I’m always interested in what other people are using to manage their websites, businesses, and lives. Some of the most popular events that I’ve organized are around sharing tools and tips, whether demonstrating a piece of software that saves someone time, or a technique for handling specific situations.
I’ve seen a few people put together lists of tools that they use, and I’d like to do the same and share some of the tools that I use regularly. With the amount of tools and processes out there and the pace of progress, this will necessarily be out of date or incomplete even as soon as I press publish.
- WordPress, of course!
- This site is hosted on WP Engine, which I’ve been using since 2012 for a variety of sites. I also host a lot of sites, including my WordPress maintenance and support business site on SiteGround. I’m a SiteGround ambassador, because I believe that they deliver some of the best hosting around, and their pricing and customer support are great.
- I use Gravity Forms for this and pretty much any site that needs forms. This includes the newsletter signup form that’ll go to a MailChimp account. I’m eventually going to work on an alternative to MailChimp for newsletter delivery.
- I power my speaking page with Advanced Custom Fields Pro, because it makes it much simpler to create custom postmeta in WordPress and edit and display it easily.
- Akismet has done a good job at keeping spam out while letting good comments in. I use it for my site and most client sites.
- The IndieWeb plugin brings in a lot of other plugins and tools like Bridgy, IndieAuth, Micropub, Post Kinds, Semantic-Linkbacks, Simple Location, Syndication Links, Webmention, andWebSub/PubSubHubbub. These are all tools that allow my website to function as more of a ground base for my internet presence, as opposed to any one social media silo.
- I’m part of a blogging group, and one of the things that we do is share drafts of posts to review before publishing. Public Post Preview makes it easy to create a link to share.
- I manage my site with InfiniteWP, Imagify, WP Offload Media + Assets, and a few other tools to keep it running a bit smoother and faster.
- Atomic Blocks, CoBlocks, Drop It, and SyntaxHighlighter Evolved all help me make content look nicer on the front end and easy to edit in the Gutenberg block editor.
- Post Series Manager is a useful plugin from Adam Soucie and Jeff de Wit. It lets me group some posts that are on a related topic in a custom taxonomy. Instead of just having a category or tag that people can sort by, it actually displays a table of contents of posts that are part of a series for easier navigation and discoverability. Here’s an example series about the books that I read in 2017.
- I use a 2017 Macbook Pro 13″ currently. When I bought it, I was thinking about my old computers when I decided to purchase the cheapest model. It fits most of my needs, but I won’t mind updating to something with more RAM and a faster CPU when the 2019 models come out. As is, this is a model with 8GB of RAM, 128GB SSD, and an i5 gen 7 Intel processor.
- I use a 32″ HP monitor, which lets me place two windows side by side at full width. I prefer this over a multiple monitor setup, but still appreciate being able to see my browser while writing code or reviewing notes while writing. The monitor is on a riser above my laptop which I made by taking two plastic storage drawers from IKEA and placing a shelf over them. These little drawers are surprisingly tough, with rigid walls and tops made for stacking; perfect for some cables, hard drives and USB keys, pens, etc.
- I use the Apple Magic Keyboard and Apple Magic Trackpad 2. I can’t see myself returning to a mouse anytime soon. I started using gel wrist pads for both after having my wrists and forearms get sore and pained, leading to worries of future carpal tunnel syndrome.
- My desk is a motorized standing Bekant desk from IKEA. I stand for an hour or two per day at the desk, with the rest of the time sitting or working elsewhere. It feels good every once in a while to stand. While sitting I’m using a slightly fancier than basic Amazon Basics office chair and while standing I use an Amazon Basics desk mat.
- I have a love/hate relationship with most tech, and that’s led me to pare down most of my other tech devices a bit. I can’t find a way to properly fit a tablet into my life without feeling like I’m being wasteful, and so I’ve no longer got one. I instead use a Kobo Aura Edition 2, which I prefer over the Kindle thanks to its ability to sync directly with OverDrive and Pocket.
- For a cell phone I use an iPhone SE, which I recently upgraded to from the Essential Phone. No Android maker seems to be making a high powered phone with a screen smaller than 5″ anymore, and even Apple discontinued this device without a successor. I prefer smaller devices overall as easier to hold and easier to travel around with, but part of me wants to go to a large screen like a Note 9, where I can do a bit more work on it when inclined, or even forego bringing the laptop at all for a few trips while still being able to do presentations.
- Sublime Text 3 is my coding app of choice. I’ve had plenty of people suggest Visual Studio Code, and I’ve given it a try for a few weeks, but I’m already comfortable with ST3 and have barely scratched the surface of what it can do. Plus, it seems to handle managing PHP extensions much better than VSCode on my laptop, which would sometimes consume all of my CPU cycles while running large commands. I use a variety of packages for ST3 to make things easier to do.
- I use the Ayu Dark theme for Sublime Text, and have slightly modified the color scheme to be a bit more readable in low light situations. Overall I like dark themes for apps and services, but a lot of them lose contrast with design choices.
- I’m using the Hack Nerd Font for Sublime Text 3 and iTerm2. I find it easy to parse through, and appreciate the differentiation between similar characters like 0 and O.
- I use iTerm2 as my terminal. The default terminal app can do a lot, but I like some of the extra customization that can be done here, like the aforementioned font and color changes.
- Oh My Zsh has lots of cool features, many of which I haven’t even fully discovered to use for my command prompt. I do use a few Oh My Zsh packages, a custom theme (some color and prompt modifications of bira), and some aliases for common commands that I run. I also source a folder of custom shell scripts via zsh, so that I can store them all in one place and ensure that they’ve got the right capabilities and are ready to use.
- Transmit is my FTP client. I still use that far more than ssh or rsync for file management with clients, as it’s easier to get access to most of the time and serves my needs well. Transmit 5 does seem to have a significant speed boost over 4.
- Sequel Pro is how I manage some databases. Since I’m working with a variety of clients across different hosts and don’t often have to manage their databases I admittedly don’t use this as often as I use PHPMyAdmin on whatever host they have. When I really need to dig into a client database, that’s when I set this tool up.
- Calibre is how I manage ebooks for my Kobo. It stinks that the device doesn’t have general wireless syncing for things that aren’t from their store or one of the aforementioned services that I use on it. I do miss the email to device feature that Kindle has.
- Clean My Mac X has lots of neat features to clean unneeded files, free up some ram, and scan for malware and privacy issues. It also does a more complete application uninstall than just deleting an app file.
- Handbrake is an open source tool for converting videos. It is annoying to set up bulk conversion and doesn’t always do things the way that I want it to, but it works well overall.
- ImageOptim is a similar tool that I use for image optimization. I move a lot of files online and I want to compress and optimize them as much as I can without losing usability. It saves bandwidth and storage for everyone!
- NordVPN is my VPN of choice after comparing a bunch on where servers are located, pricing, and . You can see a great table of VPNs to make a choice for yourself here: https://thatoneprivacysite.net/vpn-comparison-chart/
- I don’t do a lot of image editing, so Pixelmator serves my needs for most everything. It has enough features for me without being overly bloated or having a subscription fee like Adobe uses now.
- I always want to try new note taking apps to find the right one for me. For a while it was Boostnote, then I tried going back to Simplenote since it got some useful updates last year. Now I’m trying out Notion, which seems to be an everything app. I’m using that to write this page and am still getting comfortable with the setup that it has,
- I use Alfred to run some shell scripts, open apps, start services, and more. I’ve written a few posts about that here and here for a start.
- Trello is my to-do, task management, and project management system. I’ve been using it for years, the free version does a ton, but with the Gold membership I’ve got the ability to do even more, like run lots of Butler commands for my daily todo lists. I can’t recommend it enough.
Based on https://jonchristopher.us/uses/