The Glif is a wonderful little piece of plastic. It can quickly and easily mount the iPhone 4 to a tripod. (Ever tried shooting HD video in an even slightly windy location with your iPhone 4??? You can easily get that horrible jello effect. You need a tripod!) The Glif can also conveniently tilt the iPhone for tabletop viewing and for FaceTime calls. I love this little guy! It's manufacture is an interesting success story for Kickstarter.
I had no idea how much I would love this thing! Not only is it invaluable for travel, I find I take it for quick office visits where I would otherwise not have bothered bringing my computer. Battery life is astounding! It's great for children as well as adults and has a significant number of applications. (Check out Appolicious for ideas and recommendations.) One very big drawback is the absence of a camera (I want video calls!), a feature I hope will be present in the next model.
I bought the smallest one, with only 2GB of RAM, but with the largest SSD available 128GB. I am now traveling lighter than ever before and love it. Aside from the fact that I now wish I had purchased 4GB of RAM to improve app switching performance (I don't think it can be upgraded as I'm told they weld the RAM on the board), I really love the Air for traveling and now no longer take my MacBook Pro on the road! It's small, very light, and quickly turns on and off. Without a hard drive, applications open amazingly fast.
The Blue Yeti USB Condensor Microphone
This USB mic delivers awesome sound! It's heavy and sturdy, making it ideal for a podcasting station in a school.
Apple's Wireless TrackPad
Yes, it likes batteries like I like candy—well, not that bad. So, use rechargeables. Then ditch your mouse! This simple trackpad is an all-time great! Once I connected it via bluetooth, I stopped using my mouse completely. The use of gestures is too convenient: touch to click, two finger touch to right-click, two finger slide to scroll, three fingers to drag, four fingers to switch applications, pinch/expand to zoom, twist to rotate... It's just awesome! This is one of the most practical devices I've seen in a long time.
Transmit 4 is probably the best FTP client of all time for the Mac. It seamlessly integrates with your chosen external editors based on file type. (For example, you can set it up so double clicking an image on the server opens it for editing on your desktop in your desktop photo editor of choice. Saving it after editing saves the new version back to the server.) Transmit 4 has a very rich feature set. You can even Quicklook files on the server (Highlight a file, maybe an image or a video, on the server. Touch the spacebar. See the picture. Watch the movie. No need to download it first.) In addition to all of the features you would expect from a great ftp client, here is a link to some "secret" features.
I was pleased to see Windows Live Movie Maker make some significant advances in the latest version of the Windows operating system. Then Apple released the latest version of iMovie and jumped out miles ahead once again. iMovie, from iLife '11, is a stunning product both for ease of use and power. The movie trailer feature teaches children to "think storyboarding" like a director.
A simple, no-frills word processor that works with Dropbox. Microsoft Word is just too much for me. If I'm working on the desktop and don't need to design page layout (I use Pages for that.), I'm using Writeroom. It blanks my screen. I write. Simple.
WordPress.org and WordPress.com
WordPress has become my favorite blogging platform. It has grown into a very powerful blogging system. For many years, I've used a desktop editor that links to my blog system for creating posts. But this past year, as I revisited WordPress 3.x, I've become so fond of it's amazingly powerful web-based interface, I rarely fire up ecto or MarsEdit. I simply use, and love, the web-based WordPress 3.x interface. WordPress 3.x also makes upgrading the blogging system and plugins as easy as possible: click.
WordPress has an enormous users base and a (too?) huge collection of available plugins that add even more functionality. I "cut my teeth" on MovableType (MabryOnline.org was built with it.), but I'm now a WordPress evangelist. Rave. Rave. Rave!
I've used Poll Everywhere for many years now. If I were a classroom teacher, I would use it frequently. Principals can use it in public meetings to quickly gather feedback. The wife of the creator/owner of Poll Everywhere is a California elementary school principal. The features have grown over the years and are very powerful. Additionally, Poll Everywhere plays very well with iOS devices like the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.
Perhaps most people think of cloud storage as offering shared access to documents for group collaboration or photo sharing with family members. But Dropbox offers more. I'm finding more and more software that automatically integrates across devices using Dropbox for "system file" cloud storage: 1Password, Writeroom, and TextExpander are three of my favorites that I use daily. When I make a change to a document in Writeroom on my iPad, that change is immediately available to my computer or iPhone. When I add a password to a new website account, with 1Password that password is immediately available to all of my computing devices. Dropbox, just like Peppermint Bark, is delicious!
WordPress Plugins: Wordbooker, TweetPress, Related Posts (YARPP), and the SlideShowPro Director Plugin
Wordbooker is a WordPress plugin that will crosspost new blog posts to your Facebook wall. Its feature set is rich and includes Facebook "Like" and "Share" buttons. Additionally, when someone comments to your Facebook Wall, Wordbooker brings that comment into your WordPress blog for approval. When approved, the Facebook comment shows up on your blog as well.
TweetPress is a WordPress plugin that simply tweets your new blog post URL and title to the world.
The Related Posts (YARPP) plugin uses conditional logic to find previous (even future, if you wish) posts on your blog related to the current post your reader has on the screen. Related Posts works in real time; so, the related posts for each post you publish are never static but always changing based on what you add to your blog. You can tweak the algorithm settings in a very simple interface.
The new SlideShowPro Director plugin gives your posts immediate and simple access to all of the photos you have uploaded into your SlideShowPro Director account (self-hosted or hosted by SlideShowPro). SlideShowPro now plays beautifully on iOS devices. (I've mentioned SlideShowPro on my site before.)
Zemanta is like having a team of editors suggesting content for your posts as you write them. It's as if Zemanta is reading over your shoulder. As you type away, Zemanta will recommend links, tags, pictures, and other posts that are related to what you're writing.
Even more powerful, and my favorite Zemanta feature, you can restrict the sources from which Zemanta pulls recommendations by pointing it to an OPML file with just the RSS feeds or online content you wish it to use. Not only does Zemanta improve SEO, it enriches your reader's experience at your blog! I love Zemanta. It works with Blogger, WordPress, and MovableType blogs.
Each of the products briefly mentioned in these two posts, These Are a Few of My Favorite Things..., deserves its own full post! But these posts are too long already. I simply wanted to introduce you to these "favorite things" if you were not already aware of them. Again, the criteria for mention in this year's series was simply frequency and joy of use. Since I enjoy using these digital tools, and I use them a lot, I wanted to make sure you knew about them. Now, go and explore!!
Have a wonderful 2011!