A toolkit to make everyday tasks easier for journalists, bloggers and anyone who publishes online

Whether you’re a daily news reporter working on deadline, a local blogger out in the field or a freelance copywriter working from home, there are apps that can help you do your work faster and better.

Back in the day, when I was a print journalist in Baltimore and in Seattle, I took notes using pens and reporter’s notebooks, then came back to the office to crank out stories on Microsoft Word. But as I started covering more tech stories (including for Microsoft itself), I discovered all kinds of products and programs that helped me do my job.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Interviews, writing and editing: The bread and butter of the biz


Nowadays, I’m more likely to pull out my super sleek Surface RT – which comes with Office Home & Student 2013 RT pre-installed, a full-size USB port, microSD card slot and an HD A/V out port – to take notes or interview people using OneNote. Now, if you haven’t discovered OneNote yet, you don’t know what you’ve been missing. I keep track of all my notes on all my devices (yes, it works on the iPad and iPhone as well as Windows devices) – and it’s constantly autosaving, so I don’t have to worry about losing anything. But what’s really cool about OneNote is that I can paste text, video, images, tables and charts into my notes and I can share pages (or the entire notebook) by sending them directly to folks via email. I can also record video or audio through it! (And if you need any help with OneNote, check out Office webinars, like this one for OneNote. These 15-minute webinars give easy how-tos and tips on making the most of Office products.)

Dragon Notes is another great note-taking app. It uses your voice to input words, and can easily share notes via the Share charm on Windows 8 to other apps like OneNote or on social media.

I also write stories and post immediately on our news blog using Windows Live Writer, which makes publishing text, images and videos a breeze. I also use Lync 2013 to connect with co-workers and editors when they – or I – work off-site.

And, if you don’t have a Windows device and collaboration with an editor or team needs to happen, it’s OK. The cloud is your friend. You can hop on your iOS or Android device and use OneDrive and Office Mobile for Office 365 subscribers to keep all your files with you on the go, do some quick editing and work with others. I’ve done it, and it works.

Beat coverage and sourcing, and working remotely

I’ve worked remotely as a freelance jack of all trades, and for some of my assignments, I needed to talk to some folks face to face (or at least on the phone) – but they’re on the other end of the country (or in another country!). No worries, though, as Skype makes it easy to have those conversations – with more than one person at a time if necessary. I can also send files and video messages, as well as share my screen. I can also take advantage of Yammer for crowd-sourcing and information sharing in-house. If you’re not already plugged into yours at work, check and see if you have it.

And since you should always be pitching stories, you can always look for other ideas and find out what is trending online by tapping into MSN Now’s Dashboard. It filters results into categories such as biggest movers, trending now, and most popular. It also mines sources such as social networks, and specifically Twitter and Bing. You can also use Bing to find trending image searches, and use advanced options to customize your search results into specific regions, languages and web URLs. And for social media monitoring, check out Bing Social. Bing Translator can help bridge the gulf between languages as newsgathering has gone global. Bing Maps allows you to embed maps in a webpage, and Bing searches can also help journalists find what they need quickly.


One-man banding it: Adding photos, videos and slideshows

I have also worked for a local blog, and I was often out and about on assignment. But once, I forgot to recharge my camera. I used my smartphone to save the day, but I wish the 41-megapixel Nokia 1020 had been around then! It easily replaces a point-and-shoot in capturing, editing and sharing professional quality photos and videos. But there’s a bevy of photo apps such as Hipstamatic OGGL to edit on the go. I’ve also used the WordPress app to upload my photos directly to that blog – and to write the text that went along with it.

But, back to those apps. I’ve dabbled with Photobucket, a photo and video sharing app that uses Search charm and personalized live tiles. With it, Windows mobile device users can pin albums or search results to the Start Screen and share on social media channels.

There’s also Fotor, a free photo app with many editing options and tools; Fhotoroom, also a Windows Phone app, which can be used for editing and sharing; and Pic Stitch, a popular photo collage app that is now on Windows Phone 8. If you want to really dazzle your readers, try out 9Slides, which easily imports PowerPoint decks or PDF files, and records video.


That’s just a smattering of tools that are available right now that have helped me in the recent past, and I hope you find them useful too. And I expect we’re only going to see better and more products coming out that help us do our job more efficiently. It’s definitely opened up my eyes to getting more work done on the go – and made once challenging situations a whole lot more manageable. We’ll be updating these resources regularly, so check back to see the latest in this toolkit!

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Athima Chansanchai
Microsoft News Center Staff

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