There are times when you need a little tool to do something. You could download a programme to do it, or you could use an online tool. Mostly though, you only need the tools at infrequent intervals , or you have a specific project that requires some minor tools.
I’m a fan of free online tools for simple tasks. They do not load your computer up, and if you have a bookmark folder with these stashed, you know where to look for them when you do need them.
Alternativeto.net This is a website that I use when I’ve found a programme I want to use and want to see if there are free alternatives. Its pretty extensive and I’ve found it a very useful site to explore different productivity type tools such as different automation type programmes. Well worth a look.
Converting file formats
This can be quite irritating when you have one file in a format that is not suitable and you need to convert it to another format. I find I have this issue with Cad files quite a lot as well as image files too. So there are a few free online sites where you can your files converted.
If they are big files they can be slow. If you are doing video or Audio conversion it may be better to do int with a programme on your computer, it may be quicker. Although, in saying that, once they are uploaded they can chug away on the web for concversion until they need to be downloaded.
Online OCR (Optical Character Recognition)
OnlineOCR . I actually use Google Keep for this but its sometimes not that great. In the past i’ve downloaded some programmes and have rarely used them, so I think the next time I’ll try and online on to test for comparison wiht keep.
I’m finding I’m using this type of tool more frequently, especially when going out and taking a photo of a product label and I want the make/model code to do a web search. Also its easier to do some screenshots of PDF’s than trying to extract the text from them. Especially things such as drawings where there is a lot of graphics that can make grabbing text awkward.
I’m using my mobile phone camera more for capturing images rather than taking notes in say, Google Keep. Also at presentations there is information that you may want later, so take a picture of the slide then use OCR later to extract the relevant URL or other information.
I’m finding that I want to edit images more, and I’m turning more and more to GIMP (free) where you can layer, mask and do lots of lovely things. But it is complicated and when I want to do something different then I do find I have to watch a few YouTube videos before I can do the task I want. I don’t use it frequently and it is very powerful, but not intuitive, so I do not go at it with much enthuseasm as I kniw I could possibly be spending a lot more time on it than the task may warrent.
I came across an article that suggested using Pixlr, an online tool, and I think I’ll give that a try to see if its easier and more intuitive. I’m sure it’ll be more limited than GIMP but if it can do a few of the tphoto editing things that I want then it’ll be worth using. I’ll still keep GIMP for the more complex tasks.
On opening it it asked me to fire up Flash, so I quit, then I found https://pixlr.com/x/ that seems to allow you to use it without flash. As it does multi layers I will definitely be playing with it.
Canva. Titles for videos, front covers and thematic slides. Banners , infographics, posters , business cards etc. I have been using it for Video Titles and find it easy, intuitive and quick.
In the past I wouldn’t have thought of using it, but would have used CAD or BIM but frankly, this is quick and easy.
Infogram. This looks interesting. It makes infographicss, reports and overview dashboards and has a free option.
To convey some ideas this may be the appropriate tool to use. Its something I’ve wanted to explore so I will be giving it a tryout.
Mind maps and Flow Charts
I’ve started to use these a bit more frequently and have found a couple of tools that are quite handy. For mind maps/bubble diagrams I really like Bubbl.us and for free version you can get 3 project spaces . There is also Mindmeister & Coggle that do pretty much the same and have their own free versions that you can play with.
An alternative to the one below is Draw.io , which is a free application and you can just get on with what you want to do. Its a bit simpler, but lets you just get on with the job. I quite like its setup.
I’ve just come across LucidCharts that seems to offer a more Visio type setup and a lot of alternative templates. There is a free version that I’ve just signed up for. This seems to allow for more flexible graphic designs and do things like Org charts, flow diagrams, process steps in a better manner than the ones above, so I’ll be tring this out too. ACTUALLY , its rubbish, anything useful is in the paid version. Do not waste your time with it. Not worth bothering with. Also price per month is same as Microsoft Visio, I think I’d rather go with Visio instead.
PDFEscape Free PDF editor & form filler
PDFEscape. This is a cool tool. I use Adobe Acrobat but sometimes you are out and about and need an online PDF editing tool. I can really see this as being a very handy tool indeed.
I was initially confused with the image import as I uploaded an image but then did not crate a box on the page, so nothing happened. Otherise easy to use, also great for form filling too, so I’ll definitely be using this in the future.
Video meetings and recordings
Zoom. This allows you to have video meetings & webinars and has a free account as part of its pricing plan. I havent used it much but its a handy tool instead of skype and its in your browser, so online
Loom. This allows you to record your screen and have a talking heat inset too. You record the video with a desktop programme and then the video is saved in the cloud and then you send the link to someone. It tells you when its been viewed.
Handy if you are having problems with your PC, say a programme install, you can show problem and send it to the support team. Also good for a quick video email if you are trying to explain a design issue to another consultant or to see if a product supplier can meet your needs by showing them the issue in a model.
I use OBS ( Open Broadcaster Software, free) to do my You Tube videos but for quick and easy clips I’ll use Loom every time, far easier.
I’ve found a few new online programmes that are going to be useful while writing this article and am keen to give them a try.
These types of tools help you if you are working in different places, you can just call them up, you don’t need to worry whether they are loaded onto the PC you are using.
Some of them stand the test of time, others don’t , it will be interesting to see which ones do.