I’m always reviewing the tools I’m using on a daily basis, and last week I wondered what tools I was using that I used the most on a daily basis. This wasn’t compiled from a list of measured interactions with all my tools, but simply an informed guess at the tools that I use daily.
The web browser. Every web developers main application for running and testing their applications. For me as well though, it’s a window to the Internet. Having previously ditched Chrome, I used Firefox for about six months. As web browsers go I couldn’t complain about it’s speed, features and developer tools.
I tried Safari for a week just as an experiment about a month ago and found that there was nothing in Safari I couldn’t do in Firefox. Since then it’s been Safari all the way.
One good thing to come out of it was that I also dropped my Instapaper account in favour of Safari’s built in reading list that also syncs to my iPhone. Not only am I always looking for new services to use and try, I also like to keep the number of applications and services I’m using down to a minimum. By using Safari I was able to delete Firefox and also my Instapaper account.
Apple’s Mail client isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but the way I see it is that if it does everything for me that I need it to do then why not? It supports multiple accounts, interacts with my contacts list and works well with FastMail.
Project management tools are a rare thing for web developers that practice agile methods like stand ups. Agile methodologies like Extreme Programming and Kanban will rely on index cards and boards as the main point of interaction for a team with a project. Until Trello was launched, applications that tried to replicate this in code didn’t always get it right.
Working on my own means that communicating with others on the project remotely is more important than practices such as stand ups. Every day I enjoy using Trello for the needs of my clients and for the needs of my own projects. It’s flexible layout means that it can be tailored to lots of different workflows.
I’ve only been using Evernote for a week now but it has become a growing part of my day to day work flow. With a tool like this I now have a place that I can put information that I might need at a later date. I’ve found so many uses for it in the last few days.
First there’s interaction. There’s just so many ways of interacting with Evernote such as the web clipper, by email and of course there are a number of other apps in the Evernote marketplace that make getting information you have from one app to Evernote easy.
Then there’s accessibility. With apps for the desktop, phone and tablet, I can access my Evernote stuff from anywhere. My iPad has now become more of a day to day writing tool again thanks to the access I have to Evernote on it.
Evernote fills the gap of a knowledge management tool for me nicely now. All the information I need is now in one place and easy to access and search.
iTerm2 is my terminal of choice. Having used it for a few years now, I’m familiar with most of the keyboard shortcuts and it just works.
Sublime Text has worked well for me over the last few years. I’m still discovering some of the keyboard shortcuts and I’m have to admit that I am not using all of it’s features on a day to day basis, but for writing code it serves me well.
A list of daily tools wouldn’t be complete without a notebook or two. I have two on the go at the moment.
The first notebook was initially used for tracking client work, but this has evolved into a task journal for all my work using the dash plus system. Where as Trello is used for mostly tracking progress on projects, my task journal is for tasks that come from features in Trello, ad-hoc client tasks or tasks from my own master list.
The second notebook is mostly for the initial capture of ideas, thoughts, posts and sketches. I use it maybe once or twice a week, but it’s always sitting on my desk within easy reach. When I’m tired of sitting at my desk, I’ll move to a more comfortable chair and review my capture notebook or simply do some writing straight into it.
As brilliant as technology is, sometimes you can think better with just pen and paper.
Settling for Defaults
One thing that’s clear from my list is that if there’s a default tool on my MacBook that is adequate for the job then I will use it. I dislike having my MacBook cluttered with different tools and applications that serve the same purpose.
The one exception here is my choice of terminal. Apple’s default application Terminal still doesn’t allow vertical split panes whereas iTerm2 does. A small feature, but given that I always have two panes open side by side, it makes sense to use iTerm2 over Terminal.
Skipping the Support Apps
A few of might be wondering about apps such as Alfred, PopClip or even Fantastical. Well, while I use these as well on a daily basis, I tend to view them as support applications to my seven above. They’re still bloody useful tools to have but sitting in the background there’s always open and frequently support the seven tools that I have listed above.
There we have it, my seven essential daily tools. I put forth the question to you now. What’s your seven essential daily tools and how do they make you work better?