Tools of the Trade - 2014 Edition
Paul Brown • June 1, 2014 02:32 AM
I've been running a side business for a little over a year now. The term "running" might be a stretch, because I released an app in June of 2012 and have just been issuing updates since then. Don't get me wrong - I haven't been just resting on my laurels. I try to stay up to date, and this means I have been building up an arsenal of tools. After being inspired by people like Justin Williams and Scott Hanselman, I thought I'd share my short but growing list here. It's more a record of the state of things, so I can revisit this and see how far I've come years from now.
As I compiled this list, it's amazing just how many individual pieces there are. And I'm just a side-gig, small-time iOS developer. It's reassuring, though, to know that people are providing great software and services to meet our needs.
Web Development and Hosting
- Coda - Made by the fine folks over at Panic. It's kind of a swiss army knife, but I use it to upload files to my web server and whip up quick pages. It's the best general purpose web IDE in my opinion.
- Digital Ocean - They provide me with a cheap SSD linux server in the cloud. It's only $5/mo, and it's way more than I need to host this blog and a few other sites.
- App.io - I can run a simulated version of my app on my website. It's kinda magical, go try it out. I'm not sure if their business model scales, but it's fun for now.
- Namecheap - I switched away from that other domain registrar last year, and haven't looked back. Namecheap does exactly what you need it to do.
- Countly - I've been using Countly since I launched my app. I'm not even sure where I heard of them, but I know that I didn't want to use Google Analytics. Countly has worked out great, and I highly recommend them. Also, check out my post about integrating Countly with my Raspberry Pi.
- Appfigures - Appfigures has a really nice UI for viewing your app sales and revenue. I must be grandfathered into a cheaper plan from last year, but it's still worth it. I also appreciate that they explicitly say "We never sell you private data".
- App Annie - I have an App Annie account to monitor my App Store rankings, but I don't have it linked to my iTunes Connect account because their free pricing model scares me (see previous item about Appfigures never selling private data?).
- Bitbucket - I keep my git repositories on Bitbucket. I'm small enough to fit into the free tier.
- Backblaze - I'm still in my trial period, but I plan on subscribing. There's a certain amount of security in knowing my hard drive gets backed up to the cloud.
- Freshbooks - Occasionally I need to invoice someone. Freshbooks does the job. There may be better options, but I don't invoice frequently enough for it to matter.
- Tethras - I recently used Tethras to translate my app into Spanish, German, Chinese, and Japanese. You give them your strings files, they send you translated strings files. Works great.
- NSScreencast - Weekly videos that teach different aspects of development.
- AdMob - I'm not a huge fan of using Google's services for revenue, but they are the king of serving ads. I started using AdMob when I released the Android version of Easy Grade, and lately I updated the iOS version so that when iAds fail to load, AdMob fills the gaps.
- Xcode, duh - Required for any iOS developer. It has come a long way since Xcode 3, but there's still room for progress. We'll see what WWDC 2014 brings us!
- Kaleidoscope - A diff tool with a gorgeous interface. Black Pixel seems to care a lot about making this app amazing. I recommend buying direct from Black Pixel, since this app seems like it might suffer from serious sandboxing problems in the long run (just my opinion, I may be wrong about that). Kaleidoscope is also really handy at my day job with things like comparing configuration files.
- Slender - This app helped me clean out a ton of cruft from Easy Grade before my last update. It points out which graphics don't have @2x assets, and it tells you which image assets aren't being used in the project so you'll know to delete them.
- xScope - xScope is invaluable if you measure things on your screen. I also use it for aligning things on my screen, and for finding color values (in whatever format you need it).
- Sketch - I designed my iOS 7 icon in Sketch. I'm no designer, but I think it turned out alright, and Sketch made it easy.
- Acorn - Acorn is a great Photoshop alternative. A lot of Photoshop's concepts carry over straight into Acorn. I've hit a few roadblocks with not knowing how to accomplish a task, but I think that's more because my brain is wired into Photoshop. Luckily, Gus Mueller has a wealth of tutorials and guides on the website. It's only $30, so go get it. Trust me.
- Soulver - I heard Marco rave about Soulver for years before I finally bought it. If you deal with numbers in any capacity, it's worth the cost.
- OmniFocus - I just jumped on the OmniFocus bandwagon. I'm sure it's overkill for me, but I must say, I am much more organized now. I found myself forgetting some important tasks at my day job, and I realized the sticky notes weren't cutting it any more. Now I've got my life's tasks compartmentalized into OmniFocus. So while I still may not get to everything, I at least won't neglect a task due to forgetfulness. :-)
- Transporter - Putting files on the public cloud brings with it many concerns. I wanted to keep my business and highly personal stuff on something other than Dropbox. I realize I back up my hard drive to Backblaze, but I feel like it's more secure than the Dropbox varieties of cloud storage. We'll see.
- Alfred - I haven't fully embraced the full power of Alfred, but I find it's much better than Spotlight. I hear Launchbar is also pretty good, too.
- 1Password - I couldn't manage my digital life without 1Password. It's a game changer. Now I don't have to remember all my passwords, and I have different passwords for almost every service I use.
- Bartender - Bartender keeps the menubar icons under control on my 13-inch retina MacBook Pro. It's an essential tool on a laptop.
- Numbers - I keep several business spreadsheets in Numbers, particularly my bookkeeping documents for the business. A lot of the trivial spreadsheet-y tasks have been migrated to Soulver, but I still need Numbers. Plus, it makes really pretty charts and graphs.
- Sublime Text - This is more a tool for my day job. A text editor with multiple cursors and regex find and replace is awesome.
- Reflector - Reflector is a cool tool, particularly if you need to remotely show someone what you are doing on your iPad/iPhone.
- NetNewsWire/Reeder/ReedKit/Unread/Feedwrangler - There has been somewhat of a renaissance of RSS apps and services since Google shut down Google Reader last year. I use Feed Wrangler as my sync service to keep all of my computers/devices in sync. My ideal would be to use NetNewsWire on the Mac, but Black Pixel hasn't implemented sync yet. For now, I've been using a mixture of Reeder and ReadKit on the Mac, and Unread and Reeder on iOS.