click “Use Current Pages;” or 2) Under “Tools,” “Options,” “General” tab, type each of the URLs in the “Location(s)” box separated by a “|” (that’s SHIFT + ). Hit “OK” and that should save your settings for the next time you open Firefox!

3. Numbered Google & MSN Results — Thank you, Greasemonkey! I have always loved Yahoo! for numbering their search results — they make it so easy to know that your term is #6 instead of having to count results down the page. I never understood why Google or MSN couldn’t do the same thing. After discovering tool #1, I discovered Greasemonkey and then scripts that number Google and MSN (no longer live) results. Oh, so wonderful!!! I have to practice counting from one to ten some other way now!

4. Mouse Gestures — This might be an “oldie but goodie.” Mouse Gestures may have existed for a while, but I never knew about them. Since installing this extension, I don’t know when the last time I actually visited the back button was. I LOVE my right mouse button now! And I can’t stand it when I am working on a computer that doesn’t have Mouse Gestures. On any computer I sit down at, by default, I drag my right mouse button to the left to try to go back a page.

5. Google Alerts — On a regular basis, there are certain searches that I like to run to keep an eye on different things, beyond checking keyword rankings. These searches include looking for writings about our company, competitors, and stories that are of personal interest to me (Duke basketball, Dale Earnhardt Jr, and Tim McGraw perhaps — yes, I am a “country girl in the city”). Instead of repeating my queries multiple times and having to remember whether I have seen a particular result before or whether it is new, I can sign up for a Google Alert. I enter my search term, pick the type of alert I would like, how often I would like to be notified, and enter my email address. Google emails me with updates of new results. Thanks, Google, for once again making my life easier! Learn more about Google Alerts here.

6. Google ReaderI’ve written before about how I believe learning is an important part of being good at SEO. Part of learning is reading — doing a LOT of reading. To stay organized in my reading of blogs, I’ve found Google Reader to be the most helpful. I can check all my favorite blogs in one place and can easily tell if any of them have new content that I have not read.

7. Sharing with Google Reader — Everyone at SEER pretty much has their favorite blogs, and we’re all addicted to Google Reader (see #6). Moreover, we each find down-time to read blogs at different times during the day — some of us first thing in the morning, some at lunch, some of us at 3am! The good news is that when we find an item of interest, no matter what the time, we have an easy way to share it thanks to Google Reader. Right below each item in the reading pane is a “Share” link, and clicking on it lets you send out a notification to others to check out your shared items. And now, if you have a blog of your own, you can display your shared items for your readers as well.

8. InForm Enter — I fill out a lot of forms in the course of a week — whether it’s testing client websites, link submissions, or filling out contact forms. InForm Enter, a Firefox extension, is a lifesaver! I’ve created various “Profiles” depending on the different types of forms I might need to fill out (even client-specific profiles), and can easily change between them with a couple clicks in the corner of my browser window. No more repetitive typing of the same information (name, email, website address, etc.) over and over again! An added feature — InForm Enter will tell you how long your stored entries are, in case the field you are typing in has a maximum field length. This is definitely a time saver!

9. FoxyTunes — Ok, so this one doesn’t save a TON of time, but it saves me from having to go back and forth from application to application every now and then, and I like that. FoxyTunes allows me to control my iTunes without having to leave my Firefox browser window. It works with a ton of other players besides iTunes, too. It’s nice to be able to quickly and seamlessly skip that annoying song I downloaded 8 months ago but have never bothered to delete from my playlist.

(As an aside, if anyone knows any good “Rain” songs — songs about “Rain” or with “Rain” in the title and wants to contribute them to our “Rainy Day Playlist” send them over!)

10. Google Browser Sync — Trying to access a site from home that you normally access from your work computer, where the password is stored, and now you can’t remember it? I do that all the time. Do you have a lot of bookmarks at work that you wish you could easily transport home? Google to the rescue! Use Google Browser Sync, and you can have bookmarks, passwords, cookies, and your history synchronized between computers. Another helpful use for this we discovered this week — save everything to Google Browser Sync before you need to reformat your computer!

Those are my Top 10 helpful tools for working online. Do you have any to add? I’d love to hear about them — I’m always looking for ways to be more productive!