They say a tradesman is only as good as the tools he/she is using and perhaps the same can be said for a developer. Although many of the tools, services and software I have used don’t change I have started to use some different tools over the past 12 months and therefore I thought it was about time I took a look at each of the tools and services that make my job as a freelancer much easier.
Lets take each in turn and take a look and what it is and how it helps.
Although primarily I work from home there are occasions when I will be working with colleagues in another location or perhaps working at my parents house etc. It is times like these when you find yourself having to email files from one computer to another or make sure that you have copied certain files across from your desktop to your laptop before you head out.
Dropbox solves all this. It enables you to sync files and folders between a number of devices including your iPhone and iPad. Once you save a file to your Dropbox it will automatically appear on all of your other devices too. What is great about Dropbox is that it works seamlessly in the background without you having to change the way in which you work. It integrates beautifully with both Mac and Windows so even if you use both operating systems it will keep your digital life in Sync.
I have opted for the 50Gb package which costs $99 per year but in my opinion it is well worth it. I am currently using about 14Gb of the storage available but I have seen users storing their iTunes and iPhoto libraries on their Dropbox space meaning they can always have all their music and photos with them on all devices.
The ability to use shared folders also helps a lot too. We work in a team and any shared documents can be shared with other team members. This way we always know where files are going to exist.
Dropbox is free for 2Gb of storage space which for most will be fine. Sign up for a free Dropbox account today.
This is a relatively new field for me, however so far the benefits are great. Source Control is a way of having a common store for the code on a particular project with the added benefits of Version Control. This means that when code is committed to the central store or repository it is assigned a specific version. Therefore in the future should you wish to go back to an earlier version of your code this is no problem, you can simply roll back.
Beanstalkapp.com provide Version Control hosting for around £10 per month. If you are a developer and not using Version Control of some sort them it is certainly worth having a look at. Although complicated at first (like I said I am still learning the full benefits) you can get started with a little research etc and with the friendly Beanstalk support team.
Linked to the above is Coda. Coda is IDE text editing software which I use to do all my development coding for projects. It is a text editor that supports multiple syntax modes such as HTML, PHP and CSS. This is great as it allows you to code more easily as things are highlighted for you, which helps identify errors in code.
Built into the Coda application is FTP functionality which enables me to code the pages as well as upload them to the server at the same time. Linked to this functionality is the built in source or version control system which allows me to link to Beanstalk (see above) and checkout and commit code to a repository from the same application.
This is one of those applications (like a browser) that I open in a morning and it is the last application that I close at night. Of course I use this to keep track of the people that I am following, most of which are web developers and WordPress folk. Many tell me this must be such as distraction having tweets pouring in all day, however I find this quite the opposite. Twitter enables me to connect with the Web and WordPress community and keep up-to-date with the latest trends etc.
Twitter for Mac is great and is a very simple Twitter App that supplies all the functionality I need. It is well built in that it integrates with the Mac well and looks and feels very native.
For a long time I have used Google Apps for email. Google’s mail in my opinion is far the best email solution out their and therefore I use this with many clients too. Although Apple Mail will connect to Google account well it was just missing that something and therefore I was looking for another client.
Along came Sparrow Mail App which is very good. It has a nice clean interface and as it was built to work with Google Mail it has all the functionality of the web interface with the benefits of a desktop client. Add to this the recent support for Dropbox and Cloud App and they have produced a cracking application for viewing mail on the Mac.
Being a WordPress developer means that I take a lot of designs and slice them up into themes etc. I find Fireworks is the best tool for this job and far easier, simpler and less time consuming that Photoshop of Illustrator. It is also great because Fireworks can read .ai and .psd file types so if my designs are sent over in these formats it is not a problem.