Here are some digital tools for a more productive — and fun — summer

A special edition of the Try This! — Tools for Journalism newsletter written by Jeremy Caplan from CUNY’s Newmark Grad School of Journalism.

July 14, 2020
Category: Tech & Tools

This article originally appeared in Try This! — Tools for Journalism, our newsletter about digital tools. Want bite-sized news, tutorials and ideas about the best digital tools for journalism in your inbox every Tuesday? Sign up here.

Welcome! I’m Jeremy Caplan, a guest contributor with some new tools and resources. I’m director of teaching and learning for CUNY’s Newmark Grad School of Journalism in New York City and a former Time Magazine reporter. I explore new stuff and write about the most useful tools I find in a free newsletter called Wonder Tools.

Public Google Docs and Sheets are increasingly popular among journalists for sharing lists like media salaries, serial harassers and other such stuff. Now there’s a handy way to search for these docs. Sourceful collects and indexes valuable public Google Docs and Sheets.

I searched recently for journalism docs and found Bellingcat’s online investigation toolkit, an open journalism job sheet and a list of journalists doing pro bono work. Creator Matthew Salamon says docs are submitted by users and through a web crawler looking for popular links on social media, which then go through a manual curation process. He recently started adding public slide decks.

For an open-source alternative to Google Docs for remote journalism collaboration, explore the current version of Etherpad. Collaborators can type directly into a doc with their own color so you know what comes from whom. There’s a chat section inside the page for discussing edits as you draft or edit a story or coverage plan. To add collaborators, just send them the link.

Caveat: These are technically public docs, albeit with a link only you have. You can save revisions along the way and use a cool playback function to see how the doc ended up where it is. You can always revert to prior versions. When done, you can export as text or HTML. Video.etherpad.com adds audio or video chat to your pad. People can turn their video or audio on or off as they prefer.

Got a spreadsheet that might be useful for readers? Turn it into an app quickly and easily with Glide Apps. Here’s an example of one I just made showing 130+ journalists and journalism organizations on TikTok. And here’s another with 50+ great podcasts.

I love Canva for creating all sorts of graphics, from YouTube thumbnails to social posts. A new alternative I posted about recently is Projector, a slick resource for non-designers. Another fantastic one for slides specifically is beautiful.ai, which has a gorgeous array of graphics you can include in your slide decks.

It’s harder to network now that many of us are working for home. One new approach is Lunch Club, which sets up one-on-one virtual meetings for you with people who share professional interests. I’ve also been using Bridge (in beta) as a way to make introductions — it streamlines the back-and-forth of double-opt-in intros, making sure people are open to connecting. It also enables follow-up updates, so people easily can share whether the intro worked out.

For nudges to keep in touch with your network, Dex is a new tool that helps organize your contacts. For help staying on task while working from home, Focusmate pairs you up with someone remotely simply so you’ll be less likely to waste time.

Webcams are woefully weak, and Apple’s 2020 webcams — like those on most other laptops — are basically just as lousy as they were in 2010. You can try using Zoom’s “Touch up my appearance” feature, or hunt on eBay for webcams sold out elsewhere. But your best bet may be Camo — a brilliant new app launching this week that uses your existing iPhone or iPad. The cameras on iOS devices outshine even the priciest Logitech webcams. You can use Camo free, or pay $30 (or $40 after July 16) to remove the watermark and customize camera options.

Another boost to Zoom is on its way in the form of the Mmhmm app from former Evernote CEO Phil Libin. The app lets you present visuals in cool new ways, making meetings and classes more interactive and engaging. Here’s a video that’ll give you a sense of it.

If you’re like me and sometimes drown in browser tabs these days, try Toby to tame them. Or turn your favorite sites into apps. Fluid is handy and free for making any site act like a desktop app on your Mac. You can keep your most-used sites as apps in your dock along with the other apps you use most.

For a recharge break — or a pause from the news— check out a list I curated of the best games to play remotely. Top picks include Brightful for meeting icebreakers, Playingcards.io for remote traditional games, or GoGoGo for family.

Finally, if you’re looking to spruce up your skills during this pandemic summer with a quick learning sprint, learning opportunities abound. Here are some opportunities:

Sign up for my free Wonder Tools newsletter to get useful tools and resources in your inbox. Subscribe today and I’ll share an updated list of the most useful free sites and apps for working at home, plus an updated list of great newsletters about journalism.

Thanks for reading! Wishing health and comfort to you and your loved ones.

Try This! is supported by the American Press Institute and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Comments

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  • Thank you for mentioning Sourceful! We hope to have a positive impact on journalism by helping to find high-quality docs.

    I feel that this format will be particularly exciting going into the presidential election in the US!