Essential Tools 2012

Last January I wrote a post about what tools I thought were “essential” in 2011. A lot of my favorite tools from last year I still use all the time, a few have fallen away, and I’ve added a few that either didn’t exist or I didn’t know about a year ago. In the interest of keeping the list shorter I’ve also left off some things that would be repeats from last year if I didn’t have anything new to say about it.


13” Macbook Air
It’s the same one from 2011 that I was using last year. I’ve just ordered a thin new 27” iMac, so I’m considering moving to an 11” Air once the next time they’re updated. The 13” is a great size, but if I have a fast desktop to use when I’m at home, I’d like to be even more mobile when I’m not.

iPad mini
I still have my third generation iPad — and use it sometimes when it’s more nearby — but I’d estimate that I’m using the mini 90% of the time.


Coffee Setup
My primary coffee maker is still the Chemex, but this year I’ve also added an Aeropress that I sometimes when I’m just making coffee for myself. I upgraded how I heat my water this year with a Bonavita electric hot water kettle that lets me set a specific temperature. Something that hasn’t changed from last year is that I use a Baratza Virtuoso burr grinder.

Public D8 Bicycle
I bought a new bicycle last March and have ridden it everywhere. Portland is pretty great for getting around by bike, and I routinely go weeks or more without driving.

Mac Apps

It seems to be more stable now than it was a year ago.

OmniFocus for Mac
Still the best way to keep track of everything in my life and do GTD on a Mac or iOS. I’m extremely excited to see what’s changed in 2.0 this year.

A year ago, I was going back and forth between using Alfred and LaunchBar for an app/script launcher, but I’ve since solidified on LaunchBar. Alfred is a really great app, but I finally got my head around using instant send in LaunchBar and that’s made it stick.

I can’t wait to see what this app eventually becomes, but it’s still as great as ever. I’ve been using various versions of NetNewsWire for 5 years now, and it’s still my favorite way to read news.

I’ve been aware of Fluid for a long time, but never really got into it. Recently I paid the $5 upgrade price from the free version, find it the best way to deal with using Gmail on a Mac.

Last year my only wish for Kaleidoscope (I wouldn’t call it a complaint) was that it would support merging as well as comparison. It now does and it’s awesome. Besides that one thing, Black Pixel has done a great job making every part of the app better and I use it more than ever now.

I don’t always use a client for Git, but when I do I use Tower. It’s a bit overwhelming in that it does so much, but so is Git, and it’s the only app that doesn’t require me jumping to the command line to perform basic tasks.

MindNode Pro
I use this app for mind mapping all sorts of things, development related and otherwise. One of my favorite uses this year was when I needed to diagram a complex data model for a web service I was working with.

If you work in Photoshop ever and need to export images, you need Slicy. It makes it really easy to get export both 1x and 2x versions of app graphics without pulling your hair out.

Much like the iOS version, I like it because it just works so great. An excellent way to use Twitter on a Mac.

A window management utility that makes it easy for me to put each thing in it’s own special place like a crazy person.

Byword & Marked
Still my two favorite apps for writing blog posts. Byword for the writing, and Marked for Markdown preview. I use Moom to put them side by side on my MacBook Air.
The one app I use the most everyday.

iOS Apps

Pinbook for Pinboard
I’m not mentioning it to pimp my own app, but because I really like my own app. I use it constantly.

What I use to read RSS on my iPhone and iPad. I resent that’s it’s both not universal, and that the iPad app has been left to languish for so long, but it’s still the best I’ve found so far.

They recently updated their iOS app and I’ve been using a lot since then. I hope to see the iOS and web site both continue to improve this year. It feels like the things I put here are a lot more permanent than with something like Instagram, and I like that.

An outstanding app and service, Instapaper is an app I use for saving longer articles I’d like to read later.

A good guitar tuner for iOS (universal) that is both updated for retina and taller iPhone screens.

A nicer way to add calendar items and view what’s coming up this week on your iPhone.

Still the only text editor on iOS I can stand using for an extended period of time.

Online Services

I use it to save all kinds of links, and pay for the $10 a year archiving service. I like it so much I wrote an app for it.

Every night they download my sales reports from iTunes and send me an e-mail to let me know how things went. They also track where my apps have been featured and how they’re ranking in the store. I’ve never had any problems and think can’t imagine not using it.

A web app for dealing with customer support. At some point Tender started offering a $9/month plan that is perfect for a one man shop such as myself. It lets users communicate through e-mail, helps me manage a queue of support requests, and integrates with both GitHub Issues and Lighthouse.

Last year I was using TestFlight for managing beta builds, and have since moved to using Hockey. They recently had a big update that improved the entire experience. I’ve done pretty well with not shipping any huge show stopping bugs in Pinbook, and most of that credit is due to thoroughly beta testing the app (as well as having great testers).

Google Apps for Business
Besides that Gmail and don’t like each-other, this is the best, easiest to set up and most flexible way I’ve found to manage e-mail and calendars for my business.

Collin Donnell @collin