Top 10 tools – 2014

Image from Pixabay
Image from Pixabay

It’s that time of year again as L&D professionals across the globe submit their top 10 tools for learning on the brilliant Jane Hart‘s list. If you haven’t already done so, you have a little more time to get your entries in – the closing date is Friday 19 September 2014

My current list, in no particular order, looks like this:

  • Evernote
  • Pocket
  • Chrome browser
  • Pixlr Express
  • WordPress
  • Compfight
  • Feedly
  • Twitter
  • Yammer
  • Youtube

I think it’s interesting to compare the list above with my submission from 2 years ago and spot that there are some tools which are on both the 2012 and 2014 lists.

Evernote remains my favourite 2nd brain app. It’s ability to sync across all devices is essential for me and I’m a big fan of the Evernote Moleskine notebooks for their quality and the fact you get 3 months free Evernote premium subscription when you purchase the notebook. The key to using Evernote is that the more you put in, the more you get out. I write all my journal notes in it, create blog posts and ideas, retain links and manage it through notebook stacks.

Since getting a Chromebook earlier this year, using Chrome based apps has affected the tools I use. Chrome is also on both lists; having all my bookmarks and history across any device so ably makes for browsing ease. I’m finding a few challenges recently with using Microsoft products and Chrome – I’m hoping these sort themselves. The Chromebook experience is steadily improving and I can see them becoming the goto device in schools shortly. Donald Clark is right – the addition of a keyboard changes them from a content consumption to a content creation tool.

WordPress is also on both lists – I recommend it as a blogging platform as it seems the most familiar for people to use with simple editing tools and a relatively intuitive design. I like how it can be customised and made to look how I want it. It’s also a networking tool for me as I can see who’s reading my content. I’m not sure that I’ll move to LinkedIn as a blogging platform…it’s not all about the views for me and I like to keep some things separate.

I was frustrated beyond belief when Google dropped it’s Reader tool. I struggled for ages to find a suitable RSS feed replacement and, after a many attempts, fell upon Feedly. It’;s simple to set up and easy to add feeds in the way Reader was. In addition it also syncs across all my devices and platforms seamlessly. I’ll admit to being surprised by the number of people who don’t use RSS feeds to keep their professional knowledge current.  Julie Drybrough wrote a super post about people who do and don’t use SoMe – RSS is a good way to introduce people to another way of working.

Pocket is an addition to my list. Although a strong user of  Feedly and Evernote I felt I was missing a tool to just capture items worthy of review before I decided to keep or bin them. Pocket adds a step into my aggregation activity. I see a link and send it to Pocket, make time to review through Pocket and then retain in (Evernote) or delete/share. This additional step doesn’t add much in time to my curation but I’ve noticed a real step up in the quality of what I decide to either keep or discard now.

I’ve got rid of Tweetdeck from my list and replaced it with Twitter. It’s my go to place for connections but found that the Tweetdeck client wasn’t working as I’d expected on my mobile devices. I switched to Tweetcaster Pro for my mobile use and it’s one of only 3 apps that I’ve ever paid money for (it’s that good). Ultimately, it’s not the client that you access Twitter with; Twitter is the tool and the clients are just ways to access it.

Compfight is new to my tools this time round. I hadn’t appreciated how many images I used in learning activity and realised I needed to source diverse images and quirky content. This is where Compfight comes into its own; effectively it searches FlickR for copyright free and creative commons images. These can then be used in blogs, elearning, presentations etc. What makes it so simple is that every image has clear terms of use and the HTML code to create correct attribution.

The other image tool in my list is Pixlr Express. Available as an app in Chrome or online, it is a sophisticated image editing tool which, although is no Photoshop, is able to manage most day to day photo editing tasks. It includes a collage maker, filters, cropping tools and the usual blurring, focus, contrast and colour options. Having a free photo editing tool means I’m happy to take more pictures than previously knowing I can edit them simply.

I’ve a further  social tool in my list this year. Yammer is an enterprise social network that was founded in 2008 but sold to Microsoft in 2012. Since then, it’s been bundled in Microsoft Office suite and is being made available as a collaboration tool for business. I’ve been using it at work recently and it could be a game changer in workplace connectivity. It’s simple, intuitive and accessible to anyone in an organisation with an email. If it isn’t rated higher than 20 in this year’s survey I’ll be surprised.

Last entry in my list this year is Youtube. I’ve not included it before because of the lack of access that I’ve had to it in work. However, with workarounds I’m now able to appreciate how useful it is as a learning tool. Name a topic and there is most likely a range of videos showing you how to overcome/develop/add/edit what you are trying to achieve.

As for the others that dropped from my list:

I still use my Android tablet but it’s less about the hardware and more about the apps that it can support. Since I got my Chromebook I find the tablet is becoming more redundant.

Moodle was the platform I have built most of my content on and it’s still a great tool but I use it less and less now as it becomes a place for hosting content that is created elsewhere. Having said that, it’s a brilliant curation tool.

I still purchase Kindle books but it has now all but replaced my ‘analogue’ book purchases – it doesn’t seem right to list it as a tool when it’s effectively the only way I read books.

PowerPoint was on my list previously because I used it for photo editing as well as learning content design. As I’m developing less and less face to face content I realise that I need to use it less and less. In addition there are many other tools available that could (and have) replaced it such as Haiku Deck and Google Slides.

Mindjet is the most disappointing drop from my previous list. It was a super app for note taking but has become less reliable, failing to sync and export full maps and so I’ve had to let it drop from my list.

What tools are new to you and which tools have you given up on? Let me know in the comments.

9 thoughts on “Top 10 tools – 2014

  1. Breeze, for keeping track of tasks/deadlines for projects for cross-team communication
    Gadwin PrintScreen, not a new tool, but still my favourite for screenshots


  2. Thanks Jeni. I’m exploring Trello as a collaboration tool so I’l look at Breeze and Slack. Aince most of mu work in on a chromebook now I’ll have to pass on Gadwin Printscreen.

    Thanks for sharing!


  3. Hey Andrew! This is a great list — Evernote, Pocket, and Twitter are a couple of my favorite apps, too! I’ve also tried the TweetDeck app, and it wasn’t as great as I had hoped it would be either; HootSuite however turned out a lot better though, maybe you can check that one out when you have a chance!

    Also, thank you so much for mentioning Haiku Deck! I’d like to personally invite you and your readers to check out our Web App beta ( if you haven’t tried it already – feedback is always welcome and appreciated; we’re always looking for ways to make it better!

    Lisa Ma
    Haiku Deck Customer Evangelist


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