Tools of the trade

Posted by JD Collier on August 12, 2011

I love my tools. I love having the right tool for the job! As a Drupal developer, I will sometimes use the command line for things like Drush or creating symlinks, but for the most part, most of my day is spent in one of the tools below.

[Full disclosure: I joined the Cult of Mac years ago so this is a Mac-centric list.]

I love the quick animations, the clean lines, the simplistic functioning of well designed user interfaces. Sometimes I tell myself I’m simple-minded, but in truth, a well designed user interface imparts confidence and agility to its user.

Following are some of the tools that I use every day.

Productivity Tools

toggl.png Toggl: Nice little time tracking application so that I can enter my time in a tool like Freshbooks or Quickbooks at the end of the day. It even has an Autopilot feature to automate time tracking … I will be adventurous someday soon and try it.
mailplane.png Mailplane: I’m a Gmail fan. I can’t imagine using anything else. I really like that Mailplane puts my Gmail into a wrapper so that I don’t accidentally close the browser window. There are too many benefits over a browser-only experience, so I’ve included the link.
evernote.png Evernote: I use Evernote for so much. I take notes in meetings, store snippets of code I want to remember, store web pages. I even use it for grocery lists. I like the trust I feel when I add something and I know it will be on my app, on the web, and on my device within seconds.
onepassword_0.png LastPass: I have always been a huge fan of 1Password. LastPass recently won me over with the ability to send credentials to coworkers. I can send a coworker account credentials without them even seeing the password. I can’t remember all the passwords in my life and this tools keeps them all wonderfully secure in a vault that only I can access.


Programming Tools


espresso.png Espresso: This little programming tool is wonderful. I am also a fan of Coda, but the feature that keeps me in Espresso? Code expanding! I love that I can type ul>li*4>a and then press Ctrl+, and it expands everything into fully indented HTML with four rows of LIs. It seems to read my mind with the smart tab feature that knows when I want to tab inside a tag and when I just want to jump past a closing tag and start something fresh.
Image removed. CSSEdit: Before CSS Edit, I used Firebug. I am a fan of Firebug, but I’m much much faster in CSS Edit. My favorite feature in CSS Edit is X-ray inspector. I can click what I want to style, click to add that complex CSS selector and then click a few properties. I also like that it quickly jumps to the existing styles to edit … a lifesaver when working with someone else’s code. [Note, this tool is being integrated into Espresso in the near future.]
versions.png Versions: I’m very visual. I love using this tool to manage files under source control. I find that I fight with it from time to time, but that is always my fault (I accidentally delete .svn folders all the time — am I the only one?


What tools do you depend on?


I love hearing about new tools — please tell me what tool you can’t live without.

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image by: magnuscanis


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Submitted by jack_tux on Sun, 08/14/2011 - 4:48pm

I couldn't do without Netbeans and debug. Just love that you can debug PHP without echoing to the screen to see what's happening.

Submitted by JD Collier on Wed, 08/17/2011 - 2:14pm

@jack_tux: Thanks for the info! Being able to debug PHP is helpful. I think I've just become accustomed to not using an IDE. I did like Eclipse though.

Submitted by Pat Gerber on Thu, 08/18/2011 - 8:41am

I've completely dependent on Evernote and Dropbox for a long time, but my new tools are Fluid and 5pmweb. 5pmweb is a project management website that is much better for my creative team to keep track of projects. It is much cheaper than other solutions and allows me to have a project with multiple tasks under that project that can be assigned to different people.

Fluid us a Mac App that lets you turn websites into completely separate apps. That way my 5pmweb web service acts like it's own native app in my dock and not like just another browser tab.

Submitted by JD Collier on Thu, 08/18/2011 - 8:50am

@Pat: First off ... long time no see, hi there! Fluid looks really cool! I'm going to try it now.

Submitted by thamas on Tue, 08/23/2011 - 12:42pm

Skitch - screen capturing and annotating

Diigo - save, categorise links, capture and annotate full web pages (wia Awesome Screenshot plugin) - time tracking

iTerm2 - instead of Mac's terminal

Google Notifier app

Submitted by thamas on Tue, 08/23/2011 - 12:45pm

By the way I started to use Evernote beause of your recommendation.

I'm also interested in howto use CSSEdit (Espesso 2) instead of Firebug. But it is not so straightforward. Do you know some good tutorials about it?

Submitted by JD Collier on Tue, 08/23/2011 - 5:05pm

@thamas: Interesting that it looks like Evernote has acquired Skitch. I love Skitch too!

I'm going to try out Diigo ... very interesting tool!

Thank you for the comment!

Submitted by JD Collier on Wed, 08/24/2011 - 8:54am

@thamas ... I don't know any good tutorials for CSSEdit/Espresso 2. The really key piece is to turn on the preview window, click the preview window title in the left sidebar and rip it out of the sidebar into its own window, then turn on Xray. Next, set up a style sheet override and then you are set up to see any change you make live. It is faster for me than Firebug.

Submitted by thamas on Wed, 08/24/2011 - 12:02pm

Thanks for your help. In the meantime I found some (not too good...) sources.

I forget to mention an other tool: Acquia Dev Stack - for localhost needs (I've also tried MAMP. Both have advantages.)

Submitted by JD Collier on Wed, 08/24/2011 - 12:36pm

@thamas: I use MAMP, I've been looking into the Acquia stack ... I'd love to hear your thoughts on it. I'm not using Acquia for production ... so does that make it too different, do they change any modules that would make it difficult to move to a non Acquia server?

Submitted by thamas on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 6:31am

jd - the biggest challenge of devstack (for me!) that it works as you would create multi sites. So it does not use the site/default folder but creates a sites/[domain name] folder. Files stored in this new folder too. I mostly use sites/default on live servers, so I have to synchronise the files.

On the other hand it is much more confortable to use devstack than MAMP and quicker to create/import a site