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Using OneDrive: 5 tips for storing and sharing photos, videos and docs online
Microsoft created its cloud storage service, OneDrive, to allow people to "access, share and collaborate on your files from anywhere." Eighty-five percent of Fortune 500 companies and a quarter of a million organizations worldwide have OneDrive, according to Microsoft. While Google and Dropbox may have more individual users, for business, OneDrive is dominant. The best thing about OneDrive may be how it allows you to work securely from any device: your desktop, laptop or on your phone through its mobile app. In terms of flexibility, OneDrive is powerful because in addition to supporting Office files, it is also compatible with more than 300 file types, from Photoshop files (PSD) and Illustrator (AI) to Adobe PDF and 3D image formats. Here are our five successful OneDrive tips and tricks for agents:
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The Top 6 Things Agents Need to Know about PDFs
PDF files are so prominent, you probably have at least one open on your computer screen right now. Many people utilize and share PDF files as documents or contracts in their business and daily life. Because at Tech Helpline we often get calls from real estate professionals asking about this file format, today we bring you the top six things real estate professionals need to know about PDFs. Read on to learn some quick basics that will help you harness your files in this type of format with more confidence.
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7 Google Sheet Templates for Real Estate Businesses
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Life without a Fax Machine
It's hard to believe, but the concept of the fax machine is more than 150 years old. Scottish inventor Alexander Bain received a patent for the process of electronically copying and transmitting images between distant locations from both Great Britain and Ireland in 1843 and five years later from the US Patent Office. In the 1930s through World War II, the facsimile technology was embraced by the news media and the military. First, newspapers used them to send photographs remotely—and later, our armed services sent weather maps and reconnaissance photographs via fax. But in the 1970s and 80s, fax machines became ubiquitous in the business world. There were just 25,000 fax machines in the US in 1970, and there were a quarter of a million machines by 1980, but then the technology exploded. By 1990, the US had five million fax machines. Since the 2000s, with the emergence of the internet, email, and smartphone apps, the use of fax machines has all but vanished at most businesses. However, as an agent, how can you run your business today without a fax machine? Many vendors whom you work with may still require a fax. And when you make the switch to ditching the fax machine, you have to be careful the kind of documents you email. You also should educate your customers about safe email practices. Let them know the type of information that's okay to include documents that are sent by email, as well as what kind of information contained in documents should be uploaded to secure storage on the cloud (i.e., Dropbox, Google Docs or OneDrive). The PDF helps replace the fax The good news is sending and receiving documents today has never been easier. Adobe's creation of the Portable Document Format, or PDF, has driven the replacement of the facsimile machine. Just about any document you can view on your computer today, you can turn into a PDF. Many programs — such as Microsoft Word — also allow you to create a secure PDF, adding one crucial additional feature: password protection. Still, the best practice is not to send confidential information through email, even though a PDF may have password protection. That's the job of secure systems like DocuSign or data storage systems like Dropbox or Transaction Management systems like Forms Simplicity. But for general information, being able to send and receive PDFs can be a godsend. Because once you have a document in PDF format, it can be delivered fast and easy as an email attachment. This allows you to send documents to your customers or your customers to send general documents to you. But how do you fax a copy of a document not created in a program, like a letter from an employer? Fax in the palm of your hand Today, there are dozens of smartphone apps, both for Apple and Android phones, that essentially put the power of a fax machine in the palm of your hand. It uses the camera on your smartphone to turn it into a scanner. It then takes a photo of a document you would usually fax, and converts it to a black and white document. It saves your document as a PDF ready to be emailed or texted or stored securely in the cloud. You can even connect to a real fax service to send to a standard fax machine! For example, in Genius Scan, available for both Apple and Android phone, you open the app and take a photo of a document. An orange frame appears to crop and automatically straighten your document perfectly. You then select the black and white mode, and your document looks like a black and white fax. You save it as a PDF or JPG image and send it by email or text, or save it to your OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, Box or other cloud storage service. What if you need to send an old-fashioned fax? Some businesses still need to receive a fax. Or you may want to send a fax to get someone's attention because faxes are used so infrequently. How can you do that if you don't have a fax machine? There are several options. You can send a fax from your computer without a machine, even for free, using a service called FaxZero. The first three pages are free. If you need to send more pages, you can pay $1.99 for a Premium Fax. A Premium Fax is up to 25 pages. You can learn more here. A step-by-step tutorial of how it works is located at WikiHow, here. Another alternative is to use a smartphone app that connects to your scanning app. For example, Genius Scan connects to Genius Fax. Genius Fax can send the documents you create in Genius Scan for as little as 25 cents a page. If you need to receive faxes on a regular basis, Genius Fax offers you the option of your own fax phone number for a monthly fee.In effect, you not only have a computer in your pocket or purse these days, but you also are carrying around a fax machine. Tricia Stamper is Director of Technology at Florida Realtors®, which owns both Tech Helpline and Form Simplicity.    
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The Real Estate Top Producer's Filing System
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Using Cloud Storage Apps for Real Estate Client Service
No matter how much you learn about "selling," we know that real estate is a client service business. If you want to succeed with solid referrals, exceptional real estate client service is how to do it. So how do you provide better real estate client service? While you help sellers to get their homes ready to sell and value them, and you help buyers find and purchase a home, your greatest involvement with clients is during the transaction process. It is also an excellent opportunity to build goodwill with your clients and create a referral resource in the future.
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Paperless Files like a Pro: Fast, Efficient Document Management
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7 Apps that Make Dealing with PDFs Easy
When's the last time you received important real estate documents as a JPG or other image file? How about a lengthy disclosure where each page was its own, separate PDF file? Such is life in today's digital world. Fortunately, there are tools out there that can make managing real estate documents easier. We've rounded up a few of the best apps for editing, merging, reducing, and converting real estate documents into the industry standard file format--the PDF. 1. Adobe Acrobat - Let's start with the obvious choice. As the gold standard of PDF editors, Acrobat can handle pretty much any task you throw at it. The downside? It's pretty expensive. Buying the program outright costs several hundred dollars, and Adobe's monthly pay-as-you-go plan starts at $12.99 and requires an annual commitment. Not exactly gentle on the wallet--and that's exactly why we created this list. The rest of the apps highlighted in this article are free or low(er) cost. Check 'em out below! 2. PDFescape - This is a perennial favorite with agents. PDFescape is a free online tool that lets you edit, annotate, and fill out PDFs. There's also a desktop version that runs on your computer--great for when you don't have an internet connection (or it's painfully slow). For advanced features, like converting file types, there are premium versions that run $3 to $6 per month. 3. PrimoPDF - Need to convert a Word doc, PowerPoint, or Excel file to a PDF (or vice versa)? PrimoPDF is a free tool that can do the trick. You can also create PDFs and do basic editing. PrimoPDF is software that you download to your Windows computer. Don't have a Windows machine? Check out our next option.
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Selecting the Right Document and Transaction Management Solution
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Best of 2015: How to Convert a Document to PDF in 3 Easy Steps
We're continuing an annual tradition of counting down our top 10 articles of the year. The following article was originally published back in August and is #4 in our countdown. See #5 here. Need a quick, easy way to turn a document into a .PDF without having to pay for conversion software? You're in luck! If you have a Google account, you already have access to a free online tool that makes it a snap to change files to the format you need. (If you don't have an account, you can sign-up here.) One of the most underappreciated features of Google Drive is how it lets you convert documents to different file formats like rich text, plain text, Open Office, PDF, Microsoft Word, and more. It's a simple hack that anyone can do in just a couple of minutes. Here's how. Step #1: Upload a File for Conversion First, upload the document that you want to convert to Google Drive. To do this, click the orange New button and select File upload. Then browse to the file on your hard drive you want to convert and hit Open.
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How to Convert a Document to PDF in 3 Easy Steps
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This Overlooked eSignature Feature Can Enhance Your Customer Service
You know that email you receive from your eSignature solution when a client has viewed or opened the document you sent them? That seemingly innocuous message actually represents an opportunity to provide superior customer service to your client. Here's how. One of the concerns that people have about electronic signatures is that the agent doesn't really have opportunity to review a document with a client. Since most eSignatures are completed remotely, the agent isn't there to guide the client through the mountain of often confusing documents and disclosures. That's where the aforementioned email comes in. DocuSign will immediately send you an email once your recipient opens a document (if you don't use DocuSign, check with your eSignature solution to see if they offer this feature). This is an opportunity to call or text your client to say, "Hey, I'm in the office. If you need help or have any questions about the document I sent over, let me know." You can let your client think your call was well-timed serendipity, or you can mention that DocuSign notified you. That's your choice. If your client is a little tech shy or concerned about privacy, the former may be the better option.
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Document and Transaction Management 101
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Friday Freebie: Transaction Management from Reesio
We frequently highlight free trial offers in our Friday Freebies column. Today, however, we're bringing you something even better--a product that's free all the time, no trial required. The best part? It's a core real estate solution that's available at no charge. Free Online Transaction Management from Reesio Transaction management platforms are one of the most effective technologies an agent can leverage to make sure their business runs smoothly. So when we heard that Reesio offered theirs for free, we decided to investigate. It's easy to assume that a free solution will cut corners or offer limited features. This is not the case with Reesio. Their platform offers a multitude of features available in more expensive solutions, like unlimited transactions and users, unlimited document storage, document management, and even eSignature integration with DocuSign. This is thanks to a business model that you can learn more about here. Additional Reesio features include: Full Compliance Management for Brokerages Customizable Workflow Templates Task Management Activity Log Public Listing and Marketing Offer Management Notes and Messaging User-level Permissions Control Click here to learn more about Reesio and get started!
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Friday Freebie: Realty Commander
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Product Review: Form Simplicity
There is a world of solutions available to agents and brokers. It's no surprise, though--real estate is one of the largest sectors of our economy, and many technology companies have recognized our industry for the opportunity that it offers. While there are plenty of solutions offered by industry "outsiders," a smaller number are created by professionals with hands-on real estate experience. Today, we're going to introduce you to one such solution. Form Simplicity is a transaction management solution created by a professional real estate organization, Florida Realtors®. Its ongoing development is, in part, shaped by a panel of REALTOR® members who ensure that the program stays in step with what agents and brokers need to be successful. A Closer Look True to its name, Form Simplicity is simple. Right from the home page, users will notice its pared down interface that offers only what agents need to work fast.
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Introducing Realty Commander
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Introducing Realty Commander
There's a wide variety of transaction management software on the market today. And it's no wonder--using a great solution is probably the easiest way agents can save themselves time and hassle, and better communicate with their clients. The key is finding the product that works best for you. Today, we'd like to introduce you to a transaction management solution that should be on the radar of any agent or broker. Realty Commander covers all the necessities of a solid transaction management platform--document sharing, task manager, calendars--but it's the extras that differentiate it. The solution excels in handling multiple different file types, like a buyer, regular listing or short sale. Other notable features include: Customizable File Flow Integrated Quick Search Daily E-Mail Reminders Task Management Paperless Document Management Smart Drag-and-Drop Calendar E-Mail Integration with Smart Tracking Lender Forms Library Short sale package builder HUD Editor Client / Guest Access Login Showings Manager for Buyers and Listings Multi-User Access Levels for Teams or Brokers
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Product Review: Form Simplicity
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Cartavi Adds Gusto to Version 3.3
Since being acquired by DocuSign, Cartavi has been working away at developing the golden triangle of the real estate document management echo system: Forms, Signature, and Storage. Better yet, they focus on making it happen on mobile first. Before this new release, signing a document was kind of clunky. You had to open your document in DocuSign, add signatures, sign it, then pull the completed document back into Cartavi. Now, you can sign any document right inside of Cartavi using DocuSign Ink. They took a complicated workflow and narrowed it down. When you look at a document today in Cartavi, just hit the 'Sign It' button. Then the menu items for managing names and signatures appears. Drag them where they go on the document, and sign it. New Integrations You may know that Cartavi is among the few document management companies to have acquired the license to integrate zipForms from zipLogix into their platform. The new signature workflow is going to make working with zipForms even easier.
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The Cloud is for Collaboration
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Checklist: Going Digital
"Digital" is an often used, frequently misunderstood term. In the case of real estate professionals, "going digital" can easily be replaced with "going paperless." It describes the transition of business functions from antiquated techniques (like filing cabinets and ballpoint pens) to modern computer technology. Are you ready to make this transition? We'll provide a checklist of the key tools you'll need. Before we do, let's have a little reality check. Your business will not be completely, 100% paperless – at least, not in the foreseeable future. There will be some documents and marketing collateral that you simply must put on a piece of paper. Your goal should be to aim for maximum paper reduction to honor the planet, reduce expenses, save time, and allow you to make more money selling real estate. The Checklist This checklist may not be inclusive, but it's a great place to start. These are the tools that can help you ditch the printer. 1. Electronic Signatures. The biggest offender for paper waste in real estate is contracts. With the multiple versions that most transactions go through, the number of pages printed can be truly terrifying. Thankfully electronic signature providers like DocuSign have digitized this process. Their technology has become incredibly advanced, offering remarkable functionality with an ease-of-use that surpasses even pen-to-paper signatures. With the addition of a mobile app like the DocuSign mobile app, you have your documents and forms with you no matter where you go, helping you close deals more quickly and conveniently.
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Where are Your Tech Pain Points?
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Choosing a Document and Transaction Management Solution
This is the latest in a series of 'Buyer's Guides' that feature questions to ask and options to consider before making a new purchase. See our previous guides to purchasing a CMA and CRM. What are document management and transaction management? Document management and transaction management represent two distinctly different product categories. However, some companies have chosen to offer solutions that combine the two categories into a single solution. Thus, we are discussing them together here. Borrowing from our previous article on this very subject, here's a quick review of these product categories. Document management technology is intended to help real estate professionals manage documents with functions that support: digitally storing documents, sharing documents with other interested parties, organizing documents, tracking the status of documents, and (in some instances) electronically signing documents. Transaction management products are intended to help real estate professionals manage a transaction through functions such as: contact management, a calendar tool, some degree of document management, and a wide variety of other features. It provides a collaborative space for working with all the parties to a transaction through tasks (for instance ordering home inspection, coordinating mortgage, etc.). Forms management is also often a component of products that fall into this category.
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Don’t Force It
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"The Cloud" 101
Prabakar Mahalingam of GoPaperless Solutions says: You've heard so much about "the cloud," but do you really understand what it is and what the impacts are for your business? Maybe it's time to get back to the basics – with a crash course in Cloud Computing 101. Definition The cloud isn't up in the air; it's actually a bunch of servers in a data center, somewhere on the ground. What most real estate agents need to understand about cloud computing is that it is essentially any form of computing (particularly applications or storage) that takes place on the Internet. It's obviously more complicated and technical than this, but that other stuff matters for our developers – not for you, the end consumer. Use in Real Estate Each industry leverages cloud computing in a slightly different way. Some of the primary uses for real estate include: Storage – Saving and accessing data is one of the primary applications of cloud computing in any industry (just look at the popularity of Dropbox). In real estate, this is certainly true as agents seek to store signed documents, forms, contracts, photos, and other crucial information. The online vault is an example from our Real Estate Dashboard solution, where agents can access their contracts and documents anywhere, anytime, plus provide permission-based access to their clients and contacts. Fax – Sending and receiving fax electronically with cloud-based systems can help agents reduce the waste and inconvenience of paper fax. This is one of the popular features in our REDfax solution.
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Friday Freebie: Real Estate Dashboard
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Product Review: Instanet Solutions Suite
RE Technology usually tries to keep product reviews simple, focusing only on a single product from a single company at one time. However, we are deviating from our usual routine for this review with very good reason: the suite of products from Instanet Solutions integrate so seamlessly that to try to cover each separately would be doing a disservice to readers and to the product. Still, it's important to note that each of the products mentioned in this review can be purchased separately, if you so choose. The Basics To make this as easy to visualize and understand as possible, we will first walk through some of the most basic tasks related to a new transaction. We'll begin in TransactionDesk, Instanet's transaction management solution. There are several ways to create a transaction: If you're a member of certain MLSs, you can use the one-click transaction option from within the MLS to automatically import all the information. You can also create a new transaction from within TransactionDesk by entering a transaction name, a data source, a property type, and an MLS or APN number. This method of creating a transaction will also automatically import information from your MLS or a tax service. Here's an example: Whether you're using the one-click transaction option or creating a transaction manually, Instanet will automatically load the property information, the parties involved (including contact information, in many cases), and the forms necessary to complete the transaction.
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Product Review: eSignDashboard for iPad
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Document Management vs. Transaction Management
When I first started writing about real estate technology, I was absolutely stumped by the difference between document management and transaction management. The two seemed inexorably muddled. What I've found is that many agents are similarly confused. So I'm going to attempt to provide some rough definitions here. Transaction Management: technology intended to help real estate professionals manage a transaction through functions such as: contact management, a calendar tool, some degree of document management, and a wide variety of other features. Document Management: technology intended to help real estate professionals manage documents with functions that support: digitally storing documents, sharing documents with other interested parties, organizing documents, tracking the status of documents, and (in some instances) electronically signing documents. Chatting with some of the experts in each area helped me to nail down the differences between the two categories – however, it also made clear that there is often considerable overlap between products that label themselves as one or the other. Each technology company has their own unique perspective on this issue, so I thought I'd share some of these voices here. Cartavi – Document Management The creators of Cartavi see a very distinct difference between transaction management and document management – and made a very conscious decision in focusing solely on document management. "When we set out, our initial thought was to build a tool to help agents manage transactions," says Glenn Shimkus, Co-Founder and CEO of Cartavi. "Documents were a part of that, of course, but just one piece of the puzzle. However, as we began talking to more agents, we kept hearing very consistent feedback: 'I already have a solution I like for my contacts, calendars, etc. Where I really need help is with documents – managing and sharing them (with everyone involved, not just other REALTORS®).' "This is the Age of the App and most agents actually prefer an 'a lá carte' approach to the tools they use. They choose the apps and software that work for them – and are not likely to adopt a product that replaces all of the solutions they currently use. However, the missing piece for most seemed to be document management. That's where we decided we could really meet an unmet need." After creating a streamlined solution for document management, Cartavi decided to add integration with DocuSign for digital signatures. "Our integration with DocuSign allows us to provide a more comprehensive platform for document management," Glenn explains. "Agents now have a tool that enables them to manage, share, fax and electronically sign the documents that drive a transaction."
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Looking Forward with Austin Allison
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What Does Your Website Say About You?
If you're an agent working today, then you already know the importance of a good web presence. What you may not know, however, is what constitutes 'good'. If you have a website, take a look at this list to make sure you're not falling victim to technology. After all, having a megaphone is one thing; using it wisely is another.        
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Are You Meeting Your Goals for 2011?
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Going Paperless: A Smart Choice
Environmental conscience doesn't have to take a back seat to business savvy. What many people may not recognize is that they can make smart choices that are good for business and the environment. A great way to get started is to go paperless. Before I start my spiel, I want to take the opportunity to reach out to you, our brilliant readers. Going paperless is just the beginning of the many ways that REALTORS® can green their business. Are there any green ideas that have inspired you? Do you have any advice for your peers?
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The Queue: A Look at RETechSouth, Bob Hale, and 4 New Technologies!
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Are Electronic Signatures Right for Your Business?
Guest Contributor GoPaperless says: More and more REALTORS® are completing real estate transactions using electronic signatures. Not surprisingly, these REALTORS® do not miss chasing faxes or maintaining large files of paperwork. These REALTORS® are finding also that real estate moves faster in the digital world, and clients are impressed with the speed and ease with which the transactions occur. So how does it work? In cases where the clients are at a distance, like at home for example while the REALTOR® is at their office or on the road, the REALTOR® will send the client a link to the documents with the areas they need to sign highlighted. The client will identify themselves and click to sign the document over the Internet. The electronic signature is legally binding in a real estate or other business transaction, so the process moves forward the same as it would have had the client and REALTOR® met for an in-person signing. Obviously, not having that meeting saved everyone a great deal of time.
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Cloud Computing and Social Media in Today's Business World
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Need a New Year’s Resolution?
The term, “New Year’s resolution,” is often associated with an ambitious goal that often falls flat come February.  However, if the goal is realistic and practical, it’s easier to adopt. For real estate professionals, that realistic and practical goal could be adopting a paperless platform. Going paperless is beneficial to real estate professionals in a variety of ways.  For starters, the transaction and negotiation process of buying and selling a home is riddled with paperwork that requires signing, faxing, printing etc. Eliminating this tedious process significantly increases agent efficiency and decreases burnout.
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Track My File
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