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Tools I’m using for work (UX guy)

October 12th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Software

I’m glad to announce I took a steady job nowadays. So, I’m working in a ‘not alone’ environment and doing less freelance work. Not alone, means I have to work together with many other creatives to achieve a common goal. My official title is UX Designer. This means I participate in software development from idea level to ready made product.

But, taking a steady job also means I got a  work computer and had to set it up from scratch. While doing this, I started thinking that each creative professional uses different software. Sometimes even same software differently. Maybe it would be useful if I’d share my humble list here.

I tried to make the list below something that would follow my work pipeline from idea level to completion.

https://www.draw.io/
Free, but part of google apps ecosystem, which is not free, so they’ll probably milk corporations somehow. I’ve used it for free until now anyhow.

A nice online tool for mind mapping and prototyping flows. It’s super useful before you move into real production or wireframes. You can use snapped and linked arrow thingies, plus you get bunch of styles to be more expressive in your mind maps. This web app has a bunch of template sets, but they seem to be rather thoughtful keeping all the design and eyecandy to a bare minimum. So basically you can use it as a pre wireframes tool.

It does wireframes as well, but I haven’t used it for that. I believe wireframes should be a little prettier than draw.io has to offer, but that’s way subjective.
It syncs and saves the diagrams to your google docs (Google Drive nowadays).

screenshot of draw.io

draw.io is a mindmapping/flowchart tool

drive.google.com
Free (and visible to the Sauron’s eye)
I share documents there and I can share the diagrams I made in draw.io. Also good for text documents, spreadsheets and more bureaucracy stuff.

Google Drive

Google Drive

iWork
Paid
The company I’m working for does word docs sometimes. I know Pages is not MS Word and saves weird formats and is a bit of a trouble to use, but at least it looks and behaves like I understand something should. File type stuff excluded. I’m not sure I can default to let it save to MS Office, so every save I’ll have two files and difficult to tell which one I should send to PC guys. iWork now is online too so they’ll be competing with google docs/drive. Probably will lose, but it sure is an interesting fight once again.
Anyways, iWork for more bureaucracy with a small exception – Keynote.

Keynote
Paid (Part of iWork suite/family)
Basically same as Powerpoint. It is an important tool for me. I find this tool to be great at making quick presentations and drawing couple of arrows occasionally. Usually my presentations are full of screenshots and one to three lines of text. Keynote has a nice set of standardised master slides/templates too. Nothing amazing, but not just plain white either. I think it’s good to show your beautiful stuff on a nice standardised canvas.

Keynote app screenshot

Powerpoint alternative from Apple

For other iWork suite stuff I use google drive whenever I can.

Adobe suite
Photoshop & Illustrator. These hand-in-hand. I guess I’m an old timer, but I prefer to design stuff with this combo. I build all graphical elements in Illustrator and then use them in Photoshop as smart objects. They’re still vector and still nicely editable this way. Icons, buttons, illustrations, you name it, comes into my designs editable all the way.
All photographic/raster stuff I fix/do purely in photoshop.
Also I find Layer Blending options tool to be invaluable. The expressive freedom and speed that it gives me above all other apps is significant.
I also save most of the relevant layer blends as styles so I can use them quickly later. For example two I use for different size texts are called 1px bottom stroke (drop shadow) and 2px bottom stroke (drop shadow). I also got many company specific in the Styles palette top right. Oh all palettes like this I switch to text only view. These small style avatars don’t really show anything for me as the differences are mostly very subtle (think 1px or 2px drop shadow etc.).
For text I also use Photoshop. I somehow find that either Ai(Illustrator) nor Id(InDesign) do a good deal for text. Photoshop handles text layers like I expect. I’m not saying Ps is the ultimate tool for text. Quite the opposite really. I’m just handicapped this way.
Flash. All animation with Flash. Sometimes interactive prototypes. I don’t like it for mobile development. Maybe games, but I find Appcelerator better for mobile development.

Adobe App Icons

Adobe Apps

Silkscreen
Paid (free app for iphone and paid app for desktop)
This is really valuable tool for me. It just shows screenshot .psd files fullscreen on my iPhone. It refreshes when you save psd. So it’s like a screen extension. I’m pretty much testing my screen and my phone side by side.
Simple, yet something I need as iOS is sometimes the target platform. I must look for something like this for Android too.

Screenshot of Silkscreen app on mac

Silkscreen quickly displays a psd for me on my iPhone/iPad

Coda
Paid
Really nice gui for css and html scripting. I’ve done javascript on it a little too, but haven’t got harder core yet. Some tell it’s also good for Ruby and php. Will have to look into it. It syncs my server and local folders in a really convenient way. And I can do server quick edits if I need to. Formats code nicely enough and well chosen fonts and designed UI focused for productivity, make it a really nice app.

Coda App screenshot

Coda is good for scripting web related stuff

TextMate
Paid
Quick to check text/html/xml and all other thinkable files that contain text/script. Really handy and fast to launch. And clean. Trying Sublime Text too right now, but not too sure which one is the king. Still leaning towards TextMate.

TextEdit app screenshot with xml file open

TextMate does quick edits to my script & markup files

Titanium Studio
Free
Eclipse based Appcelerator official GUI for creating cross platform mobile apps. I use it to code mobile apps. I don’t like Eclipse at all, but as it’s free and it’s officially supported GUI.

Titanium Studio screenshot

Titanium Studio, build on Eclipse

FDT
Free (has premium too, but I’ve got free)
This is a flash Actionscript coding tool. Again Eclipse based so it is not beautiful or anything, but I can say it’s Actinscript 3 coding on steroids. It just makes me so much faster. I’ve tried to code AS code in Flash itself and I’ve tried with Adobes Flash Builder but ended up with this tool. It does code completion really well. Referencing functions and jumping between key elements of the code is awesome too.

FDT screenshot

FDT is an Actionscript development tool

XCode
Free (for Apple developers)
I think the best looking and UX wise the best coding tool. Unfortunately it handles C based languages well only. Code completion is amazing. Javascript/Actionscript etc, it does not that good.
The GUI is so logical and beautiful I’m sad I don’t do C.  So I use it to test my build and change some relevant settings or sometimes add some libraries to my Appcelerator compiled projects. Also using XCode is the only way I know to submit apps to Appstore.

xCode app screenshot

xCode is a full tool for creating iOS apps.

Transmit
Paid
Ftp client. Can’t live without it. Can also do quick edits to most of documents so it’s a bit like online coding (though it just is syncing). Anyways. For mac this is the synonym of ftp.

Screenshots of Transmit app

Transmit is an FTP app

Teamviewer
Freemium(-ish)
Not so pretty but free and does the remote desktop magic. Taking over computer desktop with this app. Shows you picture of their desktop (no matter if mac or pc) and you can do anything you want. Tech support magic, but also for situations when I have to quickly do something in my home computer and I’m at work.

Evernote
Freemium
Note taking and syncing app. Really handy and has an app for each smart device that I use.

For email I use mac default mail client. Nothing special but groups email threads nicely enough.
Skype. Telephony, screen sharing.

Chrome mostly for browsing the web. Sometimes I launch Safari, my second browser. While Chrome is signed in everywhere, Safari is not. So I can see both perspectives if needed.
iTunes for music. Calendar for meetings and that’s pretty much it.

That’s it. There is probably more stuff, but this list represents apps I installed during the first week with new work computer so I might return to this subject end of next week.

Please make a quick list and share your tools below in comments. Thanks.

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Chrome vs. Safari

April 16th, 2010 | 11 Comments | Posted in surfing the web



I’ve been working on a mac for the last 10 years. So I guess using Safari as the main browser seems like an obvious choice.

I work as an Adobe Flash developer so having different browsers installed is pretty much a prerequisite. So far Safari has always been above all other ones.

So far I haven’t even thought of switching my default browser, until recently when I discovered that Google Chrome is out for Mac as well (old news… yeah, I know). First test showed that it’s an awesome and fast browser and a very strong competitor to Safari. So strong in fact that I changed it to my default browser about a month ago.

But now, a month later I’m changing my defaults back to Safari. And let me tell you why.

1. Safari Activity Window. This is invaluable tool for Flash Developer. I can’t live without it and after a month of searching I haven’t found a good equivalent plugin for Chrome.

2. Home page that shows all your most important sites in Safari. There is SpeedDial plugin for Chrome, but it just does not feel (nor look) the same.

3. Flash rendering. Somehow Chrome is just not good enough rendering flash sites. For instance YouTube controls are not clickable with Chrome. Only thing I can do in YouTube with chrome is to click on the video window to make it pause/play and that’s it. Sucks!? Yeah, I know.

Although searching straight using address bar is a great feature on Chrome. And rendering and using Google Docs (scrolling with MacbookPro touch pad) works great. Still I must say I tried. It wasn’t so bad, but I must admit Safari is still the best browser for my needs.

Please share your experience with those two browsers in the comments below.

Thanks!

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