What are your life hacks, workflows, tips, tools, apps, websites, skills and techniques that allow you to work smarter and more effectively?
I’m guessing that many of the responses will be Mac-centric, given the current journo-geek toolkit. But, like funnyman John Hodgman, I’m a PC, so I’m going to throw down some mostly Windows goodness here.
MySQL GUI Tools and Navicat
At the IRE and NICAR database library we work with some pretty big databases from the federal government that hold several million records. I like to use the open source MySQL to churn through the data. Trouble is, I also like to avoid the command line whenever possible. So I use two free MySQL GUI tools that no longer are supported but work just fine with the latest version. MySQL Administrator allows you to easily manage your databases and MySQL Query Browser provides a clean user interface for running your SQL queries and viewing the results.
Even more awesome is the commercial GUI Navicat, which allows you to import a bunch of data formats into MySQL. Navicat sells for $129 , but you can also download a lite version.
The database library also works with huge text files from government agencies. When I need to wrestle with those files, I turn to the free Notepad++ (Windows only). It’s a pretty simple program that you can use to scrub your text files. And it hasn’t choked on me yet.
The Windows unzipping feature has always seemed over-engineered to me and a time-killer for those of us who are constantly downloading compressed data files from the web. I like to use use the open source 7-Zip, which is wayyyy easy to use and will unzip UNIX file formats. (Windows only)
Microsoft OneNote and Outlook
Two MS-Office programs help keep my head above water. OneNote lets me store free-form notes and search them quickly. The program’s Notebook | Section | Page design metaphor did take a little while to get used to, but the time spent with the program was totally worth it for me.
Email is my most important database and Outlook does a great job letting me organize and tame it by using Rules. Microsoft has polished the Windows version over the years. Sorry Gmail, I can’t imagine life without Outlook.
Delicious and Google Reader
Ditto for Google Reader. For now, it works as the place to put my RSS feeds and growing number of Google Alerts. Plus, I like how it syncs with the Reader app for my Android phone.