Trying to build a blog without good applications is like trying to build a house without good tools. You can do it, but it will take a lot longer.
Have you ever searched for a password you wrote down on a piece of paper and put “somewhere safe” (but you’re not quite sure where that is)? Have you ever tried to communicate a design concept over email using written text? Have you ever written the same sentence over and over in different emails to different people?
All of those things are examples of ways that we try and build our virtual house (i.e. blog) using crummy tools.
If you’re looking to build an awesome blog then you need awesome applications for your virtual toolbelt. The following seven apps are the first “tools” that I'd suggest you purchase (or download for free).
Note: Some of these apps are specific to Mac OS. If there’s an alternative option for Windows then I include it at the end of the description.
1. 1Password – Mac and PC
Here’s the reality: passwords are a pain to deal with so most people don’t deal with them. I’ve been there! But I quickly realized that I was wasting a ton of time resetting passwords, trying different combinations, and occasionally just giving up and coming back to it later. Not only was I wasting time, but when I used the same password for different sites I was exposing myself to a huge security risk.
Why? Because security breaches happen all. the. time. If someone discovers your email and password as a result of one of these breaches then they can try and use that same combination all around the web (like with your PayPal account, your bank account, or your iCloud account).
Enter 1Password. The concept behind 1Password is pretty simple: you create one really strong password that unlocks all of the other passwords for the 100s (1,000s?) of accounts you have.
Here’s a (hopefully) real life example of how 1Password works once it’s setup:
- You want to sign up for Food Blogger Pro (yea!).
- When signing up, you enter your email address and then create a unique, secure password using 1Password. For instance, the password you create might look like this: dlk4jb3l#$g.
- You store all of this information in 1Password (so you don’t have to remember it in your head).
- When you want to login to Food Blogger Pro you just open 1Password by entering your one unique password and then click on Food Blogger Pro to login.
2. Skitch – Mac and PC
I love screenshots.
There, it’s out in the open for the world to know.
I feel better already…
Screenshots are like pictures…they’re worth 1,000 words. It’s so much easier to communicate what you’re talking about when you’re able to use a screenshot.
Not only does Skitch provide an easy way to take screenshots, but it also lets you add text, arrows, or call out boxes. The best part? It’s free.
Skitch can be downloaded from evernote.com.
3. Screenflow – Mac
Maybe even 100,000.
I use screencasts all the time. Here are a few examples of how I use screencasts:
- I often send a screencast when I’m trying to communicate an idea to a designer or developer.
- We use screencasts in certain customer service situations when someone is having a hard time troubleshooting a certain issue.
- When I fix a blog related issue I record a screencast so I can remember of how I fixed the issue in case it ever comes up again.
- We create (and sell) courses on Food Blogger Pro.
- We create screencasts to communicate ideas and concepts in blog posts (like this one).
If you’re just getting started with your blog then you probably don’t need to spend the $99 to buy Screenflow. If you have QuickTime you can use the Screen Recording feature to create a basic recording of your screen. QuickTime doesn’t have the same editing functionality as Screenflow but it still does a good job of capturing your screen.
4. Clear – iPhone, iPad, and Mac
I use Clear to hold my “on-ramp” to-do list. My “on-ramp” is a list of the things I do every morning but would forget to do without a reminder. Tasks like “review affiliate transactions,” “review current projects,” and “drink water” are on this list. As I move through these items I feel like I'm picking up speed (hence the reason for calling it an on-ramp) and preparing to go full-speed into the big projects I have for the day.
Clear syncs across devices which allows me to have this list on my iPhone, iPad, and computer (you’ll need to purchase the app for each device). I don’t hold my project management items in Clear though. I use Things for that.
There’s not much more to say about Clear other than it does what it says it does and it does it well.
5. Alfred – Mac
Alfred is another one of those apps that is really simple but really powerful. As it says on on the website, Alfred saves you time when you search for files online or on your Mac.
I use Alfred a lot. Like over 80 times a day. I even have the screenshot to prove it.
When I get a new computer Alfred is the first app that I install.
6. BetterSnapTool – Mac
The app allows you to “snap” your windows into certain sections of your computer screen. I use it most often to snap a window so it takes up 50% of the screen (either to the right or left side). I also use it quite a bit to snap a window to full screens.
7. TextExpander – Mac
1. Respond to the emails
2. Don’t respond to the emails
Lindsay and I do our best to stick to #1, and one of the ways we are able to do this is by using TextExpander.
We get a lot of questions via email, but often times the questions we get are really similar. When we get a common question we use TextExpander to populate the email with a pre-written response.
TextExpender allows you to create a short phrase that expands into a block of text.
For instance, I often get emails from people asking about the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, so I created a TextExpander snippet for it. Now, when I type ,wordpress in an email it expands into this:
WordPress.com and WordPress.org are two different things.
WordPress.com is a service that is really great for getting up and running quickly. They do all of the updates for your site and make sure everything is running smoothly. The downside is that WordPress.com restricts some of the things that you can do with your blog (like what plugins you can use and what types of advertising you can do).
WordPress.org is a little bit harder to get setup, as you have to do it on your own. The advantage is that you have total freedom as to what you do with your blog. You can use any plugin you want, advertise any product, and use any theme. The disadvantage is that you have to do all of the upkeep and updating on your own.
You can think of one as the for-profit branch (wordpress.com) and one as the non-profit branch (wordpress.org).
Creating TextExander snippets like this allows us to continue responding to emails without having to spend hours upon hours writing out the same response.
What about you?
Do you use any of these apps? Do you like them? What are some other apps that bloggers should be using? Leave a comment below!