Several years ago, I went on the road for work in connection with a position I had taken. That was the end of the use of my beloved desktop computer, and when I converted exclusively to a laptop and smartphone. (Well it was a Blackberry, so maybe a semi-smartphone.) Gone was my comfy keyboard, trusty mouse and beloved big screen monitor.
I had been one of the brave souls who paid big bucks for the first model of the Apple Macintosh, but several events lead me to then attempt what we at the time called “the dark side”—abandoning my Mac for a PC. I had done well with my Mac and, thankfully, Microsoft had rolled out Windows by that time.
Cut to 2019, and I have learned a lot about the best apps, programs and digital gadgets for BSC’s that have now become invaluable for me professionally. Most of these are free or cheap enough for even the smallest company owner to afford.
A Gmail account opens the entire Google suite of products and services that are ominously entitled: The G Suite. While everyone is familiar with Google Search, Google’s other products have become necessities professionally. Google Calendar and Tasks now work together, pulling information from Gmail seamlessly. Google’s Android smartphone platform works in conjunction with these and gives me an almost fully functioning second computer in my pocket.
Blogger by Google is by far the simplest and cleanest of all blogging tools. I have fought with WordPress and played with Tumblr, but I keep coming back to Blogger for speed and simplicity. Blogger also has a leg up on any other platforms when it comes to Google Search. (At one point, I had a solid 10 pages about me on Google Search, thanks primarily to Blogger.) With Blogger there’s no reason not to be doing some content marketing for your company.
Google Voice is a completely free second phone line with a unique number that you can either forward to your phone or use as a repository of calls that do not require your immediate attention. Google Voice also has a voice mail feature that transcribes phone calls into text and delivers them to your email inbox.
Google Docs, Sheets and Drive are an info junkie’s dream. Google cut into Microsoft’s Office market with the creation of these apps, as they are simple and clean tools that do almost everything I need without forcing me to deal with Microsoft. With Google Drive, I can keep whatever I find at my fingertips, and I never have to lose anything by forgetting to hit “Save”. I can also share documents, spreadsheets, PDF’s and Presentation slides with anyone via the available “Share” feature, and all recipients of such a share can see and edit those documents with real-time updates. Furthermore, it’s all free with a Gmail account.
Like everyone, when I got online, I built a battery of bookmarks that worked well until my collection grew out of control. Evernote then became a dream come true for my web surfing needs.
My surfing is an extension of my ongoing self-education program, and while I do waste some time surfing (playing with random text generators such as the Shakespearean Insult Generator, catching up on “Best of Craigslist” or, even the most egregious time waster, reading my own Facebook feed), most of my computer time is for me to either learn or produce.
Evernote allows me to clip interesting things I find on the web, but, more importantly, it also allows me to categorize those clips in a meaningful way with a single click. It’s like having a file cabinet tied directly to my browser that saves whatever I find interesting.
One of my favorite features in Evernote is the ability to share files (you can have different files for sets of things you’ve clipped) with others, making collaboration on projects requiring research easy and possible. The time I’ve spent finding important information does not need to be repeated by another team member, and instead I can share what I have found in a tidy form to colleagues.
Also, with Evernote, instead of just links, you can see what was clipped—such as a webpage, an article, a portion of an article, a picture, a PDF, or a video—exactly as it appeared on your screen. After bookmarks, Evernote is lightyears ahead in its usefulness, so I no longer bookmark anything.
In the old days, buildings came one by one to BSC’s. Today, it’s not uncommon for a BSC to have to deal with multiple buildings at a time. Lists of buildings usually arrive in columns on spreadsheets. BatchGeo gives you the ability to look at that list with buildings presented as color coded pins on a live map, which then gives you far more information at a glance.
I’ve used BatchGeo maps in proposals, new account rollouts, handouts to new managers and route techs. You will still use your lists on spreadsheets, but a free site that allows you to cut and paste a list of cities and instantly see a map with those cites represented can save you both time and effort on a project. Furthermore, you can have other information—such as budgets, hours or other text—on each pin in the map as well.
With BatchGeo, once you map a list, it’s saved online for later revision or use. There is a time limit to how long your map is saved while using the free version, but the time limit for each list is several months.
The ability to write is critical to success. You don’t have to write extraordinarily well, but you do have to be understood. Among the numerous horrifying features of social media is the revelation that there are so many people in the world that are unable to craft a single cohesive thought in writing.
Grammarly is a basic English teacher watching over your shoulder as you type who does not smack you with a ruler, but instead gently offers the correct answer. Hyphenation, punctuation, capitalization and word use problems are underlined. Placing the cursor over the underlined word or word group gives you the correct usage, and a click replaces your mistake.
Grammarly is not limited to checking documents, but also checks email, social media or anything else that you type—this allows you to appear as if you have a basic grasp of written English. Word processing programs almost all have some spelling and grammar checking capability, but the real-time correction on everything else makes this app one of my favorites.
Also, once a week, you receive an email from Grammarly with details about how many words you wrote, where your common problems are in your writing and where you rank with other Grammarly users in vocabulary usage. For those with limited English skills, Grammarly is a critical tool to improve your writing.
My final entry into this list of favorite freebies is Verify-email. I can find the email address of just about anyone in less than 5 minutes because of this gem. Pick up the name of a shy buyer? No LinkedIn profile? Can’t get past a gatekeeper? With Verify-email, that’s no longer a limitation.
You can test all forms of a company’s email system and find an individual’s email address in a few minutes. Email address syntax is easy to decode, and testing on this free site gives you email addresses when you have a name only.
By Ed Selkow, Co-Founder of Scientific Maintenance Corporation and Founder & Moderator of Future Technologies Group and Janitorial Subcontracting Network Group