creative tools: various sundry miscellany

March 30, 2009 | 7 Comments

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

I intended to have posts about software in the Creative Tools series. Welcome to this third. As I was putting the first two together, there were too many apps that merited a mention but didn’t really belong in either the Backend or Production category. I use most of these apps weekly, if not daily. Most of them streamline processes down to one or two steps that would be more complicated otherwise.

1Password: 1Password is a must have for Mac users, in my opinion. It is accessible in your browser with the click of a button, and and keeps track of all of your passwords so you don’t have to remember them or write them down. You can practice good security habits and use a different and complex password for every site. Bonus points for the ability to sync your passwords across multiple systems.

Billings: While on the hunt for an app to handle time tracking and invoicing for freelance work, I found at least five worthy candidates. Billings was the winner for having the features I needed in the most simple interface. Time tracking by project is easy to implement, it interfaces with address book, and there are quite a few nice invoice templates included.

Delicious Library: Delicious Library is considered one of the best looking Mac apps, but it is also one of the handiest. I’m particular about tracking the books in my collection, and appreciate being able to see a visual respresentation of my library at any time. It is helpful for me to have books sorted into special shelves like Unread Books or Kindle Books.

Leap: A year ago, I began using Leap to sort my documents by tags instead of folders. Leap made it possible. I haven’t totally abandoned folders, but use Hazel to sort documents automatically based on my Leap tags. You can read more about my system here.

Yep: Yep is Leap’s cousin. It lets you scan documents as PDF’s and sort them by tags. I only keep hard copies of what I have to, and file everything else away in Yep. Scanning documents takes a little time, but not much more than filing, and the retrieval process is quicker, and available anywhere I have my laptop.

Skitch: Skitch is the best way to grab images from your screen, like all the icons in this post. Love it. Don’t know what I’d do without it. Well, I do, but it wouldn’t be as easy.

FileChute: FileChute is, well, a chute for files. I have it setup with my blog server as a simple way to host images. All of the images in this post were captured with Skitch, and then dragged directly to FileChute to be posted on the server. They never even touched my local hard drive.

Pixelmator: I use Pixelmator any time I want to do a quick edit on an image such as a resize. It’s capable of much more, but I’m already equipped and familiar with Photoshop. But Pixelmator is the best of the entry level image editors that I’ve seen.

TweetDeck: TweetDeck isn’t very pretty, but the multiple columns make it my favorite way to track Twitter. I especially like the TwitScoop panel, but I’d recommend you close it if you are a fan of Lost and aren’t watching it while it is airing on the East Coast.

I love sharing these apps, because I appreciate how each of these developers has found a way to streamline or improve a unique workflow. After these three posts about software, you might think I have an app addiction. Well, maybe I do. But be honest with yourself (and me)…if you took the time to read this, you probably do to. So, I’d love to hear what apps you find useful for your unique workflows.

  • Jeff

    Great post John
    I agree that 1password is a must have – didn’t have it until recently and don’t know how I got on without it. The large amount of time I spent typing in/looking up passwords could have been erased!

    Re: Billings – Haven’t needed time-tracking/invoicing in a while, but I used to use the free BambooInvoice. It’s web based and you have to put it on your own server space, but it’s really clean/easy to use. Check it out.

    As for Leap, Yep (and from other posts, Yojimbo), I’ve tried all of them (plus way too many others) and settled on devonthink to handle all of their tasks. Basically, I completely moved all of my folders/files into it. Now I manage folders/files from within there. They don’t have tags just yet (is planned for imminent 2.0 release and I can’t wait) but you can still currently “replicate” items so that they show up in several places within db and you can do smart searching by file type, label, etc. Anything that goes in there is searchable by spotlight, quicksilver, etc. still and can be accessed by other programs because it keeps files in their default file type and just searches through them to create indexes for searches. It also has bookmarklets for easily getting content when reading articles online. The thing I like most about it is that instead of having 1 program for notes and another for documents, I can put both in devonthink and manage them together.

    For twitter, I currently go back and forth between twitterrific and tweetdeck. Tweetdeck is super powerful but can often get distracting when following searches, viewing twitscoop, etc. so I scale back to twitterrific.

    Have heard of the other programs but haven’t played around with it much; will take a closer look.

  • Pat

    You almost have me convinced to switch from LibraryThing to Delicious Library. I really like LT’s social aspects, but the UI is pretty bare bones HTML, and I have to manually enter ISBN or title/author, then select from a search results list.

    For twitter, I usually use Tweetdeck also, but I do find Twhirl to be very helpful when I need to manage the several twitter feeds I use for different topics.

    Pats last blog post..

  • Thank you for your many helpful posts. Question: I use two computers, with files synced via Dropbox, many of my pref synced via MobileMe. Where do leap and yep store the tags? Would the tags sync with the files and be there for me at whichever computer I’m working? Or do the programs have their own local file that I could put in dropbox so it would be there that way? Thank you again for all of your terrific work.

    Tony Pisanis last blog post..Admin note: Posted family vid in error

  • John

    I have Leap setup to write tags to the spotlight comments field (they give you an option), so the tags are connected to the file. I sync files with sugarsync, and the tags exist between both computers.

  • Zach Phillips

    Hey John,

    I absolutely love Billings. What do you use for bookkeeping?

    I’ve searched all over and cannot find an obvious answer to this.

  • John



    All of my work is still done as an independent contractor, so I track it all as categories within our personal finances. And I’ve been trying with moderate success, to do that in this year.

  • Zach Phillips

    Haha okay. I’m just hoping there’s a beautifully designed non-Microsoft product I can work with for bookkeeping, and for some reason, I feel yucky about doing it on in a web application…