Jane Hart has asked a number of people to write about their favorite tools, for either e-learning or personal learning and working. Of my top 10, 8 are free tools, and 3 of those are open source. Without further ado, here’s my list:

1. Firefox:
I started using Firefox as my browser because it’s more stable and faster than IE, and has been since it was called Mozilla and was only in beta. Having the ability to add extensions and customize the application is what really keeps me using it.

2. Gmail:
I’ve used a number of web-based email programs, but Gmail is by far my favorite. Sorting by conversations is much easier to follow, plus of course the search ability is great. I also use the Better Gmail Firefox add-on to tweak the interface, improve security, and add features.

3. Google Reader:
I admit it; I check my Google Reader pretty obsessively. I know that I simply wouldn’t read and learn as much without it. I star posts to remind myself to review a post or write about it later. My shared posts are shown on my blog to point out interesting reads.

4. Wikispaces:
I’ve never met any of my coworkers in person; everyone on our team telecommutes. Wikispaces is one of our primary documentation and collaboration tools. It’s easy to post tips, resources, processes, and brainstorming. The RSS feed lets me know whenever changes are made, which is a huge help.

5. Google Docs & Spreadsheets:
I know that the Google love must be getting a bit tiresome, but Google Docs really makes collaboration easier. During the course development process, it’s more convenient to use Google Docs than for my SME (Subject Matter Expert) and me to send dozens of Word attachments back and forth. I always know we both have the most current version of our documents. The formatting is quirky, especially when moving documents back and forth between Word and Google Docs, and the Revision Tracking seems a little clunky as well. It isn’t my first choice for a polished final document, but for building the drafts along the way it’s very effective.

6. Dreamweaver:
I know that Jane’s E-Learning Pick of the Day is usually a web-based service, but Dreamweaver really is the best choice for my needs developing online courses. Library files that automatically update multiple files across a course are huge timesavers.

7. Skype:
Skype has been an indispensable collaboration tool for our team. We use it for weekly meetings as well as quick calls and chats.

8. Captivate:
Captivate is my first choice for developing software application training. I was amazed at how quickly I could put together a rough interactive simulation the first time I tried it. For non-software training, Captivate is good but not outstanding. However, the more time I spend with it, the more I discover is possible.

9. Pidgin:
For instant messaging, I use Pidgin (formerly Gaim). This is an open source application which allows you to view multiple IM accounts from several places in a single window. I use Google Talk, AIM, Yahoo, and MSN, and I’d hate to have that many windows open all the time. Pidgin simplifies that for me.

10. Diigo:
I use Diigo as my primary social bookmarking tool. The daily blog posting has better formatting than other tools, and I have more control because I can post as a draft first. The blog post also includes my highlighted quotes from the page. The forwarding feature is a quick way to share sites with others.

Update: This list is also posted on the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies site. That version includes icons for each of my favorites.

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