12 Handy Tools/Apps for People who Work Online

Tools to Make Working Online a Bit Better

I have a full-time job teaching online. I run my practice & mentoring work entirely online as well. For this hippie herbalist, that's a lot of time on the computer.

Here are a few of the tools that keep me more or less functional and help get me back outside with as little stress as possible. These are the things that make working online a bit easier and ones that I actually USE on a day-to-day basis.

I've tried... well... let's just say many more than you see here :).

These are the ones that have stood the test of time and the ones I'd be sad to do without.

The Handy App/Tool List

Note that the title of each links to the tool so you don't need to go searching. These are not affiliate links 🙂

I switched from Gmail to Hey several months ago, and it’s made a HUGE difference for me. Hey is a paid service, so there’s that. To me, it’s worth the price ($99/year) because it’s so darn easy. I love the “reply later” section so that I can quickly & easily respond to anything that’s outstanding when I have a free moment. Check it out if you’re feeling overwhelmed by email.

If you don't have this free browser extension installed already, you need to get it immediately. Like ASAP. It essentially takes all 276 tabs you have open and condenses them into one page so they aren't eating up your memory, but you can still access them whenever you need them. Cannot recommend this highly enough. 

You can use either of these free services to highlight and annotate the web. This is extremely helpful if you're doing research and don't want to print everything out, or if you come back to an article a year later and find that you've conveniently already highlighted/annotated it. I prefer Hypothes.is, but check them both out to see what works for you.

Like a Doodle poll, but better and easier to use. Does not require an account to set up or to participate. Create a Tricider when you want to everyone who's eligible to vote to add suggestions (i.e. the creator of the poll does not control which options are added; options to be voted on are crowdsourced.) Participants can upvote as many selections as they choose, adding their own options or comments if they like. 

I'm a Zotero evangelist. Can't help it. If you are doing any type of academic writing, you NEED a citation manager. It will save you hours, possibly days or even weeks, of your life. Not to mention quite a few gray hairs. Please trust me on this and learn how to use it right away. You'll never need to worry about whether there's a comma in between the author's last name and the year of your in-text citations again. Email me if you need help. I've got tons of resources. 

I am not sure I could go on working online without LastPass. I avoided getting a password manager for a long time, because it seemed like a bad idea. It turns out, though, that all of the security experts think having one is a good idea. Apparently it's all encrypted and whatnot. The free version is great for most users. (I upgraded to the family plan, mainly because I like to support services that are so incredibly useful in my work.)

If you need to record a video for any reason, use Screencast-o-matic. It works for "talking head" videos, for voice-over slideshows or for screen capture. The free plan is great for most users; I upgraded to the paid version for the same reasons as above and to get a bit of extra recording time :). 

OneNote is similar to EverNote. It's been working really well for me to organize material related to classes I teach, papers I'm writing, recipes, etc. I made a short video about how I use it, if you're interested.

So, wow. I can't believe I didn't start using a text expander earlier.

Text expanders allow you to store frequently-typed phrases so that you can insert them whenever/wherever with a short code (e.g. I use c@g to insert my gmail address). If you have a Mac, you've got a free text expander built right in; this one is for Windows-users.

I have a bunch of phrases that I write over & over again, like comments on student papers. (No, not all of them are the same, and even so there are certain mistakes I correct or comments I make repeatedly.) Now with just a few keystrokes, PhraseExpress types it all for me. It also suggests autofills and corrects typos as I go. Super handy.

It is free for personal use but you'll need to pay after a 30 day trial if you're using it for work like I am. Worth it. There are a variety to choose from, so poke around a bit to see which one is the best fit for you. 

This mindfulness and meditation app is great when you need to take a short break to reset. I love that there are tons of options that are just a few minutes long. My kids also like to listen to the many sleep stories if they're having problems falling asleep. If you can stay awake through "Drifting Off to Sheep," wherein Stephen Lyons provides a guided list covering his top 20 sheep breeds and their distinguishing characteristics, you're more caffeinated than I, my friend. Annual subscription runs about $60/year but does go on sale periodically. Alternatives include Headspace (also paid) and Insight Timer (free).

On a similar note, if you're stuck at your computer and can't make it to the yoga studio for a stretch, I highly recommend this website. Monthly cost is around $18, which is around what you might pay for a single class in some studios (!). They have tons of sessions to pick from, ranging from 5-90+ minutes, and including pre/post natal classes, meditations, beginner and gentle classes, etc. I've found some of the shoulder-focused and office yoga classes to be just the ticket during finals week.  For a less expensive but also less expansive version, try the Down Dog app (free during the pandmic for academics/healthcare folks).

We're still on the exercise theme here, folks. This one is free. Fitness Blender has an amazing range of interval training workout classes online. Many require no equipment, and it's easy to find classes that are in the 15-20-minute range when time is tight. Low-impact versions are available. I find the instructors non-irritating, which is more than I can say for most online workout videos :). 

Have others you think I should add or check out? I'd love to know about them. Just hit "reply" and let me know.

Thoughts? Add your comments here. 

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Camille Freeman (she/her)

Hi there! I'm a clinical herbalist and licensed nutritionist specializing in fertility and reproductive health. I faciliate the Monday Mentoring community of practice and offer continuing eduation programs for highly trained herbalists & nutritionists. I'm also a professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Maryland University of Integrative Health, where I teach physiology, pathophysiology, and mindful eating.