4 Additional Apps and Services That Work So Well They are Virtually Invisible

When I wrote my post on the 12 most useful apps and services of 2013, I realized that I left some important ones off the list. In some ways, the ones that I left off are the most important, and the reason that they were left off the list is that they work so well that they are virtually invisible. You don’t notice them doing what they do. They do it well and they do it virtually flawlessly. They deserve attention and so I will list them here.

1. CrashPlan

I switched my cloud backup service to CrashPlan back in May 2013, and the peace of mind it has given me ever since has been wonderful. CrashPlan, for those who don’t know, is a cloud-based backup service that allows you to backup computers to the cloud, or to other computers. I use the CrashPlan Family plan. All of our home computers get backed up to the cloud. There is no limit to how much data we can back up. CrashPlan has apps for the iPhone and iPad that allow me to monitor the status of my backups and recover files remotely.

CrashPlan works so well that I hardly notice it is there. Every once in a while, Kelly will shutdown her laptop and a few days later, I’ll get an email from CrashPlan saying that it cannot access her computer to back it up. I don’t have to worry about it–CrashPlan worries about it for me.

As of today I have about one-third of a terabyte  worth of data backed up to CrashPlan. I haven’t stressed about losing data in a very, very long time.

2. VaultPress

VaultPress is to WordPress what CrashPlan is to my home computers. It is a WordPress Plug-in that does real-time backups of my WordPress site, files and database. It does these without my having to take any action. Every change made to the site, whether it’s a new post, a comment, a theme change, whatever, gets backed up in real time to VaultPress. I can restore to virtually any point in time

This blog has become an important communication tool for me and my writing so I felt that it was just as important to ensure that the data was backed up. This is yet another service, like CrashPlan, that works so well it is virtually invisible. I no longer worry that I’ll lose data on my site.

3. LastPass

Back in May, I started using LastPass and it has saved me more time and frustration than I could describe. LastPass is a password manager that allows you to centralize your password storage. I have described how I use it in detail, but the gist of it is that I have allowed LastPass to generate a unique, strong password for every service and app that I use. No two passwords are alike. The LastPass Plug-In allows me to access all of the sites and services without needing to type in the passwords. And if one of my passwords is ever compromised, it is only for the one service. I can change it and no other services are affected.

I’ve been using LastPass for about 8 months. Think about how many times a day you are required to type in passwords. For me it is probably on the order to 20 or 30 times. Now multiply that out by 250 days or so and you’ll get an idea of just how much time LastPass has saved me. And it not only saves me more time, it makes me more secure online.

4. TextExpander

TextExpander is a Mac application (with iOS apps) that allows you to type short snippets of text that expand out into longer pieces of text. I use it so frequently, and the app is so invisible, that I forget how much TextExpander speeds up what I do. I have snippets for virtually everything. I can never remember my home phone number, for example, so I have a snippet I call “hphone.” Whenever I type that phrase, it changes into my home phone number.

I have another one for me email address. And others for common replies to email. I get a lot of email from people I don’t know telling me that they have the perfect guest post for my audience. Of course, they haven’t checked my site policies. These emails get a reply that is almost automatic. I start a new message and in the body, I type: “guestrejection” which produces the following message:

Thanks for inquiring. Per my guest post policy, I currently don’t accept unsolicited guest posts.

Good luck with your post elsewhere.


I have dozens of snippets in TextExpander that I use on a daily basis, from canned email responses to Evernote templates. It works so well, that I forget it is there.

The common thread to these 4 apps and services, the thing that makes them so important and work so well, is that they require virtually no interaction on my part. They run in the background of my life, doing what they are supposed to do, and only when they can’t do what they are supposed to do, do these apps and services gently tap me on the shoulder and say, “Excuse me, but I think I have a problem.” And that is extremely rare.

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  1. Hi Jamie.

    Since you’re a heavy cloud-user, in light of the NSA-related breach of almost all privacy etiquette, aren’t you worried about someone sniffing through your private stuff? Since all that stuff came out companies can tell me all they want that they’re not looking at my stuff. I have a hard time believing them or big brother for that matter.
    How about you? What stuff do you consider so sensitive that you won’t upload it to the cloud?

    1. Brian, as I have written elsewhere, the degree to which you keep stuff in the cloud is largely personal preference and comfort level. For me, I don’t lose any sleep over it. Put another way: the value, efficiency and peace-of-mind I get having my data accessible from just about anywhere far outweighs any concern that intelligence agencies might be snooping on my data. I don’t mean to suggest that I condone such snooping; I don’t. But the truth is, the only time I ever think about it is when I’m asked about it here in the comments or on some panel that I’m on.


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