July 26

Beat Procrastination With Efficient To-Do List Software

To Do ListI don’t know about you, but I’m a master procrastinator. I’m also a list-maker.

Former co-workers branded me as the “Queen of the Postit®” because I always had dozens and dozens of Postit® notes all over my desk. Appointment reminders. Mini To-do lists. A grocery list of things to pick up on the way home. Stuff like that. Unfortunately, it was a disorganized mess and, in spite of my best efforts, I had a terrible time keeping up with all those lists.

I still use Postit® notes an awful lot but I’m no longer the Queen. I’ve found a better way to manage my lists and get things done. It’s a software program called Efficient To-Do List and I can’t get through a day without it. Literally can’t! Everything I need to do on any given day is in this program and, because of it, I’m now an organized person who gets things done on time, everyday… Well, most of the time anyway.

It’s even eliminated a lot of my procrastination because I find myself motivated to complete tasks just for the little thrill of checking it off and watching my list get smaller. I know, I know. I’m a little weird.

Efficient To-Do List comes in a Lite version and a Pro version. Both are great products.  Both Lite and Pro versions also have a portable option to download and run from a USB flash drive, great for having your to-do list on the go.

Unlike the free or Lite versions of other to-do list software, Efficient To-Do List Lite doesn’t limit the number of items you can add to your list. It also doesn’t restrict other important features, like setting reminders, prioritizing tasks, searching your lists, and doing backups. You can also import and export to do lists, password protect your lists, and filter by current week, current month, overdue, not overdue, and high priority.

Then there is the Pro version, my personal favorite. With the Pro version, you can create Groups or Folders and sort your lists into those Groups, taking organization one step further. Now I can work on the tasks in a specific area, like paying bills, and not have my list cluttered with all the tasks from other areas. Each Group can also be customized to show only the columns I need for that group. After all, who needs a due date on their grocery list?

The only feature not available in either version is the ability to filter for the current day. I would like to be able to see a list of just the things I need to do today. I can get around this limitation by using the search feature to show only tasks with today’s date, but it takes a lot more effort and you can’t exclude items that have already been checked off the way you can in the main filtered view.  However, even with this one limitation, it’s still an amazing piece of software and if enough people ask for a “current day” filter, I’m sure they’ll consider adding it to a future version.

Here are some of the other things you can do with the Pro version:

  • Create hierarchical sub-tasks, which is very helpful for large projects that need to be broken down into smaller parts.
  • Add comments to tasks.
  • Add attachments to tasks.
  • Create lists that are read-only.
  • See your list in card view. Great for those of you who are visual types.

There are so many great things you can do with this software, I can’t possibly list them all. I suggest you go to their website and try one of the versions for yourself. The free version is great, but you can try a fully functioning Pro version free for 30 days. I know you’ll like it and you can’t beat the price if you decide to buy it. Just $24.95 for a single license that allows you to install it on up to three computers. Yup, that’s right, THREE! How’s that for value?

Now that you know my secret for staying organized and beating procrastination, I’d love to know your secret. How do you do to keep up with everything you have to do?

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July 22

Customer Service That Works!

I was reading this post, Akismet Gives Me A Lesson In Customer Service, at Blogs With Wings this morning and it made me smile. I, too, had a great experience with customer service yesterday and it was an excellent reminder of how important it is to respond quickly to the needs and wants of your customers, big and small.

I use a couple different hosting companies for the various websites I own, but my primary hosting provider and the one that this site is hosted on is Total Choice Hosting. I’ve been with this company since 2004 and will probably continue to stay with them for a long, long time. Why?

Well, for one, they provide good hosting services at reasonable prices and, two, they provide great customer service.

Are they perfect? No, not always. My experience with them yesterday proved that. Early in the day, their company dropped the ball. In a BIG way. I was experiencing some serious issues with connecting to their web server and uploading files, even being completely locked out of connecting at one point. I opened a support ticket to get the issue resolved and their low-level support techs basically responded with “There’s nothing wrong on our end. It’s your problem.” and closed the ticket, issue unresolved.

I wasn’t having the problem with any of my other hosts and extensive testing of everything on my end made it clear to me that the problem wasn’t on my end, so I reopened the ticket, only to get the same response. Your problem, ticket closed, issue unresolved. I went back and forth with them on this several times, reopening the ticket only to have them close it again. Things came to an explosive point when yet another problem occurred.

I opened another ticket for the second problem only to get the same response as the first ticket. Problem on your end, ticket closed.

At that point, my redheaded, Irish temper took over and I exploded. I reopened both tickets, not to get resolution, but to rant at them for being completely unconcerned that I couldn’t use their service anymore. If I can’t connect to them, there’s no point in keeping an account with them.

Within minutes, I received a response. Not from the tech department but from the President the company. He asked me to contact him directly through instant messenger so we could chat. I did and we spent the next 30 minutes working together to get all my problems solved. He fixed the problems occurring on their end AND he helped me find and fix a few things that were contributing to the problem on my end. By the end of our chat, my service was working perfectly and I was a HAPPY customer.

Then, to top off my great experience, he made sure I knew how important my business was to him and he gave me his personal cell phone number and told me if the problem happened again, I could contact him directly and bypass the ticket system. THAT is good customer service and when I think of that day, it’s that experience I will remember. Not the frustration that led up to it.

Akismet Gives Me A Lesson In Customer Service

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July 5

Seesmic Desktop: The Shadow TweetDeck Needs to Fear

Seesmic DesktopI tried Seesmic Desktop alongside of TweetDeck for a short period of time and it didn’t take long for me to realize that Seesmic Desktop and TweetDeck are shadows of each other. If you look at the two clients side-by-side, you can barely tell the difference. Seesmic looks a lot like TweetDeck and has most of the same features. Each client also has features the other lacks, which makes it very hard to chose between them. Even as I write this review, I find myself once again waffling between the two clients. Sometimes, TweetDeck works better for me, but at other times, Seesmic is the better fit.

These are some of the features Seesmic Desktop has in common with TweetDeck:

  • Handles multiple Twitter accounts.
  • Support for multiple URL shortening services.
  • In program profile viewer with the ability to follow, unfollow, and block.
  • Support for saved searches.
  • Support for unlimited columns.
  • Support for posting a single message to multiple accounts.
  • Single column view mode.

These are the features Seesmic Desktop lacks:

  • The ability to view images within the program itself rather than opening via the browser.
  • Support for trending topics and tag clouds via TwitScoop.
  • Support for groups
  • Support for scheduled tweets.
  • Short URL Previews.
  • No support for MySpace, Foursquare, or LinkedIn.
  • No support for global filtering.
  • Ability to change the programs color scheme.

Here are some of the features that Seesmic Desktop has in its favor:

  • Handy navigation bar on the left, which can be expanded or collapsed as needed.
  • Option to control the width of the columns. (I LOVE this feature.)
  • The “Home” column which combines tweets from all accounts into a single column, a nice feature if you like it, can be closed if you don’t.
  • Support for a larger number of URL shortening services than TweetDeck.
  • Much less annoying notification sound than TweetDeck. Still no support for changing the notification sound though.
  • Better font than TweetDeck.

The good news is that Seesmic Desktop is fairly new and still in the development process, so there is always the possibility that, if they implement the missing TweetDeck features and  continue to add features that TweetDeck lacks,  it could very well end up being a much better client than TweetDeck. It’s too early to tell, but I will definitely be keeping an eye on both in the future.

I’d love to hear your opinion. Which client do you like better and why?

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June 30

TweetDeck vs Digsby: A Close Competition

Digsby LogoOf all the Twitter clients I tried, Digsy was the one that almost stole me away from using TweetDeck, which is surprising considering Digsby was the most lacking in features of all the clients I tried. I used Digsby for several months before making the switch to TweetDeck and still alternated back and forth between the two for while after that. Even now, there are days when I’m tempted to use Digsby just to get a break from the annoying TweetDeck chirp.

Here are a few of the benefits of using Digsby:

  • Handles multiple accounts for Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn
  • Ability to open separate columns for each account, resize them, and move them to any position on the screen.
  • Completely customizable appearance with skins.
  • Ability to customize the notification sounds (big, big, BIG plus for me).
  • Can be used for instant messaging and email as well as for managing social network accounts
  • Less memory usage than TweetDeck

Unfortunately, as much as I loved the ability to customize the look and feel of Digsby, there were too many features I needed that it just didn’t have and ultimately those missing features drove me to TweetDeck. Here are some of the features Digsby didn’t offer:

  • No ability to create saved searches in columns so I could monitor subjects that are of interest to me.
  • No way to save the position and sizes of the columns for each account when opened and positioned on the screen. Each time I started the program, I would have to reopen the columns, re-size them and reposition them on the screen again.
  • Each column opened took up space on my taskbar.
  • Not able to view, follow, or unfollow Twitter profiles without going to the Twitter website and logging into one of the accounts.
  • No ability to handle images or video within Digsby.
  • No ability to post messages to multiple accounts at the same time.

I think the part of Digsby that most impressed me was the customization features. I love being able to customize the look and sound of my software to match my personality. With Digsby, you can do that. With TweetDeck, you can’t.

I hope the developers of TweetDeck are listening and will someday add more customization options to their software. If they do that, they will be almost unbeatable as a Social Networking client. For TweetDeck competitors, here’s your chance. If you can have all the features of TweetDeck AND add the ability to customize font size, column size and positioning within the program screen, colors and notification sounds, you’ll knock TweetDeck out of the park.

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June 28

Tweetdeck vs Twhirl

Twhirl LogoTwhirl is one of the Twitter clients I tried when I finally became fed up with logging in and out of Twitter and Facebook to manage my multiple accounts.  Twhirl has some very nice features and for people who need a simple client to manage a few Twitter accounts, it is an excellent choice. Here are some of the best features
of Twhirl:

  • Connects to multiple Twitter accounts.
  • Notification display and sound for new messages.
  • Support for bit.ly URL shortening.
  • Twitter search with saved searches.
  • Option to change the font size of the time line.
  • Single column display.

In spite of its many wonderful features, however, it didn’t take long for me to realize that Twhirl was not the right client for me. In a side-by-side comparison with TweetDeck, Twhirl doesn’t measure up.

Facebook Support:

  • Twhirl: No facebook support.
  • TweetDeck: Complete integration with Facebook, including the ability to record 12 seconds of video and post to a facebook account.

Twitter Search:

  • Twhirl: Can create and activate a dynamic search but lacks filtering capability.
  • TweetDeck: Can create detailed, saved searches using filter options. Also integrates with TwitScoop.

URL Shortening Service:

  • Twhirl: Automatically posts TinyURL.
  • TweetDeck: Able to use one of 5 major URL shortening services, including bit.ly, my service of choice. Also has a shortened URL preview option, so I can see where a link is going before I click on it.

Groups:

  • Twhirl: Does not have the ability to create custom groups.
  • TweetDeck: Users can create custom groups and lists to group content together in meaningful ways, so you don’t miss those important tweets that would otherwise get lost in the crowd.

In addition to these major feature differences, I found the overall look, feel, and user experience of TweetDeck to be better than Twhirl. I like the multi-column layout that allows me to see several accounts at a glance and I like how easy it is to post tweets over multiple accounts, view profiles, follow and unfollow other users, and a host of other simple things that are just so much easier in TweetDeck.

There is only one feature of Twhirl that I wish TweetDeck would implement. That is the ability to change the font size in the time lines.  If TweetDeck could do that AND give users the option to change that annoying chirp notification sound to something more pleasing, it would be perfect for me. Got that TweetDeck?

I’m interested in hearing from users of both TweetDeck and Twhirl. Leave a comment and tell me your experiences. Why do you prefer one over the other?

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