Dan’s recent post about software got me thinking. Maybe you’re like me, where you love trying out cool new apps. “Wow, this is great! It’ll save me time and I’ll be far more productive”. But after a day or so the excitement wears off and you’re back to pencil and paper, or storing things mentally, or doing things without that exciting app again.

For general web work I tend to stick to the basics only: Photoshop, BBEdit, NetNewsWire, Transmit, and all the goodies that come bundled with OS X. I suppose the only oddball would be the Backpack Dashboard widget. I’ve found it to be one of the only productivity apps (if I may call it that) I use with any sort of frequency. I prefer the widget over the web interface, although I’m not sure if that means anything. It’s been useful for keeping track of little client bits, unpaid invoices (for which I should be using something else), etc.

Actually I’ve just thought of a few that might be worth mentioning: Iconographer (for creating favicons) and SuperDuper! (recommended by DB and used as my routine backup solution).

I’ve always considered myself a “Power User”, but damn… maybe that’s wishful thinking.


  1. Dan Benjamin says:

    You travel light, Dan! Just the way it should be.
    I would, however, recommend you give TextMate a try. You might just be surprised how much you like it.

  2. Thanks for pointing out the backpack widget, ironically enough I often forget to use my backpack account. Mabye a widget will help me remember :)
    Dan’s list was quite big, but there was some really goodies in there that I was delighted to discover, like CocoaMySQL.
    TextMate kicks boo-tay, bundles are wonderful.

  3. Joop Vos says:

    Try CSSEdit … it does a great job in my workflow!

  4. Derek P. Collins says:

    There is also a plugin for Photoshop that allows you to save .ico files to be used as favicons. The plugin is from Telegraphics. There is a nice tutorial on creating favicons in Photoshop using this plugin at
    I’m not sure how it compares to TextMate, but I really like using skEdit for writing code. It’s code completion feature is great!

  5. Eddie Sowden says:

    Just out of interest what web-browser do you use with that set?

  6. soxiam says:

    There’s only one web app that so thoroughly impacted my day to day life, I can imagine living without it: The only other web app that shows a promise for becoming one is so new I am almost afraid to admit it: Google Calendar.

  7. Dunks says:

    Following a listen to the Dave Shea interview (via podcast from Vitamin website – worth checking out, particularly as Dan is on the advisory panel for it) I am trying Xylescope, which seems to have great potential.
    Interested in the fact both Dan Cederholm and Dan Benjamin are both using Super Duper – I am using Carbon Copy at the moment. Do you guys think its worth switching? I’ve never really felt happy with CC.

  8. Dave Belson says:

    I’ll back-up Joop by recommending CCSEdit, it’s a ray of sunshine right on my desktop. I am also a big fan of Color Schemer for it’s drag and drop palette creation.

  9. Faruk Ateş says:

    I’ll add another vote for Xylescope; it’s been the tool of choice whenever I’m having issues with CSS designs. It’s my instant problem-solver.
    As for trying out new apps and widgets, I’m generally much like that. The excitement wears off and I never use it again. The Transmit widget, Flidget (for uploading single pics to Flickr easily without having to put them in iPhoto or use a browser) and iStat Nano (for system info) are all the non-default widgets I’ve ever bothered to keep. Oh wait, the iCal overview widget is non-default too. Invaluable!

  10. Dunks says:

    Faruk – good to hear more support for xylescope. Did it take long to get to grips with?

  11. Jaakko says:

    skEdit is something I couldn’t code without. And I’m going to miss AutoPairs when moving to a MacBook Pro. It’s a really nice system preference pane that automatically completes curly braces etc. SuperDuper is the program of choice what it comes to backups. And oh I almost forgot Quicksilver. I also have to give Xylescope a closer look.

  12. reese says:

    Your list makes me want to switch to a Mac :)
    My tools are really stripped down. Photoshop, Illustrator (rarely) and TextPad. I have heard I should try notetab for the amazing tabs I can write (to delete blank spaces, add code to lines, check for div matches), but I’m fickle, and it seems an html editor could do the same thing.
    I found a site that lets you create favicons on the fly without needing software in case anyone is interested, especially in a pinch. Here’s the link: Online favicon creator

  13. Ramin says:

    I’m currently in love with textmate. I originally saw it on a rails demo and got using it through that.
    As for my favicon, i went the idiot way and made a psd file in photoshop, saved it for web into a png and then changed the extension in finder to ico. haha.
    probably why it sucks, i’ll definitely check out iconographer.

  14. Jeff Hartman says:

    I’ve toyed with switching to TextMate, but it’s another app to learn. Can it do grep like BBEdit? I prefer tabs across the top like TextMate and wish BBEdit would give you that option.
    I’ve been using SuperDuper and think it’s great.
    So how do you manage invoices in Backpack? I’ve been on the verge of buying Studiometry, per Neil Lee’s recommendation on the webdesign-L list. It leaves a little to be desired, but overall it’s been the best tool I’ve found short of creating your own in FileMaker.

  15. Faruk Ateş says:

    Reese: do it, make the switch! You won’t regret it and you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it earlier :-)
    Dunks: nah, Xylescope takes about 5 minutes to get into and then you pretty much got it. Doing more than just problem solving with it, however, tends to take more time and effort, to really get into the many possibilities and features it offers.

  16. Dunks says:

    Jeff – have you looked at blinksale for your invoices? I believe their is talk of 3rd party api development for backpack/basecamp to allow it to link with Blinksale.

  17. Fritsie says:

    Maybe this is a stupid question but why doesn’t anybody use Dreamweaver or a similar app? Is there a specific reason for this?
    (I’m an amateur designer and would like to work my way into professional design. I think it kinda helps my development using the right tools from the start. I use PS and DW mostly.)

  18. cocoaMySQL was mentioned earlier and was infact my primary datbasetool for a long time. Now I use Navicat instead, IMHO alot better than cocoaMysql. For instance I can use SSH tunneling when I’m outside the office and that’s great! Then the GUI is much better to work with. Datacopy between databases is dead simple.
    Other than that i use jEdit for textediting and xCode for Java and C programming. Transmit’s dashboard widget is great also!
    Oh, and spotlight and the use of smartfolders keep track on all my files. Setting up a smartfolder to search for all files with .psd that’s wider than 1000 px helps my organize most of my work.

  19. Edvard,
    I didn’t realize the navicat had an OS X version out, I’ve been using the Windows version for a little while and it *is* quite nice. CocoaMySQL just happens to be free :)

  20. My tools are as follows:
    1) Macromedia Dreamweaver 8 -
    a) 99% of the time used in code view for XHTML & CSS, plus
    b) it has excellent FTP capabilities/sync with websites (one-click upload/download directly from the file you are working on)
    (sometimes I also use FileZilla (freeware), because of its portability – just copy the directory where the program resides, take it with your flash drive, then you have access to all of your websites from anywhere, all settings/logins/passwords saved in an XML file:-)
    2) Macromedia Fireworks 8 -
    primary image editing program. I use it for just about anything related to image editing, creating and optimizing of graphics for Web, vectors, image retouch, etc.
    3) Iconico ScreenCalipers -
    excellent tool for measuring tiny little pixels on the screen
    4) Iconico Color Picker – excellent free tool for grabbing colors in HEX from anywhere on the screen and saving them in palettes, which can be customized and renamed (also 100% portability, have all of your color schemes always with you!)
    5) IrfanView – very nice free image viewer, also lets you convert any GIF file in 2 seconds into a nice little favicon :-)
    7) WinRAR – extracts all kinds of file archives
    6) Colibri – it can almost entirely eliminate the need to use the Start Menu (so, less clicks with the mouse = less tired wrist;-)
    7) Finally, Mozilla Firefox 1.5+ – my primary browser and helper, combined with the SessionSaver, Web Developer Toolbar, ShowIP, Flashgot (combined with FlashGet), and All-in-One Gestures.
    Needless to say, I work in Windows XP Professional (Service Pack 2) environment.
    OK, this is my small collection of tools for everyday work, web development and graphics :-)
    Who’s next? ;-)

  21. Dan Boland says:

    I love Blinksale — anything that makes invoicing as easy as sending an e-mail is a-okay in my book.
    Fritsie: Personally, I don’t use Dreamweaver because it’s slow, bloated and annoying. Any app that thinks it can “help” me by trying to auto-complete every tag I start is not for me.

  22. Nick Toye says:

    I use Dreamweaver for my client work, because I always have. However, I have yet to find a decent substitute for the PC. For my personal site, I edit everything within the Symphony environment.
    Any recommendations for a decent html/css editor for the PC.

  23. Jeff Hartman says:

    Yes, I’m aware of Blinksale. I’ve used it for a couple invoices when it first came out. Even with an API, that’s programming that I don’t need to do if there’s already an app out there that does almost everything I need. Plus, I don’t know how I feel about having my client data and billings stored on someone else’s box. But kudos to Josh Williams and his team for a nice product.
    What I find useful in Studiometry is the timers for keeping track of billing, otherwise it can get out of hand (along with project notes, timelines, contacts, etc.) Plus, invoice XML is then pulled into InDesign for styling instead of using CSS and printing from a web page. Ideally this would all be tied together (i.e. eliminate the export out to XML for InDesign formatting). I actually haven’t purchased Studiometry yet, but I found the demo worthwhile that I need to just do it.
    Not @Dunks:
    In regard to the NaviCat vs. CocoaMySql….I’ve stuck with CocoaMySql because it’s free. That’s the only reason.

  24. Nev says:

    A little utility that has saved me a lot of time is Paparazzi!, which produces screenshots of web sites. No more having to stitch together multiple images :-)

  25. Dan Boland says:

    Nev: Yeah, Paparazzi! is nice, but you also reminded me of a little-known built-in tool that I use quite often as well, the DigitalColor Meter. (It’s in Utilities.)

  26. I went and read the original article, and one of the applications that Dan recommends, which I do too now, is Yojimbo. It’s a wonderful little note keeping app for people who thought they didn’t need a note keeping app. Try it for a day and I’ll bet you’ll be hooked.

  27. @Michel
    Finally good to see a little bit of windows representation. I’d love to grab a MacBook with Boot Camp, but for now I’m stuck on here.
    I use:
    1) RadRails for rails development
    2) SciTe for all my other coding needs
    3) Fireworks for image editing (PS when required)
    4) SmartFTP for ftp
    5) and Firefox with all the latest web development extensions.
    Mac sure does sound like it has some sweet apps, Textmate almost makes me wanna switch. But for now, this will suffice.

  28. Dunks says:

    @Jeff Hartman:
    Thanks for the info Jeff, you raise some good points. I will grab a demo copy of Studiometry and have a look. I am at a stage where I need to start organising my invoices/accounts etc and get a system in place.
    I use Dreamweaver 8 for all my work, but only use the coding view. Before I got my head around xhtml & css I used the design view all the time, but as I have devloped my skills I find I never use the design view now. In retrospect I didn’t need to spend the amount of money I did on dreamweaver, when some the the text editors mentioned (BBEdit, Textmate etc) will do exactly the same for a fraction of the cost and as mentioned in a previous post, with less bloated software.

  29. Nev says:

    Dan: Thanks for the ‘DigitalColor Meter’ tip. I’ve resorted to screenshots to get that info in the past.
    Now if only I could get something like that which worked in “real-life” and was small enough to fit on a keychain. ;-)

  30. J0sh says:

    Strangely enough after using DreamWeaver for about 6 years now or so, I’ve switched to Notepad++ which happened out of emergency coz at the time that’s the only editing thing I had on a WinXP PC, kinda stayed with it ever since…

  31. Olav says:

    If you REALLY want to be productive, delete your feed reader.. ;)

  32. Manuel says:

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  33. Surprised you didn’t mention the Firefox web developer toolbar – I’ve found that ever more useful of late.

  34. ryan says:

    For my money, I think TextMate ( is the best thing for text editing on the Mac. If you know your HTML and CSS (or any other language, for that matter, this app is a beauty). There is a simple (and free) Favicon-export plugin for photoshop (see, and for billing, invoicing, etc., I use Side Job Track (free, see, which has come a long way. And of course, the Firefox extensions Web Developer Toolbar and Aardvark are also…well, what would I do without those?

  35. Well, if I limit “productivity apps” to things I use to organize my life, it really boils down to two for me:
    (1) gmail and the star icon
    (2) backpack and the backpack dashboard widget for anything more complex than one email thread
    but what really ties it all together is my pocket-sized moleskine … better than any PDA I have ever used.

  36. Adam Craven says:

    While not so much a direct productivity application. Rainlender is an ideal calender for your desktop. It’s great for time management, putting in your appointments and remembering those anniversarys we forget!

  37. PatrickC says:

    skEdit is wonderful. I also use Transmit, Illustrator, Photoshop, and Flash.
    But just recently I started using Fireworks for web mockups and, although I haven’t got completely used to it yet, I have to say it is a far superior programme for this task.
    The thing about applications is that you need to keep it simple. Use good applications that get the job done and that you enjoy using (and if possible can save you some time on routine tasks).

  38. @Fritsie:
    As you can see, some of us do use Dreamweaver, but most of the time in code view;-)
    @Dan Boland:
    [QUOTE]…I don’t use Dreamweaver because it’s slow, bloated and annoying. Any app that thinks it can “help” me by trying to auto-complete every tag I start is not for me…[/QUOTE]
    Dan, let me answer to your points:
    a) It’s not so slow on a Pentium 4 with 512+ MB DDR ;-)
    b) It’s not so bloated – you can select which features you want to use, and simply igonore the others:)))
    c) Nor it is annoying. It’s just different from some other text/web editors! And I’ve tried a lot of them:)
    d) Finally, auto-complete can be completely turned off or set in a way which suits you the best. I know well most of the tags in xhtml/css, which I am usin’ every day, but when DW suggests me the possible choices when I start typing, it helps me visually and sometimes prevents me from doing simple stupid typos (like background: #CCC url(somefile.gif) top left no-repaet ;-P)
    Besides, I can even customize, which tags/css properties I would like first to see in the auto-complete and which exclude completely (for example, rarely used ones, which is nice).
    OK, I think it’s mostly a matter of personal choice and taste:) I am accustomed to DW in code view, I like its integrated FTP capabilities, and its interface.
    I guess, if I can find some similar app, which will give me similar features [one-click file upload while working on it, without having to browse through local/remote dirs seeking for the correct corrseponding ones (ctrl+shift+u to upload); nice tag closing feature (start </... and the exact tag which must be closed auto-closes itself)] … I will make an easy switch … but until then… for me, DW 8 is fine:)
    Anything similar to Paparazzi in PC environment?…
    @Jordan Arentsen:
    Yes, and Dreamweaver combines within itself two nice features – good code view/code edit/code check/tag close, & good global site management, including nice FTP features. That’s why it’s my choice for that moment:)
    As for Fireworks, I’ve discovered I am doing small graphics-related tasks in it in a matter of seconds, so I switched to it years ago, when it was Macromedia Fireworks MX only (or version 6, if you prefer;-) Yes, Photoshop is more powerful. But FW is simpler, has good vectors support / features, it is fast, and it’s interface is very user friendly (change background color / stroke color / style / effect / in less than 5 seconds and 2 clicks ;-)
    The web developer toolbar is really helpful. I use it everyday now, especially the “CSS” tool, for a quick test/experiment in “real view”, it’s really good!
    Hmmm, I’m rather puzzled that no one mentioned the very much useful and simple tools Iconico offers: the Color Picker and the Screen Calipers?… Am I the only one using them / needing them in everyday work? ;-)

  39. Jason says:

    I hate to say ‘me too’, but me too on TextMate.. I’ve finally put BBEdit to bed after a few years of sitting on the fence. TextMate integrates pretty well with Transmit, too.
    Otherwise, I’m stubbornly sticking to Fireworks in favour of Photoshop (as with many of these things, it was just the first one I used), and would suggest Color Schemer Studio for quick colour ideas.
    On the topic of ‘productivity’, how cool is Coverflow? I know I don’t get much done without it.

  40. deesto says:

    being one of the seemingly few that are “stuck” (term used loosely) in a Win/PC environment, it’s almost demoralizing to hear about these cool, productive (and cheap!) tools that are Mac-only. Michel gave a great, comprehensive list of his fav dev tools, but plainly a few of the big “bloated” boys dominate the PC world. granted, there are some great open-source tools out there (GIMP comes to mind), but we seem sorely lacking in comparable content editors, for example. or maybe that’s just my perception.
    any recommendations?