When I find a product or a service that I absolutely love, I can’t wait to share it with others. Often people want recommendations for what they should use on their own websites, so I created a comprehensive list of everything I use to make this blog happen on the software end. If you were looking for a list of my devices, cameras, etc., you can find that on my Equipment page. Those looking for information about the specific design of this site can find it on the Design Notes page. In the interest of transparency, none of the items are included due to sponsorship, each of these is free-to-all or I pay full retail price.
Internet Access | Spectrum (formerly Brighthouse)
Honestly, I have no choice in this service; where we live you are only allowed to use this service. It isn’t that great, it cuts out at least once a day, but about 20% of the month it is out repeatedly & for long periods of time. We switched to using their equipment and it didn’t help at all. We have to restart the equipment throughout the day to get it to reconnect. I would absolutely NOT recommend this service if you can in any way avoid it.
Mobile Internet | Cricket Wireless
As a blogger who focuses mainly on subjects that are not in my home, having a reliable internet connection on-the-go is extremely important to me. I have tried several of the large companies and have sworn off most of them. The problems range from horrific customer service, overage charges, mysterious contract changes… then having my contract extended in order to change back things they “thought” I’d be interested in without my permission, to “unlimited” service that was anything BUT unlimited. I refuse to go back to any of the big names in cell phone service as long as Cricket Wireless is an option. I love them! I am not locked into a contract! They have never added anything to or changed my service without my express permission, I have extremely reliable coverage (I had signal in the center of a swampy nature preserve), and when they say “Unlimited data”, they mean it! I don’t even want to think about how much data I use between always being on social media, streaming YouTube videos and broadcasting on Periscope, yet I have never had my data cut, throttled or been charged a dime in overages. It’s easy to pay my bill, customer service is good, etc. The only times I can’t connect or stay connected is in large crowd situations, like the nightly fireworks at the Magic Kingdom, but every service has an issue with 15,000 people trying to stream at once from one single spot. I would definitely recommend this service.
Web Hosting | HostGator
I was with another hosting service (WebHostingHub) for almost a decade and while I loved their customer service, accessibility, and price point, I needed more speed. After I switched to HostGator my site’s speed rating went up a full letter grade. The price is competitive with my old service for basically the same package (the only real differences are that I can only host one domain and can only host WordPress, which is all I use anyway), decent customer service and good accessibility. So far I am happy with them and would recommend it to others.
Blogging Platform | WordPress
I used to be on the Blogger platform eons ago but I had a lot of issues with it converting line spaces into whatever it wanted when I would hit the “publish” button and (at least at that time) the difficulting of arranging images in a post if you were using more than two or three per post. I was suspicious about switching to something new when there is so much involved, but everything transferred smoothly to WordPress and now I wouldn’t even think about using anything else. Everything is fully customizable, from the design to the posts. If you find something that you can’t get to work on this platform, nine times out of ten there is a tutorial to get around the problem. It is SO easy to use. I was proficient in HTML, but CSS completely flew past me during a period that didn’t upgrade my layout on the other service. Once I started on WordPress I was already behind, but I was able to fully customize my themes and plugins exactly the way I wanted. WordPress is very stable, I don’t think I’ve had an issue at all in many years. I can only recommend self-hosted WordPress as I have never used the Premium “.com” version.
Operating System | Windows 10
I can’t afford to completely repurchase all of my programs & equipment in Mac format, which would be ideal, so I’ve been shuffled along with each new upgrade, eventually ending up here, at the weird, tablet-esque Windows 10.
Photo Editing & Graphics | Adobe Photoshop CS6
I have been using Adobe for over two decades. I’ve tried other systems, but I am completely satisfied with Photoshop. If there is an image that I can’t create in PS then I probably don’t need it. lol. I can’t recommend this highly enough.
PDFs | Adobe Acrobat X Pro
I include free scans and/or pattern files in some of my posts and this is the program that I use to create multi-page PDF files. I was without it for a while when my old computer died and I had to use my husband’s where it was not installed and it was hell finding something that would produce them with the ease of Acrobat. Highly recommend.
Coding | Notepad
Seriously. I have used Notepad to write my site codes from day one. Now I use it to work out edits as I start from a pre-made base theme instead of writing it from scratch. Comes free with every Windows system.
Coding | Agent Ransack
I use this program to search my website files for a specific code I want to edit. It literally saves me DAYS that I would be sitting here reading file after file of code looking for one specific line. I just download a backup packet to my desktop, unzip it, open Agent Ransack and search that folder like I would if I was looking for a file in explorer. I love it!
Video Editing | Adobe Premiere Pro CS6
I don’t do a ton of video editing, I’m still learning it right now before I start putting out content, but so far so good. I put a lot of research into this selection and this is a top-notch editor for non-professionals. I tried out many, many programs and this was far and above the best.
Browser | Google Chrome
I love my Google Chrome. For me, it is very stable and I have very few problems.
FTP | FileZilla
Business & Bookkeeping Tasks | Apache Open Office 4.1.3.
Open Office is a suite of programs that mimic Microsoft Office. If you use these programs enough to pay the cost every month for Office, then by all means that is the best route, but I am only accessing these programs once or twice a month and some I never touch (PowerPoint), so the free opensource option that Apache offers works best for me. I can open and create files for Word, Excel, Access, etc. with OpenOffice and it costs me nothing but a few minutes to install. Recommend.
Scanning & Printing | Lexmark Productivity Studio
This has its bugs and has to be restarted after every 15 scanned pages, but it’s really the only thing I have found that works at all with my printer. :/
For cleaner storage, archiving and for compressing downloads offered on the blog, I use WinRAR and WinZip. Sometimes WinZip will have a free download, otherwise, they both cost approx $30. They both work great and do the same job.
Authoring | Paper & Pencil
Other than the embedded post editor, I don’t use anything else to write my posts on the computer. I write with good old paper and pen and then I type it into WordPress when I have a final draft.
Proofreading | Grammarly
I use the Grammarly app for Google Chrome to do most of my proofreading and spellchecking. I recommend it.
Webmail | SquirrelMail
I use this via my HostGator dashboard to send and receive emails on the floridablog.com account. It’s free, works pretty well.
Mobile Browser | Safari
Same as all iPhone users, I guess. It’s what came on the phone and I saw no reason to change it, it has worked perfectly.
Social Media | Instagram
An absolute MUST and the social network that I use the most. Find me @thefloridablog!
Social Media | Twitter
My second favorite social network. I use this at least once a day and have it set to alert me of new activity on my account. Find me @thefloridablog!
Social Media | Facebook
I am almost never on here, I know, I’m terrible. I find it very difficult to build an audience on this platform while at the same time not being a spammy jerk. I’ve joined blogger groups, Florida groups, I’ve tried commenting on other posts, etc… it just seems like I’m not meant to do well on this network. Can’t win them all, but you can find me @thefloridabloggers.
Live Streaming Video | Periscope
Video Channel | YouTube
I have a video channel on YouTube but I waiting to do regular postings until I have a better camera and have become comfortable with using my editing software. I mostly use the app to view other bloggers’ videos. You can subscribe to my channel @thefloridablog.
Inspiration Sourcing | Pinterest
Awesome tool for finding and cataloging inspiration for almost anything. Also, a great place to share your own original content. Find me @thefloridablog!
Content Sharing | Tumblr
Photo Editing | PS Express
While this doesn’t have some of my favorite and most used features from full PS, it gets the job done while you are on-the-go. Lots of options for fixing bad lighting problems which are usually the reasons I am editing a photo, to begin with. I highly recommend this.
Photo Editing | Layout
This app allows me to combine multiple photos into one. This is especially useful for Instagram.
Navigation | Google Maps
My favorite navigation app. Some of the places I go are very difficult to find and thank goodness for this! I changed the voice to male Australian, lol.
Analytics | InstaFollowers
For the moment I am using free InstaFollowers. I need to either find a better version or pay for one. I was using an app that tracked both Twitter & Instagram, but it malfunctioned and even though I have uninstalled and reinstalled it, re-downloaded it, etc. multiple times it will not work anymore. This one works okay for the moment.
Planning | My Disney Experience
This app works fairly consistently and I use it a lot when we are on property. It has a multitude of uses and if you are going to be at WDW you pretty much need it.
Proofreading | PaperRater
Social Media & Sharing | Various
For all of the social and sharing apps that I use, I also use their main websites. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Periscope, and Youtube, I also use Blogher and Bloglovin’ when I’m not on the phone.
Website Speed | Pingdom
I use this to test my blog loading speed and to find out how to improve it. I use other sites as well, but this one gives me results on some areas that the Google PageSpeed doesn’t.>/p>
Website Speed | Google PageSpeed
For the most part, I’ve seen indie developers in forums say the results from this page are unrealistic, that they feedback as slower than they really are. However, it always gives me a good place to start figuring out what to fix to make my page faster. Since Google rules that online world and you want to cater to them and their SEO if you plan on doing any advertising, it’s always best to check up on how they see your blog speed & functionality.
Website Speed | WebPageTest
This speed tester is the most thorough of the three I use and is recommended on most tech forums that I’ve visited. The general opinion is that it gives you the most realistic feedback.
Analytics | Google Analytics
I use the dashboard on their website for a more in-depth analysis of who is visiting my site.
Analytics | Google Search Console
Monitors search traffic to my site.
Analytics | TwitNerd
Allows me to keep track of my Twitter stats, followers, unfollowers, etc for free.
Calendar | Time.ly
I can control my events calendar from inside my WordPress dashboard system, but there was some initial set up that it was much easier to do on the website.
Email Marketing | MailChimp
I have under 2000 subscribers to my newsletter, so the service is free for me. I use this to create newsletters, email campaigns and the subscription forms on my site.
Finance | PayPal
A one time set up on the site lets you send and receive money all over the world with a few clicks. Great if you sell goods or provide services online. When I used to blog for pay, this is how they would pay me.
Online Marketplace | Amazon
Great place to buy any equipment or supplies that you need for your business/blog. I get everything from computers to floral pins on this site. Also, if you are a popular blogger that has fans buying goodies for you, you can create a wishlist that hides your address and the items they purchase will be mailed directly to you.
Online Marketplace | Etsy
Online Marketplace | Fiverr
This is a one-stop shop for services. If you need help with anything, this is the place. you can get help setting up your blog, have a video opening created or even have yourself drawn as a Disney princess. I’ve used the services offered here a few times when I either didn’t have the time, know-how or equipment to do it myself, and all for a reasonable price.
Technical | WordPress Support
If I have a problem with a plugin, piece of code or a theme and I just can’t get it right, I can usually find the answer by searching the WordPress support forums.
Technical | YouTube
I not only use for uploading videos and watching videos for pleasure, but I also use it to learn how to fix all sorts of technical problems, both with my blog and with my equipment. YouTube is an invaluable tool and if you are only using it to watch cat videos you are really missing out!
Technical | Solo Pine Support
This is the designer of my base theme and they have really awesome technical support forums for their products.
Plugins & Widgets
Social Media | AccessPress Twitter Feed
Displays my feed in the sidebar of the layout.
Social Media | Instagram Feed
Displays my feed in the sidebar of my layout.
Content Sharing | jQuery Pin It Button
Adds a custom “Pin it!” image and link when hovering over images.
Commenting | CommentLuv
Lets users select one of their most recent blog posts to feature next to their comments.
Commenting | Gravatar
Commentors can log in without registering for the individual blog and it will display their avatar and backlink.
Communication | Contact Form 7
Allows me to create and display a contact form on one of my pages.
Newsletters & Email Marketing | WP Subscribe
Creates and displays a simple newsletter subscription form anywhere on the site, mine is in the sidebar. It’s free and easy to use. I was using the MailChimp sliding box, but it was dragging my loading speed down SO badly that I opted to remove it and replace it with this one, which integrates with my external MailChimp account.
Newsletters & Email Marketing | Featured Images in RSS
Standard RSS feeds have no images I guess? This inserts the featured images from each post into the RSS feed when it is delivered to readers.
Calendar | All-In-One by Time.ly
Displays a pretty interactive and responsive events calendar.
Design | WP Google Fonts
Tool for easily adjusting the fonts used in my theme.
Authoring | VafPress Post Formats IU
Gives more options in the post editor screen, was part of the theme I am using, wasn’t something I chose or that works particularly well.
Coding | Insert Headers & Footers
Copy and paste dialog box for quick addition of code to the header or footer of my theme.
Coding | WPide
Numbered line code editor that allows me to edit my theme without going through the default editor.
Analytics | Google Analytics Dashboard
Tracks and analysis visitor trends.
SEO | Yoast
A multi-faceted tool that assists in search engine Optimisation. Best I’ve found. Recommended!
Security | iThemes
Super tool for WP site security. I love it!
Security | Akismet
Anti-spam tool for registrations, comments and more.
Security | BackWPup
Executes scheduled backups of all the files in my WP folders so that I always have an up-to-date version saved.
Website Speed | WP Fastest Cache
Performs a myriad of actions to keep your blog loading speed humming along.
Website Speed | WP Smush It
Reduces the size of images on your site for faster loading.
Website Speed | Optimus
Smush only reduces images up to a specific size and even after using it I was still getting feedback that I needed to optimize some of my images. I ran this and it cleaned up what Smush had left behind and all the images are optimized now.
Website Speed | Autoptimize
This plugin optimizes CSS, HTML, js, etc. Reducing the loading time on non-image files.
Website Speed | Far Future Expiry
I used this to set expiry dates for files that didn’t have them already. It’s just another quirk that drags your site speed down and I wanted to take care of it since it was an easy fix. After I used it, I had to deactivate it because it was clashing with WP Fastest Cache which needs to remain activated for it to work correctly.
Multi | Jetpack
Has so many different applications included for so many categories I’m not going to list them all. Follow the link to their site for more info.