AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators



John Colon on Nine Tech Tools That Make Life Easier

My name is John Colon and I work for Better Questions Better Answers. I’m amazed by what is available, for free, for my computer. Here are some of my favorite, can’t live without, better than sliced bread tools.

Rad Resources: I’d like to share 9 tools that make my life easier.

10: Gantzilla: Free version of this online service (still in Beta but in good shape) creates great looking and sharable Gantt and PERT charts.

9. Jing: Make short, sharable, voice-annotated screen screencasts (videos of what you are doing on screen) in a flash with this free little cousin to Camtasia. Fantastic for providing instructions.

8. Twitter: I’m careful about what/who I follow (rarely people, mostly news sources) and use it as a way to create my own live news feed focusing on just my interests. AEA’s @aeaweb is a good start for evaluators.

7. Stickies: This free pc utility works like electronic post-it notes on overdrive. Great for reminders. Can stick to sites, desktop, etc. Can set to pop up as reminders.

6. Remember The Milk: I make lots of lists. Even the free version of this lets me make lists, track lists, share lists, checkoff lists. I’ve upgraded to support the developers ($25) and now can use it on my phone too.

5. AutoHotKey: Automates any set of repetitive keystrokes on your computer and can be set to automatically expand abbreviations when typing. I type “tfi” and it writes “Thank you for the great idea.”

4. Makes mindmaps online for free. Easy to use, printable, can be exported as jpg.

3. ManyEyes: Very useful, free, suite of data visualization tools.  Comes with great credentials – used by the New York Times and developed by IBM.

2. DropBox: Download dropbox (free). Create a folder in dropbox. Share that folder with a colleague. Now, drop any files at any time into that folder and your colleague can access them from anywhere.

1. ??? I left the number 1 slot open, hoping that you would share your favorite tools via the comments. So that I can learn from you and make life even better.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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  • Joel Selanikio · June 5, 2011 at 8:38 am

    John, you’ve listed several of my favorite tools (especially DropBox) but I wanted to tell you about one my organization has created. It’s called EpiSurveyor, and it is a very easy-to-use tool to securely collect form-based data on mobile phones instead of on paper — eliminating data entry.

    EpiSurveyor ( lets anyone with basic computer literacy create a form online and then download it to common mobile phones in minutes. Once collected, the data can be exported to a variety of formats for analysis. No programming is required.

    It works on common “feature phones” by Nokia and Samsung and others, as well as Android phones and Blackberries. Simple data can even be collected by SMS, and an iPhone version is on the way.

    The basic version of EpiSurveyor (used by 99% of our users) is completely free, and there are upper-level paid versions as well.

    EpiSurveyor has been online for two years now, and has more than 4000 users in 170 countries worldwide, including at CDC, WHO, PAHO, IFRC, IRC, Abt Associates, JSI, HHS, the World Bank, and many other organizations. It’s won awards from the WHO, MIT, and the Wall Street Journal, among many others, and was originally developed with grants from the United Nations Foundation and the Vodafone Foundation.

    I hope you’ll check it out and see what you think!


  • Kelci Price · June 3, 2011 at 11:14 am

    For mindmaps I love Freemind, which is available for free and is continually being improved by the developers.

    For time-tracking I am currently using Timecult (also free) which has proved to be one of the best time-tracking tools I’ve found so far. Perfect for consultants who need to track billable hours, or for people who want to see how long it actually takes to do each part of a project.

    For references I’ve been using Zotero, a free add-on to Firefox. I upgraded to the 1GB storage ($20) so I could have access to my entire PDF library no matter what computer I’m on (it syncs your library to a server on the internet!!). A brilliant tool that allows you to easily capture PDFs, web pages, blogs, etc. to add to your library, and it integrates with Word so that you can insert references into your documents as you type. Highly recommended alternative to expensive Endnote.


  • Corey newhouse · June 2, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    We use GenBook to schedule site visits. Has saved us thousands in administrative costs, as we go to about 200 programs per year as part of our out-of-school time evaluation work.

    Prezi is my new favorite presentation tool, even though I’m far from mastering it! A wonderful break from the PPT juggernaut.


  • Kathy Lynch · June 2, 2011 at 6:53 am

    Thank you for these incredible resources! I can attest to the ease of use of Dropbox, as my son recently shared the entire Beatles anthology with me through this great tool! Unbelievably quick and holds large amounts of data for free.


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