Since I started coding back in 2008, I have used tons of different applications and pieces of software. Since different designers work with various styles and workflows, I’ve found that the following works for me. Feel free to let me know what you use or if you prefer something different.
Up until 2009, I had always used windows PC’s. When I really became serious about coding, I started looking into Apple and their MacBook line. I ended up buying a 13” Macbook Pro. This is the single most important piece of equipment I use, period. I am still using that same laptop five years later. My Macbook pro still runs brand new software without a single hiccup. It’s no gaming powerhouse or video editing super pc, but it is great for coding, graphic design, and media (music, podcasts, etc.). The best thing is, you can do all of this concurrently and it never falters. I don’t know how Apple does it, but their machines are productivity and multitasking beast. I am no Apple fanboy, but these things just keep working. Alfred is an application launcher that completely changed how I use my computer, it should be the first thing you download on your new Apple machine.
After trying various coding programs, I seem to have finally settled on Atom. This is software made by the folks at GitHub. It is an open source editor that is very user friendly and offers a ton of customization. It also integrates with Git and GitHub. It is super fast and reliable so definitely give it a shot if your looking to try something new.
If you want to be serious about graphic design, then you need to get the Adobe Suite. Whether its through their monthly payment service Creative Cloud, or if you go the old fashioned route with a full license. You really can’t get started until you have at least Photoshop and Illustrator.
Now, there are some alternatives out there that are great. Pixelmator and GIMP are great pieces of software and are much cheaper, if not free. Unfortunately, they do not have a feature set that AI and PS can offer. Not to mention the thousands upon thousands of assets and tutorials that are available for the adobe products. I learned just about everything I know about AI and PS through tutorials.
Once you start designing and developing your going to end up with a lot of files. Having a place in the cloud where these are backed up to is a great idea. Not only if your computer takes a nose dive, but it allows you to access them anywhere. It’s also cheap, and the pricing just gets better with time.
I use Google Drive. There are a ton of other cloud services out there to use, I chose Drive due to its integration with Google Docs which is my favorite document suite. I write blog posts just like these in Google Docs. They are saved on my Google Drive and I can pull them up on lunch from my cell phone and make edits or jot down a quick point that I want to make. Find a cloud storage solution that works for you and use it to your advantage. Thats the most important part, most people have cloud storage but do not use it effectively.
Notes and Project Tracking
At my real world job I have to track multiple projects that can span over years. It’s possible for me to converse with others on a project that spans many months that I’ll need to revisit. Trello and Evernote make it easy for me to track my project progress and input conversations and to do lists to help keep me on track.
Evernote is a lifesaver. Like the cloud storage however, its only as good as the info you put into it. If you don’t use it effectively you won’t use it at all. Evernote’s tagline is remember everything, you use it to keep notes, to do lists, URL’s, Images, etc. At this point, I don’t think there is anything you can’t put into Evernote. I use it to save code snippets, save URL’s to tutorials or articles I want to refer back to and so on. Using tags in Evernote helps you be able to find these things very quickly with the app wide search.
Trello is a card based project tracking and team communication tool. It gives you a board that you can add columns too and then add cards to each column. These cards can be whole projects, to do items for an individual project, or whatever you need them to be. When you click a card, it flips around to show a detail section where you can add comments, upload files, add checklists, set a due date, or share the card with another user. It is extremely powerful. It is one of those tools that I don’t know how I did my job without.
These are a breakdown of the tools I use. Check them out and bend them to your will. Time is the most precious thing you have and these tools can help save time and organize with your projects. Productivity and continuity are king.