Written by Erin Van Ness

Here at Event 360, we have a crack team of coding ninjas that are somehow able to drop-kick their way into making the impossible possible. But you don’t have to be a sensei to make good use of today’s available technology. Here are some of our trade secret tools that tech masters and tech novices alike can use to help make the work day a little easier.

  • Notepad++ is hands down my favorite text editor. You can use it for anything involving text, CSV, XML, HTML, or insert-programming-language-of-your-choice-here. If you’re a WYSIWYG user that sometimes needs to edit in plain text mode to get your content just right, Notepad++ is the tool for you. You can copy and paste in the code, set your language to HTML, and watch the text transform into beautiful colors that will make your tags, classes, and IDs a lot easier to read and understand. Put your cursor on the opening tag and the matching closing tag will highlight. Plus the multiple tab option means you can work on more than one thing at a time. Available for Windows users only.
  • As someone who tests and troubleshoots websites on a regular basis, browser extensions have become a part of my daily support network (second only to my daily dose of coffee).
    • Chrome is my go-to browser, but for web development and testing, Firefox is my best friend. The Web Developer add-on is a life-saver. It easily identifies errors, allows you to quickly disable or edit cookies, take screen measurements, and utilize a hundred other worthwhile functions right from your browser toolbar. It’s the handiest tool since the hammer (which you should never use on your website, by the way).
    • Speaking of errors, the Firebug extension (also a Firefox exclusive) is a great tool for debugging website errors, particularly for troubleshooting JavaScript and API issues.
    • Colorzilla’s eyedropper tool lets you grab the hex code of a color from your browser that you can instantly paste into another program with the click of a button. It’s a great way to make sure you’re using colors on your website consistently. Available for both Firefox and Chrome.
    • The Clear Cache button is another must-have tool whether you’re a web developer or a web tester. Instead of going all the way through your browser tools, click the button in your toolbar and poof! History has been obliterated, and your website has a fresh start. Available for both Firefox and Chrome.
    • Not a fan of Internet Explorer? You’re not alone. The IE Tab for Chrome extension allows you to see what your website would look like in IE from the comfort of your Chrome browser. It’s also great for accessing websites that work best in IE without actually having to use IE. Available for Windows users only.
    • Chrome-to-Phone is an extension that lets you send the current page you are browsing to your Android phone with the click of a button. It’s an especially convenient tool when you’re testing across multiple devices. Reproducing all the steps to get to the place you just found can be a bear, and let’s face it, no one likes typing out long URLs with their touchpad keyboard. It’s also great for gaining quick access to the sites you recently looked at on your desktop while you’re on the go. Fox-to-Phone is also available for Firefox users.
  • Looking to lighten the mood with your placeholder content? There’s a plethora of fun ipsum generators out there, from Hipster Ipsum to Cat Ipsum, even Pirate Ipsum. I’m partial to Bacon Ipsum, but there’s also a vegetarian alternative for those opposed to meat fillers.
  • You can also make sure your new web design is a hit by filling your placeholder images with kittens. Because every layout needs more kittens.
  • Google Keep is a robust task manager that allows you to access your notes, lists, or reminders from any online device with apps for your computer, your Chrome browser, and your phone. The archiving feature means you can store away old notes but access them later if needed. Share your list with someone, and you can both keep it updated in real time. You can also turn any note instantly into a Google Doc.
  • By now you probably know that you can use Skype for instant messaging or video chatting with your friends and family across the globe, but for less than $50/year you can also get a phone number that anyone can call from anywhere. Bonus: you get free outgoing calls. Use it while working at your computer to answer cell phone calls, business calls, and everything in between.
  • Chromecast is a small HDMI device you can plug into your TV to stream content directly from your phone or computer. Simply download the Chromecast app to your phone or add the Google Cast extension to your Chrome browser. It’s a great way to browse through photos and presentations on the big screen, or even catch up on new episodes of Orange is the New Black on Netflix (not on office time, of course). Available for $37.99 on Amazon.
  • When multiple monitors aren’t available but you need to look at two different programs at once, Windows split screen is a handy feature. Windows 7 users can drag one program to the far right until an expanded outline of the window appears. Drag the other program to the far left and do the same thing. Each program should snap to fit the middle of the screen. It’s a little more complicated for Windows 8 users. Mac users can either download an app or upgrade to the OS X El Capitan release (available as of September 30).
  • Network-Tools.com has all the network-related tools you could want, including ping testing and spam blacklist checking. The Advanced Tool for DNS Records is particularly useful.
  • Snagit is an awesome program for image capture and notation. You can take screenshots, then add arrows to point at items and add text to describe what’s going on (hint: your IT support team loves it when you can show them exactly what the problem is). You can also take a video of your screen actions, which makes it great for developing training materials. The full version is available for $49.95 for Windows, Mac, and Chromebook users, but a free Chrome extension is also available for in-browser use only.
  • It seems like a smart-aleck item to put on a list of our favorite tech tools, but I’m serious when I say Google is the tech tool that I use the most often (i.e. every day). Remember when your teacher used to say there’s no such thing as a stupid question? In the age of infinite internet websites, you can probably find the answer to any question you have by using Google. Why is Outlook ruining your email layout? How can you make that button flush to the left? Why did my Wi-Fi suddenly stop working? Break out your inner Google-Fu and karate chop your way to solving your own tech problems. Or at the very least, give your IT department some indication that you tried to solve the problem yourself before you punted it in their direction.

And when all else fails and even Google can’t help you, you can always look to the moon and stars for advice. Maybe everything that’s going wrong isn’t the IT department’s fault after all.

Erin manages the CRM and website projects for MuckFest® MS, the Susan G. Komen 3-Day®, and the Susan G. Komen Washington, D.C. Race for the Cure®. When she’s not busy fixing your website buttons, you can find her volunteering for Chicago’s CHIRP Radio or attending concerts around town.

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