Thing 9: Productivity & Collaboration Tools

The topic for Thing #9 is Productivity & Collaboration Tools. This topic doesn’t really need much introduction does it? Really, who doesn’t want to get things done more easily and efficiently? And have more time for other stuff?


There are tons of web and desktop based tools to help us get our work done more easily and organize all the information we need to keep track of in our work and personal lives. Many of these tools store our information on the web and help us access it from any Internet connected computer or mobile device. That way our information is always handy no matter where we are. Some tools let us share information with others and still others help us collaborate on projects more efficiently. And many of these tools are free, though sometimes a fee-based tool might be an option to consider if it provides additional or better services.


You mean other than getting our work done more effectively? :-)  These are tools that many of our library customers are already using or could be using. Since many folks come to us for computer & Internet advice, we really need to be familiar with a wide range of tools. We certainly don’t need to know every tool inside and out, that would be impossible! But knowing that there are tools to do x, y or z task is important. And feeling comfortable diving into the help files of a tool to help a patron figure out how to use it is even more important. If you have computer & Internet training sessions for your customers, these tools might provide you with some new class ideas.


There’s a VERY long list of tools below and there are many more terrific ones that we haven’t included. While the list may seem overwhelming, we wanted to include options for everyone’s different interests and also provide a list that you can come back to in the future to try out other tools.

You obviously don’t have time to learn them all!

So for this week’s activity:

  • Pick 2 tools from the list below. (Or pick something else that you’ve been wanting to explore.)
  • Explore how the tools work and check out the help files to see what features are available.
  • For your Thing #9 learning journal post, share what you picked and how it worked for you.
  • Do you think you’ll continue to use it? How might it help in your work & to collaborate with your community? Would your patrons be interested in learning about these?


Notes, bibliographies & more

  • Evernote – Organize and remember everything. Select text & photos on a web page and add it to Evernote, EN remembers where you took the text from. Use it to write notes during meetings, store ideas for projects, email photos from your phone and more. Organize your notes into topical folders, add tags to describe the content and aid indexing. Synchronizes across multiple computers and mobile devices. Your notes are always with you. Share folders of notes with others ( eg: Polly’s public recipe folder!). Introductory Tour
  • Zotero – a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources. Integrates with your browser, making it easy to use. Works most effectively with the Firefox browser. Introductory Tour for Zotero.

Automate everything (well almost)

  • ifttt – If This Then That – A magic tool that simply takes care of repetitive tasks for you. For example, let it monitor Amazon’s feed of free books and send you an email when there’s a new one. Or if you see something on twitter that catches your eye, fave it and ifttt can send it to your Evernote account for you to check out later. When I post something to delicious, ifttt also posts it to my diigo account, which keeps my bookmarks safely stored in two places. There are thousands of ideas for using ifttt. Spend a few minutes exploring their tools and recipes to see how useful this can be.

Backup & file storage

  • Dropbox – So handy! Dropbox simply adds a folder to your computer. Drop a file in the folder and it is automatically uploaded to your account on the Dropbox web site. It also synchronizes with any other computers or mobile devices that you’ve installed Dropbox on. Public folders let you share files with others. Free account gives you 2 GB of storage, this isn’t enough to back up you’re whole hard drive, but it’s handy storage space. I use it to make sure I have the files I’ll need for presentations and to share files with collaborators. Full disclosure! The link to Dropbox is Polly’s personal link, if you sign up, she gets some extra free storage space. Thank you! 🙂
  • Backupify – Free account automatically backs up your content in up to 3 popular online services including: Google Contacts, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, delicious and more.
  • BackBlaze – ($) This service backs up content on your computer and does it continuously, in the background. $50/year. There are other services like this –   Carbonite is one of them.

Social Networking & Sharing

How do people manage to post content & updates on multiple social networking sites quickly & easily? They use tools like these!

  • HootSuite – Web-based service helps you organize your twitter and Facebook news feeds for more efficient monitoring. And adds a bookmarklet to your browser toolbar to quickly update all your social networks at once. Also simplifies sharing a web page or blog post on twitter, etc. Shortens URL’s of the items you post to your news streams and provides usage stats on those links. And lets you schedule updates for a later time.
  • TweetDeck – Very similar tool, but desktop-based rather than web-based. Recently purchased by twitter.
  • – another very popular tool that works with over 30 different social networking services.

Reminders, To do Lists

  • Workflowy – Keep Workflowy open in a browser tab – add, delete, organize ‘to-do’ items very easily.
  • IDoneThis – Simple way of keeping track of what you’ve done everyday. You receive an email once a day, you quickly dash off a reply with a list of what you did. And that’s it, you’re done. Keeps a simple calendar for you that you can refer back to and export for safe-keeping.
  • Remember the Milk – Web-based tool, with app available for iPad & Android. Integrates with Google Calendar, Gmail & Twitter.
  • Reminder Fox – Firefox addon to keep you organized.

Bookmarking (even though we covered these already, I thought it made sense to include them here too)

  • Delicious – Delicious stores a list of your favorite websites online so you can access them from anywhere. AVOS bought delicious from Yahoo in 2011. It seems to still be going strong.
  • Diigo – Another very popular bookmarking tool that has many added features, including groups to pool resources and note-taking options.

Share your desktop

  • – This handy service lets you show your computer desktop to other people. It’s great for showing someone how to use a library search tool or some other tool. And it’s terrific for helping others troubleshoot a computer problem, just ask them to start a joinme “meeting” and give you control of their desktop. If you don’t want to be the computer troubleshooter for your whole family, don’t tell them about this one!

Reading on the web

  • Readability – This tool is a one of my personal favorites. I hate pages with tons of ads. Readability strips out all the advertising clutter so you can view pages without distraction. It installs a handy button on your toolbar and all you do is click the button to reformat the page.
  • Instapaper/Read it Later – When you run across an article, web page or news story you want to read later, use the “Read it Later” bookmarklet to quickly add it to a list of articles that you can access via your computer or mobile device. Very handy. Has options for saving things directly from Google Reader and even emailing links which could be handy from a mobile phone.


Remembering all of my usernames & passwords is a big challenge for me, bet it is for many of you too. I don’t know which password program to recommend, but here are some articles to read to get you started.

Calendars, etc.

  • Google Calendar – Keep track of all your public and private events. Calendars can be shared with others. Add other people’s and organizations’ calendars to your calendar and keep track of what everyone is doing. Calendars can be embedded in other web pages to share your public events with everyone. (Example:  Marlboro Free Library)
  • Google Calendar Sync – Still need to use Outlook as your calendar? Use this handy tool to synchronize with Google Calendar
  • Doodle – Simple tool to help you find the best time for an event, meeting, party, etc. Enter dates & times, send invitation to other attendees and everyone can select the dates/times that will work best for them.

Documents – Sharing & Collaborating

  • Scribd – Upload Word, PDF files and PowerPoint docs to share with others. Documents can be embedded on your web site. (Example: Board of Trustees minutes embedded on Mancos Public Library website)
  • Slideshare – Upload slide presentations to share with others. Since these can be embedded on your website, you could easily share community meeting presentations, training presentations and so on. (Example: Making Learning Stick from Polly’s website)
  • Google Drive – Create documents and invite others to collaborate. Word documents, spreadsheets, slide presentations and more. You can also create forms to collect feedback. Upload documents for sharing.

Other tools

  • Zamzar – Convert files from one format to another.
  • Only2Clicks – Create a page full of web sites to share with others. Handy for presentations, student projects and more.
  • Popplet – A handy tool for organizing ideas, mind mapping and brainstorming. Wonderful graphical interface.
  • Today’s Meet – This tool lets a group share thoughts and ideas in a simple, easy to format. Use it as a backchannel during a meeting to take notes and share ideas collaboratively. Sample room for MHLS BYBO – leave a message!
  • Awesome Screenshot – Addon for Firefox. Very handy screen capture program with options to annotate, draw arrows and more.
  • Markup – Takes a screenshot of the your browser screen and lets you draw or write notes on the screenshot. Stores your marked up page on the web for you to share with others. Great for quick sharing of ideas about web pages and tips on using web sites.
  • – Create short URLs from long ones, handy for twitter, facebook, email. This Google tool provides usage statistics and also creates a QR code for each URL entered.


More Browser Add-ons & Extensions

Your favorite web browser may some handy add-ons that will help you use the web more efficiently.

Lists of tools

1 Response to Thing 9: Productivity & Collaboration Tools

  1. Pingback: Thing 9: Productivity & Collaboration Tools | Learn with MHLS

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