Free Software That Runs My Business

Last Spring my PC started to die on me.

This led to a whole new philosophy for how I organize files and software on my PC.

I realized my laptop could suddenly stop working, so all files needed to be accessible via the web. Especially copy projects that I was working on.

I didn’t want to rely on expensive software that might be installed on my laptop, so I started using free and often very simple software programs that I could quickly download from any computer with an Internet connection.

These new changes give me a sense of independence that I didn’t have before. Someone could steal my laptop today and all it’d put me back is the $600 I spent on it. I could simply walk to the nearest computer and continue working on my business via the web.

A fire could destroy my laptop and I’d be OK. A tornado could carry my laptop to Kansas and I’d be OK. A gang of thieves could… let’s move on.

Here are the free programs that are easily accessible from any computer with an Internet connection, that completely run my business.

Notepad. If you run on a Windows platform, you likely have Notepad under “Accessories” in your “Programs” menu. I use this to write notes to myself, take notes for copy, copy and paste text into a .txt file to save for later… it has all kinds of uses while I’m working.

It has a big advantage over Microsoft Word or OpenOffice Writer: it barely uses any resources on your PC so your comp works very quickly.

Google Chrome. I use Google Chrome instead of Firefox or Internet Explorer. I really like the opening page that displays thumbnails of pages I regularly visit.

I also like the address bar, which automatically guesses and even selects what site you’re typing in. I can get to the Dashboard of my blog just by typing “s” then “enter.”

It also allows me to use the following programs.

GMail Previously I used Outlook Express for all my email. Then I switched to webmail on my server so that I could access my emails from any computer (which helps for independence). And then I switched to GMail because it’s the best webmail interface out there.

I love the “Archive” feature which doesn’t delete your emails but keeps them out of view. I love being able to easily search for past emails, sent or received. I love that if I get an email that’s part of a back-and-forth -email-conversation, all emails from that convo show up in my inbox with the new email (and in a very clean, non-obtrusive way).

And the GMail spam filter is amazing. I rarely see spam in my inbox. The other day I realized my Spam folder had caught 600 spam emails in one day, and not one made it to my inbox. Woah!

Google Calendar. I use this to plan my week in advance. Really easy way to outline my projects.

Google Notebook and Google Docs.

I find it easier to write in Notepad than Google Notebook. But by copying and pasting info from Notepad to Google Notebook, I can then easily access that information from any computer anywhere. Again, that’s important to me.

I use Google Docs ocassionally. It allows me to open Word .docs even though I don’t have Microsoft word.

iGoogle. I use iGoogle as a way to monitor all of the above Google tools. It’s set up to show me a glimpse of what’s in my inbox, list what’s on my calendar for that day, and allows me to quickly copy and paste info into Google Notepad… all from the same page.

WYSIWYG Killer. I stopped using Dreamweaver, Frontpage and other WYSIWYG editors because they frustrated me like crazy. So I wrote a piece of software that installs on your website and allows you to type in plain text… then click generate… and instantly have a web-ready .html sales letter that can be saved and sent to the client.

Because it’s on the web, I can write copy from anywhere I can access the Internet. It’s also set up to send backups to a free hotmail account that I signed up for, so I don’t have to worry about losing files. (This allowed me to get rid of my backup service.

It’s Your Turn.

Those are the free programs I use. How about you? Are there any free programs you use to run your business?

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