My Must-Have Digital Media Tools: 2018 Edition

Jane Friedman Favorite Digital Media Tools 2018

Every year, I update this post with tools that have indispensable to my business, productivity, and well-being. Here’s my 2018 list. There are no affiliate links in this post and I have not been paid to recommend any of these services or products.

1. Zoom

Zoom is my go-to online meeting service that I find exceptionally reliable; it’s like Skype, only better. I use it for client meetings, personal chats, online courses, and even to pipe in guest speakers for in-person events. It can record all meetings; once the meeting ends, the resulting file is downloaded locally or stored in the cloud (or both). I’ve found it nearly foolproof since participants can join on any device (including a phone), use video, or stick with audio only. Find out more about Zoom. You’ll find both free and paid plans.

example of Zoom interface

2. Acuity Scheduling

Acuity + Zoom is how I streamline my client meetings and scheduling. Acuity is a full-featured appointment and scheduling service that allows anyone to book free or paid appointments with you. No more back-and-forth emailing to set up appointment times, and it hooks into availability on your Google calendar (among others). Acuity can be embedded into your site or shared as a link. Free to start and $15/month for most features you want.

Acuity Scheduling

3. Gravity Forms + Stripe for payments

Since I primarily sell services from my site and not products, I don’t need a shopping cart or fully featured e-commerce solution (such as WooCommerce). Instead, I use the premium plugin, Gravity Forms, along with Stripe payments. This allows people to buy specific service packages by completing a form, then filling out their credit card info. (PayPal is also an add-on option for Gravity Forms, among many others.) Learn more about Gravity Forms.

4. Evernote

I resisted using Evernote for years, but since 2015, it’s become integral to my workflow. I use it to maintain a primary work to-do list, which then syncs automatically across all my devices (desktop, laptop, phone, tablet). Every day I use it for quick drafting—for blog posts, research notes, interviews, and conference talk outlines. Form letters and other pieces of writing or information that I use frequently (or even infrequently) get stored for easy copy-paste into email. Writers will find it useful for “composting” ideas, quotes, and book excerpts that might come in handy later.

If you’re the kind of person who has a million stickies on your desktop, or multiple documents where you’re dumping notes (then find it hard to locate what you’re looking for), then take a serious look at Evernote.

5. Dropbox

I couldn’t function on a daily basis without Dropbox, which is cloud-based storage of my work files, especially since I change machines so often. It syncs across my desktop, laptop, mobile devices, and I can also access it through any computer if I have login credentials with me.

6. Google Drive (and Plex)

I use Google Drive in addition to Dropbox as a cloud storage system, but specifically for those documents that I collaborate on where multiple people might need access. I also use Google Drive for storing and sharing PDF handouts or similar public links at conferences and events.

In 2017, I started using Google Drive in conjunction with Plex Cloud Sync, to create a private media server that streams my digital TV, movies, music, and more.

7. Paprika

Paprika is an app where I store all my recipes. It helps me meal plan during the week, generate shopping lists that get sent to email, and categorize recipes according to my own criteria.

Paprika

8. LastPass

LastPass is a password manager that helps ensure you never forget a password again—or use bad password hygiene (making you vulnerable to attack). It generates strong passwords and stores your login credentials, securely and locally; whenever you go to a site that requires those credentials, it autofills them for you on a browser. You can get started for free.

9. Zippy Courses

Zippy is my preferred tool for creating and selling online courses. If you have a self-hosted WordPress site, you can buy the Zippy Courses plugin. Or, if that’s too technically complicated, they offer a fully hosted solution for an annual subscription fee. I see it as the most sensible and easy solution for anyone accustomed to WordPress sites.

Book Proposal Course Friedman

10. Wave

Wave is a free, in-the-cloud accounting service that tracks income and expenses related to your business. All of my bank accounts (including PayPal) are hooked into my Wave account and allow me to see the entirety of my financial situation at a glance. It also generates invoices that clients can pay online by credit card and has payroll services if you need them. Accountants can be granted access to your profiles in Wave.

11. MailChimp

MailChimp is the email newsletter service I use, which is free until you reach 2,000 names. If you’re serious about online marketing, but are still at the beginning stages of building your business, you’re better off using this and not TinyLetter.

12. VisualHunt

VisualHunt is my favorite tool for finding Creative Commons and public domain images to use in my online courses, blog, newsletter, and elsewhere.

13. Aaptiv

I’ve been a sporadic gym member throughout my life, and in 2017 I found myself going much more regularly and enthusiastically when I began using the workout app Aaptiv. I was extremely skeptical at first, because I am not someone who likes personal training or coaching, and I’m pretty no-nonsense and uninterested in “motivational” talk surrounding exercise.

So I was surprised to find myself buying an annual subscription to Aaptiv, which is like having a personal trainer guide you during workouts. It’s been an incredible training tool for running (my goal is to run the Charlottesville 10-Miler this year), and it makes treadmill running actually enjoyable. No easy feat. If you’re a gym goer, it’s worth looking at a free trial.


What tools are part of your daily creative life or business? Let me know in the comments.

Also: Every two weeks, I send out Electric Speed, a free email newsletter about new digital media tools and resources I’ve discovered. Subscribe.

Posted in Digital Media and tagged , , , , , , , .
Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. She also has a book forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, The Business of Being a Writer (March 2018).

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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79 Comments on "My Must-Have Digital Media Tools: 2018 Edition"

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Christina Hollis

Thanks for this. I don’t know how I managed before Scrivener. You’re right about needing time to get used to it. As well as the useful instructions, I found the “Scrivener For Dummies” book by Gwen Hernandez (ISBN: 9781118312476) invaluable, and there are lots of helpful videos on YouTube.

Stacey Shubitz

I’ve been an Evernote devotee for awhile now. Couldn’t live without it! I just tried Canva this morning and found it easy to use. Up next: Paprika (and maybe a couple of others). Thanks for this round-up, Jane.

Rebecca

I would also give a plug to Canva. And Piktochart as well.

A.K.Andrew @artyyah

Thanks so much for this round up Jane. Evernote lost me this year when I realized I could incorporate most of my research into Scrivener which is where I need it, whether it’s for work on a novel, blogging or short stories. Canva was a great new discovery & love the fact it’s a snap to use. Now I need to check out Asana & Paprika. Happy Holidays!

Jeff Shear

Hi, A.K. — How do you enter your digital research into Scrivener? Share (Safari)? Right-Click (Mac)? And do you drag your clips and pages to the Research files of Scrivener initially, or simply fire them off to the Clippings File to work on later?

I guess alternatively, you might do Scratch Pad (great feature) and then on to “Send to Project,” to better organise your work.

And maybe you might have your own technique, which I’d love to hear about. Thank you. And thank you, Jane: You are awesome.

Jeff Shear

An extra thought. Doesn’t Scrivener limit your use of research to one project at a time? Whereas Evernote holds on to all your research, where, if you’re organised, you can store each project (book, story, article) in notebooks. The key here is searchability. Unless you create a common Scriv file for all your projects, a key piece of research might be hard to dig up.

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Retirement Lifestyle / Nomadic Adventurer

I discovered the Scrivener site while during NaNoWrMo, and I just about lost my mind in learning and discovering the many facet of its wonderful features.

I love everything about the program from separating the characters with photos, scenes locations, and research all conveniently located in one program. This is a writers dream.

I have never been so organized, and I’m looking forward to many different avenues of writing.

David Nevin

Great post! Very Useful

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Marcy McKay

Seriously, Jane. When the hell do you sleep? This is beyond fantastic. Thanks so much for your generosity.

Briar Kit Esme

Think “Scrivener is not at all intuitive” is a subjective opinion, not an objective fact. Personally, I have found Scrivener to be very intuitive.

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[…] had more time! Kariss Lynch shares tips for managing time as a writer, and Jane Friedman lists her favorite digital tools of 2014 to make the most of the time we […]

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[…] Friedman lists her favorite digital tools of […]

Laura

Great list, thanks! Guess it’s time to bite the bullet and get Scrivener.

I use a few of these tools (love Canva and Evernote), but there are definitely some on your list that are 100% new to me. My 2014 online toolkit also includes SquareSpace, SumoMe, and Death to the Stock photos.

Thanks, Jane!

nymediaworks

Jane, do you happen to know how Basecamp compares to Asana for project management?

elieaxelroth

I’ve used Scrivener for years too. I love the ability to write scenes and move them around without having to go back and forth in the manuscript. And you can file your research or photos in the relevant chapter.

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Rachel

Hey Jane, I’m new to all this and next year I start my first blog and your information has been incredibly useful. Thanks

Marsha

I trialled scrivener for a few weeks and realised I needed more help. Gwen Hernandez’s course was thorough, and I now, like you, would not turn to Word, esp for book-length projects.

daretoeatapeach
Funny, I didn’t find the learning curve on Scrivener intimidating, but Asana I just can’t wrap my mind around. Though it is true that after using Scrivener for years I’m still learning all that it can do, from day one I had no trouble importing my project. It was intuitive enough that it was never a barrier to get the writing done (the problem there is between computer and chair, as they say in tech support). On the other hand Asana perplexes me. I create tasks and they seem to disappear. Any little to-do item requires a great deal of… Read more »
Tim Dietrich

Thank you for sharing this awesome list!

You mentioned that you are using Scrivener. I’m wondering if you also write using a tablet (iPad, etc). If so, what app(s) are you using?

CathyDulingShouse

I find it interesting that you don’t write on the iPad. Our teen has had an iPad since its inception and hasn’t used a laptop much at all. She started a blog and only writes from a laptop. And I thought iPads would take over the world! 🙂

Mary

My visuals I love: Canva + PicMonkey + SketchPad (https://sketch.io/sketchpad/)
I agree with you about Scrivener and Evernote and so many of the others.
For WordPress users on .org site – I love WordFence – a security plugin.
Thanks for sharing the list – it’s helpful!

Angela Ackerman

I look forward to these lists of yours–you always find the best tools.

One that has really saved my bacon is Buffer. Now that I have added subscription software to my resume, I have to manage several different accounts on different platforms, and I want to be able to continue providing great links to articles and resources for these audiences. Buffer allows me to schedule so that I can curate during my downtime (watching TV, waiting for appointments) and schedule as needed. This gives me back more time for interaction on these platforms too. 🙂

Andres Kabe
Thanks Jane, a terrific list. Try Ulysses, a wonderful writing app (so sweet to actually draft with!) that, whilst Apple-only, exports easily (via iDrive) to my desktop Word (which I use because it meshes with EndNote). I’m about to kick off with Scrivener, more for post-production than anything else, but I could end up intoxicated like you. Ulysses stores writing in the cloud, so I no longer use Dropbox or Google Drive or OneDrive, but can make do with marvellous Evernote for sundry extra cross-platform sharing. Dashlane is my LastPass. Evernote’s to-do-list functionality is okay for simple tracking but I… Read more »
joanna elm

Yep, Scrivener and Dropbox have changed my life for writing my third thriller. Because I split my time between two locations I was always carrying flashdrives around, trying to figure out the most recently saved documents. Dropbox is perfect.
As for Scrivener, fabulous. And agree wholeheartedly with Christina Hollis, Gwen Hernandez’s guide Scrivener for Dummies is invaluable. However, it’s not so difficult to master the basics. I would certainly perservere before forking over more than $250 for video instruction.

Anne Janzer

Great list, Jane. I’m a big fan of Rainmaker Platform, because it takes care of my blog, author website, email marketing, landing pages, and online course platform all in one place (with excellent support.) I also am a big fan of Buffer for managing the social media part of the author platform. (And I like its associated Pablo program for creating images with quotes.) Plus I’m exploring The Right Margin for project planning. Oh, and PickFu is great for A/B testing titles and images.

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Dr. Barbara

Have you tested https://restrictcontentpro.com, a membership site plugin?

Colin Dunbar

Thanks for this post, Jane. Always to learn what other authors use.

Patricia Hilliard

I use Mozy. It has saved me twice when my computer crashed. Well worth the price. Within minutes I could download all my precious documents and photos to my new computer.

Walt Socha

Scrivener…don’t leave home (or stay at home) without it…!

Ted Garvin

I use LibreOffice Writer for writing (I run Linux and find, even now, that Windows emulation is hit and miss).

Hannah
Thank you – but Evernote? Pshah. You can keep it. When I’m writing a book that demands loads of research from multiple sources (like history or historical biography), it just doesn’t work for me. I absolutely love Notetaker from Aquaminds, which I’ve used for years. I only even tried Evernote because Notetaker had turned into a downloadable app, rather than an application you had to download off their website, and a couple of years went past before I noticed – so I needed a simple update and lazily didn’t get it, but bought Evernote as a quick fix. Big mistake.… Read more »
Carrie Tangenberg
A writer friend turned me on to AirTable by Google in the lead-up to NaNoWriMo 2016. Although I have yet to test its full capacity, I have found it to be in many respects a nice, free alternative to Scrivener as a database to organize the components of long-form writing. But it doesn’t just organize writing projects. There are oodles of templates for all sorts of organizational needs. Web-based and easy to use, it’s currently more useful to me than Scrivener as I am a Linux user primarily. I prefer the somewhat Excel-style interface with color coding options to the… Read more »
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[…] expert and digital media strategist. She recently dished on essential author tools in her post, My Must-Have (Digital) Productivity Tools, which we have excerpted […]

C. M. Barrett

I used MailChimp for a while but changed to MailerLite. Most of the writers I know swear by it. Great help team.
C

Bryan Fagan

In a far off galaxy there is another being that looks just like me and uses a lot of the tools you have mentioned. He is neat and orderly. Never calls his editor in a panic because he cannot find chapter 9 and so on. Though we’ve never met, I miss him. Deep sigh.

Brad Kramer

Great post. Thanks for sharing. I’ve been using Lastpass and Evernote for some time and found them indispensable. I’m still trying to get a handle on Scrivener, but I keep going back to Word instead of spending the time to learn.

JSCrail

Hmmm. Very interesting. I have MS for biz, w/365Office integrated cloud etc suite synchable across devices, however reconsidering. Being a double Virgo archival survivalist, my library structured data drive fills my content organization needs for now, but for future trans media output content mgmt do you ever find a need for Joomla or the like or is it more enterprise level?

Madonna Deverson

I’m still searching for a replacement for evernote. Once you have clips, snippets and your whole life in the system, you can’t export it in a useful format. There’s literally an entire side industry of IFTTT or similar ways to extract your information from the .enex prison. Bear app is a possibility – works with Ulysses.

chris

Very useful list — thank you

Icy Sedgwick

I swear by Evernote, Wunderlist, Calm, Yoga Studio, and Noisli!

Joel D Canfield
Big fan of MailChimp and Dropbox. I’ve stopped using Evernote entirely. It keeps destroying my formatting. Word docs or text files shared amongst my Apple equipment does all I need there, and Amazon’s S3 (not free, but nearly so) is my go-to cloud storage service (because I’m a geek.) Thanks for the tip on Paprika. I’ve needed a recipe tool for ages and thought I’d have to build one. Though I use the paid version now, I could not live (at least, would not want to) without Pandora. No human being has ever done as good a job guessing what… Read more »
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[…] https://www.janefriedman.com/favorite-digital-tools/ “Zoom is my go-to online meeting service.” Has anyone used any of these tools? I’ve tried Evernote a time or two, but haven’t committed to it. I’m interested in Paprika, for recipes. Wave might come in handy for business expenses once I get to that stage. […]

Dave Steel

Wow. What a great list. Some of these I use already and you can bet I’ll be looking at all the others. Thanks and Happy New Year.

Penny Lynn

Thank you. After many years, I am taking my writing out of it’s hibernation cave, the many file boxes, and actually completing some and starting a new project. My children want a memoir, ugh. Would google docs be a suitable tool or is there something better? I’ll be caching 64 years of history and will have many sections and notes as my memories, for better or worse, begin to resurface. I am also adding old photos of long dead relatives. Thank you!