Essential Tools 2011

After reading Justin’s list of his favorite tools for power users and developers, I started to think about some of my own. Of course since Justin has great taste, and we use a lot of the same things, it’s going to make ripping him off directly and playing dumb later much easier[1].


  • 13" MacBook Air
    I was using a late 2008 MacBook Pro, and as soon as the current generation came out I bought one. It immediately became my main development machine. It feels crazy fast, light enough to take places and small enough to open on an airplane. It’s my favorite Mac I’ve had so far.
  • Archival Clothing Flap Musette (Laptop / iPad Bag)
    I don’t care if you call it a man purse[2], I take this thing everywhere. I use it as an iPad or laptop bag and it’s been perfect for that. It’s small and rugged, but big enough to stuff a power cable, Field Notes book, and a copy of the New Yorker in. Plus it’s made locally.
  • Chemex Coffee Maker
    Most developers I know enjoy coffee, and I think if you’re going to do anything you should do it the best you can. The Chemex is my daily driver for coffee making. It’s a pourover type that easily makes enough for two people, is extremely easy to clean and makes great tasting coffee.

Mac Apps

  • OmniFocus for Mac
    I live in OmniFocus, and keep as much of my life in it as I can. The reason I think it works for me where other apps haven’t, is that it doesn’t enforce a specific workflow so much as provide a foundation to create your own. I’m not sure everyone needs that much flexibility, but I choose to use it because I know it’ll scale to whatever my needs are.
  • NetNewsWire
    I’ve gone back and forth with RSS readers this year, but came back to NetNewsWire on the Mac because it shows me what I want to see so I can get through a backlog of feeds quickly.
  • Byword
    A simple and attractive text editor which makes writing in Markdown even easier by being aware of Markdown syntax, and providing key commands for the most common Markdown functions.
  • Marked
    The primary use of Marked is as a Markdown preview app to compliment whatever text editor you’re writing in. It didn’t sound like something I needed, until I started using it. Now I keep it open next to Byword or BBEdit whenever I’m writing anything of length.
  • 1Password for Mac
    Because I let 1Password generate and store all of my passwords, I never worry about password related security on the web. It’s the only app I feel like I need to have set up before I can start using a new Mac.
  • BBEdit
    I use it as a scratchpad for Objective-C, writing longer things in other languages, and for reformatting things like JSON to be more readable using text filters. I also use BBDiff a lot of the time when I have a complex merge of two source files to do.
  • Kaleidoscope
    It turns out that I do have a use for a really good file comparison app that doesn’t do merging (although I’d love to see that feature). It’s my favorite tool for checking what I’ve changed before making a commit.
  • Acorn
    I’ve been using it since 1.0 and it’s still the most Mac-like image editor.
  • GitHub for Mac
    The only Git client I’ve found to have any use for me, because it doesn’t try to replace the command line. Instead it just makes the things that suck the most on the command line easier.
  • Alfred I just started using this, after using Launchbar. The script launching and search filters are the two best features for me. I use search filters for things like only searching source code and related files.

iOS Apps

  • OmniFocus for iOS
    Having these apps is a really big part of what makes my whole task management system work. They give me the ability to review and capture tasks wherever I am.
  • Elements
    I use it to make all of the notes I take on my Mac accessible on the go. One cool use for me has been creating a big travel document using Markdown on my Mac that gets synced automatically to Elements. By doing it this way I have the document backed up in at least three (Mac, Dropbox, Elements) places, so it’s unlikely I’ll end up stranded.
  • 1Password for iOS
    Another great Mac app that would be useless to me without a mobile companion that works.


  • Squarespace
    I host my company site, and this blog on Squarespace. I haven’t run into any show stopping drawbacks, and they make hosting a nice looking site really easy. It costs a little more than some other options, but I don’t worry about reliability and have to do a lot less tweaking to get things acceptable.
  • Dropbox
    Anything that I don’t want to lose goes in Dropbox. It also makes getting things done on the iPad feasable for me.
  • TestFlight
    Managing a beta for an iOS app before TestFlight was a nightmare. Now it’s easy.
  • Instapaper
    Using Instapaper lets me manage my time attention better than I could without it. I’m able to read a lot more longform articles than I was before by scheduling time for it.

  1. That was a joke.  ↩

  2. That’s a lie, I get crazy touchy about it.  ↩

Collin Donnell @collin