5 must have productivity tools for Hams

Productivity toolsDuring the last few years the internet enriched greatly our lives. In this blog post I will share the five best tools how to increase your personal productivity. Regardless if you are just a passive ham browsing the web, actively building Ham Radio equipment or organizing the next Fieldday, these tools will help you to organize your hobby, save time and hazle. I’m using all of them on a daily basis!

1. Google Reader

screenshot of google Reader

Say goodbye to the times when Ham Radio magazines were the only way to learn about Amateur radio related topics outside of your local club. Today, there are many Hams publishing high quality articles on their blogs & webpages. However, keeping track on all of them becomes difficult. That’s when Google Reader comes into the game. Google Reader is an aggregator which let’s you monitor activity across websites. Whenever a new article appears on one of your subscribed sites, it will be highlighted in Google Reader.

The Technology behind Google Reader is called RSS (Real Simple Syndiaction). Today almost all websites offer a RSS feed.

Best: It’s absolutely free.

2. Penzu.com

screenshot which shows how I use Penzu.com

Earlier this year I realized that I had already forgotten the details of experiments and prototypes I made years ago because I didn’t write up anything. At the end of the day, it comes down to writing a diary. You simply have to sit down, invest a few minutes and write up your personal notes. If you don’t do so, your memories will be lost over the years. There are many ways to avoid this. You could write a classic diary with pen & paper, or using any kind of Text editing software.
While I try to publish results on my webpage, I often have personal notes which I don’t want to have in the public domain. I decided to go with Penzu.com. Penzu is an online diary service. It’s easy to use, allows proper tagging (and search) and offers a wide variety of helpful features. Communication with Penzu  is secured by SSL and personal notes are encrypted by AES 256 on their servers.

Penzu is an easy and convenient way  to write a (Ham Radio) diary. The basic version is free and the Pro version costs just 12 USD a year.

3. Dropbox

screenshot of how i'm using dropbox

Dropbox is a remote storage access which connects your computer(s) with the “cloud”. This service allows you to store files in a secure manner in the internet. I’m using Dropbox to sync my folder of Ham Radio related files (PCB design, antenna notes, Microcontroller software, interesting PDFs I came along, etc.) between my computers. Dropbox integrates smoothly with all Computer Operating systems (Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, iOS…). When I’m abroad I’m using the Dropbox client on the iPad to access the documents. No manual interaction is necessary. Just move your files into the dropbox folder and they will get synced automatically.

Best: the first 2Gbyte of storage are for free.

4. Trello

How I'm using Trello

As soon as more than one person becomes involved in an activity it’s becoming difficult to stay organized. Trello is a flexible and easy way to keep track on tasks. Trello is so flexible that it can be used as a workflow tool or just an assignment tool for tasks. During the preparation of the CQWW CW contest at ED1R we used Trello to organized ourselves. Each team member had access to the Trello board where he/she can comment, change the status or reallocate tasks. Changes are visible to all users instantly.

I’m using trello as a “to-do” list on a daily basis.

Best: The use of Trello is free

5. Google Docs

How I'm using google docs

Online Collaboration has never been so easy. Instead of spamming your friends / colleagues the thousandth copy of a word file through email, it is way more convenient to work on the same document (or speadsheet) in Google docs. Granted that it isn’t as powerful as Microsoft Office, it still provides 98% of the needed functionality. Very neat is the versioning / revision history. With this it is so easy to see who modified which part of the document.

I’m using Google Docs to prepare for example my podcast interviews together with the interviewee or when I’m writing a technical paper togehter colleagues.

Google Docs is also free.

And you?

Which productivity tools are you using on a daily basis? Feel free to share them by leaving a comment!

About Tobias (DH1TW)

Self-confessed Starbucks addict. Loves to travel around the globe. Enjoys the technical preparations of Amateur-Radio contests as much as the contests themselves. Engineer by nature. Entrepreneur. For more, follow him @DH1TW


  1. I’m using 1, 3, and a little 5.

    I’ve replaced 2 (and similar tools i was using, like Evernote) by Gmail. When i need to write down something, i simply write an email that i keep as a draft or send to myself.

    I’d like to use 5 more, but people aren’t used to it, so when you send a link to them, they mostly download the document and email it back to you with mods, rather than modifying it online.

    Also, Google Calendar is a nice tool. There are some public calendars with contests and DXpeditions.

  2. Hi Laurent,
    You are right. Gmail is certainly also a good way to store stuff. I love the power of Gmail’s search. I’m also using Google Calendar with my Girlfriend. That way she knows when I’m off for another contest 😉

  3. Harry says:

    Great list.

    For setting and tracking goals, you may want to check out http://www.GoalsOnTrack.com, a very nicely built web app designed for tracking goals and todo lists, and supports time tracking too. It’s clear, focused, easy to navigate, worth a try.

  4. Hi!
    Great list! Google Reader doesn’t exist anymore. Maybe you can recommend another tool here.
    Instead of Penzu I use http://www.monkkee.com. It uses a client-side encryption and is more secure than Penzu. And it’s free.

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