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Friday, 9 December 2011

Everyone Loves Free Gifts - Day 7 : Ubuntu

Ubuntu is a complete operating system based on Debian Linux distribution. It is distributed as free and open source.

It is extremely easy to install, and has a number of ways that you can try it as an operating system without having to delete your current OS. 

I was first introduced to Ubuntu in 2006, and since this point I have been impressed with the development of the operating system. It has all the major features you would expect, and I always have a least one machine with a version installed on. Being open source it has a fantastic support community, and is a far more credible alternative to Windows than most people would give credit. I personally prefer using Ubuntu over windows, and can normally find enough software to meet my needs without having to pay for anything. 

Default installs include, 
  • Libre Office (Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Presentations etc)
  • Firefox (Web Browser)
  • Thunderbird (Email Client)
  • GIMP (Photo Editing)
  • Skype (Voice over IP Telephony)
Through Ubunto One it also has its personal cloud to allow you to sync content across multiple machines in much the same way as iCloud. This can be extremely useful in making sure that you always have access to the latest copies of your files.

On all machines I have installed it on, it has given them a new lease of life, as the performance is extremely good, and they feel like a brand new machine.

If you have an old laptop sat in the corner of the office that no one uses, give it a go. You will be impressed.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Everyone Loves Free Gifts - Day 6 : RTM

Remember the milk is an old friend. 
It has been my Get Things Done (GTD) product of choice now for years.

I just love the way that it works. It's simple interface and the ability to add tasks using simple english was revolutionary when it first came out. I still find it really impressive today that I can write

and this task is added complete with a reminder for the next Monday. Sounds simple right, but trust me it saves loads of time over using a calender picker.
With loads of different ways to prioritise your tasks, group them and even have categories which automatically populate based on key words such as "Call" there is no reason for not getting organised.

RTM works on different platforms, and has apps for most smartphones, allowing you to have access to your tasks on the go. You can even get your daily tasks emailed to you in the morning so that you can plan your day.

I love the fact that the developers have stayed true to the original product and have not cluttered it with lots of gimicks. As such it remains an extremely slick and streamlined offering which will help you get more done.

There is a large user community and lots of people have shared how they use RTM in their life, and give plenty of useful tips as to how to get the most out of the software.

Take a look at their website 

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Everyone Loves Free Gifts - Day 5 : Libreoffice

Not everyone thinks that the Cloud is a good idea. Some people still live in areas where it is not possible to get a decent reliable broadband connection, some don't trust having their data on someone elses server. For those they simply must have software that is running locally.

If you are one of those people then the chances are that you need a suite of Office programmes. For many the default position is to buy a copy of Microsoft office and be done with it however there is a very credible alternative available for Free.

Libre Office describes itself as "the power-packed free, libre and open source personal productivity suite for Windows, Macintosh and GNU/Linux, that gives you six feature-rich applications for all your document production and data processing needs: Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, Math and Base. Support and documentation is free from our large, dedicated community of users, contributors and developers."

The roots of Libre Office go back 20 years and it is a very stable product with a good track record. While it is not quite as feature rich as the latest offering from Microsoft it is completely free, which given that most of us don't even scratch the surface with the more advanced features of Office, means that Libre Office will do everything that we want an more. Libre Office is available for Windows, Mac and Linux, so no matter what your hardware you should be able to get a version that suits.
Users of Microsoft Office will find it easy to learn and use, with the feel of the software being familiar and intuitive. It is compatible with all major file formats, and you can easily save back to Microsoft Office versions when required.

So before you buy your next license for Microsoft office, have a look at Libre Office. You will probably be pleasantly surprised and may just save yourself a few quid in the process.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Everyone Loves Free Gifts - Day 4 : Capsule

Capsule is an easy online Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution.

The free edition comes with 10mb of space, 2 Users, 250 Contacts and unlimited opportunities and cases.

Well what does this mean for your business? Put simply it allows you to try using a good well thought out CRM solution without having to spend any money. That way you can be certain that you are going to get a good return on investing in a CRM solution when you outgrow the free constraints.

I've been using Capsule for a couple of months now, and I have to say that I'm impressed. 


Because it is simple, and does what I need, without wanting me to pump in vast amounts of information. It integrates with my Accounting system, meaning that I only have to enter the contact and account details once. It also allows you to capture information from other online tools such as Twitter and Linkedin, which then appear in the contact history. This can be useful when talking to your contacts as it prompts you about recent events and allows you to interact on a more personal level.

Built in task management and the ability to have these tasks sent directly to your chosen diary system, means that your far less likely to forget to follow up on a promise that you've made, or that telephone call that you promised to return.

It can be a bit daunting to set up a CRM system if you've never used one, but Capsule has a good support and blog which will give you guides to get through the common challlenges.

I am convinced that since using Capsule I have won work that I previously would have "lost", and have much better visibility of where my work is coming from and what level of sales potential I have moving forward.

Overall if you don't currently use CRM then I would strongly recommend trying Capsule.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Everyone Loves Free Gifts - Day 3 : Google Docs

Google Docs is quite simply an amazing achievement, and for the majority of individuals presents a very credible alternative to buying a copy of Office.

Google describe it as " a suite of products that lets you create different kinds of documents, work on them in real time with other people, and store your documents and your other files -- all online, and all for free. With an Internet connection, you can access your documents and files from any computer, anywhere in the world. (There's even some work you can do without an Internet connection!) "

It has some amazing features built into it, including the ability to collaborate on documents, use forms to get feedback, to name a couple. It will convert documents from most major formats, and gives a number of export options to download it to your machine.

It also integrates with other google products including google translate. This allows for quick and dirty translation of foreign documents or spreadsheets and can be an invaluable time saver, when a precise translation is not required.

For the majority of us who don't need some of the more complex features of Excel or Access then Google Docs is going to cover what you need from an Office Suite. Don't let the simple appearance of the product convince you that it isn't any good. Underneath the basic exterior is a very powerful tool.
If you still haven't checked it out, go to

Friday, 2 December 2011

Everyone Loves Free Gifts - Day 2 : Dropbox

So Todays Free Stuff is another file tool to help your business run smoothly.

Dropbox is an awesome bit of software. It's simple in concept and it works.

When you register for an account you will get 2gb of online data storage which can be increased through sucessfully inviting friends.

Install dropbox to your machine and it will create a folder which will automatically sync to the dropbox servers securely. Install dropbox on more than one machine and they will all synchronise up to the latest files.

No more hunting for memory sticks to transfer documents from one PC to another, just pop the file into dropbox, and the latest version is now available on all your machines associated with your dropbox account.

In addition you can also get access to your files from other devices such as smartphones, so you should always have the latest files no matter where you are.

You can also use dropbox to collaborate and share files, reducing the need to email large files backwards and forwards. 

If I could only recommend one tool to a new startup business it would be dropbox. 

Why, because it just works!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Everyone Loves Free Gifts - Day 1 : Evernote

Well it's that time of year where Christmas is fast approaching, and in the true spirit of Christmas I thought that I would share with you some free stuff that I've collated over the years, and find useful for running my business.

I'll be giving one tip away each day for the next 12 days so don't forget to come back for more.

1 - Evernote

Evernote is a great tool to get yourself organised. It enables you to store information, documents, printouts, photos, and just about anything else you can think of in a big digital filing cabinet. It comes with plenty of smart indexing and retrieval features to make it easy to find what your looking for, and can radically reduce the amount of paperwork that you have lying around the office.

If you haven't got it, get it, you won't regret it.


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