Hello again, friend! Or, if you’re just dropping in, welcome to our three-part series about the OfficeNinjas HQ toolkit.
In this series, we’re sharing all of our favorite Ninja software tools, hardware gizmos, and products. If you haven’t already, read up on part one—it covers our favorite communication, collaboration, and productivity software tools.
In part two, we’ll also cover go-to software tools…but they’re different, we promise! We’ve collected our favorite motivational, email management, social media management, content creation and curation, copywriting, design, photo and video tools that make life at OfficeNinjas HQ run that much more smoothly. Let’s dive in, shall we?
Note: This list will change and evolve over time as new tools and technology become available and our needs change.
Momentum keeps workflows moving by replacing your standard ‘new tab’ page with a personal dashboard that features a list of to-dos, the weather, and inspirational quotes and photos. It’s not suppose to stop your work in its tracks, but motivate you to keep on keepin’ on with fresh reminders about why you started in the first place.
Do you need motivation to get out of bed…without getting out of bed? Then Shine—the service that texts you daily tips, GIFs, and fulfilling inspo—is for you. Take a look at one of the recent texts sent to our team leader:
“Happy Friday, Nancy! The “planning fallacy” is the MVP of disrupting our daily decision making—causing us to underestimate how long projects take and *overestimate* how quickly we can get them done (sound familiar?). Today, crush your “get-‘ish-done”-list by planning more time than you think you need and wrap up for the weekend.”
Totally worth the roll-over in bed to read that, are we right or are we right?
OfficeNinjas is only three years old and, like any young startup, there are plenty of highs, lows, twists and turns. When we need pep-talks from other startups and their founders, we mosey on over to StartupQuote, the web’s best collection of, well, startup quotes. It’s all the perspective we need at times to do better and push forward.
Email is the worst. Unless, of course, you use Mixmax to organize and schedule those emails for you. The personal email optimizer makes it super simple to track messages, schedule and send, book meetings, write from email templates and automate correspondence—without ever leaving Gmail. It’s the best answer to taming your inbox we’ve found yet.
Want to get the lowdown on that unknown person who just shot over an email? Rapportive has you covered. It’s not intended for stalking internet strangers who write you, but it does allow you to see their LinkedIn profiles inside Gmail. That snapshot includes their location, photo, shared connections and job title to make chatting way less anonymous. Plus, you can use this information to help reply more authentically.
We’ve tried out a few email marketing services, and none are as impressive as Active Campaign. This email marketing and automation software has the specs you’d come to expect—and then some. But what we like most about Active Campaign is the power to integrate our favorite third-party apps. Its ability to segment Ninjas by country, and by region, is a close second. It’s expensive but more powerful than our former provider Mailchimp, but allows us to do way more for you Ninjas! And more is almost always better.
We get dozens upon dozens of emails on a daily basis and without Groove, some of them would surely fall through the cracks. Groove is the go-to customer support and ticketing software that we use to assign team members to collaborate on customer emails, social media posts, chats and calls in one helpdesk. Plus, we love that we can add internal notes to email tickets. It’s perfect for a nimble team like OfficeNinjas.
SOCIAL MEDIA AND CONTENT CURATION
The ultimate content collector tool, Feedly, is a great place to read all of the content you follow around the web. It’s basically a giant newsfeed to read content for any sites you want to follow. We use it to accelerate our research and news gathering by zeroing in on what’s most relevant to today’s Ninjas from across a variety of outlets. You could use it to keep track of cat photo posts on Buzzfeed, too. Whatever floats your boat.
We stopped bookmarking to-read content a long time ago. Now, we just Pocket it. Pocket is a great way to save good online content we encounter while working on other things. It’s our way of keeping the current focus on the task at hand, knowing we can delve into saved clips later on. Once you save a page, you can access it whenever you want and you don’t even need internet access. Also, bonus points for Pocket because it allows you to save YouTube videos.
Without an editorial calendar, OfficeNinjas HQ would be total chaos. Without CoSchedule’s editorial calendar manager, it would also be chaos. CoSchedule not only improves our organization processes, but it also helps us distribute our articles with the community in much smarter ways, giving more people a chance to see and enjoy them.
Buffer is a social media marketing tool that allows you to schedule all of your social posts from one place. Since CoSchedule doesn’t allow posting to Instagram or to Google+, we turn to Buffer to share and track those outreach efforts.
For the capabilities that CoSchedule and Buffer don’t provide, we turn to Hootsuite. Hootsuite offers similar tools to Buffer and CoSchedule in terms of social media marketing—but it’s best used, in our experience, as a social listening tool. Monitoring social networks is time-consuming, but Hootsuite gives us the power to monitor multiple social account streams and many #hashtags in one place. Then, we can delegate specific interactions to team members for follow-ups. We’re also fans of their mobile app because it allows us to monitor our socials while on the go.
Sharing is caring! To help others easily share our content as many times as possible, we like to provide a share link. Instead of going to each social network to create them, we create links for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest and email from this single webpage.
The most effective writing is to-the-point—that’s why we use Word Count to monitor the length of our presentations, reports, and even emails. As strong believers in the saying, “You can’t improve what you don’t measure”, we like to set goals to strengthen our brevity muscles, and this tool does the trick.
Grammar checkers are invaluable tools in the workplace. It’s important to show co-workers, business clients, potential customers, partners and bosses that you know when to use “your” and “you’re” because they will judge you for sloppy mistakes. In fact, incorrect grammar causes many avoidable communication problems. That’s why we use Grammarly, the best grammar tool around. As an extension in your browser, it marks up any writing you do online, including your emails and comment boxes on websites. And if you want Grammarly to solve your “advanced” grammar problems, it’s worth it to pay for the premium version.
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, even with emails. These two sites give you a really big head start when crafting good, concise emails. Straight and to the point, just like this description.
Does your company have a confusing style guide for titles? Or does it defer to AP Style or Chicago Manual of Style? Either way, memorizing the intricacies of a style guide is time-consuming. Enter Title Capitalization, a site where you simply cut and paste the title into the input field and see the result right away. It saves room for memorizing the other style guide rules.
DESIGN, PHOTOS, AND VIDEO
If you lack both a designer and Photoshop skills, don’t stress. Canva is the easiest way to create designs for social media, emails, posters, ads, postcards, presentations and more. For quick designs, we rely on Canva’s array of templates, fonts, and colors to produce professional looking, vibrant designs. We’ve upgraded to Canva for Work to take advantage of features that help us collaborate and stay consistent, but the free version does the trick for most projects.
Resizing and cropping photos is a fact of life, but relying on clunky software doesn’t have to be. When we’re in a pinch, we choose Aviary to quickly resize and crop photos on the web and on the go. It’s free, it’s web-based, and it’s easy to use. What more could you want?
Resizing photos is not the same thing as compressing photos. In fact, nine times out of 10, you should compress a photo before you resize it. To do that, we use Tiny PNG and JPEG, a free web-based file compressor. You’ll never have to worry about image file sizes again when you use this tool.
For any company who needs to create a product mockup, we definitely recommend using Frame. First of all, it’s free. Second, it’s very easy to choose one of the site’s frames, insert your product/screenshot, adjust size and download the mockup. And voila, you’re done.
There are millions of combinations of possible file conversions. Converting files to different formats in-app can be a breeze if you’re converting a Word .doc into a .pdf. But if you want to convert .mp4 to a .wav, it may be trickier. Regardless, for all of our conversion needs, we turn to CloudConvert. They support over 200 formats and we don’t have to think twice about the files.
The saying is true—a picture is worth a thousand words. And a video is like a thousand pictures. As a remote team, sharing video screen captures is important when explaining things to others. We like to use Jing to capture and share videos, as well as place screen grabs in procedural documents to better illustrate instructions/steps. It saves a ton of typing effort in communication.
When handling a design task, the first thing to do is get the creative juices flowing. Depending on the type of design you have to create, these websites offer a look into all sorts of great design that wake up our inner creative genius. Plus, it helps to look outward rather than inward for inspiration when we feel a brain drain coming on.
What’s a free photo worth, anyway? A lot. Photography can get pricey very quickly, so we like to use license-free photos—AKA photos that are free to use as long as you comply with the license. Our five go-to photo resources help us in searching for just the right image to place in a presentation, internal doc, marketing material or article without circulating uninspiring, generic stock photos everyone already has seen.
Adobe is known for its world-class creative software and we’re here to confirm that, yep, they are indeed world-class. We use Adobe Creative Cloud for two reasons: the first is when we need more advanced tools for photography, design or video work; and the second is because when collaborating with creatives practically every creator uses (or knows how to use) these time-tested tools.
Shout out to Giphy for being our favorite place to find the weirdest and silliest GIFs on the internet. We love to share GIFs between co-workers, the Ninja community, and even our business partners. Using short, two-second GIFs can convey a message or a feeling quicker than words can. We love a good thousand-word photo, but we believe the saying that a GIF is worth a thousand shares.
Engineers did not invent the internet for ads and yet, they are everywhere. To minimize ad interruptions, we use ad blockers. Ad Block, Ad Block Plus, and Webmail Ad Blocker are just a few of the virtual security guards we’ve tried to alleviate our ad disruptions, and by gosh do they work. Just be sure not to block your favorite publishers too much or too often—some do rely on that ad revenue!
Though the name sounds like a strain of bird flu or some other virus, Avast is actually a security software bent on keeping your computer safe and sound. Avoid the hassle of getting infected with a virus or ransomware and then paying tons of money to remove it. Instead, invest in Avast, which works on Mac, PC, Android, iPhone/iPad and even an entire business.
And that’s it for software tools!…For now. What do you think, Ninjas? What are some of your favorite email, social media, and design tools?