5 Basic Software Tool Tips For Increasing Efficiency of Design Professionals

In today’s world of electronics and endless lists of smart applications, one can get easily lost and forget the basics – things like tools to write down notes and mark up pictures. I want to share a little bit about my favorite Notepad and Screen Shot recorder/editor.

Design or estimating work means we have to review somebody else’s documents and do our job based on foundation laid by others. Many times, during the process, we discover discrepancies or issues that were not noticed during initial design. We should report such issues to customer – or even propose solutions and provide “Value Engineering” – as part of our day-to-day jobs. This provides a tremendous “Miracle Opportunity” to protect our client’s interest.

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I have been writing notes for all jobs that I do. Originally, I used to be writing them in the most obvious pick, the Windows notepad. It worked out well but then I discovered 2 dynamite tools:

Unfortunately, Google Desktop has been discontinued from Google product portfolio but it can be still downloaded from sites like cnet.com or similar software depositories. The Scratch Pad’s beauty is in it’s easy of use. The application is running in the background and is activated by double pressing SHIFT key. Double SHIFT to open, double SHIFT to close. It always opens in the same location – wherever you placed it originally.

There is no going back and forth through a bunch of applications currently open to find your Notepad. Whatever application you are using, wherever you are in the design process, simple double SHIFT gets you to your notes. The notes are saved automatically – so you do not have to worry about that, either. The notes can be saved as text documents or copy-and-pasted to other programs.

For marking up plans and documents, there are several tools one can use. Windows 7 Snipping Tool is a free tool with limited functionality – it let’s you capture a screen shot, make simple annotations and email the image. It’s free and may do the job – at least for easy markups. On the other hand, Adobe Acrobat Professional Edition may be a perfect choice – but it is not the cheapest one.

Here is my tip: I have found program called “Screenshot Captor v4.5.0 by DonationCoder”. Screenshot Captor works in a similar fashion as Snipping Tool in Windows 7. It lets you capture screens but it also allows more elaborate markups – more like Adobe Acrobat Professional would do. It is easy to use AND you can save the resulting images as PDF files – for easy sharing with co-workers or customers. You can grab whole screens or selected areas; you can mark them up, put effects to screen shots. The resulting images look professional!

NOTE: Read carefully what you are downloading. Cnet has been trying to market some additional application with each download. Just read carefully and “Decline” when offered these extra apps:

Do you have your favorite tools? Please let me know. I like to learn about new apps.

Martin Horak – Design Professional

Gould Design, Inc.