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NorCal Wine Blog

8 Excellent and Free Online Tools for Businesses and Individuals

I’m attending this Wine Industry Technology Symposium (WITS) in Napa this week. It’s a conference put together by providers of technology solutions (mostly software) that helps wineries better manage their businesses. Everything from vineyard management to point-of-sale systems are represented.

One of the presentations I found most useful yesterday was on free and low-cost applications for wineries. Geni Whitehouse and James Marshall Berry highlighted at least 30 that were really worthwhile. Only one of them is specifically designed for the wine industry though,VinTank. I’ll look at that in a separate article at some ponit. The tools I'm highlighting today are useful for virtually any person or business.

Eight excellent and free online tools: offers a set of business mileage tracking applications. One of the best features is automatic calculation of mileage between places using geo-data. No more guessing when you forget to reset the odometer! It also allows you to quickly record trips after the fact. The “lite” version, which works for up to 1,400 miles per year, is free. However, for very modest fees, presents both individuals and companies with robust solutios.


Some of the best tools do just one small thing, but do it easily and well.’s color palette tool is like that. It generates two different five-color palettes based on an image you designate. Palettes of colors that work well together are key when designing websites, glossy brochures or even do-it-yourself holiday cards.

color_palette is an online solution for expense reports. It’s not just for one individual’s expenses though. It has mobile apps for recording expenses as they arise and for capturing photos of receipts (which are acceptable to the IRS). The online expense reports can then be approved by managers within Expensify. It also generates reports to help management understand where money is being spent. Expensify synchronizes with QuickBooks and lets you design and export spreadsheets too.


Google Alerts

Monitor online mentions of your brand, your own name, or a competitor with Google Alerts. Tell Google Alerts what to watch for. Once a day, you’ll get an email with links to new articles in which the search terms have been found.

Google Analytics

Learn how many people visit your website, who are they, where they click in from, what pages they look at, how long they stay, etc. This is essential information for anyone whose business depends on a website. And it’s totally free.


Google Webmaster Tools

Ensure your site is performing properly with respect to links, search engine optimization and page-loading speed. 


MailChimp manages your email newsletters and offers. If you have fewer than 2,000 people on your list, you can send up to 12,000 mails per month for free. That includes advanced features like A-B mailings, dynamic delivery of custom content based on merge tags and automatic segmentation using geolocation tools.

mailchimp is an online photo editor that offers many of Photoshop’s features, but doesn’t cost a dime. You can retouch photos, adjust color balance, apply filters and resize them for web publishing as you would with expensive photo-editing software. It doesn’t batch process or have some of the most cutting-edge tools but is more than adequate for most people.



Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to Copyright 2012 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.


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