creative tools: production

March 18, 2009

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

I have to say, I’m happy to move on from the Backend tools, to the much more glamorous production tools. These are the tools that I use to make things…to take ideas and make them ready for public consumption. Since I do creative work in several different settings, I broke the tools out into some subcategories:

General Use

iWork 09: When iWork 08 was released, I downloaded the free 30 day trial. I wrote one paper with Pages, and I was hooked…and suckered into buying iWork at the end of the trial. Now I’m on iWork 09, and even happier. I don’t use Numbers much, but Pages and Keynote are good friends of mine. They are snappy and streamlined compared to their Office for Mac counterparts. (As Merlin Mann described, opening up Word is like looking at all the controls in a 747 cockpit…it’s too much.)


Scrivener: For any writing project that involves more than a few paragraphs, Scrivener is a dream — heck, it’s a dream even if you are writing two sentences. The ability to create a general outline, capture thoughts and research, and focus in on a specific section make it a must have for anyone who spends much time writing. I’ve used it for research papers, blog series, developing a curriculum, writing teaching outlines for my church, my memoir, and, oh yeah, about 2000 words worth of NaNoWriMo last November. (See this post for more of my thoughts about Scrivener.)

Ecto: These very words are being composed in Ecto. I didn’t see much use for an offline blog editor…until I tried one. Ecto isn’t the prettiest Mac app, but it’s pretty cheap, and does what I need it to do.


Adobe CS4 Suite: I’m a happy owner of the Adobe CS4 design suite. I occasionally open Bridge or InDesign, but Illustrator and especially Photoshop get the most use. I also have Pixelmator for image editing (thanks to MacHeist), but I rely on the familiarity of Photoshop for anything other than basic image work.

CSS Edit: Coding CSS in CSSEdit is so easy, it makes me feel like a dirty cheat. It allows the user to tweak a CSS file and see how it effects the layout in realtime. Most of the CSS I’ve learned has come from tweaking code in CSSEdit and seeing what happens…although a few iChat friends have been helpful too. (Ahem, thanks Todd and Matt.)

SKEdit: I don’t remember how I first ran across SKEdit, as it doesn’t seem to be a very well-known app. But I’m glad I did. SKEdit is a basic FTP program with an editing window built in, so code can be edited directly on the server. The coding side of design work is not much fun, in my opinion, so the more streamlined the process, the happier I am.


Espresso: I’ve played with the Espresso beta a few times, but I’m waiting for the final product to evaluate if it will be part of my workflow. (I’m also secretly, now publicly, hoping that it will be part of the MacHeist package this year.) From the makers of CSSEdit, it combines the functionality of CSSEdit with that of SKEdit. That’s how I’d use it, though it can do more too. If nothing else, it has my favorite icon of any app. Espresso will be a primary competitor for…

Coda: I’ve also played with Coda a few times. It is the app of choice for many of my designing friends, and I can see why. If the final version of Espresso doesn’t win my heart, I will take another hard look at Coda. Besides, Coda’s icon looks pretty nice in the dock too.

OmniGraffle: I have OmniGraffle and I’ve put it use a few times to make some spiffy charts. But, it fits down here, because I should use it better to make wireframes. I mostly compose layouts in my head, or by trial and error, but I know that OmniGraffle would be a helpful addition in my workflow.

This was going to be the last post in this series, but one more software post will follow. In the meantime, what tools do you use to make stuff?

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