I have previously looked at Jane Hart’s list of Top Ten Tools for Learning professionalsand thought it was interesting not only to see what tools others used, but get some thoughts regarding their applications of those tools. So, I decided to jump in on the fray. I don’t know if I can necessarily rank these tools in order or most use or importance, but here goes:
1. Mail (Apple Mail) – How else am I supposed to handle my business and casual communication? Mail serves as my main communication tool because of its ability to integrate with so many other tools. It integrates seamlessly with iCal and its my main RSS reader. I like it quite a bit better than Outlook, therefore I do not use Entourage, Microsoft’s Mac version of Outlook. I prefer the way Mail handles attachments and separates my accounts. While Mail and Outlook/Entourage do many of the same things, I think the attachment piece of things is what has me won. If I should receive a music file, it plays right in the email instead of having to open it up to a separate application. Like the Guinness people say, BRILLIANT!!
2. Articulate Studio – (Thanks Tom K.) While there are other eLearning authoring tools, I have not worked with any as flexible and easy as Articulate. Since so many people are using PowerPoint anyway, I find that being able to integrate Flash and everything else with this tools not only makes the presentations appear polished, but also easier to create.
3. Captivate – Some clients require this tool specifically and it does have the advantage of the screen movie tool integrated. While no tool is perfect, this tool is very powerful and there is great help available in the Adobe forums
4. Photoshop – If I had to prioritize tools, this one would always be in the top 3. I use it in every situation. Sometimes, it’s for simple image editing. Other times its for text effects and images creation. Many times, its for image extraction and isolation from background. But more often than not, whatever tool I am using, Articulate, Captivate, Flash, Dreamweaver, or Word, Photoshop seems to play a part in manipulating the images I use in storyboards or eLearning modules.
5. Safari (v4 beta) – I suppose everyone uses a browser of some sort. I love the new bookmarking feature. While bookmarking is certainly not new, I like the coverflow way in which it is implemented. That might only be for aesthetic reasons, but who says you can’t like work tools only based on their “prettiness”? Well, I suppose usefulness makes them winners as well and this is plenty useful.
6. Sound Studio – Because I do voice narration for some modules as well, having an audio editor is a necessity. While I could have used Audacity, I paid the few buck for Sound Studio because it was very reminiscent of the Windows tool I loved, Sound Forge. It really is easy to use and has a lot of formats available (wav, mp3, aif, etc.) without having to acquire separate or special plugin.
7. Jing – I have used other Screen Capture tools like ScreenFlow for Mac, SnagIt, etc. With regard to Jing, one word is key here….FREE!! While Jing is free, it does not ACT free!! In other words, it is by no means a cheap, low-quality knock-off trying to pass itself off as a powerful app. It really IS a powerful app. Since I use a Mac, my Windows only applications (which happens to be ALL of the authoring apps – Captivate, Articulate) reside in the virtual machine area of my drive accessed through Parallels. While I love the ability to use these tools on a Mac, I can’t capture my Mac desktop from within the virtual machine. So Captivate and Camtasia are of no use to me outside the Windows environment. However, with Jing, I can capture both the Mac and Windows screens without issue. It’s easy to use and the interface is very friendly.
8. Parallels – Since I am talking about my Mac and the Windows eLearning software, it makes sense that Paralells is an application that I use everyday. Without this app, I would have to either go back and forth between multiple computers or simply be resigned to using only Windows. Now, I have flexibility AND portability. Because I can take my MacBook anywhere, I can work anywhere, thanks to this tool.
9. WordPress – I don’t use wordpress.com technically. But, I have the wordpress apps uploaded to my own host. I have used a few other blogging services and prefer this for the flexibility in plugins, administration, themes and overall ease of use. There are many add-ons available and others being developed.
10. QuickBooks – As a freelance designer, tracking my business is important. If I don’t then Uncle Sam is going to grab his portion ANYWAY. Plus, it gives me a neat picture of the areas that I need to spend more time in. I must admit, that while the business side of things is not my favorite (sometimes it feels like it takes away from the time you could spend designing), it is a necessity and having an understanding of how this side of things works is helpful as you network and develop thoughts around how people operate as a whole. No matter what we say about learning, with regard to adults, the financial always colors the picture somehow. Therefore, I would be naive not to place some level of importance on it.
There are, of course, other tools, sites, software applications, hardware that I utilize on a regular basis. However, limiting this list to 10 gave me the opportunity to think more keenly about what I do daily. What do you think about these tools? What are the tools that you use?