The Tools of My Trade
A Baker’s Dozen of Must-Have Apps and Accessories to Get My Best Work Done
As a part of Black Pixel’s current #RemotePixels campaign, highlighting our company’s distributed team, we were asked recently to come up with examples of some of the tools (big and small) that are our “must-haves” for getting work done.
What started as a few quick notes soon morphed into a longer list, and one that I thought might be worth sharing. Here’s my take on my own “must-have” apps and accessories:
Software — The Obvious
Sketch — I still spend a good amount of time in Photoshop, but more and more I’m moving as much of my UI design work to Sketch as possible. It’s lightweight and built from the ground up for interface design work.
Atom — Everyone’s got a favorite text editor they swear by, and while I’ve mostly used Sublime Text over the last few years, I’ve been giving Github’s open source Atom editor a shot recently and liking it so far.
Slack — These days, this choice feels like a no-brainer. Slack is great for cutting down on needless email and for both keeping abreast of projects and office shenanigans.
Google Apps for Work — I couldn’t be nearly as productive or collaborative with teammates without Google’s Apps suite. From live editing content decks for client projects in Docs to tracking weekly staffing projections in Sheets, I spend nearly as much of my day in Apps as I do in Sketch or Photoshop.
1Password — Between work-related web apps, client logins, and personal apps and services, I wouldn’t have a hope of keeping passwords straight without 1Password. It syncs seamlessly between my Macs and iPhone, and has a great built-in password generator.
Software — The Less Obvious
Color Oracle — This is a lightweight color blindness simulator. Photoshop has similar functionality built in, but Color Oracle resides in your menu bar and allows you to preview anything on screen.
Bartender — Not exactly a design tool, but having an overcrowded menu bar drives me nuts, and Bartender allows me to selectively hide/reveal icons as needed. Super useful for keeping a tidy desktop UI.
Menubrain — It’s a tiny menubar app from Black Pixel’s own John Marstall, which allows you to store a number of snippets of info (URLs, etc.) readily at hand. It’s the kind of app that I had no idea I needed it until I tried it.
Paragraphs — While I love Google’s suite for collaboration, I’ve been trying to find just the right minimalist writing app for OS X when I want to focus on longer-form writing, blog posts, etc. For me, that app is Paragraphs. Clean, simple, and it just gets out of the way, allowing me to focus on what I’m trying to say, without distractions.
Coffee — One of the benefits of the Black Pixel HQ’s location in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood is the variety of coffee options within a 100-foot walk from our front door. There’s something for everyone’s taste, but my personal favorite on the block is local chain Caffe Ladro. I’m never fully ready to dive into design work or a long meeting without an Americano in hand.
Toys — I’ve spent way too much money over the years on hard-to-find collectible vinyl figures. They’re definitely nice for adding some much needed personality to one’s desk, though.
Music — Everyone’s got their preferred musical choices for getting things done and I tend toward loud and fast (punk, indie). Banner Pilot and Nothington are probably my go-tos, along with Frank Turner, Bleachers, the occasional Kanye, and maybe some Death Cab for Cutie when I need to dial it back a bit.
Headphones — I’m eagerly awaiting a pair of Status Audio HD Ones that I’ve heard good things about and should be arriving any day now.