The Complete OfficeNinjas HQ Go-To Tools & Gadgets
Communication, Collaboration, & Productivity | Content Creation, Social Media, Email, & Copywriting | Office Gear, Workspaces, & More
We may be small, but OfficeNinjas HQ is a mighty team—thanks to a little help from our friends. We mean you Ninjas, of course, but also the suite of softwares, apps, and tech tools we use on a daily basis to get the job done.
We’re always trying to be more efficient, and that means checking in on our productivity levels, rethinking our processes, and testing new software systems. We know we can’t be the only ones, amirite?
We get emails on a daily basis from Ninjas who are interested in learning which tools we use to run OfficeNinjas. As you know, Ninjas are often tasked with researching and selecting tech tools to use in their offices. And we also know the number of options available can lead to analysis paralysis! While your choice of tech tools is determined by a number of factors—specific business needs, office size, team dynamics, price, onboarding ease, etc.—we thought we’d share all of our favorite Ninja tools in a three-part series covering software, hardware, and products.
Let’s start with software.
We use a lot of software. Especially to help with our communication, collaboration, and productivity—in fact, we use 23 different kinds to cover all these bases! Here’s what we recommend and why:
COLLABORATION & COMMUNICATION
Like any good startup, we’re a lean, mean, fighting machine. AKA, we like to keep costs low. Luckily, Google’s suite of tools is free to anyone with a Google account. From Gmail and Drive to Docs and Hangouts, we use ‘em all to communicate in-house and with external Ninjas. Google became a crème de la crème tool for a reason: because the products are free (or inexpensive), professional, and collaborative. All hail Google.
In yoga, an asana is both a sitting position and a yoga posture that’s supposed to promote good health. For work, the project management tool Asana keeps our team in good health by keeping us on-task—and sane. One of the most intuitive project management tools around, Asana centralizes our team’s communication in-app and away from the pitfalls of email. It’s simple to create to-do lists, collaborate with team members, and mark the progress of our zillion project tasks. Or more simply, it’s our lifeline.
Goodbye email chains, hello Slack—the internet’s favorite cloud-based communication tool. Slack is a cross between texting, AOL chatrooms, and instant messaging for you and your team. It’s meant to be an organizational communication tool, though it also has communities dedicated to specific interests that anyone can join (with an invite). Public #channels in a Slack group can broadcast mass messages to subscribers; private channels allow for closed communication between select members and direct messages are for you and one other person.
We use our channels to communicate and to socialize. We have channels for editorial content, events, ambassadors, and even a Goodreads club. What’s great about Slack is that it promotes work-life balance by saving you from emails that have nothing to do with you. And it’s pretty fun.
How many usernames and passwords do you have? If you can remember them all, kudos to you because we certainly can’t! That’s why we use LastPass, a free password manager, to remember for us. We’ve upgraded to premium so that we can get to our account on any device and give team members, contractors, and freelancers access without disclosing login credentials. Warning: we don’t suggest using LastPass for everything—no matter how secure a tool is, you shouldn’t give out all your keys to the internet. However, LastPass is a handy tool to remember and share select passwords all the same.
Skype has become so synonymous with internet video chat and voice call services that people say “I’ll Skype you” to mean any kind of verbal communication. But when we say we’ll Skype you, we mean it. Skype is easy to use, more reliable than other services, and free with an internet connection. You can even load some Skype money if you need to make international calls. So yes, there’s a reason why it’s been added to the vernacular.
Have you ever tried to share a PowerPoint presentation over the phone? It’s not fun. Plenty of screen sharing software exists to make remote and online meetings easier, but we like TeamViewer best. The software is known for its handy features, like remote control, desktop sharing, online meetings, web conferencing, and file transfer between computers. It’s available for pretty much every kind of operating system—including mobile—and takes the frustration out of virtual meetings.
Booking a conference call is a giant pain. To help ease the sting, we use the visual audio conferencing system UberConference. Make no mistake—UberConference is not a video conferencing system (though it can be if integrated with Google), but is rather a simple solution for teleconferencing. Using either your desktop browser or mobile app, based on our scheduled call time the software dials in callers on both ends and allows for document sharing, call recording, and more. Best of all, it doesn’t require pins or cryptic codes to manage your conference calls.
Animated gifs aren’t just for watching hilarious cat clips, they can also be for instructional usage. We use Recordit to turn a quick video screen capture into an animated gif to demonstrate a short software tutorial to team members instead of describing with text. It’s as simple as its name, and we love simple.
No one loves filling out surveys, but Typeform can make the process much more enjoyable. It’s a form creation software that allows you to build surveys, questionnaires, and more, without the stale look of your online driving test. We love using Typeform to make surveys less painful for everyone involved, and incorporating beautiful designs don’t hurt either.
Is your eyesight rapidly deteriorating from the blue glow of your screens, especially late at night? Us too! Our OfficeNinjas founders are night owls, which makes this application especially handy. F.lux adjusts your computer display’s colors and light intensity according to the time of day. So instead of that painful glow hurting your eyes, it gives you a more tolerable “sunset” color. Though it takes time to get used to, it’s a must-have in our book since it helps us sleep better and stay sane.
Raise your hand if you’re guilty of tab hoarding—you know, when you open 118 tabs in your browser at once because you like to multi-task. Well, we’re just as guilty, or we were before we started using the OneTab Chrome extension that helps reduce tab clutter. We use OneTab to group tabs of a related topic and store them in separate lists, which can later be accessed even after shutting down.
We’re big fans of Chrome extensions that transform our ‘new tab’ web page. That’s why we’re currently trying out the free version of Be Limitless, which tracks where you spend your time on the web. With beautiful background images, goal tracking, reminders, and countdowns to tasks, the sky’s the limit.
Need a quick way to extract web page text into a data table? If so, we recommend using Import.io since it’s our favorite web data extraction tool. Sooo worth it.
Remote teams are the way of the future. Although we’re in the SF Bay Area, our team members live all across the world in different time zones. This is great for everybody… until it comes to scheduling meetings. Enter World Time Buddy, a simple world clock that helps us quickly compare time zones at a glance to plan conference calls and meetings. Smart and simple, just like telling time.
Fireshot is helpful if you want to capture webpage screenshots, perform quick edits, add text annotations, and export and save the captures as a PDF or image file—among a lot of other things. We tend to use Fireshot as a way to communicate our ideas for an unpublished webpage
to our writers and designers. Once we’ve captured and marked up the page, we send it right along through Asana.
Confession: we kind of can’t live without multiple monitors. What can we say, we like more screen real estate. And Duet fuels our screen passion by connecting our iPads to our Macs to add a second screen to our workstations. Especially useful when on the go. Best. App. Investment. Ever.
We turn to CamScanner to scan pretty much anything with a mobile device camera. Its auto-crop and smart enhancing features rival our copier/scanner when it comes to making content more readable. Best of all, the final scans can be exported and emailed in a variety of formats.
Zapier is our go-to place to mix and match our favorite software programs. Zapier lets us automate and customize our workflow with intuitive connections, called zaps. Say you want Slack to alert you every time someone shares a new Dropbox file, or have Asana automatically create tasks based on your Google Calendar. These are all things you can automate with Zapier, making you a more productive Ninja in the process.
We’re all about having multiple windows open at the same time at OfficeNinjas. And, we don’t like to waste time resizing them to fit side-by-side or top-to-bottom. Enter Spectacle, a window resizer for Mac computers that allows users to “snap” windows into the right spot with a few easy keyboard shortcuts. It beats doing it manually, and totally speaks to our inner perfectionist.
ICYDK, we’re huge podcast nerds. Like, yuuuge. To organize and manage our podcast queues, we turn to the Apple Podcasts app. Some of the categories we particularly pay attention to are: Business operation, Community, Technology, Startups, Personal development, Health & Fitness.
Podcasts are great, but here’s our little secret: with so many hour-long shows to listen to and so little time, we like to speed them up to 1.5x and sometimes 2x speed to reduce listening time. Some may consider this sacrilegious, but we consider it efficient.
Again, our secret is out: we like to speed up what we watch and listen to for productivity reasons. For how-to videos or conference clips, we use the Video Speed Controller Chrome extension to accelerate parts of the video that lag. It works with pretty much any video player in the browser.
Some people turn to Spotify, others turn to Apple Music, but we turn to SoundCloud for good jams while we work. Unlike other streaming platforms, SoundCloud is home to a mix of mainstream and underground artists with great music for all work moods. High energy, relaxing, soothing, productivity—you name it, SoundCloud plays it.
Ignore the fact that “pomodoro” means tomato sauce for one minute and just trust us when we say this time management app makes complete sense. Based on the Pomodoro Technique, which aims to perfect productivity, Pomodoro Time is a free Mac app that breaks up tasks into 25-minute intervals to keep you focused between regularly scheduled breaks.
And that’s it for this installment! What are your favorite communication, collaboration and productivity tools, Ninjas?