PORTER-CABLE 382 5-Inch Random Orbit Sander Review

Sanding off a piece of furniture is a great way to improve the finish and to prevent splinters and imperfections. It ensure that your surfaces are level and gives everything a professional sheen that makes it look like it came from IKEA.

A belt sander is a highly powerful sanding tool that will allow you to create curved edges and perform a range of other applications. But for hobbyists and casual DIY fans, that’s going to be overkill. Instead, an orbital sander might prove to be more appropriate and in that case, you can do a lot worse than the PORTER-CABLE 382.

We decided to put the PORTER-CABLE 382 through its paces for a few days to see how it would measure up to other products and whether or not we could recommend it. We’ve found that it’s a great tool for a lot of reasons and can recommend with only a few reservations.

Product Description: A Good Design All Round

The PORTER-CABLE 382 isn’t terribly attractive to look at in all grey and does have a couple of design faux-pas in our opinion. Other than the color choices, the off putting thing for us is that the wire comes from the top of the device. This means that it’s going to get in the way more than it would in another location and that can be slightly problematic when you’re using a tool that requires manual dexterity. There’s also no handle as such, just an area to grab around the top of the device.

That’s not a deal breaker though and actually, during our review process, we found it to be satisfying to hold and relatively easy to operate for the most part.

The sanding speed meanwhile is very good and there is dust collection here too, which will allow you to collect dust as you go and then throw it out.

Pros and Cons: Very Good but Not the Best

The best thing about the machine is the decent performance and high RPMs. This really does sand things down quickly for the size and cost and is very enjoyable to use on the whole. If you have been using belt sanders until now, then you might find that this makes certain jobs a whole lot easier. Of course it’s still not as powerful as a belt sander and you can’t use it to create rounded edges etc. It will just about remove paint but this can take a while.

It does what it sets out to, is light and easy to use and comes in at a very fair price.

But as mentioned, there are a few design mistakes here too though and it’s certainly not perfect. We don’t love the wire positioning for example and we also find the color a little off-putting. Something else we noticed is that during extended use it can get a little hot and unfortunately the majority of that heat seems to be just where you hold it…

Another issue is the dust collection attachment which is a bit loose, drops a lot of dust and fills up very quickly indeed. So, there are a few cons here as well…

Conclusion: Consider the Rest

This isn’t a bad orbital sander and it will certainly make sanding quick, easy and a little more fun. But as mentioned, it’s also not the best. If you’re in the market for an orbital sander, then you might want to shop around.

And that’s really the most damning thing we can say about the PORTER-CABLE 38: it’s just not as good as some of the competition. Take the BDERO100 from Black and Decker for example. That comes in a little bit cheaper, it doesn’t get hot, the wire comes out the bottom and it has a much nicer looking design that is actually appealing to use.

When there are clearly better options on the market, it’s hard to recommend this and especially as the Black and Decker model is a little more powerful. Some people also say that the last PORTER model was also superior.

So, shop around and look for something better. But if you do end up getting the PORTER-CABLE 382, it will still do a good job. Make sure to read this review to find the best random orbit sander.

from Toolerant http://www.toolerant.com/porter-cable-382-5-inch-random-orbit-sander-review/
Source: https://toolerant.tumblr.com/post/166708564355


How to Hire a Remote Team

Since our beginning in October 2011, Zapier has grown from three founders cramped in a small apartment to a team of over 110 around the world. Along the way, we’ve picked up a few tricks (and things to avoid) to make building a remote team easier.

Here you’ll learn:

Defining Characteristics of a Top-Notch Remote Worker

Defining Characteristics of a Top-Notch Remote Worker

Not everyone is cut out for remote work, so before you begin hiring people for a remote position you’ll need to consider the skills it takes to be successful in this type of environment.

Great remote workers have a few traits that make them successful:

  • Propensity towards action: This is the type of person that devoid of a task list given to them, they’ll find something meaningful to do.
  • Ability to prioritize: Often times, important tasks can be unclear when working remotely (especially at a startup). An individual who can focus on the right tasks and knows to ignore less impactful ones will do well.
  • Proficient writing: Most communication in a remote team happens via text—email, team chat, or one-on-one private messages. If someone struggles to write clearly and concisely, they’ll struggle in a remote team. Equally as important is being able to show tact in written communication too. It’s all too easy to come off as curt via text. Liberal use of emoticons can go a long way.
  • Trustworthy: If you can’t trust the person, then not being able to see them every day is going to cause you to lose sleep. Make sure you trust who you hire.
  • Local support system: If the only support system someone has is their work one, then being in a remote environment will likely make them go crazy. You need people who have outside support systems so they have people they can interact with on a daily/weekly basis.

Joel Gascoigne and the team at Buffer have found that people with these traits often come from freelance, contracting, or startup backgrounds. We’ve certainly found that to be true, too. Ten of our first 13 hires at Zapier had startup or freelance work in their background—and several staff members started out freelancing for Zapier before joining us full-time.

How to Write an Attractive Remote Job Post

Writing an Attractive Remote Job Post

Before you start sourcing candidates, you want to make sure to do a good job at defining the position. Oftentimes, companies throw up a generic job opening for a marketer or developer, which doesn’t really help the candidate decide if they want to work for your company or not. Since remote companies don’t have a local reputation, it’s up to you to sell your company just as much as the role.

When it comes to defining the position, the best way to do this is to first fill the position yourself, even if it’s only for a week. The work you do will help you understand what’s involved in this role at a much deeper level.

This is a trick that Basecamp (formerly 37signals) uses when hiring for a new role. Jason Fried, the company’s co-founder, recently explained this practice in a Reddit AMA.

When it comes to an all-new position at the company, we like to try to do it first with the people we have so we really understand the work. If you don’t understand the work, it’s really hard to evaluate someone’s abilities. Before we hired our first customer service person, I did just about all the customer service for two years. Before we hired an office manager, David and I mostly split the duties. That really helped us know who would be good when we started talking to people about the job.

By doing the role you are hiring for, you’ll also be able to write a more compelling job description and be better able to define how the role relates to the company and its success.

As a result, your job posting will be a detailed listing that explains the ins-and-outs of what you do as a company. This might turn some people away, but those people wouldn’t have been a good fit anyway. Instead, you’ll get applicants that are much more invested in being a part of your company.

Also, in the job posting, ask them to apply in a unique way—don’t just ask for resumes. Instead, try to make the application process prove their abilities for the job.

For instance, when hiring for our business development position we had candidates complete a series of short exercises that tested the basics of the role’s partner duties. And rather than asking for a cover letter upfront, we asked them to write a sample pitch email to a partner.

People excited about your company are willing to complete these extra tasks, often with enjoyment. Those who aren’t a good fit just skip your post or forget to do it, turning the unique application process into a filter.

For all our job postings, we also want to convey our company culture. So we also post our commitment to applicants, which includes our promise to respond to every candidate, our culture and values, how we have been working on hiring for diversity and inclusivity, and the Zapier code of conduct, which boils down to everyone treating each other professionally and with respect. Putting these out in the open has helped candidates feel more comfortable taking that leap of faith when applying for a job.

How to Find Remote Candidates

Finding Remote Candidates

It’s impossible to hire if you don’t have candidates for the role, of course, so the first thing to consider is how people will find out about your open position. Here’s where we’ve had the best luck.

  • Our Networks: People you’ve worked with in the past are great candidates to join up with you. This is especially true if you enjoyed working with them and want to work with them again. Also, ask customers, partners, investors, family, friends, and anyone you think might be helpful if they know of any good candidates. Often times, people aren’t actively looking for jobs, but they will confide in a friend that they are unhappy in their current role.
  • Local meetup groups: It’s a bit odd to recommend local recruiting for a remote team, but this has worked out well for us. We’re well connected with Missouri dev meetup groups since the founding team has strong ties to the region. Many of the people in the area are excited about Zapier and stay in touch with what we do.
  • Your own userbase: If you’re fortunate enough to have a large userbase that matches the credentials you need, then it can be a great place to recruit from. We do this by adding a “hey, we’re hiring!” link in emails that go out to customers and blog readers. This drives dozens of daily applications when we have open positions. Additionally, your users are likely a strong culture fit since they are already more familiar with your company and how you operate.
  • Your blog: We don’t publish positions on our blog but still see our increased content efforts pay off in the hiring process. To our surprise, almost every candidate mentions the blog as a reason they want to work at Zapier. Many of our posts are about efficiency, productivity, and working better with the help of apps and automation—and people who are excited about those topics tend to make great remote workers
  • Blog posts about your company: Similar to the above, we sometimes write about how we work (like what you’re reading right now). The people who connect with how we work get excited enough to search for how they can work alongside us.
  • Ask teammates to help with sourcing: Some companies take a really aggressive stance and mine every employees’ social networks for potential job candidates. I haven’t found this to be necessary. Instead, simply ask teammates to help spread the word and with the goal of getting an awesome new teammate. Oftentimes, people are excited about working with and helping pick out their new teammate, so including them in the process is a net benefit to all.
  • Job boards: As a last resort, job boards can be a source of candidates. Often these have bottom of the barrel candidates who are constantly job hunting and mostly looking for any job—particularly if it lets them work from home, not your job in particular. But you can occasionally strike gold here.
  • Share, share, share: Use Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, AngelList, and any channel you have access to to let people know that you’re hiring. The more spread you can get, the more likely your job post will stumble across the right person’s desk.

Sourcing candidates is often a harder task for remote teams than you’d think. Since you don’t have global connections, you’re a small brand, and local ties can be hard to come by, too, it can be hard to get the word out about your company and your positions. Take advantage of every channel you can find to get the word out and keep track of where the good candidates come from. Then make sure to utilize those in the future.

Here are the ways our first 18 employees found the Zapier job opening they filled:

P.S. These are all really cool people. You should say hello to them. 🙂

How to Hire a Remote Employee

If you’ve done everything up to this point, then you should start to see applicants roll in. This is where the real challenge starts—it’s time to make the hire. First, you’ll need to sort through dozens, hundreds, and maybe thousands of applicants to find the person you want. (Fun fact: Zapier got over 10,000 applicants from January to September 2017, for 33 open roles. We’ve been lucky to have a great talent pool to choose from.)

Hiring is time-consuming, but it might be the most important thing you do to make sure your team succeeds.

1. Sort Through Applicants in a Project Management Tool

We’ve borrowed heavily from how DoSomething runs hiring with Trello. I suggest managing the hiring pipeline in a project management tool—Launchpad LA, for example, uses Asana—so that all in your company can see the candidates, comment on their application and feel involved in the process. As a remote team, you don’t get those in-person, team conversations about candidates, so finding one spot to have those chats puts everyone on the same page.

We use Workable to manage the hiring process, but previously we used Trello boards for each open role with a Zapier integration that automatically creates a Trello card for candidates in the “Applied” column.

Next, we nominate someone to run point for hiring for that position. They are in charge of all the initial screening and, together with our People Ops team, making sure the ball never gets dropped in the hiring process. This role is important. Without someone filling this role, it’s highly likely that candidates will get slow response times and the ball will be dropped. I know we had this happen before having people dedicated to this role.

That said, just because someone is running point for the position doesn’t mean you don’t want other teammates involved in the hiring process. In fact, the exact opposite—you want to get other teammates involved to independently evaluate candidates to help reduce bias. We also use a Chrome extension we built for Workable that masks applicants’ names and other identifying characteristics such as social media profiles to further reduce bias.

2. Reject Unqualified Applicants Quickly and Kindly

It’s always best to let them know as soon as possible so they can continue with their search. It’s also a polite thing to do. Here’s a rough template we use, though you’ll want to customize this towards the candidate a bit more:

Hi John,

Thanks for your email! Loved hearing about [insert something interesting they mentioned from the app]. That said, we’re moving forward with other candidates at this point.

Best of luck and hopefully you’ll stay in touch. We post new positions periodically and would love to see your name again.


The email is short, personal, lets the individual know they are no longer in the running for the position, but also invites them to stay in touch for the future. After all, these are candidates that are excited about your company and may be a better fit for a different role down the road. Best to part ways as friendly as possible.

3. Invite Top Candidates to a Video Call Interview

The hiring manager and other teammates reviewing applications select candidates for the next step, the job fit interview. We use a rubric to do that. For example, when hiring for a Customer Champion, we evaluate candidates using a 1-3 scale for: persistence, knowledge, empathy, attention to detail, and Zapier usage.

In the job fit interview, we get to know the candidate a bit better and ask questions to see if they would succeed in a remote environment. These are best done synchronously so make the most of your time and schedule these back-to-back. Doing so helps you more easily compare candidates, as well.

Pay special attention to how well the applicant communicates during this part of the process.

  • Do they suggest dates and times with time zones?
  • Do they send over calendar invites? Do those have time zones attached?
  • Do they offer multiple ways to connect, such as phone, Skype and Google Hangout?

Effective communication is so key in a remote position that these little things are a sign of a person who might be a great fit.

More potential warning signs are individuals who are poor at following up via email, forget when the interview was scheduled, or aren’t flexible with an interview time.

[Matthew Guay]https://zapier.com/blog/matthew-guay-zapier/), for example, is a U.S. expat based in Bangkok, which means his work hours are completely opposite of ours in the States. But during the interview process, he was more than happy to stay up late in order to meet our whole team on a conference call. His quickness to schedule and flexibility played a role in his hiring.

4. Put Top Candidates to the Test with a Project

After these video call interviews, a few candidates have likely emerged as the strongest applicants. At this point we like to put them to the test. Depending on the role, we’ll devise a task that is of moderate difficulty and indicative of the types of activities they’ll do on a day-to-day basis.

For engineers, that might be using the Zapier Developer Platform to add a new service. For marketing, that may be writing a blog post in collaboration with someone on the team.

If it’s obvious that this isn’t necessary, we might skip this step, though it’s often a good way to get a feel for working together even for great candidates.

More often than not, the task requires the candidate to interact with folks on the team—maybe even more than a couple of times. That way you’ll get a sense of how they communicate and collaborate.

The test should only take a few hours. We want to be cognizant of everyone’s time.

5. Check References and Make an Offer

Before making an offer, we send out an anonymous survey for a reference check using SkillSurvey. That helps get honest feedback on candidates from their references.

Throughout this process, which usually takes several months to find the right person, we update applicants on the status of their application before making the final hiring call and closing out the job opening.

6. Bonus: Arrange Finalists to Meet the Whole Team

Arrange Finalists to Meet the Whole Team

Previously, we had candidates meet the team with a short lightning talk on a topic of their choice. Unfortunately, with our now-rapid hiring pace and such a large team, this weekly intro isn’t feasible. New teammates, however, do introduce themselves in their first weekly hangout with the team, sharing where they’re from, a bit about their background, and anything fun they want to mention.

More Remote Hiring Resources

One thing you’ll note is that we never meet the individual in person during the hiring process. For our first five hires, we did met candidates in person. We found this was helpful but ultimately wasn’t critical. What it did add was cost, coordination headache, and time. If you wanted to interview three people face-to-face that could take up to two weeks to manage. The first person in the interview process would then be waiting two or three weeks before knowing if they got the job or not. So now we do everything via Zoom and email. This works swimmingly.

If you’re interested in how others hire in remote teams, here are how companies I admire do this:

Keep reading: Check out even more remote work articles.

Source: https://zapier.com/blog/hiring-a-remote-team/

8 New Google Calendar Features You Should Start Using Now

Calendar apps just need to manage appointments and notify us when they’re about to start. That’s just about it. So perhaps it’s not surprising that in the 11 years since Google first launched Google Calendar, it’s scarcely changed anything about the app, even as it grew to be one of the most popular ways to manage your appointments.

There’s little new you could add to a calendar app that would make it better at its core job—but there are a lot of things you could tweak and fix to make your calendar work better for you. That’s what Google has done with its new version of Google Calendar that was just released.

Here’s how you can get the most out of the new Google Calendar and its 8 best new features.

Google Calendar, Meet Tomorrow

New Google Calendar

New design, year view, simplified event editor—it’s an all new Google Calendar

Bright colors. Large typography. Floating cards. Menus hidden behind 3 dots.

Google’s Material Design first made Android phones and Google’s mobile apps easier to use. And now, one by one, the G Suite apps on the web are getting the new makeover. Google Inbox started the trend in late 2014, followed by Google Forms and Google Contacts.

Google Calendar now joins the gang with a new design that’s similar to the old app, infused with Material Design style (and a bit of AI to make your events more fun—no, really).

How to Get the New Google Calendar

Set google calendar colors

The new Google Calendar includes a few options to tweak its design

Anxious to give the new Google Calendar a try? Open calendar.google.com, and odds are there will be a blue Use new Calendar link in the top right. Click that, and seconds later your Google Calendar will be upgraded with the new design.

You’ll get asked to choose information density (responsive, the default, is best) and color set (the new “modern” set features more muted colors, while the “classic” set has the same bright blues and reds that made the original Google Calendar iconic)—the defaults are likely best. And then you’re off to explore.

If you don’t have the Use new Calendar button, you’ll likely see it over the coming weeks—and by the end of February, it’ll be the new default, even if you don’t upgrade today.

Now that you’re in, here’s how to get the most out of Google Calendar’s best new features:

1. New Schedule View

new Google Calendar schedule view

Wondering if someone else is free? Google Calendar’s new Day view makes that easy to answer.

Perhaps the best feature of the new Google Calendar is slightly hidden in the Day view: a new Schedule view that can show you and your colleague’s calendars side-by-side. It works best with G Suite accounts in a company where everyone’s calendars are shared. Add your coworker’s calendars from the left sidebar, then select the Day view from the menu in the top left of Google Calendar.

Now, click the checkmark beside your coworker’s calendar, and you can see their schedule side-by-side with your own for that day. Need to see a different day? Use the mini calendar in the left sidebar to select a different day, or the arrows in the top to jump through events day-by-day.

You can’t move events between the calendars—after all, the other calendars are owned by other people—but it is a handy way to see when other people on your team are free or busy.

2. Add Formatted Notes and Attachments to Events

new Google Calendar event editor

The new event editor lets you add as many details as you want to your events

Ever wished you could add related files, links, tasks, and more to events? Your wish has been granted. The new Google Calendar event editor has all of the same tools as before in a new design—along with a fully redesigned Description box.

Click the Edit pencil icon on any event top tweak its settings, with familiar options for the event time, duration, location, and repeating settings. Add guests on the right, or use the Find a Time tab to use the Schedule view inside the editor to see when your attendees are free.

Then, near the bottom, you can add a description-this time with bold, italics, and underlined text along with organized and bullet point lists. Standard keyboard shortcuts work here, too—press CMD or Ctrl+B for bold text, and CMD or Ctrl+K to add a link.

Click the paperclip icon to add attachments. That opens the Google Drive file browser where you can add Google Docs files or upload a new file just for this event.

Google Calendar event details

You can then see all the event details—including attachments and links—by clicking on the event in your calendar.

3rd party calendar apps including the default Calendar app on iPhones don’t yet support the new rich text descriptions, so new Google Calendar events show up with HTML formatting—and without attachments—in those apps for now. But if your whole team uses Google Calendar online, it’s a great way to include all of your event details in one place.

3. Schedule Meeting Rooms

See if a room is available and book it for your event (GIF via Google)

Google Calendar’s event editor also includes a new tool: a Rooms scheduler for G Suite accounts in teams. Right beside the Guests tab where you add event attendees, there’s a new Rooms tab where you can search through your company’s available meeting rooms, see what features they have, and add them to an event directly.

Much as with adding event attendees, you’ll type the name of the room in to see matching rooms, then can filter by availability to only see the rooms you could that will be free during your meeting time. Once you’ve saved the appointment, you won’t have to worry about a meeting room being double-booked (or needing to remind your team where you’re meeting at the last minute).

4. Simplified Appointment Slots Tool

Google Calendar has long include a simple way to add an event from the Day view: Just click and drag over the time when you’ll be busy, then type the event details in the popover dialog.

In that popover in the new Google Calendar, there’s a rather obvious Appointment Slots button under the event name, something that turns out was in the old Google Calendar but somewhat more hidden and hard to use. It’s a way to mark time on your calendar as free for meetings—with a link you can share with others so they can book an appointment with you during one of those time slots.

To add appointment slots, open the Day, Week, 4 Days, or Schedule view, and click-and-drag over the time period when you want to schedule meetings. Click the Appointment Slots button, then choose how long you want each meeting to run. Or, click the More Options button to make those slots repeating and to add a description, guests, and meeting room to the time slot.

Book appointment with time slot in Google Calendar

Share your booking page so people can schedule appointments with you when you’re free

Once it’s added, click the event then click the This calendar’s appointment page link in the description to open a booking calendar in a new tab. Copy that link and share it with others so they can book an appointment with you from one of your available appointment slots. You could even include the link in your email signature for an easy way to share it with everyone.

Now, when someone wants to meet with you, they can open your calendar, see when you’re busy, and book an appointment at a time when you’ve marked yourself as free—not just when there’s a blank space on the calendar. It’s a great way to simplify meeting booking without back-and-froth emails, one that’s vastly improved in the new Google Calendar.

5. See More With a Year View

Google Calendar Year View

Google Calendar’s newest view is the oldest, original calendar view

Ever wished you could zoom out on your Google Calendar? Now you can with Google Calendar’s new Year view.

Click the view menu in the top right and select Year (or press y on your keyboard) to see the entire year at a glance. Dates with events aren’t highlighted—but click on a date and you can see everything that’s schedule in a popover. Or, double-click on a date to open it in Day view for a quick way to jump back or forward in time.

Google Tasks in Google Calendar

Google Tasks is still here—with the same basic features and design

And just in case you were wondering about Google Tasks, it’s still in the new Google Calendar—amazingly with the very same design as before. Check the Tasks calendar in the left sidebar to open Google Tasks in a right sidebar.

Everything’s exactly the same as before, down to the menus and sparse features. The only new thing is a small tab in the top of the sidebar to hide it—and then you can click that tab again to re-open it.

Google Tasks is still an easy way to jot down tasks in Google Calendar and Gmail—and hopefully it will get its own redesign soon.

6. Find Anything with Integrated Search

Google Calendar Search

Documents, appointments, contacts, and more from a combined G Suite search

Google’s synonymous with search, so it’s only right that you should be able to quickly search through everything in G Suite from any Google app. In the old Google Calendar, though, you could only search through events.

That’s changed in the new Google Calendar. Click the search icon and type in your query, and Google will find documents, contacts, and events that match. Click an event to open a quick preview; click a document, and it’ll open in a new tab; click a contact, and Google Calendar will show a list of every event with that contact.

Google Calendar advanced search

Need to find a specific event? Click the down arrow on the right of the search box to open Google Calendar’s Advanced Search. You can choose which calendars to search through, invitees and locations to watch for, search terms to find (or not find), and a specific date range to search. That should be enough to find what you need. It’s the same advanced search options from the old Google Calendar, with a new design.

7. Track Time With a World Clock (note, weather is removed)

Google Calendar World Clock

You’ll never have to wonder what time it is in Bangkok again

Google Calendar’s scheduling tools help you see when people are busy—but if you’re working in different timezones, it might not be quite as obvious when they’re sleeping. There’s a new Google Calendar tool to help with that: a World Clock that you’ve likely already noticed in the screenshots.

Tucked away under the month calendar in the sidebar, the world clock shows the current time, the city or time zone, and a sun or moon to tell if someone should be sleeping at a glance. It doesn’t show the date if someone’s in the future—but it does show the official GMT+/- timezone if you hover your mouse over the clock.

Google Calendar World Clock settings

You’ll first have to enable Google Calendar’s world clock. Click the gear icon in the top right and select Settings, then scroll down to the World Clock pane and check Show world clock. Then, click Add Time Zone and select the correct time you want. In a few seconds, you should be able to get a quick overview of the current time for your entire team as a handy counterpart to the Schedule view.

8. Tweak Calendar with Redesigned Settings

google calendar settings

The new Google Calendar settings

Perhaps the most boring part of any app is its settings page. It’s worse in Google’s apps. The old Google Calendar Settings page was one long list of options and checkboxes—and tweaking individual calendar settings meant opening the calendar’s menu and finding its own settings page.

Everything’s simpler in the new Google Calendar. To open settings, click the gear icon then click Settings—or press S on your keyboard to open it.

The options are now organized in groups, making it much easier to find new options. You can add new time zones, set your default event duration, and choose your working hours—all options that Google Calendar included before, but they’re now more obvious.

Two settings options are new: the aforementioned world clock, along with a mobile setup settings at the bottom of the page which lists the number you’ve added to your Google account for verification. Then, there are a couple things missing: the option to show weather on the calendar is gone, as is Labs tab with experimental Google Calendar features. Two popular Labs features—year view and world clock—are now built-in, though.

Import/export settings Google Calendar

Extra settings are tucked away in the left sidebar. You can add calendars (including ones for holidays and sports), and import or export calendar files.

Need to change the notification settings on an individual calendar? Select it in the menu to change its time zone, choose when event notifications will be sent, and set which type of notifications you’d like emails or SMS messages about.

It’s all things you could always do with Google Calendar, only now, it’s far easier with the redesigned menu and settings.

Bonus: A Holiday AI

Google Calendar event headers

Add a holiday or meal event for a tiny bit of magic

“Wait,” you say, “didn’t you promise that the new Google Calendar makes your events fun?”

Yup. Try adding an event with a holiday name like New Years or a meal time like brunch in the description, then click on the event. Instead of a colored card with your event name, Google Calendar will automatically add a festive header graphic that matches your event. It doesn’t work with every holiday—and meal times where the only other way we found to get the headers—but it’s a fun little extra when it shows up. Oh, and try adding a holiday and a meal together, like Christmas brunch, for a fun mashup.

Perhaps sometime soon there will be a way to add your own event headers—or not. It’s not like we should spend more time in our calendars anyhow.

You likely look at your calendar app less than a half hour each week, relying on notifications the rest of the time. And that’s how it should be.

With the new Google Calendar, you’ll hopefully spend even less time in your calendar—and more time getting the work you’re scheduling done. And when you do open your calendar, you just might find that Google’s decorated your next event for a little something special in your schedule.

Source: https://zapier.com/blog/google-calendar-schedule/

Steal this Workflow: Turn Form Responses into Leads Automatically

Leads are time-sensitive. If your business offers a solution to a problem, there’s a good chance you aren’t the only company in that space, so a lead that reaches out to you has probably contacted your competitors too. Losing a lead because your team didn’t respond to a form response or email hurts.

And while moving quickly to secure a lead makes a huge difference, learning more about the lead can improve your chances of closing a sale. Going into a demo request or introduction call knowing who you’re chatting with and what they and their company do makes you look TK.

SaaS monitoring software Blissfully understands the need to be informed—their product offers companies a way to keep track of over 500 of the SaaS (software-as-a-service) tools they use, to help organize the chaos, as Blissfully puts it. Their goal is simple: help online companies work efficiently, cost-effectively, quickly, and with information at their fingertips.

For their own organization, Blissfully turns to app automation tool Zapier for lead management, developer requests, and more.

“Imagine having an invisible connective tissue supporting your company. That’s Zapier.”Ariel Diaz, founder and CEO, Blissfully

With Zapier in their toolbox, Ariel Diaz, founder and CEO of Blissfully, discovered a way to collect lead form submissions and instantly notify their growth team of the new lead, cutting down the time it took to respond.

Their lead management starts with Ninja Forms, the WordPress form builder. When a new Ninja Forms submission comes in from one of Blissfully’s Call to Actions (CTAs), it triggers a Zap—a bridge between two or more apps. Blissfully’s CTAs tend to be simple, asking only for an email address. But with that email address, Blissfully is able to build a robust profile of their new lead instantly.

Once a potential client enters their email into a CTA, Zapier creates a new contact in HubSpot CRM, where all of the lead’s information will live. Then, Blissfully brings data research and intelligence into the Zap with Clearbit. Zapier sends the email address from Ninja Forms to [Clearbit](https://zapier.com/zapbook/clearbit/%5D to find information about the business.

With that information—which ranges from company name to the business’s Facebook account—Zapier creates a matching company in HubSpot CRM. The Zap doesn’t stop there, though: Zapier also updates the contact from step two with Clearbit’s data and then creates a new deal in HubSpot CRM.

To help the growth team respond to the lead quickly, Blissfully’s Zap sends a message in [Slack](https://zapier.com/zapbook/slack/%5D with links to the lead and a little information about them.

It’s quite a workflow with multiple moving parts, so we’ll break it down into its vital pieces and you can implement and customize these Zaps for your own lead management:


With automation powering their leads, Blissfully stays ahead of their competition and provides a better experience for their clients.

“Between Clearbit, Ninja Forms, HubSpot, and more, all our team tools and updates—regardless of department—are synched and appropriately supported by the magic of Zapier,” Ariel says.

All images courtesy of Blissfully.

Source: https://zapier.com/blog/automate-lead-management/

3 Ways to Boost Your Team’s Productivity and Avoid Burnout

We’ve all read our fair share of articles claiming they have the one key secret to supercharged productivity. However, a bunch of these so-called productivity hacks have, in fact, been found to damage team efficiency in the long run. With a focus on short-term performance, rather than well-being, teams with ever-growing to-do lists can end up burnt out and with less achieved.

In this article, we’ll share the data behind why taking an obsessive approach to productivity with your team could backfire. Then, we’ll provide a handful of strategies for sustainably achieving team efficiency–without putting your team members’ minds, bodies, or wallets at risk!

The Problem with Productivity Hacks

With the rise of productivity hacks, there have never been so many tips and tricks to squeeze into your working hours. The problem is, much of the advice actually contradicts itself.

The Rock, Pebbles, and Sand Analogy

You might already be aware of the ‘Rocks, Pebbles and Sand’ analogy. As the story goes, a teacher conducted the experiment in front of their classroom, in which they filled a jar with large rocks and asked the class whether it was full. The class responded that it was. Then the teacher began to pour in smaller pebbles between the gaps in the jar, again asking whether it was full. Finally, the teacher poured in sand, until the jar was entirely full to the brim.

As the teacher explained, the message is that if we fill our time (the jar) with smaller tasks first, like emails, chat notifications and menial tasks, there will be no time left for the bigger tasks, like strategic decisions for a project or our team.

Tony Schwartz and David Allen, two big names in productivity theory game, agree. They say that to have a productive day, you should address the big rocks first. This means always doing your most important task first thing in the morning, when you’re well rested and least distracted by emails. Ensuring we leave enough tasks for the significant decisions and are strategic with our time certainly makes sense.

However, here’s the counterpoint: when you’re running a team or a client-facing project, putting off communication tasks can result in your team’s work grinding to a halt.

Avoiding email isn’t the answer

It’s nothing new that emails can be huge drain of time and resources for teams. According to Harved Business Review, the average employee checks their email 74 times a day and it’s estimated that by 2018, the average employee will send and receive around 140 messages per day.

As a result, many advise that we should avoid email entirely first thing in the morning, and instead dive straight into a project or larger task, holding a strict ‘no-email’ hour.

However, in modern working environments, distributed teams are commonplace and ignoring emails that came in overnight could mean preventing a colleague or stakeholder from accessing important information. When working as part of a team or with clients, not being available via your regular communication channels—albeit email, Slack or another chat tool—can be hugely unproductive.

A better solution: Be strategic—not obsessive—with your to-do list

According to the ‘Rock, Pebbles, Sand’ argument, we should also prioritize tasks by significance, focusing on the bigger tasks, like strategy, over smaller tasks, like proofing something for a colleague.

The difficult part is that those big strategic decisions can take a lot of time, which can a) prevent you from completing other potentially urgent but small tasks and b) become deflating. To avoid starting your day with a daunting and draining task, instead get your productivity momentum going by checking-off smaller bite-sized tasks. Then break up your bigger projects into smaller steps too.

Equally, if you don’t get through everything on your to-do list, don’t let it dishearten you. As Carson Tate, writing for Fast Company, explains: “most of our to-do lists are shoulds and not real needs, nor strategic objectives. Approach the day and assume that you will not get it all done. Make smart, strategic choices at the beginning of the day.”

When productivity turns into burnout

Putting too much pressure on yourself or your team to complete an ever extending list of daily to-dos could result in elongated working hours, stress, and eventually, burnout.

Numerous studies have shown the real emotional and physical outcomes that workaholism can have on team members, with effects including:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Sleep problems, leading to shorter attention spans
  • Absenteeism
  • Higher employee turnover
  • Stress-related accidents.

These outcomes are not only negative for your team members, but for team output in tow.

Fortunately, when trying to motivate a whole team, there are a number of sustainable approaches you can take instead.

Sustainable Solutions for Team Productivity

In preparation for the MeisterTask guide to Agile project management, we heard from a number of successful Agile teams about how they’re reviewing and improving on their team workflows to be more efficient, together.

1. Make Work Meaningful

The Energy Project, which surveyed more than 12,000 employees across a range of companies and industries, found a direct correlation between finding meaning in work and high performance.

Employees who claimed to derive meaning from their work were reportedly 1.4 times more engaged at work, 1.7 times more likely to feel job satisfaction, and 3 times more likely to stay with their organizations.

Unfortunately, the Energy Project team also found that only 50% of employees experience a sense of meaning in their work. Here are a few ways to ensure your team members are part of that productive 50%:

Find out what motivates your team

In our recent internal survey at MeisterLabs, we found that working on a meaningful product (one that team members would use, believe in, etc.) ranked top within our company. It turned out that after the monetary factor, working on a valuable product was the most important driver for employee happiness and retainment.

MeisterLabs survey

It’s no surprise that people want to work on something that’s important to them, but learning this gave us a push to ensure:

  • Firstly, that every team member is clear on our company mission and vision—to develop collaboration products that help teams around the world be creative and productive.

  • Secondly, that team members are engaged with product development, ensuring that they are able to influence the direction of product development and work towards a product they feel invested in.

To find out what motivates your team members, try creating an internal survey that asks the big questions about employee fulfillment, such as “What would cause you to take another job with a different company tomorrow?”

By asking our employees what they were missing, MeisterLabs found out that team members would like more frequent feedback and that they value the opportunity to work remotely. Both of these factors are tangible offers that we can now work to improve and deliver on, in order to provide meaningful work to our employees.

Providing regular one-to-one feedback sessions can help keep team members on track for making the biggest possible impact. What’s more, the feedback sessions don’t just need to be a one way talk on how the team member is performing. One-on-ones also provide an opportunity to check in with team members to see how they’re enjoying the role and discuss future goals, including formulating a plan for how they aim to get there.

Provide meaning through professional development

Research shows that self-reflection can help team members to find meaning in their work. Questions for team members to consider in this process include: What are you working for? What impact do you want to create in your job? What skills do you want to develop and leverage?

Answering these questions can help your team members to realign their priorities within their role and work out what impact they would like to make and how. Once you’ve identified these with your teammates, work with them to create professional development plans so they can achieve that impact. Managers can support this, for example, when delegating tasks.

According to Dr. Scott Williams, professor of management at Wright State University, delegation of responsibilities demonstrates trust in your staff, providing them with more investment in the work. “Employees who feel that they are trusted and respected tend to have a higher level of commitment to their work, their organization, and especially their manager,” Williams writes.

People at a conference table

Alex Cavoulacos, founder of career site The Muse, advises that when delegating, you should explain how you see the tasks fitting into your team member’s professional development. “When you select people to delegate to, tell them why you chose them specifically, and how you hope to see this help them grow,” says Cavoulacos. “Help them see each delegated task as an opportunity to take on more responsibilities or grow new skills.”

By enabling your team members to recognize how tasks and projects play into their longer term goals, your team will feel more driven to learn and perform.

2. Make Sure Workloads Are Focused

Did you know that switching to a new task while in the middle of another has been found to increase the time it takes for you to finish both by an average of 25%?

Microsoft tested the theory on their own workers and found that every time workers receive an email or another interruption, it takes them an average of 15 minutes to return to their former, more important task. In the meantime, Microsoft employees would often stray to procrastination.

Here are a few strategies you can take to prevent your team members from attempting to juggle too many tasks at once.

People at a whiteboard

Streamline tasks with project sprints and retrospectives

For Agile software teams, working in sprints is nothing new. However, sprints can provide value to any sector and enable all kinds of teams to work in a more focused way.

By setting agreed key aims with your team, then moving those tasks through to completion, teams can streamline their tasks over each sprint. This helps to ensure that work is focused and reduces the chance of jumping between unrelated tasks. Additionally, after each sprint, a team can look back at what has been achieved during that sprint, in order to adjust and improve on workflows.

One way to boost productivity: Find the bottlenecks in your team’s workflow. Software development team, AndPlus, for example, reviews team efficiency after each sprint by judging three primary elements: client satisfaction, cycle time or particular backlog items, and QA kickback rate. “A useful productivity metric is cycle time – the amount of time a particular backlog item (user story, use case, task, bug, etc.) takes to get through your workflow,” AndPlus Operations Director, Jonathan Roger shares. “If you find items are sitting in your ‘In Progress’ swimlane for a long time, look into why—what’s the bottleneck? Improving cycle times are a good sign that your team is improving.”

Kanban image

With the help of a Kanban board, teams can set tasks and aims at the beginning of a weekly or fortnightly sprint. Then, teams can hold a sprint review, to see which tasks have progressed and where other tasks have been held up.

At MeisterLabs, we do this within our marketing team, to structure and coordinate our work for fortnightly sprints, using our own task management tool, MeisterTask. We’ve found this has had a big effect on our marketing output, as we’re able to focus solely on the tasks that fit into that fortnightly focus. This keeps us focused on our priority tasks and prevents us from trying to juggle tasks that fall outside of the sprint remit.


Using “Work in Progress Limitations” in a Kanban tool, teams can define a maximum number of tasks that can be added to any given section or project. This can help to enforce a steady, collaborative workflow and avoid the possibility of more tasks being in progress than can be completed within the same sprint.

Establish healthy working guidelines

When thinking about work/life balance, we often think about having clear-cut lines between our 9-5 job and our home time. However, in the age of Slack notifications, emails on phones, and working across time zones, having a defined cut-off period isn’t so easy to implement.

This merging of home and work time has been found to be detrimental to our productivity. Sabine Sonnentag, a professor of organizational psychology at the University of Mannheim in Germany, found that people who are unable to disconnect from work during their downtime experienced exhaustion longer term. This results in burnout, lower life satisfaction, and less resilience when faced with stressful working conditions. Conversely, employees who were able to emotionally distance themselves from highly demanding work more easily recovered from stress, which in turn led to higher productivity levels.

looking at a phone

Develop an environment in which team members feel able to disconnect in the evening by setting some guidelines for when team members are expected to read and respond to messages. For example, you could introduce a team etiquette guide for Slack and emails (or whichever main communication channels you use), explaining that you should not expect a response to a chat message between certain hours, such as 6pm – 9am. You can also encourage team members to set up a do-not-disturb period for notifications, particularly for those working on global, distributed teams for which working hours may vary.

3. Support Employee Work-Life Balance

Your team members’ work-life balance is not only central to their well-being and job happiness, but also to their productivity. Besides checking your team members have sufficient downtime, there are a few ways to make their time at work supportive of their well-being, too.

Enable flexible working

One way to support team well-being is by offering flexible working options. Intuit found that 79% of U.S. employees would like to work from home at least part of the time, and this was also reflected in the results of our internal survey.

It’s no surprise that given family and everyday life commitments, you would like the flexibility to work from home from time to time. However, when it comes to team productivity, it turns out flexible working should be actively encouraged. In a comparative study of workers over a 9-month period, workers who were allowed to work flexibly—that is, over the hours that worked best for them—were found to be more productive. In comparison to their 9-5 peers, flexible workers:

  • Achieved more
  • Were off sick less often
  • Were happier in their work
working remotely

Many teams, like Zapier’s, are fully distributed. If you haven’t yet established procedures that allow your team members to work remotely, it’s certainly worth doing. Fortunately, there are a host of tools out there that can help you enable effective remote working: Slack, Uberconference, GitHub, Dropbox, and Harvest, just to name a few.

Provide well-being opportunities at work

Between work, friends and family commitments, and that latest Netflix series, it can be hard to find the time for extracurricular activities that are beneficial to our physical and emotional wellbeing. As a result, some companies are offering the opportunity to support well-being within the workplace and are seeing great results.

When insurance giant Aetna offered mindfulness-based training to team members, they found that the training added roughly 60 minutes of productive working per week to each team member who participated.

At MeisterLabs, we offer a similar program in the form of a weekly yoga session for any team member that would like to join. A couple of years ago, our CEO, Michael Hollauf, stumbled across a study that found that “employees who can exercise at work are more productive, happy, efficient and calm”.

group yoga

As a result, we decided to set up both a bi-weekly running club and a weekly yoga session, both non-compulsory, for whoever is interested. The yoga class has been a particular success as it’s led by an external instructor, offering position options for different abilities, meaning lots of total yoga newbies have started to join on a weekly basis.

Whether you’re more interested in the mindfulness sessions or feel your team would enjoy an extra-curricular team activity, see whether you can get an expert into your office to deliver a weekly wellbeing program. Alternatively, if your team is distributed, you could offer each team member a personal well-being budget to spend on an extracurricular course of their choosing.

The productivity advice market is saturated with ideas on how to best utilize time. Some suggestions are more sustainable (and healthy) than others. We hope this article provided you with a few strategies that you’ll actually feel comfortable using with your team, leading to some great results. For more strategies on productive team working, feel free to download our free MeisterLabs guide to Agile project management.

Every team is, however, different and it would be great to hear your view. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions on ways to motivate your team long-term, please do share them in the comments below!

This was a guest post from MeisterLabs. Want to see your work on the Zapier Blog? Check out our guidelines and get in touch!

Meeting photo and whiteboard photos via WOCinTech via Flickr. Phone photo via Oliur Rahman. Laptop typing photo via Bench Accounting.

Source: https://zapier.com/blog/boost-team-productivity/

The Software Categories Guide: What Work Apps Do

“How did you ever do without it?” asked the original ad for VisiCalc, itself the original spreadsheet app. Yet in 1979, that answer was more than self explanatory. Businesses the world over crunched numbers and kept their finances accounted on ledger paper—and spreadsheet software was a $99.95 tool for a $1,298 computer that few knew how to use. They’d get along just fine without VisiCalc—or so it’d be easy to think.

Today you can hardly get through a day without using dozens of programs. An alarm clock to wake you up, a fitness app to pace your workout, maps and transit and taxi apps to get you to work, news and music apps to hasten the trip—and that’s before you start a day’s work.

You already know the core apps, the Alarm and Browser and Calendars of the app store. But what about CRM and ERPs, product and project management tools, eCommerce and ePos software? You know how to write your own notes and chat with your friends, but where would a team write notes and collaborate?

Here’s a glossary to help—the terms you should be familiar with when talking about software with anyone.

The Six Types of Software

doing math in bash

Using the bash command in Terminal to solve math—the simplest of software

This is software. Simple software, sure, but software that computed 12¹² far faster than I ever could on my own. Calculations like this were all an Apple II could do out of the box—and that’s what started the personal computing revolution. For software doesn’t have to be that smart—as Steve Jobs once described, computers simply take very simple instructions, do them insanely fast, and we think it’s magic.

Software. Program. Application. App. The same definition applies to all: a software program is “a series of coded software instructions to control the operation of a computer or other machine” according to the Oxford Dictionary. Your news app is software—it has instructions to connect to a news server, copy the newest articles, and present them on your screen. Spotify and Netflix? Yup, software that has instructions to stream media to your computer. Scripts—the bits of code that, say, tell your computer to dim your screen at 8PM—are software. Excel and Mathematica and Photoshop and AutoCAD are software—they have instructions to organize data and crunch numbers and tweak photos and draw blueprints. The latter might be more what we think of as software, but the former, simpler apps are as much software as the latter will ever be.

Web apps blurred the lines. Surely you can’t have software in a browser. Then 1995 came and proved them wrong with the first web apps, online maps and wikis and eCommerce tools that did as much as their traditional counterparts. Smartphones and tablets brought back the same debate—you can’t have real software and do real work on a touchscreen. But you can, we do.

Wikipedia lists three core types of software:

  • System software, the operating system (Windows, iOS, Android, macOS, Linux, and so on) and utilities that run your device and make your computer function.
  • Application software, the vast majority of software, what Wikipedia calls “the general designation of computer programs for performing tasks.” When you buy a new app, most of the time, it’s application software.
  • Computer programming tools, including compilers, are what turns code into application software. These are often hidden from view, but they’re a crucial part of bringing new software to your devices.

From that stems the vast world of software we know and love. But the classifications don’t end there. The App Store offers 26 categories of software. Google Play, 22. Zapier’s business software focused Zapbook, 58.

And yet, you could summarize all of those down to 6 simple software categories—the broad categories of application software.

Creation Software

Apple Pages

Software is best known for creating things (Apple Pages pictured)

Say software, and this is what people think of, the apps that help you make things. Photo and drawing tools to create art. Document and writing apps to build documents. Audio and video software to record and remix and release. Coding editors to keep the cycle going and build the next big thing.

AutoCAD and Adobe Creative Cloud, Microsoft Office and most other tools creative professional and engineers use. Code editors like Sublime Text, integrated development environments (or IDEs) like Visual Studio, and the computer programming tools like gcc that compile code into new software—all the tools developers user to run the app economy. These are the programs that make the headlines.

Communication Software


Apps that connect us are why we carry computers in our pockets (Gmail pictured)

The software we open most often, though, might be communication software, the apps that connect us to each other. Email started it all with its quick electronic messages between university mainframe computers, before anyone could reasonably expect to own a computer, let alone carry one in their pocket.

Email turned to chat, which turned to social media—while Skype and FaceTime finally fulfilled the video phone dream. Every time you check Facebook, txt your friend group, and email your boss, it’s communication software that sends your messages back and forth.

Consumption Software

Spotify screenshot

Reading the news or binging a series? Yup, still software. (Spotify pictured)

Here there be dragons—and explosions, and symphonies, and silence. Here’s where the debate over what is software rears its head. But eBook readers, PDF viewers, news apps, media players are software too. Games fit here too; you might build something in the game, but for the most part you’re consuming an experience someone designed.

They’re perhaps not the software that fills most of your business day, but the are the software people will use to enjoy the things you build in creation apps.

Then, there’s a tricky app: The web browser. It’s by definition a viewer, a consumption app, something to view HTML code others created. Yet it can also run browser-based web apps today, making it another way to use each category of software. It’s today’s operating system (the code that runs your computer itself), in a way.

Computation Software

WolframAlpha pictured

The software of movies—and real science (WolframAlpha pictured)

Want to map the human genome, chart a path to Mars, outbuild the Burj Khalifa, or automate a car? Computation software is what you’ll need. That’s where it all started—computers, after all, are machines to compute numbers. It’s in deep scientific research where the limits of silicon brains are tested, where they live their most meaningful lives. This is where machine learning and AI, tech’s favorite buzzwords, come into play.

Your computer is more than ready to do amazing things—and it’s competition software like Mathematica and R that make the magic.

Utility Software

Disk Utility

You need software to keep your computer running, too. (macOS Disk Utility pictured)

File sync apps. FTP. Antivirus. That one app you installed to fix that rare problem you had last year. Backup tools. WinZIP. Search tools, and Google itself. The software that keeps your software humming away.

These apps aren’t fun, and they don’t feel very useful (except for Google), but they tie the loose ends together. They’re the software you have to use. They sometimes are system software, sometimes are application software, but their core purpose is to perform core tasks for your computer.

Database Interface Software


At work? There’s a good chance you’re using a database app. (MeisterTask pictured)

Then there’s everything else, all variations on the same thing. These are the apps that fill 90% of the categories in the App Store, the software that makes the business world go ’round.

It all starts with a database, “a structured set of data held in a computer.” Want to manage tasks, contacts, projects, sales, inventory, finances, rocketship tickets? You’ll need a database to store that data.

Add a form to enter the data, and a viewer to, well, view the data, and you’ve got a database powered app.

At their very simplest, most apps that store data fit this mold, everything from your notes and contacts app to a CRM or ERP system. They’re essentially different ways of storing and viewing data, with little tweaks to fit a specific workflow.

So that simplifies things. With those six core types of software in mind, you can figure out how almost any app works.

But you got to work, and you’ve been asked to use content from a DAM to fill out a LMS—and you wonder if your coffee’s kicked in yet or if your boss is talking nonsense. Nope. You just need a few more categories—1 to be precise—to navigate your way around the world of business software. Each starts out with consumer software, tools you likely already know, with bullet points to point out the main sub-categories and popular apps in those, and then digs deeper into the more professional subcategories of those same apps.

The 14 Core Categories of Business Software


Microsoft Outlook

Email apps are the original way to communicate digitally (Microsoft Outlook pictured)

Email’s the original way to communicate on computers, with a legacy stretching back over five decades. It’s simple and free as consumers, something we seldom think much about. Yet it takes a wide range of software to fill your inbox each morning.

The email apps most of us use—Apple Mail, Outlook, and more—are actually email clients or mail user agents (MUA). They’re apps to receive email, let you view and organize messages, and let you send emails through your message sending agent (MSA)—a service like Gmail, Outlook.com, or Exchange server that does the heavy lifting of actually sending your messages themselves. It gets even more complicated beyond that, with a message transfer agent routing the message and a message delivery agent putting the message in your recipient’s inbox.

What’s important is that it works. Almost magically, you can send and receive email with anyone else on earth, no matter which email client or sending service they use.

  • Email Client (Apple Mail, Outlook): the standard mail apps used to view, organize, and create email messages.
  • Email Server (Gmail, Exchange): the email service that runs on a server or web app, which sends and receives your email messages and often filters for spam or to organize messages.

Team Email

Zendesk screenshot

Team email inboxes and customer support software let entire companies share one inbox (Zendesk pictured)

Your email client is perfect for personal messages, but frustrating if you need to share email. When someone emails your whole team, they have to send the message to everyone, or you have to forward the message to your colleagues.

That’s why many people have two inboxes at work. Their email client keeps their personal messages. Then, a team inbox app lets your whole company share one email address, perhaps support@yourcompany.com or contact@yourcompany.com. They look much like an email client, only this time, anyone in your team can see and reply to the messages in the inbox.

  • Team Inbox (Hiver, Front, shared folders in Exchange): a shared email client app that lets multiple users share the same email inbox, typically with separate signatures per user so recipients know who on the team replied to the email.
  • Customer Support or Help Desk Software or Ticketing System (Zendesk, Help Scout): advanced team inbox apps that include extra tools for documentation, standard email replies, and customer info that help your team respond to support tickets and emails requesting help. These apps also often include chat apps to talk to customers in real-time.

Email Marketing

MailChimp screenshot

Send emails to multiple people at once, automatically, with email marketing software (MailChimp pictured)

Your email client only lets you email a few people at once; Gmail, for instance, lets you include 500 people in an email’s To, CC, and BCC fields total. When you need to email someone, your email client is perfect. When you need to email all your customers, you need something else.

The simplest are email newsletter apps designed to send one email to a list. Say you want to let customers know when you release a new product. You’ll ask people to subscribe to a list, add that list of email addresses to an email newsletter app, and then use that app to design and send one email to everyone once.

As your company grows, you’ll want to personalize things, perhaps sending a different email to those who bought one product versus another. Maybe you need to send onboarding emails, or want to share tips with trial users to persuade them to buy your product? A marketing automation platform that sends drip emails will do the trick. It lets you design an email or set of emails that it then sends to each new person you add to your list automatically.

Your company will also need to send out routine emails often from your own apps: Receipts, thank you emails, notification alerts, and more. For those, you’ll use a transactional email service. It’s like the email server that handles your personal emails on steroids. There’s often no interface to see or send messages; instead, you’ll use an API (application programming interface) or its SMTP (simple mail transfer protocol) server to send messages in bulk from your internal software.

  • Email Newsletter Software (MailChimp, Aweber): a tool to send bulk emails to a list of subscribers.
  • Marketing Automation Platform (ConvertKit, ActiveCampaign): a tool to send a drip or scheduled set of emails to new people as they’re added to a list, typically to onboard new customers or send marketing messages.
  • Transactional Email Service (Amazon AWS, Mailgun): a service to send bulk messages for businesses, often used to send receipts, notifications, and other automated email messages.


iMessage Mac Screenshot

Chat apps are how we stay in touch with each other (Apple iMessage pictured)

Soon after email came chat, first as quick messages in Terminal to other users of the same computer in universities and companies. By the time personal computers and internet connections landed in our homes and offices, chat or IM—often using American’s internet provider AOL’s AIM software—was the quick, real-time counterpart to email.

Email’s for long messages that aren’t as time sensitive, the new paper letter. Chat’s the new phone call, quick short messages that have become the main way many of us communicate today.

  • Chat or Instant Message (IM) (iMessage, Messenger): software to talk in real-time with others, in one-on-one conversations by default though often also with groups. Popular chat apps today often also include bots and other services to book reservations and purchase products through chat.
  • SMS (short message service): individual 160 character messages sent through cell phone services. Often used for notifications or for chat without using an internet connection.

Team Chat

Slack screenshot

Team chat tools are an increasingly popular way to talk at work instead of using email (Slack pictured)

Chat’s not just for fun. What started out as AIM and turned into Facebook Messenger and iMessage are equally useful at work, only in slightly different software. Ever since Slack was released in late 2013, team chat apps have become the more popular way to at work. But Slack was far from the first team chat app; IRC or internet relay chat has been a popular way to talk to groups of people online for decades. You can even use the same technology with your customers, using live chat tools to solve issues and close sales without waiting on back-and-forth email conversations.

  • Team Chat or Group Chat (Slack, Google Hangouts, IRC): software to chat with with an entire team together. Unlike IM software, team chat software is designed to chat with large groups by default, with every new group conversation being visible to anyone on the team. Often also includes individual one-to-one chat called direct messages (DM), and private group chats for smaller teams.
  • Live Chat (Olark, Intercom): software to chat with customers and people outside your business. All chat apps are designed for live or real-time conversations, but software that’s branded as live chat is typically designed for support and sales teams to chat with potential or existing customers. Customers will start the chat conversation, and like a help desk app, your team will all see each conversation and can help reply to customers together with a chat conversation.
  • Transactional Messaging or Programmable SMS or Push Notifications (Twilio, Amazon SNS): much like transactional email apps, these tools use the same technology as SMS or team chat apps to send automated SMS, chat, or push notification messages to your customers. You could tie them in with a live chat service to reply in real-time, or you could use them more like a drip email service to send messages to potential or new customers.


Dialpad screenshot

The office phone’s not dead—it just moved to your computer (Dialpad pictured)

If the telegraph brought us chat and email, the phone did one better. It managed to keep the same name while morphing into new technologies. We’re far from sending voice through sparks on copper wire—but the same ideas of dialing a number and talking to someone else still work the same. Only this time, there’s a lot more software in-between.

Truth be told, anytime you make any phone call on a modern phone, it’s software dialing the number, routing the call, removing background noise, and more. Then there are fancier phone apps. Your smartphone’s built-in Wi-Fi calling—or services like FaceTime and Google Hangouts—do away with normal phone numbers and make calls just another digital communication. Those same tools work at work, so you can talk through problems and accept office calls from anywhere with an internet connection.

  • Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) (Skype, Vonage): software to make calls over the internet, from simple one-to-one call apps like FaceTime Audio and your phone carrier’s Wi-Fi calling to the advanced phone systems below.
  • Virtual Phone Systems or Private Branch Exchange (PBX) (Dialpad, RingCentral): tools to route an entire company’s calls through software. Instead of a switchboard, these software let people call one number and enter an extension or ask for a person or department, and then route the call to the right person.
  • Cloud Communications Platforms or Phone APIs (Twilio, Nexmo): service to build phone features into your software, often to make automated phone calls or let you build a virtual phone system into your software.
  • Fax Software (HelloFax, Windows Fax and Scan): similar to email software for the original electronic mail system, fax software lets you send and receive traditional faxes from your computer, using a web service or a phone modem to send and receive the fax data—either way, via the traditional phone network.

Video Calls and Chat

Zoom screenshot

Video conferencing apps help remote teams work together (Zoom pictured)

Video phone calls were the original future, one of the earliest promises of how tech would make our lives better. And now, they’re so commonplace, you likely have a half-dozen apps on your phone that could make video calls.

When you need to make a video call at work, though, you might still need something new. Basic consumer-focused video call apps typically let you talk to one other person—plenty to add video to your standard phone calls. Need a team of fifty to gather around a virtual table and talk through problems? You’ll need a video conference tool that can handle the load. Then, slightly confusingly, web conference tools are designed for even larger audiences—they’re video conferences with only video from the speaker, streamed to hundreds or thousands of viewers for an online conference or lecture.

  • Video Calls or Videotelephony (FaceTime, Messenger): the simplest apps for video calls, typically designed for one-to-one calls with full-screen video of the person you called.
  • Video Conferencing (Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting): advanced video call software designed for 2+ participants, often showing a video of the current speaker or live videos of everyone in the call. These apps typically include a text chat to share links and notes, along with screensharing tools to show a presentation.
  • Webinar or Web Conferencing (WebEx, Livestream): software to stream a video call to a large number of viewers. Instead of showing the video of everyone on the call, web conferences are often one way, showing only the speaker’s video, presentation, and/or screen—with text chat for viewer participation.


Buffer Screenshot

Social media isn’t just for fun—it’s an important way to market your products, too (Buffer pictured)

Phone calls are typically private, as are individual emails. Chat expands things to groups, with everyone in a friend circle or professional team talking together. Social networks take things to the next stage. They’re much like a public email or long-form chat room where everyone shares their own thoughts—and today are the way many of us stay in touch with the people we know. These tools, too, are software—software you’ll use at work, spuriously to check Facebook during a quick break, or professionally to perhaps share your newest products online.

  • Social Networks (Facebook, Twitter): software to let users share updates, photos, and videos about their life, and follow friends and brands to see updates that they post.
  • Social Media Management (Hootsuite, Buffer): software to help companies use social networks professionally, typically designed to combine multiple social networks into one interface and let users schedule posts in advance.
  • Blogs (WordPress, Medium): specialized content management system built to publish new content in reverse chronological order, almost an early long-form social network with only approved contributors.


Google Calendar screenshot

Your computer can make sure you don’t lose track of time (Google Calendar pictured)

There’s stuff to do, and not nearly enough time to do it all. A paper calendar on the wall isn’t nearly enough to manage your schedule today when people are booking appointments with you at all hours. Calendar apps help make sure you don’t forget what’s coming up next—and the best newer calendar tools can help people book appointments only when you’re actually free. It’s how to avoid those endless Would this time work? emails.

  • Calendar Apps (Google Calendar, Apple Calendar): database apps that list events and appointments and show them on a calendar interface, often with a simple to-do list to track tasks.
  • Time Tracking (Harvest, Toggl): advanced timer apps to log time spent on work projects, often with tools to turn tracked time into invoices. Variants include pomodoro apps to remind you to take breaks during the work day, and personal analytics software like RescueTime that tracks every task you do on a computer throughout the day.
  • Appointment Scheduling Software (Acuity Scheduling, Calendly): specialized calendar apps combined with a form where clients and colleagues can book an appointment with you at a time your calendar lists you are free, often with payment processing integration to book paid appointments.
  • Event Management Software (Eventbrite, Meetup): specialized appointment scheduling software for meetings with large groups of people, typically with options to reserve seats and purchase tickets to the event.


HubSpot CRM

You’ll meet more people than you can remember—so let your computer remember for you (HubSpot CRM pictured)

Your email app would be far less useful without the handy sidekick it usually comes with: a contacts app. That’s why few of us remember phone numbers and addresses today. It’s easier just to tap Bob’s name on your phone than to remember his number.

That problem’s only worse at work—which is where CRM apps come on. They’re contact apps on steroids, designed to keep track of everyone you meet, what you said to them, and how they’re related to other people you’ve met.

  • Address Book (Google Contact, Contacts): database software to store contact information, typically with tools to sync with social networks or to scan business cards.
  • CRM (Customer Relationship Management) (Salesforce, SugarCRM): advanced contact apps built around managing the relationships between contacts and companies, often with project management-style features to track potential deals and client projects. Specialized versions include Patient Data Management Systems (PDMS) for healthcare, Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) and Supply Chain Management (SCM) for manufacturing, and more. Often tied to ERP or Back Office software to link customer data to other parts of the business.
  • HR (Human Resources) or Human Capital Management (HCR) Software (BambooHR, SAP HCM): specialized CRM software to manage a company’s employees with contact, compensation, management structure, and other important data.


Microsoft Word Screenshot

Need to write something down—and print it out? These are the apps for you. (Microsoft Word Pictured)

Odds are, a document app was one of the first computer programs you ever used. Software like Microsoft Word is ubiquitous everyone from schools to boardrooms, used to write simple documents and polished thesis alike. And its text editor and publishing relatives let you put your ideas down on digital paper and create something new—or just turn your computer into a fancier typewriter.

  • Text Editor (Notepad, iA Writer): software for writing plain text without formatting, much like a typewriter would have offered before computers. You can write, edit, and view text—but cannot add any formatting beyond typing special characters.
  • Word Processors (Microsoft Word, Google Docs): software to make formatted documents, typically designed around a standard paper-sized document. Word processors today let you design most standard documents quickly with formatting and graphics tools, along with writing aids including spelling and grammar checks and auto-correct. And their newest versions work online so you can edit documents collaboratively.
  • Outline Apps and Mind Mapping Software (OmniOutliner, MindManager): specialized word processors built around listing ideas and organizing them into an outline, typically with options to collapse sub-points and notes to see the larger structure. Often include mind mapping tools as well to visualize the outline ideas graphically instead of in a list of text.
  • Writing Apps (Scrivener, Ulysses): word processors designed for writing longform works that often span multiple documents. They’re almost more similar to the notes apps below, but with a stronger focus on text formatting and organization, and are the software most used by authors and journalists for longer writing tasks.
  • Desktop Publishing Software (Microsoft Publisher, Adobe InDesign): a mix between word processors and creative software, these apps help you lay out text and graphic elements on a page. Typically used to design banners, brochures, books, and other text documents that need more formatting than a word processor offers.


Evernote Screenshot

Word processor files and text documents are easy to lose—so a notes app helps you catalog them (Evernote pictured)

Here’s where we finally meet databases (though some earlier mentions including email apps include a database to store your messages, too). Take a word processor, add a database, and voilà: You’ve got a notes app.

Notes apps come in all shapes and sizes, for personal and public use alike. You might use one to store your thoughts and ideas, the things more likely to get lost if you just saved them on a random Word file. In your team, you’ll use them to share ideas and teach customers how to use your products. You could always go back to a standard word processor, but the search and organization features the database adds makes your digital text that much more valuable. And at last your text isn’t tied to a fake A4 sheet of paper.

  • Note Taking Apps or Bucket apps (Evernote, OneNote): simple text editor or word processor apps combined with a database to store all of your notes—along with photos, recordings, and related files—in one place that’s easy to search through. You can throw anything in them and still find it easily, leading to the nickname bucket app.
  • Knowledge Base (KB) or Help Documentation (Intercom, Zendesk): a public notes app designed to show information and instructions about a product online. The notes are written by your team, then your customers can read and search through them online from your documentation website. Often included as part of email customer support software.
  • Intranet or Knowledge Management Software (Confluence, Microsoft Sharepoint): notes apps designed for teams, these tools help you list best practices, internal process workflows, HR guidelines, and other important internal company information.

Online Publishing

WordPress screenshot

A content management system helps you organize your public writing—or could be an advanced notes app (WordPress pictured)

The original word processors were designed to make documents that you’d print on paper. That was the primary goal. Today, you’re far more likely to share your document online, and you need a new word processor to make that possible.

Content management systems are notes apps for the web. They’re database-powered software that help you write blog posts and webpages, and also make it easier to manage them. Or, opt for a wiki, and let the entire world help you write your website.

  • Content Management System (CMS) (WordPress, Drupal): a database powered document tool—somewhat like a more advanced notes app, typically to run a website. CMS typically help you organize content with categories and tags and publish it on a public website. Instead of writing individual HTML pages for a site, the CMS turns your website into an app where it’s easy to add and edit posts and pages.
  • Wiki (MediaWiki, PBworks): a content management system where any reader can edit the text of any document or add a new one; from a Hawaiian word meaning quick. One of the first web apps was a wiki—WikiWikiWeb—and decades later MediaWiki powers Wikipedia, the world’s largest encyclopedia. Often used internally as knowledge management software.
  • Learning Management System (LMS) (Moodle, Teachable): a specialized content management system for education, LMS include standard content tools to add lessons and lectures, along with tools to manage students and track their progress through a course.


Box screenshot

Files and folders are still pretty important (Box pictured)

Countless apps have promised to replace files, with databases storing all our data and making it easier to find things. And they have, for some things—there are no reason to keep contacts and notes on individual files when you could use an address book or notes app instead. For many other things, especially larger projects like long-form documents, videos, and graphics design work, traditional files still reign supreme.

Your computer’s file manager app is enough for your personal files. At work, though, you’ll need a wide range of file tools to share data and get the files you need in the places they should be.

  • File Manager Application (Windows Explorer, macOS Finder): the software typically built into a computer’s operating system to manage files on the computer’s storage. Traditionally uses folders to organize files; today you can use tags and other metadata (or details about the files) to sort and group files.
  • File Sharing or File Synchronization (Dropbox, Box): similar to an online file manager, file sharing apps sync files and folders to an online storage service (often called the “cloud”), your other devices, and devices of friends and colleagues you’ve shared files with.
  • Cloud Storage (Amazon S3, Google Cloud Storage): simplified online storage, cloud storage services are built to save files online without the sync or sharing features of a file sharing app. They’re best for archiving your company’s data—think of them as external hard drives you access online.
  • File Archiver or Compression Software (WinZip, ImageOptim): software to shrink a file’s size and make it take up less storage space, either by saving the files in a compressed ZIP folder, or by optimizing the file’s format (typically with image, video, and audio formats to decrease file size at a small loss of quality).
  • File Format Conversion (CloudConvert, Handbrake): software to convert a file from one format to another, typically specialized on one type of file (say to convert a Word document to PDF, or a WAV audio file to MP3). It’s the software you want if you have a file that won’t work with your software.
  • FTP (File Transfer Protocol) or File Transfer Software (Transmit, Cyberduck): tools to copy files between computers, typically used to upload files to a server. Traditionally used with FTP or SFTP, today’s file transfer apps often work with file sharing and cloud storage services as a more powerful file explorer that works with both local and remote files.
  • Backup Software (Time Machine, Backblaze): software to store a separate copy of your files on an external hard drive or cloud storage, typically with versions of each change to a file, to restore your data if your computer or hard disk fails.
  • Media Player or Media Library or File Viewer (Apple Preview, Spotify, Netflix): a broad category of software to view and playback files, often with a library to organize and select files to view. Everything from basic playback tools like VLC or iTunes to modern streaming services like Netflix and Spotify—or the Word and AutoCAD Viewer apps to preview specific files and eBook apps like Kindle and iBooks—all perform the same job: showing files that were created in other apps.


Wufoo screenshot

Forms and surveys let you quickly gather data and see what people think (Wufoo pictured)

You need info. These apps are the way to get it—and organize it, and draw conclusions from it. You’ll start with a form or one of its many variants to gather data, a database or spreadsheet to store it, and then will dig through the data to find trends and learn from it.

In many ways, these apps are the core of every database-powered app. Take an address book. You have a form to enter an address, a database to store it, and a viewer to see all the addresses in the database. You could use these apps to build your own apps—without coding. It all starts with some way to gather data.

  • Form Builder (Wufoo, Typeform): software to gather data, typically with a variety of field types to build forms that can gather detailed info including files and images.
  • Survey Software (SurveyMonkey, SPSS): specialized form software built for asking survey questions, often with built-in questions to help you remove bias from answers.
  • Poll App (Polldaddy, Twitter Polls): a survey with a single, multiple-choice question for a quick way to get feedback on a single item.
  • Remote Data Collection (Device Magic, Fulcrum): form software designed to work on mobile devices even when offline to gather data from job sites, often with mobile focused features for geolocation, barcode scanning, and signatures. You’ll also find specialized software for each of these tasks, with dedicated barcode scanners, photo apps, weather monitors, and more that gather data from a sensor and store it on your computer.
  • Analytics Software or Monitoring Software (Google Analytics, Pingdom): software that watches your application or equipment for data—website visitors, reliability statistics, even temperature or air pollution monitoring.
  • Scanner Software (Prizmo, Windows Fax and Scan): software to gather data from paper documents by scanning or taking a picture of the document, typically with OCR (optical character recognition) to recognize text and enable copying text from the document.
  • Dictation Software (Dragon NaturallySpeaking, Google Docs Voice Typing): an alternative to your keyboard, dictation software recognizes your voice and types out what you say for an easier way to input data to your computer; typically built into newer computer and mobile device operating systems.

Data Storage and Manipulation Software

Airtable screenshot

Use a database or spreadsheet to store and organize your data (Airtable pictured)

Once you’ve gathered your data, it’s time to store it and put it to work. Most form software and data gathering tools include a simple way to view your data. For more power, though, you’ll want to store the data in a spreadsheet or database where you can sort and organize the info, crunch numbers, build charts and diagrams, and figure out what everything means. Maybe you’ll want a dashboard to visualize it and build reports, or will need computing and big data software to turn the data into action.

  • Spreadsheet Software (Excel, Google Sheets): a special document laid out in a grid, designed to calculate values. Similar to a document app, they’re the direct replacement of paper ledgers used for decades to list sales and do accounting by hand. Spreadsheet software adds smarts to it, with functions to automatically compute values and format text. They’re how you’ll use your form data, most likely.
  • Database Management System (DBMS) (MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server): software to manage databases, or structured sets of data. These tools include the databases that power many of the CRM, CRM, and other database-powered software, and can also be used to store and sort data on their own.
  • Database Application Builder (Airtable, Microsoft Access): simplified database software built around a form to gather data, a spreadsheet-like database to organize data, and charts or tables to view data. These tools make it easy to build your own basic database-powered software without coding.
  • Dashboards or Visualization Software (PowerBI, Cyfe): similar to the charts and diagram tools built into spreadsheet apps, these tools let you create visual representations of your data often in a dedicated screen or report to easily see trends.
  • Computation or Numerical Analysis Software (Mathematica, R): the software that makes the compute in computer real, these tools let you solve math, find trends in data, and do advanced scientific research.
  • Big Data or Data Mining or Machine Learning (OpenRefine, BigML): a broad category of software designed to organize, store, sort, and find trends from large datasets—similar to tools a spreadsheet would offer, only for far larger sets of data than Excel could handle.


Adobe Photoshop

Here’s where Computer Science and Liberal Arts meet (Adobe Photoshop pictured)

Design software—the tools that bring electronic music, animated films, Photoshopped images, and the intricate icons on your phone’s home screen—are technology at its most creative. People have painted murals and composed symphonies for generations. Computers revolutionized it, letting you compose and listen to your symphony at the same time, or animate your concept art into lifelike video. These are the tools you’re most likely to see showcased whenever a new computer is released—they look good.

  • Image Editor or Graphics Editor (Adobe Photoshop, GIMP): raster graphics (or pixel-based graphics) software to create and edit traditional photographs and images.
  • Photo Processor or Image Organizer (Adobe Lightroom, Apple Photos): software designed to emulate a photography darkroom with tools to adjust brightness and color in RAW photographs along with library tools to organize photos.
  • Vector Graphics Software (Sketch, Adobe Illustrator): graphics design software that uses vectors or points on an x/y axis to define shapes, which lets graphics be enlarged without loss in quality. Typically used for icons, digital painting, and illustration.
  • CAD (Computer Aided Design) (AutoCAD, Google SketchUp): tools to design 2D layouts and blueprints or 3D models for architecture, manufacturing, and digital graphics for animation. Often used for CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing—or the older term CAD/CAM) with CNC (computer numerical control) software to control 3D printers, milling machines, lathes, and other manufacturing equipment to turn the designs into finished products.
  • Computer Graphics Software or Animation Software (Maya, Blender): software to build 3D models and use CAD designs in digital graphics, and to animate those models and graphics for game and movie production. Simpler software in this category like After Effects and Apple Motion are designed solely for adding smaller animations and effects to video footage.
  • Video Editing Software (Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro): software to edit and combine video clips into a finished clip or movie with audio and text credits. Often used in combination with computer graphics or animation software to add effects, and file conversion and compression apps to export the finished work—and may include screen recording tools to capture video directly from a computer.
  • Digital Audio Workstation (Adobe Audition, Audacity): software to record and edit sound, often with an interface that looks similar to a physical soundboard. Often used with synthesizers to generate sounds digitally.
  • Music Composition or Notation Software (Finale, Noteflight): document editor software designed specifically to write sheet music digitally.


Xcode screenshot

Software to build software (Apple Xcode pictured)

Want to build new software? These are the tools you need. For web apps and simpler software, a code editor on its own might be enough—or perhaps an automation tool that lets you accomplish the same tasks without making a new program. Or, to make the next breakout App Store hit, an IDE puts all the tools you need in one place to code, design, and ship your new app.

  • Code Editors (Sublime Text, Notepad++): specialized text editors with extra features to aid in software development. Code editors are focused on plain text without formatting, but add in tools to auto-complete standard coding syntax and search options that can look through multiple documents at once.
  • Compiler (gcc, Visual Basic): utility software that turns source code into machine code to create applications.
  • IDE (Integrated Development Editor) (Visual Studio, Xcode): software that includes a code editor, design tools to build an interface, and compliers to create completed software all in one package.
  • Virtual Machine (VM) (VMware, VirtualBox): software that emulates a computer so you can run another operating system at the same time as your computer’s main operating system, typically to test software.
  • Automation or Integration or Workflow Software (Zapier, macOS Automator): tools to connect other applications and automatically perform tasks on your behalf. When used inside chat apps, often referred to as bots.


Shopify screenshot

Selling products? You need software to run your store, even if it isn’t online (Shopify pictured)

Software lets you build great new things—and also can help you sell them. Few stores today run without software: software to manage inventory, order products from suppliers, and help customers checkout their purchases. And if you want to sell online, your entire business will be powered by software, with a website and eCommerce software to list your products and handle sales from customers around the world.

  • Point of Sale (POS) Software (Square, SAP for Retail): software to scan barcodes, calculate order totals, process payments, print receipts, and other retail related tasks. Specialized versions include POS software for restaurant orders, hotel reception and booking, self-checkout systems, and more.
  • eCommerce Platform (Shopify, WooCommerce): POS software for online sales, typical built around a CMS to add marketing content for products, an online shopping cart where customers can place orders, and inventory systems that automatically adjust stock as orders are placed.
  • Online Marketplace (eBay, Amazon Vendor): specialized eCommerce platforms built to hold products from a wide range of vendors, with similar features for sellers but less features—with the benefit of a larger potential customer base. Some such as Etsy include social networking features for customers to follow stores and get updates about new products.
  • Order Fulfillment Software or Supply Chain Management Software (SAP, ShipStation): software to manage inventory of products to be sold and shipped, or parts to be assembled into products. Similar to a CRM or project management software, built around product development and sales.


QuickBooks Online Screenshot

When spreadsheets aren’t enough, accounting software helps keep finances in order (QuickBooks Online pictured)

Spreadsheets were called the original “killer app” for PCs, as they were the main reason many businesses decided to buy computers in the first place. That was often because spreadsheets helped accounting work so much, they more than paid for themselves. Today, you could still use a spreadsheet to keep a personal budget—but for anything more advanced, you’ll likely used a database-powered accounting tool that’s built to help you track income and expenses down to the last penny.

  • Payment Processor (Stripe, PayPal): software to accept credit card and other payment info from customers and accept money on your behalf. Typically used with eCommerce or invoicing software. Variants include subscription software to bill customers on a regular basis.
  • Invoice Builder or Proposal Software (Wave, FreshBooks): document editors designed to quickly create proposals or invoices for work you’ve performed, often with payment processor integrations to get paid directly.
  • Finance Management Software (Quicken, Mint): consumer software to import bank info and manage your personal finances. Variants include tax preparation software like TurboTax with specialized forms to manage your broad finances and file your tax return.
  • Accounting Software (QuickBooks, Xero): professional finance software with a database to record details about every financial transaction, often with accounting tools including double-digit accounting, inventory tracking, bill payment, and invoice tools.



Task apps come in many variations, but all are designed to help you get things done (Todoist pictured)

You could write down the things you need to do on a piece of paper, or use a text editor or word processor to list them. A notes app might work a bit better, with a database to organize those documents of tasks.

Or, just use a to-do list. Essentially a simple notes app just for tasks—with a database to store everything and a note that’s focused on the title for each task—to-do list apps make sure nothing falls through the cracks. Then as your workload grows, you can upgrade to increasingly powerful project tools to give your tasks a workflow and keep your entire company pushing towards the same direction.

  • To-Do List Apps (Todoist, Asana): a cross between a text editor, calendar, and database, these apps list tasks you need to do and typically show them on the date they need completed.
  • Project Management Software (Trello, Basecamp): advanced to-do list apps for teamwork, project management tools typically organize tasks into a list, kanban, or scrum workflow, schedule tasks on a calendar or gantt chart, and let you assign tasks to others on a team.
  • Product Management Software (Aha!, ProdPad): software to manage your entire company’s direction, one step removed from standard project management. Project management software organizes to-dos into workflows; product management does the same to projects, helping teams plan the big picture of their product development and business growth.
  • Process Management Software (KiSSFLOW, Process Street): similar to project management software for routine work, these tools list tasks in order they should be completed to be re-done in a checklist every time that project is started.
  • ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) or Back Office Software (SAP, Sage): a cross between a CRM and project management software, ERP helps you plan your company’s resources, scheduling when team members and equipment are free for work and ensuring everything is in place to do the work your team needs to do. Specialized versions included inventory control systems, warehouse management systems, and more.

All Software is Related

Learning how to use a new program can be overwhelming, even scary when you’ve never seen it before. The good thing is, there are few new things under the sun—and that new program you’ve been asked to learn is likely much like something you’ve already used before.

A CRM—or patient and client management software—is only slightly more difficult to use than an address book. ERP is at its basics is pretty similar to a project management app plus a a CRM—and a project management app is just a more advanced to-do list. CAD/CAM software is similar enough to drawing software, which itself is Microsoft Paint for real work.

It’s not a perfect comparison, but it’s enough to get you started. Figure out the next closest app, and you’ll feel at home pretty quickly. Then build your skills up from there.

And next time you need a new app, think through the other, simpler software that could perform the same task. You might not need the new tool after all—or at least you’ll have an easier time choosing the new software.

Source: https://zapier.com/blog/business-software-categories-explained/

Hitachi NP35A Gauge Micro Pin Nailer Review

The Hitachi NP35A Gauge Micro Pin Nailer is a versatile micro pinner that is perfect for cabinetry, furniture, carpentry or a range of other home improvement applications. In case you’re unsure precisely what a micro pinner is, it is essentially a tool that is well suited to letting you attach small 23-gauge headless pins into light, delicate materials. It works well on baseboards, crown molding, chair rails and more – whereas something more powerful or a bigger nail might look unsightly or cause damage.

Why not use a hammer you cry! Well, you can of course use a hammer and if you’re going to very gently tap away, then you can usually do this without any risk of causing damage. But with a micro pinner, you’ll get the same job done much quicker (often these applications require a lot of nails to be added) and you’ll reduce the likelihood of causing damage to the material. That’s because a micropinner will insert the nail in a single, short, sharp burst of pneumatic pressure which will come from a separate air compressor. If you find yourself doing this a lot, then this can improve your end products, save you time and make your woodwork that much more enjoyable. It can also be useful for holding things together during glue ups and has various other applications too.

With all that said, let’s take a closer look at the Hitachi NP35A Gauge Micro Pin Nailer and see if it is a good fit.

Product Description: Quality, Durable Product With Useful Design Features

In short, the Hitachi NP35A Gauge Micro Pin Nailer knocks it out the park and should offer everything you need it to. The Hitachi NP35A Gauge Micro Pin Nailer is a well put together micro pinner/23 gauge micro pinner. It looks good quality, feels very durable but is also light and comfortable to use over long periods.

There are many useful design features as mentioned and in short, it has everything you could ask for. That includes a soft nose tip to ensure you don’t mark your softer material. This is especially important for a pinner, seeing as you will be working with soft woods! It’s quiet too and pleasant to use with no powerful jolt and the low pin indicator is easy to see. The minimum specified pin length is 5/8” but actually while we were testing it, we found that it worked just fine with 3/8” pins too – so it overdelivers in that regard!

Pros and Cons: Affordable But Reliable

There are few cons worth noting here. The only thing is that it isn’t as big a brand as some of the competition and this can be off-putting for some people. It is made in Taiwan and it seems that the company didn’t invest in an English writer.

But the good news is that Hitachi hasn’t cut corners where it matters. The product feels surprisingly high quality and as mentioned, it is very good to use. Most importantly is that during our review period, we didn’t have any jams or misfires.

Other than that, the pros include the easy access to the magazines which slide in and out very nicely, the automatic adjustment to different pin sizes and of couse the price.

Conclusion: Quality Where it Matters

The Hitachi NP35A Gauge Micro Pin Nailer is not the most expensive nailer but there’s no reason to buy the most expensive nailer when it comes to pinners. You don’t need that much power and there’s ample here on offer. Operation is smooth and reliable and the tool is light and pleasant to use.

When buying cheaper products, it can sometimes be worrying as you wonder if the company has cut corners resulting in inferior performance. The good news is that any corners cut here are not essential and this tool works well at the lower price point and is a handy thing to have around.

In short, we can recommend the Hitachi NP35A Gauge Micro Pin Nailer – buy with confidence! And if you’re on the fence about whether or not to get a pinner, just wait until the next time you have to hammer in hundreds of tiny pins and then ask yourself how much more quickly you could have finished that job…

from Toolerant http://www.toolerant.com/hitachi-np35a-gauge-micro-pin-nailer-review/
Source: https://toolerant.tumblr.com/post/166459687115