Software I can’t live without

I’ve discovered something amazing – a use of the ChatGPT AI software that I will use again, and again.

The tip comes from a post on LinkedIn by Conor Grennan, Dean of Students, NYU Stern School of Business, who urges people to move beyond asking ChatGPT to “Write an email to my boss!” or “Create 25 taglines for my business!”

His suggestion (in his words):

Stop slogging through boring videos. Need to watch a Youtube video to learn about a topic? Stop cranking it to 2x and trying to catch the gist. Below the video, click the three dots. Click ‘Show transcript.’ Select and copy. Tell ChatGPT “Summarize this in 5 sentences, highlight any mention of XYZ and ignore time stamps.” Something catch your eye? Tell ChatGPT “Tell me more about XYZ.”

I tried it and it works. And so, now, I need never look at an hour-long video and think “I just don’t have time for you.”

This will truly make a difference to my working life.

There are other apps and programs that are essential. In the spirit of my previous post about hardware I can’t live without, here are the bits of code that keep me sane (there are no affiliate links in any of the recommendations below – they really are the things that I use all day, every day):

Microsoft Office

I have the yearly family subscription, which means people in my household can use the various programs as well. I know it’s fashionable to disdain Microsoft programmes, but I find them indispensable – they just work. They’re also the standard ones used by my clients and colleagues.

Word macros

A complex set of tools, but essential for saving time in editing. Essentially you programme Word to recognize a set of key strokes that performs a function. For example, if I put my cursor in a word and hit alt-G, a browser window is opened with a search on that term. More here, if you want to try them.

Word Dictate

A fabulous tool. You talk, Word types. It’s in the main Home ribbon, and says “Dictate”. An illustrative use: I do a half-shift for an online news site on weekday mornings. On the day that Eskom announced they had appointed an interim CEO, the quickest way for me to get the story up was to post the press release (it’s how this particular news site does things). But, as usual, Eskom did not have the press release on its site and the version I found on Twitter was a jpg. Grrr. So I downloaded the jpg, inserted it into Word as a picture, turned on Dictate and read the press release aloud. Word got the whole thing right apart from some local spellings (eg Escom for Eskom). I fixed the spelling mistakes and published.


I long ago settled on a Chrome-based browser called Vivaldi. It’s fast and simple and good at keeping ads and trackers at bay.

Pure Text

This is a little app that enables you to paste copied text without its original formatting, using one key on your keyboard. Genius.

Notepad apps

I use Sublime Text, UpNote and Windows Stickies. Sublime Text is used for a variety of diaries and ongoing notes for one particular client. I have the paid version of UpNote for all other notetaking – and Stickies are for links that I use over and over again.

Adobe Acrobat Reader

The free PDF reader works perfectly adequately for editing PDFs for publishing clients. No matter how much Adobe tries to persuade you you need the paid version, you just don’t.

All the meeting things

I use Zoom. Google Meet and Microsoft Teams at the request of my clients. Truthfully, I dislike all of them, but Google Meet is the simplest.


Time tracking software I simply could not live without. There are other brands – but Tmetric is simple, has a decent phone app and is affordable if you wait for one of their sales. I signed up on year on a Black Friday sale and have never regretted it – particularly not the days that I can download a timesheet showing everything I have done for a project over the last month.


I use the paid version (which they now price in South African rands) for social media. Time is saved because I uploaded all my brand specs, and can simply apply them to everything I do.


The free version of Buffer offers three social media channels, which I use for scheduling social media posts ahead of time. It integrates with Canva. I simply can’t do without it.


This is my newsletter scheduler of choice. It’s simple and quick. I use the free version because my list is miniscule and I really can’t justify a huge expenditure here.


A can’t-do-without communication tool – my three major clients all communicate via WhatsApp groups. I use it on my phone, along with the web version on my PC.

Eskom se Push

A local app that keeps people up to date with load shedding schedules, wherever you are. I like it so much that I pay the monthly subscription fee.

Main picture: Alexander Shatov, Unsplash

The stuff that’s always at the bottom of blog posts….

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