In Pictures: 10 great work tools we can't live without

The promise of consumerisation is workers choosing their own tools to get the job done. Here are our favorites.

  • Macbook Air At under 3 pounds, a MacBook Air has been my loyal traveling companion for the past two years. With a 13.3-inch display and dual-core 2.0 GHz i7 processor, it's got every bit of processing power I need to check email, write stories, surf the web, process PDFs, and even do some light video editing. I've never missed the optical drive once. But the best part is just how small and light it is. Sometimes I even forget it's in my bag because of how light it is. That's something that's never happened with any other laptop I've owned. For me, the Macbook Air's convenience makes the decision of whether to bring it along on even a short trip a default "yes" every time. --Logan Kugler

  • Skype plus Bing Rewards I gave up my landline phone a while back. To compensate, I use Skype for free, even to make calls to mobile or landline phones. That's because I've signed up for Bing Rewards and default to Bing when searching. I use search a lot for work and so my Rewards points add up. Since 100 points gets me an hour of Skype calls, I seldom pay to use it. The combination of Skype, Bing Rewards, and my mobile phone turns out to be a great, low-cost way to make all my phone calls. --Nancy Gohring

  • Image Tricks Lite I was looking for a simple way to work with photos for posting to the Web. I'm didn't want to learn to wrestle with Photoshop and even iPhoto was more than I needed. I just wanted to resize and crop very quickly and very occasionally provide some filters. I found Image Tricks Light in the Mac App Store. It was free, so I gave it a shot. I'm able to drag the downloaded file right into a new photo window, then very quickly resize and crop the image. I save it and I'm done. It's nothing great, but it's dead simple and it's really all I need for this particular purpose. --Ron Miller

  • Verizon LTE on my iPad When I bough a third generation iPad, I opted to pay extra for one with Verizon LTE. Although I understood the performance LTE can offer, I was still stunned by the average 25 mbps that is my average connection speed near my home in upstate NY (twice what Time Warner prodvides). Free tethering has led me to work virtually anywhere and I've developed impatience with slow Wi-Fi (I often switch my iPad's LTE connection when I encounter it). The extra up front cost and month-to-month data plan lets me optimize my plan as needed. --Ryan Faas

  • Windows 8 Settings Sync When you travel a lot but don't always use the same machine, the settings sync in Windows 8 is a huge timesaver. Windows 8 syncs the credentials for Wi-Fi hotspots and the passwords for websites from my trusty old HP EliteBook, I can walk into the usual office, hotel or airline lounge with a brand new Samsung Series 7 slate or Surface and be online without having to ask for the Wi-Fi password all over again. Same desktop background on all my PCs? Cute. My credentials everywhere? Hugely convenient. --Mary Branscombe

  • Windows Phone 8 People App I recently switched to from an iPhone Windows Phone 8. It may not have all the apps I’ve become used to, but the People app – its contact manager – almost makes up for the lack. I’ve got all my contacts, listed by name, with all their contact information in one place. I can make a phone call, send a text, send an email to any of their multiple accounts, check their Facebook photo albums, and see their latest status updates on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter all in one place. The app does a great job of automatically merging duplicate contacts, and if it somehow misses one, it’s easy to link them manually. --Matt Rosoff

  • SkyDrive I spend a lot of time on the road. That means I may be away from my backups, and from years’ worth of notes and files, for a month at a time. Cloud services keep data synchronized across phones, tablets, and PCs – and I’ve tried them all, finally settling on SkyDrive as my cross-platform sync service with as it’s built into Office 2013 and available for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. Now I can pick up a new device, install a SkyDrive client, and have my working documents ready to go in minutes, wherever I may be. --Simon Bisson

  • iPhone 4S I’m thankful for my Apple iPhone 4S, which I bought last December after living with a flip phone since 2001. I never had a data plan until my iPhone because I thought that it was good to be disconnected from the world when I was away from work. My iPhone changed that opinion. I’ve learned that rather than controlling my life, my iPhone allows me to work away from home while maintaining communications with the world. I turned off the audible alerts as a compromise. Now I am more independent while staying connected. I can work from anywhere. It’s a great tool that makes my work and personal lives better. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. --Todd R. Weiss

  • Spotify? Yes really. I don't know about the rest of you, but I can't hit my work stride unless I have the proper tunes in my iPhone-white earbuds. Recently, my day job handed me a shiny new Macbook Air for work purposes -- but all my music was trapped on my home computer. Rather than go through the headache of transferring my many gigabytes of music, I installed Spotify and was rockin' Wu-Tang's "W" in seconds. Even with the free version, I can write the night away to albums I haven't actually bought (yet). But a word of warning to all you CPAs: Since Spotify is outside the Apple ecosystem, you won't be able to rock out to The Beatles' "Taxman" come April 15th. --Matthew Weinberger

  • Twitter and Tweetdeck As a freelancer, I write about a wide variety of topics (consumerization of IT, big data and analytics, science, health) for a number of publications. That’s where Twitter has been a huge help. Having a regular Twitter feed with TweetDeck as my client alerts me to interesting news in a number of topic areas without having to hunt around. Thanks, Twitter! --Chris Nerney

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