Every Builder needs a hammer or something equivalent to make their everyday work and / or life easier and more enjoyable. In the past year, I’ve signed up for both free and paid tools and services that have made my life easier as an independent Graphic Designer, while also getting rid of a few from last year that weren’t quite doing it for me. I often get the weekly email of preferred apps / services / tools that would help make ‘x’ job easier, so after reading a friends, Whitney Hess, blog post on her Top 10 Tools of 2010, I thought many of you might enjoy the same. I’ve also stacked the in order from ‘I would cry if I woke up without it’ to ‘This is quite handy and use if weekly.’
I’m sure there is no surprise here, but honestly if you are not using Dropbox or haven’t upgraded yet to more storage you are surely missing out. This past year I’ve upgraded to the 100GB plan, which means I’ve moved all of my work files, personal documents, Little Snapper ‘inspiration’ library, iTunes library, and iPhoto library and is now accessible whether I’m on my laptop, iMac, or someone else’s computer. I’ve even found myself uploading a large file that takes a few minutes, leave the house, open the iPhone’s Dropbox app and email a file off to a client – can’t beat that! This is certainly the ‘I’d cry if I no longer had Dropbox in my life’ tool.
I’ve really come to love Cloupapp over the past year. With a simple keyboard shortcut you can quickly share links of a webpage you are viewing, upload files, or take screenshots of images that generates its own short URL that copies automatically to your clipboard.
I’ve come to create my own uses for it as well. For one, I love the Photoshop Raindrop integration. It allows me to keyboard shortcut the frontmost Photoshop canvas I am working on and uploads an image, which I typically will send over to clients for approval. The reason I love this Raindrop is due to the fact that I can tell when the client has viewed it (has URL click tracking) and it helps the client visualize what the website comp will most closely look like in the browser. Fast and simple – what’s not to love about it? Oh yes, there is also the Cloudette iPhone app that syncs with Cloudapp where you can generate short Cloudapp URLS, view hits and visit your past uploads.
I’ve been using Wufoo for around 3 years now and functions great for my online Project Worksheets. Simple to set up; customizable if need be; saves me plenty of time when clients get initially in contact and helps weed out the serious clients from the non. I am currently using the $14.95 per month “Ad Hoc” plan (since I need more fields)and its been well worth it.
I’ve just become a 1Password user this year and honestly can say I feel a bit guilty for jumping on the bandwagon so late. This tool not only saves me time, but frustration as well – not to mention great security with the long passwords it generates. For those unfamiliar, it stores all your passwords and allows you to access them with, you guessed it, one password.
What I most love is the keyboard shortcut for when you arrive to a site that requires your login, in my case, I hit Shift + Command + ‘down arrow’ and it automatically fills in the fields and logs me in. The iPhone / iPad app is also mighty handy for those on the go moments.
I’ve mentioned Little Snapper a few times in past blog posts and it deserves yet another mention. Meant for capturing, archiving and organizing inspiration, I’ve used it t build a database of great UI elements, websites, color palettes, and more with notes of what I like or could use some improving.
For those familiar with Spotlight on the Mac, Alfred app is similar but on steroids – meaning its faster, prettier, smarter, and more useful. If you haven’t caught the trend that I love keyboard shortcuts from the above mentioned tools, yet again you assign a handy keyboard shortcut to bring up the slick Alfred search box, which can then control your iTunes, search files and folders, browse the web or your bookmarks and more.
Simplenote is a great solution to… well Simple note taking. While I mostly use it as an iPhone app, it also has a great web interface that automatically syncs up. I use it for everyday note taking to an ongoing “remember to pack for vacation” list.
This year has been wonderful with webfonts and I couldn’t imagine it without Typekit. Paying $49.99 a year for beautiful, high-quality fonts at your finger tips seems like a steal to me. I’ve used it for everything for client sites to my personal sites, including FF Dagny Web for this here blog.
What I particularly love about Typekit is the innovation and improvements that get pushed out almost weekly. The folks there really have their act together and are generally excited about pushing web fonts further and faster.
If you haven’t discovered the joys of Instapaper you are truly missing out. From the website to the iPhone and iPad apps, Instapaper is a must have for me, especially catching all the great links on Twitter and having no time to read them at the given moment. The reading experience is enjoyable, has nice features such as tilt to scroll on the iPhone and iPad and the ability to easily share what you’ve just read.
Reeder for Mac (and iPhone / iPad)
First let me start off by saying that I’ve been using Google Reader for years and every time the next “big desktop RSS reader” comes out, I give it a go for a day or two and then I’m right back to the web interface. However, since Reeder for Mac has been released (in Beta), I’ve been using it solid for about 2 weeks now and have no plans of turning back.
The folks behind Reeder really have a knack for simplicity, design, details (just look at how you can customize the unread count on the app box or display it as a normal badge), and forward-thinking. I also love the support of gestures while reading, browsing to the next article, etc., in addition to features like Readability integration for improved web reading experiences and ‘sharing’ services built in for a number of great sites. Don’t forget the beautiful iPhone and iPad versions of the app as well.
Well maybe I could live without this one, but LittleIpsum definitely is a handy menubar tool that I’ve used often this past year. I’m all about being in the right place at the right time and LittleIpsum hanging out in my menubar is a good fit.
I keep this bookmarked and accessible from my browser’s toolbar. I often can’t remember all the extra shortcuts so CopyPasteCharacter gets used around once a week at the least. Click and copied and ready to be pasted.
BackTweets allows you to subscribe to incoming Tweets that link to your site, blog or whatever you want. Running this blog and most of my work online it’s nice to see all the good and bad things being said. This way I am able to respond or react accordingly or just monitor what’s being said.
What are some tools, services or websites you couldn’t live without this past year?