creative tools: backend

February 27, 2009 | 4 Comments

This is part of a short series on Creative Tools. Other posts in the series (so far) include: Creative Tools: Hardware.

When I ran the workflow tools series last year, I had one post for my software tools. It seemed better this year to break it into two parts, this post on my backend tools, and another post to come on production tools. Neither ‘backend’ or ‘production’ sounds very glamorous, but both terms are well suited to the breakdown I have in mind. (Oops…breakdown doesn’t sound very glamorous either!)

My backend tools are the apps that I use everyday, often without thinking about them. And that’s just how I want them to work. They are reliable and allow me to capture and sort my stuff so that when it is time to create, I’m ready to go.

Quicksilver: Quicksilver can make a shortcut of just about any task. (Except for basic hygiene…it should not be considered a substitute for regular brushing of your teeth.) I’ve talked to many people who have had no luck with Quicksilver in Leopard, but it still works fairly well for me. David Sparks has had a good experience with LaunchBar 5, but I’m not ready to make that switch.

OmniFocus: This one is no surprise to regular readers, but OmniFocus is my hub for task management. Visit my OmniFocus tag archive if you are newer to the site.

Yojimbo: Again, no surprise to regular readers, but Yojimbo is my hub for storing notes and ideas. Visit my Yojimbo tag archive if you are newer to the site. (Yojimbo is great as it is, but I’m hoping a new revision is coming…it’s been a long time.)

ShoveBox: ShoveBox is new in my workflow, thanks to a free license via MacHeist. My initial impression was that I didn’t need it because it would serve the same purpose as Yojimbo. However, I’ve been using it as a glorified clipboard of sorts. Notes that I just need temporarily go in Shovebox. For example, while wrapping up a website for a client, I knew there were a few items I needed to email him about. I collected them in Shovebox as they came to mind, and then put them all together when I was ready to send the email.

Mail.app and iCal: I use Gmail and Gcal, but still prefer to use them with the base Apple apps as my main interface. They are usually seamless with other apps, and for me, MobileMe sync works great.

SugarSync: Sync apps have made a splash in the last year, but SugarSync has been my choice. My documents don’t have to be in a special folder…I can just tell SygarSync what folders to sync. It’s reliable, and I always seem to have the latest documents on whichever computer I find myself on. If you split time between multiple machines, this is worth a look.

How about you? What apps are you using everyday to hold you, or at least your workflow, together?

  • Matthew Depper

    I Love Quicksilver and I use it all the time. When it’s isn’t available, I feel like I’m missing few fingers.

    I’ve been using iClipboard for about six months. i was skeptical at first, wondering whether I would use it. I guess it’s similar to Shovebox? It has a tab that stays on the edge of my screen until I pull it out to copy or paste images or text.

    Just started using Evernote with a web storage account (the free one) but I haven’t dug into it’s superpowers. Maybe if I had an iPhone I’d be raving.

    Since this school semester began I’ve been using Curio for all my projects, whether they be school related or creative personal projects . It’s a very intuitive mind mapping tool, but it goes way beyond that. I think of it as a vast hierarchy of extremely versatile white boards. The last Curio update included an additional “scrapbook” that contains all of your Evernote files.

  • John

    Matthew,
    Thanks for the comment. I’ve been eager to dig in to Curio. I’ve played with it a little, but looking forward to really working through it to see how I might put it to use.

  • I will have to check out Curio further. I currently use MindManager for mind-mapping, but think it’s rather limited and I have become frustrated with their development cycle for OS X.

    I have been a long time Evernote user and after a long assessment picked over Yojimbo for storing notes and such. Interested to know why you use both Yojimbo and Shovebox, when they seem to do the same thing.

    Nice site, will be checking back regularly.

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  • Skitch – Is great for screen and image grabs, but has such an easy re-sizing function I use it ALL the time for blogging.

    MindNodePro – Just discovered this tool for mind mapping. It’s one of the easiest ones I’ve ever used, not loaded down with unnecessary features. Allows me to jot ideas down as they flow and very quickly. I recently posted a review: http://tinyurl.com/ar5q7h

    DropBox – I’ve started using DropBox to sync files I use when I’m using my laptop. Any newly created files, I store there. I also installed DropBox on the PC side of my Mac [when I use Parallels]. That way, when I make changes to documents using PC software, they are up-to-date for the Mac as well. I haven’t yet found a reliable way to keep mirrors of the files I want to keep in sync. (I network my MacBook to my iMac and let SilverKeeper update all the necessary files from email preferences to key folders)

    Evernote – Yes, it is nice to use with the iPhone too… But the beauty of it is it lets me have access to screen clips and little notes on every machine I operate – including my phone. Very handy.

    OmniFocus – is what I’ve been using to manage my todo lists. Again, with the ability to sync on the iPhone I can always have a) an up to date list with me and b) access to make additions

    OmniGraffle – I used an older version of Curio for a while, but switched to OmniGraffle. I know they’re not the same thing… but I liked what OmniGraffle does… and it does much of what I used Curio for.

    TextMate – I use every day. In fact, I cut and paste the mind maps I create in MindNote Pro and massage the text in TextMate. This is how I write most of my blog posts.

    Minuteur – Nice timer. I set it for 48-minute work periods followed by 12-minute breaks. Keeps me fresh.

    Art Directors Toolkit – I use this constantly. Mostly the scaling tool. Figure out what percentage to reduce height x width for images on my blog. I also have stored the color scheme here so I can get the hex codes for my site’s color scheme.

    SpamSieve – Has really helped reduce the amount of junk email appearing in my inbox.

    MailTags – Have just started using this tool to help me better organize what’s in my inbox and take action. In the past 45 days, have grown to like it.

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