As 2017 draws to a close, we thought it might be helpful to discuss the tools we use for various activities. These tools are not directly used for web design and development; they help our overall processes. Web Professionals considering freelance work or those working in enterprises may find this list helpful. Obviously, these are the choices we have made; we are not endorsing these particular tools – they just work for us. Your mileage will (and should) vary. We also include a brief overview of why it is important to consider using a tool for a specific task.
- Accounting – many prefer QuickBooks. Others prefer Freshbooks. Regardless of the tool you use, it is important to keep track of income and expenditures.
- Advice – mentoring is particularly important when you are starting. Obviously, Web Professionals members are here to help. Additionally, you may wish to consider the Small Business Administration and SCORE. The latter provides free business mentoring.
- File management – we often work across multiple computers (and need access to files in a variety of situations). We have come to rely on tools such as Google docs, One Drive, Dropbox and similar services.
- Graphics and video – we have come to rely more and more on Adobe Spark. It is a free tool and provides the ability to rapidly create messages for social media and more.
- Networking – we should not be working alone; it is important to network with peers. We often rely on Meetup to find local groups with similar interests. Our members also know we use Slack to enhance member to member communication.
- Password vault – passwords should be long and complex and not reused on various sites. This is why a password vault is so handy these days. If you are not using one, you should be. Examples include Dashlane, LastPass, or KeePass (there are other alternatives as well). You only need to remember one password to open the vault and can then copy and paste passwords for a specific site as needed. We also recommend using two factor authentication where possible (see below).
- Portable Apps – when there is a need to use Windows computers in client locations (or you simply want to take your browser favorites/ bookmarks) with you from computer to computer, we have found PortableApps to be a reasonable solution.
- Project management – we often use Trello (yes, there are many alternatives). Trello fits with our work flows. We find it easy to share boards, checklists and more with others as needed.
- Screen capture – we typically rely on SnagIt. However, there are times when using computers while working with clients, we have used Greenshot. The latter also has a zip version (so we can take it with us on a USB drive) along with other portable apps (see above). Yes, you can use the snipping tool (and the Mac equivalent), but tools (such as SnagIt) provide greater control and the ability to rapidly crop and annotate the screen capture.
- Sharing/ collaborating – we typically use Connect and Zoom. There are many alternatives as well, such as Join.me. The advantage of using these tools (in addition to collaboration) is that you can record your screen (with narration) and use these for training, demonstrations and more.
- Time tracking – Toggl is what we use to keep track of time spent on various activities. It is important to measure how much time you are spending on various tasks and projects.
- Two factor authentication – Passwords are no longer enough to provide access to sites. We recommend using two factor authentication where possible. Google Authenticator, Duo, and Microsoft Authenticator are examples. The SANS OUCH newsletter provided a timely overview of 2 factor authentication recently. Disclosure, I (Mark) am one of the reviewers of that newsletter.
- WordPress site management – if you are running multiple WordPress sites (and roughly 1/4 of all sites in the U.S. these days are based on this technology), you might want to consider using ManageWP. This is a freemium service offered by GoDaddy. It has a number of useful features in the free version (and you can get site monitoring for a nominal amount per site per month). This can save you a lot of time updating plugins, dealing with SPAM and more.
This is our list of tools that we often use. What did we forget? What tools in the above list do you use? Do you have alternative tools you prefer? Why do you prefer those? We look forward to your comments and further discussions. Let us know if you would like to have a separate Slack channel devoted to tools as well.
Community Evangelist and Executive Director