We have a (minor) dilemma: our tools are expanding rapidly, and it’s difficult to keep up. I’m thrilled about it; I’m always excited to find and explore new tools (though I try to limit the number of hardware devices I have, although I have a weak spot for cameras).

I’ve become lazy about my software choices, leaning hard on the defaults: Photoshop, Lightroom, iA Writer, Brackets, Slack. I’m thinking about mixing it up.

Photography and design

I’ve used Photoshop since 1998, but Adobe products have become increasingly bloated, and the subscription model feels like a ball-and-chain.

I work in Illustrator (or Sketch) a few times a month, but vector isn’t my primary domain. Still, a good vector tool is an absolute necessity for me, and it’s another realm in which I’m locked into a subscription model with bloated software (Illustrator) or haven’t moved to the subscription model and thus have a deprecated version (Sketch).

A mac user for years (since the ‘90s), I still prefer the flexibility of cross-platform software, largely to traverse the work/home dichotomy. That means Sketch has continued to plummet in my list of preferential tools.

My crutch

My eyes are wandering to


I get chills just thinking about writing apps. Chills can be good or bad — I get both versions.

I’m a devoted iA Writer user, and frankly, I don’t see that changing anytime soon. It’s clean, exports to all the formats I need, and is (now) cross-platform. I look forward to writing in iA Writer, sometimes opening the app to find inspiration even when I’m blocked because I want to write in it. It’s lovely, and I haven’t found a competitor close to matching it. It’s the subtleties and shortcuts, such as cmd-k (or ctrl-k) on selected text, which applies the markdown to create a link from your last copied URL. It’s wonderful.

My crutch

  • iA Writer

My eyes are wandering to

  • iA Writer

Text editors

I’ve been using Brackets for years, and it’s a dependable, extendable, customizable editor that has the added benefits of being open source and free. One of my favorite features of Brackets is the ability to go directly to the relevant CSS class from within a HTML document. You can select the class declared in an HTML element and edit the properties as if it was inline, regardless of where the relevant CSS file lives.

But Brackets is also a bit bland, and it doesn’t have the tailored, GiHub-based workflow features of, say, Atom (It probably helps that Atom is developed and supported by the GitHub team). I particularly like that Atom color-codes changed files in a branch to indicate your diff. You an easily review the files you’ve changed or added, without the extra step of running git status on the command line. Plus, Atom is extensible, open source, and beautifully designed.

Added 7/14/18:

I’ve been using Atom on my work machine (primarily because we didn’t need IT approval to install it – that’s a longer story than we have time for), but, after hearing exultant praise for Visual Studio Code over the past several months, I decided to give it a try.

I was not disappointed.

I haven’t even scratched the surface of the features in Visual Studio Code, but the integrated terminal and the GitLens plugin have been enough to sell me on it. The integrated terminal alone allows me to move from copy, markup, or code to git in no time, and GitLens lets me know exactly when a line of copy or code was last updated (and by whom). There are plugins for just about anything, and I’ve started experimenting with spelling and grammar checkers, along with markdown utilities.

I haven’t used it enough to know if it will work for me long-term, but I’ve been impressed with Visual Studio Code so far.

My crutch

  • Brackets

My eyes are wandering to

  • Atom
  • Visual Studio Code (added 7/14)


My experience with notes apps is limited: I’ve used Apple’s Notes and Evernote. Critical they are to modern life, I’m not very discerning about notes apps. I just want my notes to be with me everywhere, to be searchable, and I want to be able to write in various formats. Basically, I want my notes app to be reliable and get out of the way.

Although it’s not cross-platform, Apple’s Notes app is my default, and I can’t imagine needing more (although I’d be pleasantly surprised to find a unicorn notes app).

My crutch

  • Apple’s Notes

My eyes are wandering to

  • Meh

Static site generators

I’ve been a Jekyll fan for years; it’s what I chose for this blog and the site generator I’m using at work.

Jekyll presents some obstacles, though. I’m not skilled in Ruby (the programming language Jekyll is built on), and it takes a some wrangling to make Jekyll cross-platform (especially if you’re in a Windows environment with limited local admin rights).

I’ll probably continue to maintain this blog in Jekyll, at least for now, because this site is simple, quickly compiled, and a breeze to host on GitHub Pages. But my eyes are wandering.

My crutch

  • Jekyll

My eyes are wandering to

Programming languages

To be honest, I don’t write much code. I write a lot of markup, but not much code.

Every now and then, I encounter a situation that requires some scripting. I usually turn to Python for GIS, web scraping, and data analysis. I find Python comforting, clean, and opinionated, and I turn to it when I “need” a script.

No one can deny JavaScript’s emergence, though. It’s ubiquitous now, largely as a result of its age, node.js, and npm, and it continues to assert its dominance in front-end development as a result.

So many tools and libraries are built on JavaScript now, one has to bend over backwards to use anything else for almost anything else. Consequently, it makes sense to use JavaScript for almost everything now.

My crutch

  • Python

My eyes are wandering to

  • JavaScript

Video editing

This one’s tough: I don’t edit video often, but I do need it every so often; consequently, I lean heavily on conventions of software I’ve used before, namely Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere. I’m accustomed to Premiere these days, and an affordable alternative is going to be difficult to find, should I abandon the Adobe business model. Your suggestions are welcome @forestglenroad.

My crutch

  • Premiere

My eyes are wandering to

  • ?