Apps for maintaining a designer lifestyle

I often receive many emails and interview questions asking what my favorite Mac apps are or what web apps I find most useful in my line of work and business. As an Apple fan and lover of all things “apps” I decide to write a more condensed list featuring some of my must-have apps that I use everyday (or almost everyday) to run my independent design business with explanations of why I like them and what I use them for.

Little Snapper

PURPOSE: LittleSnapper is a beautifully designed tool for capturing, organizing, tagging, and sharing online inspiration.

HOW I USE IT: It’s always extremely helpful to have inspiration that is well-organized and at your finger tips—and LittleSnapper does it with ease and elegance. Whenever I come across online visual inspiration that I enjoy I either snap the web page or crop an area to my liking. I then store them into folders (better known as Collections in LittleSnapper), such as footers, typography, websites, color palettes, lists/tables etc, so I can easily access some arsenal when needed for inspiration. I also use it to take full screenshots of web pages.

HOW OFTEN USED: A few times daily

WHY I LIKE IT: Beautifully designed and integrated with Flickr and Ember for easy sharing. Check out my LittleSnapper inspiration here.


PURPOSE: SUBERNOVA is a project management and team collaboration tool with a slick and simple interface. You can use/access it via the web, adobe air app and even your iPhone.

In the words of the creators: “SUBERNOVA makes you more productive by taking the stress out of remembering important details of your projects, lets you track time, send invoices and estimates, collaborate with team mates or clients and keeps your business smooth by keeping tabs on late payments, deadlines and more.”

HOW I USE IT: Although SUBERNOVA has many features without going overboard like other project management apps, I mainly use it for tracking time, and organizing my clients and projects I’m working on at the time. I’ve tried many project management apps and always keep coming back to SUBERNOVA. I also enjoy how often the team adds new features and updates — and not just pointless features so they can say “hey look we update our product more than you!”

HOW OFTEN USED: All day long.

WHY I LIKE IT: Intuitive interface. All the right features without being too much or too little. Works and accessible from anywhere.


PURPOSE: Simply put: pretty spreadsheets and data entry.

HOW I USE IT: I’m not a crazy spread sheet enthusiast, but I do use Numbers to organize and track my revenue and expenses for my business. It keeps things nice and tidy for when Uncle Sam comes collecting during tax season.

HOW OFTEN USED: A few times a week.

WHY I LIKE IT: For those afraid of spread sheets (like me), Apple makes it a bit more pleasant experience. Works just like every other Mac app, so it’s familiar.


PURPOSE: I was looking for a one sentence explanation, but Panic’s website says it all for Coda: Text editor + file transfer + svn + CSS + Terminal + Books + More = Woah!

HOW I USE IT: I use it whenever I do any development for websites.

HOW OFTEN USED: A few times a week.

WHY I LIKE IT: Great all-in-one powerful tool.

Suitcase Fusion 2

PURPOSE: A powerful font manager for Mac and Windows.

HOW I USE IT: To obsessively organize, tag, and manage my fonts.


WHY I LIKE IT: Easy installation of new fonts (it’s quick). One database file contains all your fonts so its easy to take them  on the move. Temporary vs. Permanent fonts allows you to temporarily activate a font(s) for a specific project and then automatically turns off the font when finished with the project to allow your system and apps to run faster. Also, turns the font(s) back on when the specific file is opened that requires it.


PURPOSE: The powerhouse of Twitter apps for managing your main stream, replies, lists, searches and more in an accessible layout.

HOW I USE IT: For more more through explanation on why and how I use Tweetdeck, here’s a slightly older, yet informative, article for you.


WHY I LIKE IT: Great all-in-one powerful tool. Organize great, useful information easily.

Woopra Desktop App

PURPOSE: Website analytics.

HOW I USE IT: To manage my blog and various websites statistics and analytic…. in real-time.

HOW OFTEN USED: A few times a week. Especially when I am getting heavy traffic I get a kick out of watching the real time numbers.

WHY I LIKE IT: Google analytics on steroids. Real-time stats. Military-style interface looks bad-ass. :)


PURPOSE: Online storage. Online backup. Photo sharing. File sharing. File syncing. File/Folder restoration.

HOW I USE IT: I couldn’t live (or work) without Dropbox. It has become such a valuable service in my business I can’t remember what I did without it. I work directly off Dropbox and keep all of my files on it (if you are running Time Machine on your Mac, it will even backup your Dropbox if you are nervous about only keeping it online!): this helps to keep my files synced across multiple computers. I purchase the 50GB membership with an additional $3.99 per month of unlimited restoration capabilities — meaning that if I need to revert back to an older version of a file I can, no matter how old or how long ago it was. I also use it to create share folders to collaborate with others and share large files with clients.

HOW OFTEN USED: All day, everyday.

WHY I LIKE IT: Here’s a full review of Dropbox I did a while back, but I’m sure you can understand why I like it from the above.


PURPOSE: Extremely quick File/Folder sharing. Image sharing. Note & Code storage. Twitter integration.

HOW I USE IT: Quickly create short URLs when referencing websites in email. Quickly share a photo, file or folder via a web link.

HOW OFTEN USED: Numerous times week.

WHY I LIKE IT: Quick, fast and functional. Lives on the Mac toolbar for quick dragging and dropping to it.


PURPOSE: Cross-browser and computer bookmark syncing.

HOW I USE IT: To keep my obsessively well-organized bookmark collection in sync and accessible no matter where I am or what computer I’m on.

HOW OFTEN USED: It just does its thing 24/7

WHY I LIKE IT: Works across all major browsers. Keeps myself and my bookmarks happy. Much like LittleSnapper keeps my inspiration handy, Xmarks keeps my resources accessible at all times. Remember, a construction workers is much more effective and efficient with his tool belt.

Remember the milk

PURPOSE: Manage your tasks, notes and life.

HOW I USE IT: In addition to the normal task and note organizing, I use it to keep track of my clients. Read more on that here.

HOW OFTEN USED: Every morning, every conclusion of every day, and a few times in between my day.

WHY I LIKE IT: Intuitive interface. Smart, simple task line (easily set dates with ‘next Friday’ or “2 weeks” etc.). Receive reminders via email, text messages, instant messenger, Twitter and more. Create categories to better manage your tasks. Share and publish tasks with others. Add tasks from anywhere (even your iPhone).


PURPOSE: Website analytic program.

HOW I USE IT: To monitor and track The Design Cubicles website statistics and progress.

HOW OFTEN USED: Every morning. Possibly sometimes throughout the day. At night before bed.

WHY I LIKE IT: Intuitive and simple. Beautifully layout for glancing at various areas of statistics. Real-time.

What’s your favorite Mac or web apps that are “must haves” in your collection?

Suggested sponsored link: Cloud Server

Discussion and Comments

+ Add to the discussion
  1. Camila Perry says:

    website analytics is so important if you want to monitor the status of your website..’:

Brian Hoff
About Brian Hoff: Designer, Writer and Speaker

I’m a graphic designer living in Brooklyn, New York who loves creating compelling and useful websites and memorable interactions across the web. When I’m not designing I can be found writing, speaking and occasionally part-time teaching at colleges — all on the subject of design. I started this blog to share my passion and experiences with designers and clients. I'm most active on Twitter; say hello: