Essential Tools

As a creative pro, I've often found myself in the middle of projects with unusual requirements. Often, what that means is specialized software or tools. I may provide more detailed reviews spread across individual blog posts in the future, but for now this page will function as an aggregate list of tools and resources. I hope you will find this useful.

Adobe Creative Suite:
It's the industry standard and you can't live without it, but does it have to cost more than my computer?
  • Adobe Photoshop - this has been a must have for me since Photoshop 2.0. Sadly, the core functionality that I use hasn't really changed since v3.0. What's also been funny over the years is seeing designers use Photoshop for page composition.
  • Adobe Illustrator - this one is also a must-have, but for me it's truly a deal with the devil. I used Freehand since v1.0, and I always preferred it, so I curse the day when Adobe bought Macromedia and took Freehand off the market.
  • Adobe DreamWeaver - this is great software for designing web pages and doing some basic WYSIWYG editing of page designs, but with modern content management systems, Dreamweaver has become less of an essential tool.
  • Adobe Flash - you can debate about the future of this platform as the web evolves into mobile, but it's still a great tool for animation that runs on the desktop.
  • Adobe InDesign - another round of deal-with-the-devil software, InDesign is an essential tool and somewhat industry-standard, but it makes me angry every time I use it. I've used both Pagemaker and QuarkXpress since v2.0. Much has been written about these two packages -- QuarkXpress has it's issues but Adobe's re-skinned Pagemaker software still holds true to it's 'Ragemaker' essence.
Other Great Desktop-based Tools
Here are some other essential tools that should live on your computer:
  • TextWrangler - this essential text editor is essentially a 'lite' version of BBEdit without some of the tools for coding that live in the full version. View your html in a color-coded, easy-to-read layout... and by the way, it's free.
  • OmniGraffle Professional - it's like Visio for the Mac, only better. This easy-to-use drawing tool simplifies creating flow charts, diagrams, and a bunch of other types of drawings. There's also Graffletopia, a site full of free templates. It's become my most frequently used drawing program.
  • OmniPlan - like Microsoft Project for the Mac, only it's extremely easy to use.
Some Great Web-based Tools
Here are some web-based tools that rock:
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Web Master Tools
  • Google Website Optimizer
  • Basecamp
  • SurveyMonkey
Developer Utilities
Some developer utilities that I've picked up over the past few years:
  • Eclipse
  • XCode

Mac OSX System Utilities
Here are some great system tools that I use:
  • Flip for Mac
  • DivX
  • Perian
  • Growl
Other Communication Tools
I use these tools for other communications tasks:
  • Admium
  • TweetDeck
  • Skype
Standard Business Tool Suite
Microsoft Office including:
  • Microsoft Word - over the years I've tried several times to avoid using Word (it is not a publishing tool), for most business activities, you can't get by without it.
  • Microsoft Excel - more that just a great business tool for crunching numbers, Excel is extremely useful for editing and manipulating database tables and web site data. It's also great for building charts and reviewing analytics results.
  • Microsoft Powerpoint - Apple's Keynote is great presentation software, but you must have Powerpoint to exchange presentation files with your business colleagues.
Hope it helps.