A regularly updated list of software and services I use.
UX / Design
Tools I use to design apps and websites.
I keep going back and fourth between which of these are less terrible, but they’re both better than building designs in photoshop or Illustrator. Sketch files have at least become a somewhat universal file format for layouts, allowing them to be opened in other apps like Adobe XD and Figma. sketch itself is become incredibly slow, especially when dealing with 800mb+ files, while XD opens these with ease.
Ive come to love Figma for prototyping ideas for apps and websites. It’s a great way to test small animations and interactions with out fully building it out. My main gripe with this is it still feels very web-based, even with the desktop app. Which probably isn’t a problem for most users.
My primary design apps no longer live in the Adobe suite, but every so often I still need to make edits to vector files, or basic image edits. Affinity is the equivalent to Illustrator. It also has an amazing export tool for helping create production quality assets.
icons are important to any design. Noun Project, has hundreds of thousands of icons for just about any situation. The desktop app is especially useful for quickly grabbing something and dragging it directly into Sketch or XD
Ive yet to find an app that lets me edit raw photos the same way Lightroom Classic does. Even the more modern version of Lightroom doesn’t quite reach that level of detail that Classic can.
Growing up with only a dial up connection, I quickly learned the value of sites that served small images. This has followed me through out my career, always thinking about the best way to optimize images and serve them to users with slow or spotty internet. While there’s a lot of other tools I use to achieve this, ImageOptim is something I use daily, running everything through this small little app before it goes online.
I think the idea of controlling everything in your house with a push of a button fulfills some childhood fantasy. Something about turning on the lights and shifting the color to red with out the need to flip a physical switch brings me joy. Could someone hack in at any time, and wreak havoc on my Internet of Shit devices? Definitely a possibility. Or could they malfunction on their own and be stuck with out light while I have to troubleshoot why a bulb wont connect to the wifi? It happens more times than I like to admit. Home automation is not something I would recommend to anyone that isnt comfortable with a command line. But if you know what you’re doing, its a fun gimmick.
Homekit is simple to use. It allows you to organize devices by room, and even supports multiple houses. The drawback however, is you typically need very specific products that need to support the Homekit platform. Luckily there’s a workaround to this solution with Homebridge.
Homebridge is a great little server that can run on a Raspberry Pi. It bridges the gap allowing my off-brand smart plugs and lights from China to work directly in Homekit. Best of all its open source, with over 200 plugins to work with almost any device available.
What I use on a daily basis to build apps and websites.
A straight forward file upload tool, with support for almost any connection you can think of, including AWS S3, FTP and SFTP.
Inky is the official app for writing ink-based narrative stories.
I originally started my game development career with Unreal Engine. While I think Unreal will always have a special place in my heart, and Id love to have a reason to work with the tools again, Unity is so much easier to get started prototyping ideas for my workflow.
Visual Studio Code
I never thought I would see the day Microsoft made an amazing, cross platform IDE. I spend 80% of my work day in VS Code. With so many extensions available, its easy to use for just about any project in any language or framework.
Setting up Wordpress locally is still annoying. Local does the work of deploying a LAMP stack for you. Within seconds, you have everything you need to build and test your WordPress site site right on your computer, with out the need for hosting. You’ll still need actual web hosting when you want to show your website to the world, but does have tools like syncing to WP-Engine that makes it easier.
Xcode Device Simulator
As much of an apple fan as I am, I dont have every single product. And sometimes you need to test how an app or website is going to display on that first gen iPad air with an annoying, not quite tablet, not quite phone screen window. Xcode’s simulator is great for testing any Apple product.
Apps Im currently using to stay in touch with people.
Tools Im using to write and publish content.
There’s two main things that drew my attention to Ghost. First is their support of using it as a Headless CMS. Meaning even if you’re use the backend to write and manage content, you’re not locked into developing the frontend a specific way. I can write in ghost, and build a website any way I want, even static sites. The second thing that sold me on the publishing tool is internal tags. Internal tags work identical to public tags to organize content, but they’re never visible to the end user. This means you can create different channels of content based on tags. For an example how Im currently making use of this feature, read my post on creating a digital garden.
My biggest complaint with ghost is image/media management. Sure you can add galleries in line, but it’s not easy to bulk edit, and make custom layouts as easy as you can wit WordPress. For that reason, WordPress will always be the backend choice I choose for my photo blog, tyler.camera. While Ghost is a publishing platform, WordPress has secured itself as a content platform. If I ever need to create a site that requires anything other than blogging, WordPress is still by go to.
Bear is the best distraction free writing tool Ive ever found. It as support for themes, and isn’t bloated with features. It’s fast, and syncs between all of my devices. Often times I’ll even use it for notes that I may want to expand on in more detail later.