December 14, 2017

We talked about a lot of tools here this year. What were your favorites? Here are ours. 

Hare: Hi, Ren! It’s beginning to look a lot like time for a highlights article to end the year. Before we start, I just want to say how much fun these are each week (for me at least.) Thanks for being on the hunt for ways to make our work better.

LaForme: Kristen! Working with you on these is always such a delight. I hope some of these things I’ve shared have helped you and the folks who read these things.

So, yeah. Let’s take a look back on some of the tools we talked about the year. I’ll share some of my favorites from the bunch and maybe you can do the same?

Hare: Deal! Please get us started.

LaForme: When we started these things way back in March, I thought it would be smart to have themed months. That ended up not working out in the long run, but that first month of video tools went well, I think.

We talked about Verse, Filmic Pro, Videoshop and Hyperlapse. Verse is a powerful tool to make interactive videos, Filmic Pro is a better camera app than the one your phone comes with, Videoshop is a terrific mobile video editing tool and Hyperlapse is a magic app for making smooth timelapses.

Out of the bunch, I think Videoshop is the most useful day to day. It’s so great to be able to just edit a few clips together on your phone. Verse is the most ambitious. I’ve been waiting for the right moment to do a cool, interactive video but haven’t found it yet. Maybe I’ll make that a priority for 2018.

Hare: Those are all great and concrete tools that can help make your work itself better. I’m picking three favorites that make the process of doing work better.

In July, you told us about a tool that lets you work weird hours without making your coworkers feel like they have to, too.

Boomerang, which is free, is a great way to stay on top of things and work when you need to without killing your culture.

Another “make things better” tool you introduced us to was similar to Boomerang, and it’s one that slows down the endless fire hydrant that is most of our inboxes. Inbox Pause is a really smart way to get that deep work in and not let yourself be distracted by that person in the office who hits “reply all” all the time.

Finally, I really loved a recent tool that reminded us to have fun – The New York Times’ crossword app. I do the mini when I need what my first-grader calls a brain break.

LaForme: I’m so glad you liked those. My inclination with this feature at first was to do those really concrete things. It’s the obvious thing, right? An app that makes your videos cooler is interesting on its face. But these workflow and culture tools are the real gamechangers.

The biggest surprise for me was Scribe, now known as Happy Scribe. I obviously assumed an automatic transcription tool would be popular with journalists, but I didn’t expect it to blow up like it did.

I didn’t realize they had just launched when they pitched me, and the traffic we sent to their fledgling servers made them crash. Now they’re graduated (it was made by a couple of college students) and they’re hard at work on new features.

The success of that one and the amount of questions we fielded about it led me to do a big old review of transcription tools. A tool called Trint barely edged out Happy Scribe in my review, but I still use Happy Scribe a ton. It works pretty well and 10 cents a minute is such a reasonable price.

Hare: Yes, that was a good rabbit hole to start down. Well, here’s to the end of what feels like the longest year ever, and to the tools you’re going to spend your holiday finding to make our work and our work lives better next year!

LaForme: I’ll cheers to that! I can’t wait to pause my inbox.

Editor's note: This is the latest in a series of articles that highlight digital tools for journalists. You can read the others here. Got a tool we should talk about? Let Ren know!

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Kristen Hare covers the people and business of local news and is the editor of Locally at Poynter. She previously worked as a staff writer…
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