How I work: Paul Stansberry, part 2 Software
Written by Marketing on August 26, 2015
Paul is one of our Appraisal Product Instructors. He's an expert on a la mode software and mobile workflow solutions, and is an unabashed gadget hound and device geek. He's taught hundreds of classes over the years to appraisers and is recognized as a leading authority on using laser measurement tools in appraisal work. Catch him in-person at an upcoming a la mode Roadshow event by registering online: http://workshops.alamode.com
Last week, in part one of this post, I talked about the hardware that I use to get work done both in the office and on the road. This week, I'm covering the other piece of my productivity puzzle: software.
Some of the options here will have direct applications for appraisal work and others may help you improve your day-to-day productivity in general. I use almost every one of these on a near daily basis:
- Windows 10 – My Lenovo X1 Carbon came pre-installed with Windows 8.1 when I got it in March. But Microsoft released Windows 10 in late July, so I’ve now upgraded this device to the latest version.
Most people, including appraisers, just want something that works. But as I say in our mobile workshops, “When are we going to stop doing what works, in order to do what works better?” Specifically in regards to Windows and my personal setup, Windows 10 lets me get considerably better performance and screen real estate out of my brand new laptop’s ultra-high-resolution screen.
Aside from that, Windows 10 is a free upgrade, and eliminates many of the perceived complaints users had with Windows 8.1. There’s really no reason NOT to upgrade if you haven't already.
- MS Office 2013 – I write a lot as part of my job, and crunch numbers for expenses, take a lot of notes to keep organized, etc. As a result, I use Word, Excel, Outlook, and OneNote constantly.
- OneDrive and Dropbox – These two services are invaluable for transferring files from one device to another and allowing access to critical files from anywhere, on any device. In our Modern Appraiser Roadshows, we talk about how Dropbox is useful to appraisers for syncing the Workfile items of your current work assignments to all your mobile devices so you have access from wherever you are.
Generally speaking, most people only need one of these services. That being said, I actually have and use both specifically to separate work and personal files. I use Microsoft OneDrive for things like my family photos, personal files and documents, etc. I use Dropbox for synchronizing work files among my devices.
While both have a free tier, the storage space is limited. Both are reasonably priced, but I prefer OneDrive — you get 1TB of storage space plus a copy of Microsoft Office for around $10 a month. Dropbox offers similar storage for a similar price, but doesn't include the copy of Office, of course.
- Spotify – I use Spotify to stream music online. I pay for the premium service ($9.99/mo) so I can play downloaded music when I'm not on WiFi. There's also a free tier — use with caution if you don't have an unlimited mobile data plan.
- Genius Scan – This app is fantastic for digitizing paper documents, like deeds and contracts, into a PDF for permanent storage in your Workfile. I use it for managing receipts while I travel.
I like using Genius Scan over my phone’s camera because it uses an algorithm for optimizing the photo and automatically cleans it up before making a PDF (or JPG, in my case). This saves me the time of manually cleaning up the image myself. The app is $6.99, and is available on every major platform.
- Skype – Skype started as a video calling application, but a lot has changed since Microsoft acquired it in 2011. Skype now offers not only free video calling, but also voice service, free instant messaging, and click-to-call integration in many websites. It’s really cool!
I often use Skype to collaborate with other employees who are off-site to talk about complex topics instead of endlessly e-mailing about them. I also use it to call my kids when I’m travelling.
- WinSnap – Screenshots are a great way to easily capture something you see on-screen to save as an image in your records. Windows contains a built-in screen capture feature (ALT+Print Screen), but I find WinSnap to be far more flexible. I can use it to capture my entire monitor, part of the monitor, just a specific application, or several different specific windows.
- F.lux – Most people have never heard of F.lux. It’s a great app that adjusts your monitor’s color spectrum away from pure white, reducing eye-strain caused by long-time continuous use of a computer monitor.
It’s a free application, and I use it in conjunction with my Gunnar glasses. It’s cool because in addition to the color spectrum, it’s aware of the time the sun sets and rises, and automatically adjusts your computer brightness up and down accordingly so that you’re not staring at a super bright monitor un-necessarily in the middle of the night. Don’t lie. I know you work late at night.
In summary, I hope that you’ve found something useful here that can make your day-to-day more productive, more comfortable, more enjoyable, or all of the above. By no means is this a complete list, and I’d love to hear feedback from you as to what apps and tools you chose in your own business and why.
If you've got a software, tool, or solution that works for you, send it to me! Or, if you're interested in contributing a "How I Work" article, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.