The CAD Geek’s Productivity Tools for 2018

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One month into the New Year, and hopefully your resolutions are still intact, and 2018 is poised to be everyone’s best year yet. Even if your resolutions have waived some, the start of a new month is a great milepost to check yourself and make any necessary adjustments to keep on track. With that in mind, today I’ve chosen to focus on the all-too-common resolution of productivity.

It’s been a while since I pulled back the curtain to share some of the non-Autodesk software I turn to on a daily basis. For the purpose of this post, I have omitted the usual suspects like Microsoft Office and instead focused on the other productivity tools I use most. Though there’s no lack of productivity tools on the market today, here are the tools I’ve chosen for myself.

Todoist [Free – $29/yr]

Todoist Task Manager

 

When development ceased for my former task manager, I found myself on a quest for a replacement. Little did I know how long that pursuit would be. From Asana to Trello, Toodledo, and Wunderlist (among others), I tried nearly every task manager I could find. While all fulfilled the basic criteria of being a task manager, all had something missing, and my usage of each waned rather quickly.

That process repeated itself until I discovered Todoist, and it quickly became my go-to task manager. So what made Todoist stand out for me in an otherwise crowded field?

The interface is what first caught my eye. Todoist’s minimal interface is not only a joy to navigate, but its many tools and functions are intuitively placed within it. Although good looks make for an attractive tool, the tool itself isn’t genuinely valuable unless it excels at its core function as a task manager. Todoist certainly does that.

What I found most impressive about Todoist is how many platforms its available. From PC to Mac, iOS device to Android, and even Microsoft Outlook,  your tasks are available wherever you’re working. Though other task managers accomplish a similar feat, what Todoist does exceptionally well is implemented a consistent interface across all platforms. If you know how to use Todoist on a PC, you know how to use it on your phone.

Grammarly [Free – $29/mo]

grammarly-spell-grammar-check.jpg

From this blog to the numerous documents (even emails) I author for my job, writing occupies a significant portion of my day. You’re probably familiar with the spell and grammar checks built into applications such as Microsoft Word.  Though each of these has seen appreciable improvements over the years, they still don’t pick up the many nuances of the English language. This is where Grammarly comes in.

Grammarly is what I wish spell and grammar check inside Microsoft Word would be. It brings a polish to your writing that no other spell and grammar check I’ve tested can. The free version will work inside your browser and provides several checks to let you try out the tool. As wonderful as these checks are, my biggest regret with Grammarly is not upgrading sooner.

Beyond the critical grammar and spelling checks included within the free version, the premium version adds a wealth of additional features such as the ability to specify the type of document you’re authoring (business, technical, casual, among others), and offer genre specific punctuation and vocabulary recommendations.

TextExpander [$4.16/mo, $39/yr]

textexpander-writing-macro.jpg

Speaking of writing, there’s a lot of repetition in what I write on a daily basis. Think about it, how often do you type something like “Bob, Thank you for your email” on a given day? If your email inbox is anything like mine, the answer is roughly equal to the number of emails you send each day.

The basic idea of a tool like TextExpander is you can define any number of snippets that will automatically expand as you type them. For example, typing “xtfe” will automatically expand to “[Clipboard], Thank you for your email.” You can create any number of snippets to automate just about anything you write.

Although I initially began using TextExpander to automate the repetitive things I write, an unexpected use case for me is the ability to more easily paste the contents of my clipboard as unformatted text. I copy things from many different places, but typically prefer pasting without any formatting. To help me achieve that, I’ve configured the snippet “xpst” to paste my clipboard as plain text.

TechSmith Snagit [$50]

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Much of my day is spent supporting CADD Microsystems clients with their Autodesk software. On a given day that support will range from a simple screenshot calling out an overlooked setting, to something as complex as a howto video. In all of those scenarios, the tool I turn to is Snagit.

There are undoubtedly other tools that let you take a screenshot, but where Snagit stands out for me is how easy it is for me to capture, edit, and share the images and videos I take. The Snagit Editor is like a lightweight Photoshop with essential tools for editing screenshots. Tools to annotate, highlight, and moving the on-screen cursor are each at your fingertips. Once edited to your liking, the next big differentiator of Snagit is its integration with Screencast.com, another TechSmith product.

Though a paid version of Screencast.com is available, I’ve found the free version entirely sufficient for my needs over the last decade. By choosing Share on Screencast.com, Snagit will upload my edited image or video online, and place a link on my clipboard. If I’m chatting with a colleague in IM, I can just paste the URL into the chat thread to show them a portion of my screen.

Beyond my day-to-day use, Snagit is also the tool I used to capture all 1,000+ image assets in each of my six books (AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT: No Experience Required). I question just how I could have accomplished that feat without Snagit and the library it maintains every screenshot you capture.

Dashlane [$40]

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Passwords are simply a way of life at this point. Of course, we all know that using the same password across multiple sites is bad, but who has a good enough memory to remember unique passwords for every one of our accounts? I know I sure don’t, and that’s why I turned to a password manager.

The basic idea of a password manager is you have a single master password that unlocks all of your other passwords. Beyond simply remembering all of my passwords, Dashlane will also generate unique passwords for each account, recognizing when I change a password, and syncing the change across all of my devices.

Beyond simply storing my passwords, Dashlane also performs a security audit of my entire portfolio of passwords and alerts me if it’s been too long since I last changed my password, if I happen to use the same password across multiple sites, along with an audit of several other password bad practices. Additionally, for a growing number of sites, Dashlane can automatically change your password, forgoing the need to manually visit a site and find the change password section.

Furthermore, an increasing number of mobile apps now support Dashlane, so you can use the fingerprint or face recognition features on your phone to unlock your password vault and sign into your mobile applications and websites. Likewise, password changes made on your desktop automatically sync to your phone and vice versa – automagically.

I certainly have a handful of other productivity tools in my arsenal, but those highlighted in this post are the ones I turn to most. Beyond simply being the tools that see the most mileage, these are also the tools I have personally purchased with my own money. Put simply, this is not a sponsored post, and I have not been compensated in any way to highlight the tools outlined above.

As we all continue striving to make 2018 the most incredible year yet, what productivity tools do you rely upon on a daily basis? Let me know in the comments below.

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