Tip Tuesday: Paid software tools – “Not Free but Vital”

Paid Software Tools

A few weeks ago, I shared a post that listed some of my favorite FREE software tools. But there are times when free just won’t cut it and you need to jump in and pay for something that will do the trick. In this article, I’m going to share some of the paid software tools I use in my own business.

Disclaimer: The links below may be affiliate links. If you purchase any products after clicking on these links, at no additional cost to you, Called to Design will receive a small commission for making you aware of these important resources.

Office Tools

I have a love/hate relationship with Google. There are some tools I really like – such as Gmail, but others I can’t stand. I’ve worked with companies that live out of Google Drive/Docs. And while Google has good search capabilities (duh!), but if you’re not careful, things can easily get out of control and hard to find.

Personally, I’m more of a Microsoft fan. Each year I purchase Microsoft 365 (Personal or Family) which gives me tools such as Word, Excel, One Note and OneDrive with 1 Tb of data storage. Even if I didn’t use the Office tools much, that 1 Tb of data would be worth the price!

I drool over Excel spreadsheets (not really… ok, maybe). I use them for all sorts of tracking, including activity tracking for my business.

paid software tool: Microsoft Excel

toggltrack is what tracks my time, but I wasn’t satisfied with their reporting features, so I have an Excel spreadsheet to group by client, creating my own weekly reports.

Imaging Editing

I use two other programs for image editing. Snagit is an amazing paid software tool that not only allows you to create screenshots for documentation, but it also has great editing tools. It allows for cropping, resizing, adding arrows and other shapes, and much more! It’s a one-time purchase with a small ($12.50) annual maintenance plan to get updates and support.

video screenshot using SnagIt
I took this screenshot using Snag-it against a video created in Camtasia 🙂

If you need more editing options, Adobe Photoshop is a powerful choice. If you can imagine a way to edit or create an image, it can most likely be done in Photoshop. Plus, it’s commonly used, so not only does the Adobe Photoshop format work with other applications, but you can find LOTS of helpful videos and articles if you’re stuck. I signed up for the Adobe Photography plan which is only $9.99 per month (plus tax). In addition to Photoshop it also includes Lightroom, cloud storage and a few other features I don’t use. I have a client that uses Photoshop enough that it makes sense for me to stay subscribed.

If you are willing to be a bit more of a DIY-er and/or free are more your style (instead of a paid software tool), check out GIMP. It has many of the same features as Photoshop and again, there are plenty of helpful tutorials.

Video Editing

Techsmith, the same company that produced Snagit, has a wonderful video editing tool called Camtasia.

I was introduced to this by a client and am so happy I went ahead and purchased it! It makes it super easy to add, remove and edit “tracks” of video and audio, cut out all those bloopers, and overlay with other images, text, or captions.

Storage

I don’t know about you but I don’t have nearly enough space on my hard drive to handle everything needed. I use a couple of different storage applications to help me out.

One storage option is Dropbox. There is a free version, but to get “real” storage, I recommend using this as a paid software tool. My favorite feature about Dropbox is that the shared folders. Yes, you can share with Google Drive – and many of my clients do that, but it can easily become a hot mess. I like being able to view my files in Windows File Explorer and easily drag-and-drop the files to keep them organized. I use Dropbox more for working with clients.

For my personal storage, I tend to use OneDrive, which is part of Microsoft 365 for the same annual fee! That means you get Word, Excel and at least 1Tb of storage. Again, it appears as folders on my hard-drive, or I can view online in a browser.

Both Dropbox and OneDrive have the ability to let you pick and choose which folders and files should stay in the cloud and which should be stored in both places. However, see my note below about backups…

Backup software

Have you ever had a device die on you before you were ready to replace it? It can be enormously scary for that to happen if you don’t have regular backups!

I use Backblaze to ensure my laptop and connected external hard drive are all backed up. This paid software tool is a cloud-based backup, storing your files on their servers. Their file retrieval process is simple and easy to use, or if you have a lot of files, you can request a temporary hard drive be sent to you. I had to use this feature in 2020 when our {unknown age} external hard drive died suddenly!

One caveat to note: if you are using selected files/folders for cloud storage (Dropbox, OneDrive), Backblaze will only back up those files that are stored on your hard drive! Something to keep in mind. You’ll still have your cloud storage and any deleted files will stay for a while in the cloud (30 days after deletion for both Dropbox and OneDrive). But in some instances I like to have multiple backups so I make sure the files are stored on my laptop, a cloud storage services AND are backed up with Backblaze.

Managing logins

As you can probably imaging, I have literally hundreds of different sign-ins I have to manage with different clients. And many of them use the same applications – WordPress, Gmail, email platforms, Zapier, etc. Without some way to handle these, I would constantly be signing out of one login and signing in with another.

I tried handling these with Facebook containers, and in truth, I still use Facebook containers – especially for privacy sucking applications like Facebook and Instagram (they have their own container). Containers just mean that cookies, logins, etc. are not shared between containers. It’s a fresh start each time.

However, last year, I found something even better! It’s a paid software tool called Wavebox. They have a 7-day trial so you can test it out before purchasing a license (use discount code INVITE_4digyldp3c for 20% off!). Wavebox is amazing in that it has Cookie containers like Facebook does, but you can also create Groups of applications. For example, I have a cookie container for each client, a group for that cookie/client and under each group is the all the applications and websites I frequently use.

I can easily switch between each of my clients throughout the day (or any of my own personal groups). Wavebox is smart enough that if I don’t use a particular application/group within 15 minutes (or whatever setting you prefer), it puts that application to “sleep” so it doesn’t use your computer resources. B

Fun stuff

KiwiCo! LOL, ok maybe this isn’t fair to list as a paid software tool, but when you’re trying to work from home, they offer wonderful STEM activities for kids to keep them occupied. We’ve enjoyed the Kiwi Crates when my daughter was smaller, and lately Tinker Crates. My daughter always says she wants me to help her with the boxes, but in reality I just end up watching while she builds away. They are such fun activities and we’ve had hours of enjoyment after the projects have been built.

What’s your favorite tool?

Now that I’ve shared some of my favorite software tools – both Free and Paid, I’d love to hear some of yours! Comment on this post or shoot me an email to let me know your thoughts!

Also, let me know if there are any of these tools you’d like to hear more about and I can do a full tutorial on it!

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