Creative Tools 2011: Production

February 10, 2011

Picking up the Creative Tools 2011 series is this post on the tools I use for production. (Previous posts: Hardware, Curation) THere are the tools I use to turn ideas into finished products — actual artifacts that I’m willing to share with others with a goal no less ambitious than the greater good of humanity. Seems reasonable enough.

As I scrolled through my Apps folder, I was surprised at how short this list would turn out to be. Though I work in two different fields, there are only a handful of apps that create the final products for any of my disciplines. That’s a good thing. It is a better goal to be prolific in shipping than it is to be proficient in tools. (Though I claim neither.)


Adobe Photoshop CS4

Photoshop is my go to tool for images, whether it be a quick edit like the one you see above, or a full design comp for a website. I have used some of the newer indy apps, like Pixelmator, but never bothered to install them on my Air. One tool does it all for me, and Photoshop is plenty responsive on both my Air and iMac. Photoshop CS5 looks like it might have a few new tools that would be nice, but nothing compelling enough for me to spring for an upgrade.


CSSEdit might offer more value for the dollar than any app I own, and it is central to the work I do building WordPress sites. If any app is in danger of replacing Photoshop any my work flow, it is this. As CSS3 support grows, I’m finding I would rather style up designs with CSS tools for gradients, shadows, or typography than I would in Photoshop. I would guess I recommend this app to people in casual conversations more than any other, besides Scrivener. If I have one critique, it’s that they seem to be on a slow development cycle, with no significant upgrades in the 3+ years I’ve been using it.


Espresso comes from the developers of CSSEdit, and I originally tried it out hoping it would merge CSSEdit with full development and FTP tools. It doesn’t, but it has become my go to tool for coding and working with files on the server. I’ve tried Coda, which looks great too, but having my local files for a project readily available in the sidebar is a convenience I don’t want to part with.


I have two related, but distinct, uses for Keynote:

  1. I use the Mac version for leading the discussion in our church community on Sundays. Along with the slides generated for all to read and dialogue around, I use the notes to remind me of talking points. I control all of it from my iPhone, allowing a simple swipe to change the slide, while my notes are visible below.
  2. I also use Keynote for iPad, but differently than described above, for other public speaking settings. It becomes my cue cards, visble only to me, with each slide being a new point in my outline. I create the slides, run the show, and flick my way through my notes as I go.


I don’t recall what prompted me to give MarsEdit another look this past year, but I’m glad I did. It is a fantastic blog editor, allowing me to create new posts and edit pages. Creating and editing blog posts in an app is overall a better experience than using the blog’s online dashboard. It integrates well with WordPress, managing file uploads, and even custom fields for my link posts. If only there were an iPad version, because I’ve not found any reliable blog editors for iPad.


Ten years ago, a word processor was probably my most used app, other than an email client. It was always open, generating outlines or planning documents to save my thoughts or print them to share with others. Now, I hardly ever need a word processor. The only things I’ve used pages for in the last year are creating proposals for websites, creating content management documentation for clients, or to do final formatting on a few articles that needed to be in a word processing format.


Scrivener excels at storing notes and ideas related to a project, sorting all of it, and helping me craft it into fully formed (or sometimes half-baked) thoughts. I’ve used it in the past to put together teaching outlines, multi-week curriculums, blog posts, blog series, research papers, articles, and even a failed NaNoWriMo attempt or two. It’s as flexible as it is helpful.

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