Yesterday I shared with you about the benefits of using web-based applications. Ever since getting my head in the “cloud,” I’ve been on “Cloud 9″ with respect to how it has contributed to the way we run our business. Below is a list of my favorite web-based apps covering everything from sales and marketing to film script writing.
G-mail/Google Calendar: perhaps the ultimate web-based app, I made the switch to G-mail/Google Calendar from Entourage about two years ago. It was perhaps my first real foray into trusting everything to stay on the Web. I loved the idea of not having my hard drive filling up with tens of thousands of messages, many of which with large attachments. I particularly like G-mail’s threading feature which groups e-mails back and forth among recipients into one thread, only taking up one line in your inbox (so long as the subject doesn’t change). There are dozens of other great features that would take forever to get into. If you have vanity URLs (i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org), no worries. You can set up G-mail to receive and send from those addresses as well. I manage about half dozen different e-mail domains and over a dozen different addresses from my one G-mail account.
I use Google Calendar for not only scheduling meetings, phone call, and events, but to manage my block schedule.
Google Docs: I love me some Google Docs. Simply put, it’s a FREE online word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation program. These online versions are not as robust as their desktop counterparts, but they’re pretty darn good, and I’m sure it won’t be long before they do rival the full feature set of programs like MS Word. Most of the features you will need or want to use are built into the apps. I primarily use the spreadsheet features (for generating budget estimates and as an online library of hard drives). But I frequently use the word processor, usually when a client sends me a Word doc and I need to access it from multiple locations. This is perfect for you event photographers and videographers. Client sends you a Word or Excel document of their schedule, you upload it to Google docs, and it automatically converts. Then, when you go onsite, you can access the document via your iPhone (or any other inferior cell phone you may have that has access to the internet). Log in, then you can read the doc on your phone. In the case of the word processor and presentation features, formatting and images are retained, so the online version looks just about identical to the original document.
The presentation features of Google Docs are amazing. I uploaded an old PowerPoint presentation, and the themes, photos, and everything came through. Unfortunately, it doesn’t yet recognize Keynote files (which is what I primarily use). But, it’s a terrific alternative (or complement) to PowerPoint.
ShootQ: the boys and girls over at ShootQ central have created one helluva program. The brain child of Andrew and Rachel Niesen of LaCour fame, this Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program took the pro wedding and portrait photography world by storm, and is now doing the same in the event video world. It’s designed to make your sales and client management process streamlined and well-oiled. With it you can track leads, send invoices, have clients book you online (and get messages sent to your cell), share files, display packages, send contracts, and more. They’ve also partnered with the popular e-mail management service MadMimi, so you can send e-mail newsletters from your client and lead database. What will you do when the Q works for you?
Basecamp: this is a project collaboration program designed to facilitate client and team member communication and project tracking. Use it to share files, centralize communication, track to-do lists and milestones, and keep project notes. You can grant employees and clients varying levels of security access in order to keep critical information confidential.
Evernote: I just recently started using this online note organizer. But it’s so much more than that. You can scan and upload files as well as create to-do lists. Easily categorize notes to make organization and recovery easy. Evernote does have a desktop version of the software that syncs with your web version. Every phone call I make to a bank, credit card company, or any other non-sales oriented conversation I put into Evernote so as to have a record of communication. (I use ShootQ for sales related notes).
Delicious: here’s another social media tool I use every single day. At it’s core it’s an online bookmarking program. But it’s also a way to build community among others who have similar interests. I love being able to go to any computer with internet access and gain quick access to my favorite sites. There’s a plug-in for most popular browsers that will allow you to access your bookmarked sites from the tool bar of your browser (vs. logging into your Delicious account online). You can easily bookmark a site by tagging it, and then categorize your tags. By using Tag Bundles, you can group similar bookmarks together. I love using Delicious to bookmark sites I come across that I don’t have time to read at that moment, but would like to read later. I tag them “to-do” and those get grouped in the “Sites to Read” tag bundle (see image below). The number of sites in that bundle is conspicuously large at the moment.
Zhura: for those of you interested in taking up screenwriting, but are not quite ready to drop $300 on a program like Final Draft or Movie Magic Screenwriter, I strongly recommend Zhura. It has all the functionality you’d want in a screenwriting word processor: multiple script formats (i.e. film, television, stage play, radio, etc.); tab/enter functionality for creating script elements on the fly; script revisions; index card creation; inserting script notes; and more. The free version will give you all you need to write any kind of script, print it, and share it. For more advanced features, you can upgrade to the pro version for either $6/month or pay annually $60/year.
There are so many more web-based apps out there, your head will spin. I would guess that just about anything you can do with a desktop application, there’s an online counterpart. I even found this nifty online photo editor I may have to add to my list.
What web-based apps are you using?