Apps, treadmill desks and off buttons: tech tool recommendations from our readers

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Sometimes the technology you use in your everyday life can make you  yell at your computer screen. Or a gadget you buy because it sounds so useful just ends up gathering dust in a desk drawer. 

Tech that really works is worth holding on to. And during the pandemic, we’ve come to depend more than ever on tools that connect us, save time and keep us organized. We asked people in public media to tell us about their favorite tech tools. Here are some of their responses. (We got too many responses for just one column, so look for a second installment soon — and you can still submit your tips!)

Bose SoundSport Headphones. I love them because the sound is awesome no matter what I’m listening to. — Rhonda Holt, SVP, Information Technology, PBS

I bought a used treadmill desk I found in Facebook Marketplace to cope with working from home, and it’s been a godsend. When I was HQ-based, I walked about three miles a day as part of my daily commute, and I also moved around my office constantly and was a stairs-only person. Moving before, during and after the workday kept my energy up and helped me cope with the constant context-shifting in my job. The treadmill desk has replaced some of that activity and has also helped resolve the back and muscle pain issues I was dealing with in my less-than-ideal home “office”; it’s also a great stress reliever. — Louisa Conklin, Executive Assistant, Project Manager, NPR  

(Photo: nortonrsx/iStock)

Notebooks, actual notebooks. I’m a notebook-a-holic, keep several going at once. Can’t imagine being without nor without Uniball pens. — Karen Michel, “marginally self-employed” freelance cultural correspondent

Transcription software has come a long way, and I can’t imagine my life without It transcribes recorded or live audio, and it’s pretty accurate (I cover space and science news — it does a great job with some niche words and acronyms). It also allows you to share transcriptions with other users. I can’t imagine writing a feature story without it anymore. Pretty reasonably priced for how powerful it is, and it has a mobile app for in the field recording/transcribing. I recommend it to anyone in news.  — Brendan Byrne, Reporter/Host, WMFE, Orlando, Fla.

The work tool I’ve come to depend on is my 11-inch iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. I carry it around all day at work and use it constantly. The GoodNotes app is where I write all the notes for the show: pitches, assignments, notes from meetings, info about guests, to-dos. GoodNotes is 2/3 of a split screen — the other 1/3 is Outlook, to monitor NPR reportables. The Slack app connects me to NPR, H&N and PRPD Slacks. Safari has tabs for the NPR electronic rundown as well as NewsFlex, NPR’s proprietary software for the shows. If there’s a redesigned iPad Mini this year, I might actually switch to a slightly smaller screen that’s even more portable. — Todd Mundt, Senior Managing Editor, Here & Now 

My AirPods! These little guys have been revolutionary for me over the past few years. I constantly have them in my ear, as they allow for me to seamlessly switch between Zoom meetings on my laptop to phone calls and podcasts on my phone while I’m on the go. During the pivot to pandemic production, we’ve used AirPods for social livestreams instead of wireless microphones, as they allow us to communicate to talent in one ear while getting excellent sound quality for our livestream through the other. — Tory Starr, Director, Digital & Social Content Innovation, GBH 

As someone who reviews a bunch of PDFs, videos and webinars, transcribing notes from images is stressful and a pain. Text Sniper, a $6.50 Mac app, cures all those headaches and saves so much time. You take a screenshot of any on-screen text — from a video, a photo, a Zoom presentation — and presto! — the text magically appears on your clipboard, ready to be pasted into your notes, an email or any other software. — Rodney Gibbs, Executive Director, Revenue Lab at the Texas Tribune

(Photo: AlexLMX/iStock)

This is so basic but I finally got a sturdy tabletop mic stand. It’s the ProLine MS112 Desktop Boom Mic Stand, but the heavy base just makes me feel … well … sturdy. — Violet Augustine, independent producer, Adult Papers podcast

Power buttons! Sometimes they can be the only way to get a *real* break — just turn off the laptop, the phone, the smart speaker and walk away. — Rob Byers, Director, Broadcast and Media Production, American Public Media

Responses collected and lightly edited by Current Digital Editor Mike Janssen

One thought on “Apps, treadmill desks and off buttons: tech tool recommendations from our readers

    Speaking of air quality – pick up a “snake plant” from your local nursery, Home Depot or Lowes. More properly known as “sansevieiria”, these succulents are tough as hell but work wonders at helping the air quality of a room. Keep them in a place of indirect sunlight, water them once every 7 to 10 days, give them a little miracle-gro once or twice a year, and they’ll last forever. I also typically get some “plant support” metal ring-stands with some pseudo-velcro loops to help support the plant’s stalks more vertically.

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