There are several online tools that I use on a regular basis to either store information or communicate information. Here is a list of the tools I use and how I use them.
Evernote. Evernote.com is an online storage space where I keep virtually everything that I get from anyone related to appliance repair. Evernote is free up to a certain amount – but I pay for the upgraded version so that I can upload information each month. The huge benefit with Evernote is that everything is searchable. They do OCR (Optical Character Recognition) on all documents you upload so that every word on every piece of paper you upload is indexed and can be searched. So when I search for …. ‘cracked liner’ I find all the service pointers I’ve saved about cracked liners. I also find the part numbers that I’ve saved there for the kits that I’ve used in the past, and I find all the dispatches that I’ve done where the words ‘cracked liner’ appear. From there I can print, email or just read the information that I’ve stored.
I’ve scanned all the paper manuals I’ve ever received and store them all here. I copy all my Service Pointer emails here so that I can use the search function to find information later. I also scan all my work orders and dispatches and upload them. This creates a searchable database of all the work I’ve ever done for anyone. I forward all appliance related emails. I clip pages from other appliance sites when I see something I might need again in the future. It is my appliance repair library.
I’ve been using Evernote for 4 or 5 years now, so my database is getting pretty huge … but also totally invaluable for me. I don’t have to remember stuff – Evernote does that for me.
Posterous. If Evernote is my storage device, then Posterous would be my communication device. Posterous is basically a Micro Blogging platform. They specialize in making it easy to place information online that you can share with others. (On Monday, Posterous was sold to Twitter – so hopefully it continues to be a tool that we can use the way we currently are.) I currently use my Posterous account to communicate my problems or what I am seeing with other people. Sometimes I am asking for techline help – sometimes I’m asking other tech’s I know to comment on what I’m seeing and sometimes I am showing a Manufacturer what I’m seeing in the field. Pretty much anything where you need to show somebody something can be stored and shared from here. This is made especially easy with the smartphone apps that Posterous has created to facilitate uploading information. I use my Android cell phone to easily upload pictures and videos from the field. When I’m at home, I will use Posterous to communicate parts problems to my parts suppliers. It is also free.
Here is a quick tutorial on how to use it:
- Sign up at Posterous.com. It’s free.
- Once you have your account, you can download the app for Posterous. It is available for both the iPhone and Android platforms.
- Snap your pictures or take your video.
- Use the ‘share’ function on your phone and choose the Posterous App.
- Name your ‘post’ and add the pictures or videos and hit update. That’s it.
So, as you can see, anything that you have where you need to show somebody something, Posterous is a great tool.
Couple of Best Practice notes:
If you are showing somebody something that has private information attached … a bill of sale, or maybe customer information, you can mark that post as private. This will prevent that post from being shown on your Posterous homepage and will prevent it from being shared via RSS. You will get a link that is marked ‘private’ that you can share only with the people who actually need to see it. My Posterous site has pages of posts – you can only see those that I’ve not marked as private though.
If you are sharing something with a manufacturer, you might consider titling the post by the dispatch number that you’ve been given. This makes it easy to find again in the future and makes it easy for the manufacturer to look up.
You can save audio here too – so voicemails can be shared. This also makes it easy to share noises that you’ve recorded. I usually use the video function on my phone to record sounds, but you could also use any other recording app and share it here.
Snap pictures of floor damage or dings in doors before you start your work. Save those here, so that if a customer comes back saying you damaged something, you will have proof that the damage was there before you started. I have tons of pictures of floors that I snapped before pulling fridges and stoves out. Never needed to use them, but you never know.
Jing. Jing is a piece of software that you install on your computer that allows you to either take a screenshot or a video of what you are seeing on your screen. I think it is only for Windoz, so Mac users will have to find something else. This is the software that I used to make the notes in the red boxes in the above examples. It is very simple to use – this should get you started:
Download Jing. Make sure you grab the free version – for what we use it for here, the paid version is not needed.
Install it on your computer.
It will put a little yellow ball at the top of your screen that looks like this.
When you roll over the ball, it will pop out and give you 3 options.
Use the option on the left to set the space you want to capture. You will then have a screen that looks like this:
Then you can mark up your snapshot with boxes, arrows, highlights or text. These are available from a box on the side of the snapshot like this:
Finally, you share what you’ve created. You can insert it into a blog post like what I’m doing here. You can upload the image to Posterous as I’ve shown you above. Or you can insert the image into an email.
Here is an example of a screencast video created with Jing. You can use this to show someone what you are seeing on your screen … maybe a parts issue or something along those lines.
It might take a bit of time to learn how to do this the first time, but once you’ve used Jing a couple of times you will find how quick and easy it is to use.
Those are the 3 main tools that I use in my business. Hope this helps you. If you have any other suggested tools or usages, I would love to hear them. I’m a bit of a gadget guy, so I love messing around with new stuff.