In a world where notifications are full experiences in and of themselves, the screen of app icons makes less and less sense. Apps as destinations makes less and less sense.
While answering some “What do you use for…” questions the other night Daniel suggested I write up a recap of what tools I use. He wrote something similar a few days back and it was interesting to read through.
During the day I’m helping organize and lead our various support teams at Automattic so the bulk of my time is spent writing, talking with people, and helping out with projects that come up. All of that requires pretty simple and lightweight tools.
My day-to-day communication all happens through two tools. Much of it happens through various P2s which we have setup for every team, major project, and area of interest within the company. If you’re not familiar with P2s Matt wrote a bit about how we use them. Or, go pick up a copy of Scott’s book. All of our chat then happens through Slack, which we use for both 1-1 and group text chats. There are stats built-in so I know I’ve sent just over 35,000 messages since we started using it about 5 months ago.
The upside to P2 as a core tool for me is that I’m in control of how I follow and receive updates. I follow about 50 internal sites and use email to keep up with posts and comments. Everything is routed in to 3 separate folders that group posts and comments by relative priority. For all this email I use Mail.app. It’s the only mail client that’s ever felt “right” to me. I can’t stand Gmail on the web and get distracted by having email in my browser.
Safari is my primary browser. I had used Firefox for ages but with the release of Yosemite I’ve gone back to Safari. It’s really clean and performance-wise I don’t notice any difference. Plus, the only browser extension I rely upon is 1Password.
Like Daniel I’m a huge fan of Bartender. It keeps things so much more sane up in the menu bar. Up there I have a few things running:
- Caffeine. Prevents your display from sleeping. And, as a bonus, here’s a retina-friendly icon set.
- Pomodoro Timer. I wrote a bit about this previously.
- Cloudup. For effortlessly sharing streams of images and video.
- Sidestep. For securely proxying my internet traffic.
- Flux. Amazingly useful tool to reduce eyestrain when using a computer at night.
I use Things to keep everything organized. For the last 6 months or so I was using Omnifocus. Along with the Yosemite upgrade I took a chance to re-evaluate my tools and decided Things just fit better for my usage. I’ve used it ever since the initial beta tests and have always found it fits my mental model of tasks pretty naturally.
When I do need to code I use Coda. Any coding is just for personal projects and I find using Coda means I have just one tool to remember. It’s not for everyone but it works wonderfully for me.
Divvy is always running in the background, helping me keep windows organized and arranged. There’s something pleasing about having windows set to a grid.
I make sure to do some direct customer support once a week, too. I usually set aside one afternoon for that. It’s always done with our live chat team, which uses Olark. They’re good folks and the web-based chat client is pretty slick.
In terms of hardware I’m using a mid-2014 MacBook Pro, with the retina display of course. Spec-wise it’s got 16 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD. Performance-wise it’s more than I need most of the time, but I like using machines for quite a while. My last machine, an 11″ MacBook Air, lasted 3.5 years. I went with the 13″ model because the weight is pretty darn minimal. It’s the only screen I use, too. I stopped using my Cinema Display after upgrading to this laptop. The biggest benefit here is that my home setup is identical to my travel setup in every way. Consistency is nice.
This all makes me think I should do a mobile-specific version of this post, too. Perhaps later.
Pomodoro Timer. I found this app a while ago and recently began using it more frequently. It’s a simple, menu bar app that runs in the background. The goal is to help you deliberately break your work day up in to focused chunks. There are, of course, tons of variations on the theme. This one’s the nicest mix of function and design.
My Labor Day weekend project was moving this site to Linode. It’s all up and running now, along with a new Twenty Thirteen child theme I put together. Overall the process was pretty simple. Linode’s default script for a LAMP stack worked well. From there I set up a multisite network, adjusted some virtual host records, and was on my way. The upside is that the site’s now way, way faster than it used to be. Huzzah for SSDs.
What Is Public? Essay by Anil Dash that examines how both technology and media companies have a vested interest in us defining “public” as broadly as possible. The common misconception being that there’s no singular definition of public; life is much more about the interplay of many publics.
With the exception of WordPress and VLC I can’t think of a single, mainstream product that people just choose to use because it is better than the competition.
App developers need to be honest with themselves about whether a redesign is about solving a customer problem in a better way or is part of a corporate strategy.