Here’s a mostly complete run down of the tools and software that I use on a near daily basis to get my work done. For now, I’ve just listed the software, but in time I’ll add the hardware and services I use too.
This post was inspired by — and very similar to — Harry Robert’s list.
iTerm2 & Blink
Coming to web development as designer, I had the sort of irrational fear that you’d expect someone accustomed to beautiful, intuitives GUIs to have. That didn’t stop me really — I mean really — wanting to get comfortable on the command line; it just felt the “proper” way somehow.
It took time, but I now can’t imagine living without a terminal of some sort open. On macOS that’s iTerm2, and on iOS that’s Blink.
I won’t talk about iTerm2, enough people have already, and it’s the defacto terminal anyway.
More people ask me about Blink. In short, it’s the best terminal/SSH client for iOS that I’ve found. Of course you can’t access the iPad’s local filesystem with it, but SSH’ing into a remote server gives me a perfect working environment.
Blink’s party-piece however is it’s support for Mosh, which is a replacement for SSH that’s far more robust and resilient to flaky connections — perfect for roaming and working around Cornwall with it’s spotty data service!
Much like using the Terminal rather than Finder, I felt that an editor like Vim was the “proper” way (NB: there is no “proper” way, this was just my wide-eyed enthusiasm having seen people work using Vim). Learning an editor like Vim doesn’t come easily, as I’m sure many people know; but the pay-off is well worth it (again, as I’m sure many people know).
Whatever editor you choose to use, it pays to learn it well, inside and out, until you don’t have to think about what you’re doing.
Vim was really ellusive for me for a long time. The combination of weird key sequences and complex plugin setups to reach feature parity with Sublime stalled me for a long time.
I cracked it by using Spacemacs, with “Evil” mode enabled. It provided me all the toys that I needed out of the box to get started, with the list of available options displaying at the bottom being particularly useful. It allowed me to focus on the “Evil” part — the Vim movements and commands.
Eventually however, I grew tired of Spacemacs really slow startup, and ran into some configuration issues that I just couldn’t resolve. This is the problem with using someone else’s configuration for an editor like emacs or vim, it’s fine until it goes wrong and you have to debug something totally alien! I found the solution was the classic (Neo)Vim + Tmux combination. My reason for using NeoVim is simply that it allows for async linting.
From what I’ve heard, I’m fortunate enough to have never used Subversion. My only experience of VCS has been Git. As with everything else, I started out using nice comfortable GUIs that my designer-brain could handle. Tower seems to be the defacto Git client for OS X, although there seems to have been more and more released the last few years.
My work on remote servers (using the iPad) has forced me to learn Git’s CLI, which I’m perfectly happy with, but I still find myself firing up Tower whenever I’m on my laptop for some reason. I never do any really complex branching or merges, so I think that it’s more habit than anything else!
Safari is my go-to for almost everything. I like it’s bookmark and tab syncing with my iPad and iPhone, and love the reduced CPU usage and resulting battery life.
However, it’s pretty useless for developers. Sure, the built-in inspector is perfectly fine — but compared to Chrome and FF Developer with their array of plugins, it just can’t compete. I’d love to see a developer-focused version of Safari the same as Firefox has done.
Chrome gets utilised mainly for React & Vue development, purely because of the plugins available to assist with debugging. That said, I prefer the Firefox UI and functionality — screenshots for example.
I started using Sketch about 5 years ago when Adobe decided that Creative Cloud was a good idea. Sketch felt like a good protest purchase, but it turned out to be a fantastic alternative. I can’t imagine doing any of my design work in an Adobe product now.
Sketch has got really, really good the last few years; and even though they’ve sort of switched over to a pseudo-subscription business model, I’ll happily keep renewing my license. I’d love for them to create an iPad version, as much as I know it’s unlikely.
Sidenote: Affinity’s Designer and Photo are fantastic alternatives to Adobe if Sketch doesn’t float your vote. They are much closer to Adobe’s applications in layout and mental-model, but world’s apart in terms of performance and price. How they can build such brilliant apps for the money they are charging boggles my mind. Their addition of iOS apps, and an Adobe Indesign equivalent could cement their place as the company to beat here!
I use Slack. I’m not as impressed as I was with it when I first started using it. I’ve found their recent versions a memory hog, and I’m rapidly going off the concept of instant-messaging in general. It’s incredibly distracting, and not as great for running a business as we all think it is.
After years of trying loads of task manager and finally settling on just a simple notebook; Cultured Code released Things 3. When I originally wrote about it at release, I suggested it might be the only app capable of pulling me away from pena & paper. Turns out I was right…
If there’s one thing that keeps me glued to Apple’s ecosystem, it’s the ability to send iMessages from my laptop. As a messaging platform, I think it hits the sweet spot; although I couldn’t care less about all the stuff they keep adding to it…
If you’re not using a password manager these days, I’m not sure how you manage! I put a lot of faith in the security of 1Password (perhaps naively!) because it stores everything, and I mean everything important. I think that the family plan (to share some of your passwords with others) is overpriced, but if that’s what they need to charge to make it secure; so be it.
I’ve got very lazy the last few years with my local backups. I rarely, if ever, back up my laptop to a local drive. This is partly because most of my work lives in Git repos these days (rather than .PSD files), and partly because of Backblaze. That said, I think I’d rather be using something like Arq and AWS S3 or Backblaze’s B2 storage — just because it’s an open format that I can access multiple ways.
Full details coming shortly. For now, here’s a brief list:
- 2015 MacBook Pro 15”
- iPad Pro (big one)
- iPhone 7 Plus
- BaronFig Confidant
- B&O H7