My favorite tools for creative work
To work efficiently, you need the right tools in your box.
Listed below are resources and tools I personally use on a regular basis. While these tools may not be a good fit for your specific work, it may provide a base if you’re seeking a starting point of options to research.
This is a helpful app for finding files quickly on your computer, opening applications, doing math functions and quick web searches, among many other functions you can read about on their website.
If there's one thing we can know for sure, it's that our use of passwords in life will be ever-growing. Having a password manager can help keep track of them all and generate stronger passwords.
Tired of going back and forth on scheduling meetings? This tool syncs with your calendar and provides you with a unique URL to share with others so they can easily select an open date and time to meet, as well as provide the opportunity to collect form information pre-meeting.
Business Email and Google Apps
Through Google Workspace you can create and manage business email addresses for you and your team members. It too, of course, provides access to Google's applications like Google Calendar, Drive, Meet and more.
Have multiple email accounts? Shift brings all your email accounts into one app and easily allows you to switch between them all. It also integrates with apps and helps streamline workflows.
Building a relationship with your clients is important from inquiry and through and post project experience. WillowSpace provides a one-stop CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, specifically geared for creative professionals, with features such as the ability to create proposals, contracts, web forms, invoices and more. It also provides client portals, which is great for long-term client work.
This free extension makes it delightful to open new tabs in your Chrome browser. Each day has a new beautiful image and quote to help you pause for a second. You can type your main focus of the day so it always stays in front, which could be a to-do task or positive thought or mantra to help you recenter every time you open a new browser tab.
All-in-One Workspace & Project Management
Of all the tools out there, this is one that's hard to live without. Whether it's project management, managing documentations, outlining meeting notes, or planning your days, Notion is an application that allows you to create any type of content and attach it to a database. In this way, you can link key content items together and make use of a powerful search. With their desktop application your essential content is always at your fingertips, and the ability to share and comment on pages makes it great for communications.
Team & Member Communications
There's a time for using email communication versus text versus phone, etc. Then there's Slack, an app that provides chat rooms to share messages and media between members. With the power of threaded content messages and search, communicating here saves time from trying to remember where you put that one email message.
Trello is a great agile tool for managing projects by allowing you to create pipeline workflows for task assignments. Using the analogy of a bulletin board with index cards pinned to it, Trello uses a card system to note task descriptions, deadlines, member assignments, checklists and more. Not only great for projects, but Trello can be used to organize anything you can think of such as onboarding processes, documentations, and more.
Design and Creative
Adobe Creative Cloud
Creative Software Applications
Adobe products are used for editing photos, creating graphics and illustrations, designing page layouts for print and digital projects, editing video, and more. There are also mobile apps that sync to the software for additional editing contexts, such as drawing from an iPad and iPad Pencil.
Creative Design Tool
Looking to create quick social media graphics or other design? Canva is a good option to try if you're seeking a tool that isn't too technical and provides a jump start of templated designs to use and modify.
User Interface (UI) Design Tool
This is a great tool for creating any interface design such as websites and its responsive views for varying device screen sizes. You can create click-thru prototypes and design interactions to present a clear vision for what to then build with code. This tool can also be used to create other vector-related projects such as designing social media graphics, icons, infographics, flowcharts and more. A nice feature about Figma is that you can use it directly in your browser, so you can access your work from anywhere.
Need to create a site map, flowchart, or other mapping document? GitMind is an easy tool to get something visually mapped out quickly.
Video Editing & Screen Recording Tool
While there are many features to take full advantage of with this tool, its primary use is for creating screen recordings. Whether it be recording a slide presentations or tutorials, this tool makes it easy to do and edit.
Web Development Tool
If you're a visual person, working within the command line may not be the most enjoyable experience. CodeKit eliminates development stress by taking care of some processes for you and setting up code projects from the start. CodeKit is great for compiling SASS files, and it has a nice feature where you can test view pages in real-time across all your devices at the same time. Developers may think it’s cheap to go around the command line, but anything that makes your processes faster with less thought saves great time, and there's nothing wrong with this.
Flywheel by WP Engine
Managed WordPress Hosting
After working with many other web hosting providers in the past for WordPress websites, Flywheel leads the way by great margin. It's specifically geared for creatives who work with WordPress, and it's just visually pleasing and technically easy to use, making it actually enjoyable to manage your website or websites. If you're a freelancer or agency, they have an agency platform, called Growth Suite, to manage all your client websites within one account; but they have individual plans too. Flywheel has great features and can help keep your website up-to-date with the maintenance of themes, plugins and more.
GitHub & GitHub Desktop
Code Version Control
It's best practice to track your code changes so you can share and work with other developers together in team within a single source of code truth on projects. GitHub is a common tool for tracking and notating any changes made to your code files. If you don't like using the command line, you can use their desktop application for a more visual interface experience.
WordPress Development Tool
Local is a desktop app by Flywheel that makes it super easy to spin up a WordPress website. Because the backend of WordPress is a database, this can be difficult to do otherwise. Local removes the technical stress so you can develop safely on your local computer and push up changes to Flywheel or WP Engine hosting providers when ready to launch live.
If you're looking for a domain name, this is a place to purchase them. Comparatively to other services, Namecheap is easy to use with a simple interface for managing multiple domains in your account. It provides a free SSL certificate, makes the process of connecting to your web hosting easier and is fairly priced.
Visual Studio Code
This is a free tool used for typing code. With extension add-ons, great customization capabilities and useful shortcuts for typing, Visual Studio Code improves the experience of code authoring. While there are many other editors out there, this one is widely used in the code community.
Creator Marketing Platform
Specifically geared for creatives, this is a tool that provides more advanced email marketing with use of custom landing pages, detailed and automated sales funnels, and commerce solutions to sell digital products.
Social Media Scheduler
It can be hard to maintain consistent social media postings manually. Hootsuite is a tool that allows you to pre-schedule your social media posts for multiple social platforms. This ability to plan your posts in batches saves you time and makes it easier to maintain a consistent social media calendar.
If you prefer to listen to books rather than reading them, this provides a convenient solution. This is an Amazon subscription service for buying audio books and has an app to easily listen to them.
The Kindle allows you to carry many books in a slim device that you can easily travel with. Whenever time permits you can easily open up the Kindle and get some reading in. A nice features is that a Kindle's screen is not illuminated which prevents your eyes from getting tired. Another nice feature is the ability to highlight text and save them for reading later and printing out for notes.
Short Book Summaries
Blinkist is an app great for getting the gist of just about any book. It provides summaries of books in both reading and audio format. You can learn about key concepts in books, and if a summary really peaks interest you can always buy the book.
It can be difficult to manage the online articles you want to read later, and bookmarking them can get disorganized. InstaPaper allows you to save articles in an organized way and read them distraction free by visually focusing on just the words. You can also highlight in the articles and save these notes for later reference.
Background Noise App
Sometimes you just want to focus on your work, and having some background noise can help with this. Noisli is an app that allows you to choose various background sounds and even make your own. You can mix up your own nature sounds, city sounds, and white noise.
This is an app for listening to podcasts. It's easy to search and organize podcast shows. If your car has app functionality, it makes great for listening to podcasts during your driving commutes.
Raindrop is a tool that allows you to more effectively manage website bookmarks. It has a nice interface for folder management, and it provides a great search by utilizing hashtags and keywords.
Spotify is one of the many audio streaming apps out there. Whether you want to listen to an ambient music to keep you focused, upbeat to keep you motivated, or instrumental to keep you calm, there are endless choices in genres and music recommendations. It also streams podcasts.
Whether you're doing a podcast, creating videos, or attending a lot of virtual meetings, these external microphones help improve the quality of your audio.
Google Pixel 4 XL
Love it or hate it, while I regularly use Apple products, I do stick to an Android device for my phone. I find it to be more suitable for my workflows. It syncs well to my Google accounts, has nice screen customizations for app organization, and it just has nice features that I really like using. I also use GoogleFi for my phone service, and it's been a better experience and more reasonable price than alternatives.
External Hard Drive
This is a drive I use to back up my devices and files as well as store my library of media files. It's an easy plug-and-play setup, and they aesthetically stack nice on a desk.
Bose Noise Cancelling & Google Pixel Buds
I need to be listening to music while I'm working, and these are the two headphone types I rotate. They sound good, fit good and sync well with my devices.
HP OfficeJet Pro 9025e
I print a lot of projects for prototyping designs, and for basic needs I've always been happy with HP printers. This all-in-one printer prints photo, letter and legal size paper. It has an easy-to-use scanner and copier feed. It can print from any connected device, even if you're at a far away location. Lastly, it also faxes from your mobile device in the very unlikely scenario you do need to fax.
I use this device paired with a keyboard cover largely for anything writing, whether it be my emails and messages or working on article pieces and books. I also use it for taking photos of all my whiteboard notes, and I use my iPad pencil to take written notes and sketch drawings. Lastly, I use it to watch videos, follow tutorials and behave as an extension screen to my laptop.
Digital Writing Device
This device is an extension of your iPad and provides the ability to sketch, draw illustrations, take notes, highlight in your reading, and more. You can then share your files to your other devices and creative software for further editing.
Macbook Pro 16"
I prefer working on laptops most often and am currently using the Macbook Pro 16" with the Apple Max M1 Chip. Its quality, speed and features make my work faster, easier and enjoyable. The trackpad gestures is something I cannot live without, and it's really a type of laptop in a league of its own.