Tools of the Trade

The apps and other things I use most often

A photo of my desk - read on below to learn what's on it.

On my desk

At home, I’m using a Jarvis Standing Desk with a Bamboo top with a handmade monitor shelf. On top of that shelf is my 27" iMac Pro (3.2GHz 8-core Intel Xeon W with 32GB of RAM) with Bose Companion 3 Series II speakers and controller (the subwoofer sits on the floor beside my desk). The Sphero BB-8 droid sits to the right with my headphones (Bose AE2) on a Gather headphone stand to the left.

The rest of the Gather sits below to hold my pens, stamps, chapstick, and other stuff. Under the shelf, I have a bunch of external hard drives of varying sizes (for Time Machine, Plex, and additional manual backups) plugged into an Anker 10-port USB hub. I also have a Pioneer Slim External Blu Ray Drive that I use for opening and burning CDs, DVDs, and Blu Ray discs. I keep a Work/Play II notebook and a Panobook on hand for jotting down ideas and sketching concepts.

To the right on my desk is an Ikea HEKTAR Work Lamp. I’m using a wired Apple keyboard because I use the number pad a lot and haven’t gotten around to getting the newer extended wireless keyboard yet. My mouse is a Logitech MX Master on top of the Ugmonk Leather Mousepad XL.


My main creative tools

Figma has become my top tool for UI design, prototyping, and design collaboration. It’s the first design tool where properly sharing a design system feels possible and well-supported.

Nova (from Panic) recently replaced my long-time development tool of choice (Coda, also from Panic). Panic sweats the details, and it shows throughout the app.

The Ulysses app icon - a pen pointing upwards with butterfly wings to either side

Ulysses is my preferred app for both long-form writing and collecting notes. And I use Drafts for writing drafts and shorter pieces, though I need to dig in and learn more about all the extra things it can do.

Other creative tools

The Sketch app icon - a yellow gemstone

Sketch is still my preferred app for vector illustration and icon design, particularly for personal projects. I still prefer some aspects of how it organizes layers for creating more detailed art.

The Affinity Photo app icon - purple and pink shutter

Affinity Photo is what I’m currently experimenting with as a Photoshop replacement since I cancelled my Adobe Creative Cloud account.

The xScope app icon - an X with a screen in its central axis showing crosshairs

xScope is like a handy Swiss Army knife for design, with tools for measuring, checking colors, looking at pixels up close, manipulating text, and even mirroring my screen to my iOS devices.

The ImageOptim app icon - a cross between a printer and a vice

ImageOptim is how I compress every single image I post on the web anywhere. It’s super fast and easy — just drag and drop the images onto it and it compresses them.

The GIPHY Capture app icon - a simple geometric rectangle with a corner folded over on top of another rectangle

GIPHY Capture is my preferred tool for recording simple screen interactions and animations, or just making funny gifs from videos. (I’m still trying to figure out what tool to replace Photoshop for editing gifs.)

Productivity tools

The Things app icon - an inbox full of paper with a big check mark on top

Things is where all my work to be done gets catalogued. I keep work tasks, ideas for blog posts, features for current projects, future product ideas, and household chores here.

The Alfred app icon - a bowler hat with a magnifying glass

Alfred opens my apps, finds my files, and runs quick calculations. It can do so much more, and one of these days I’m going to dive into the advanced features.

The 1Password app icon - a fancy-looking lock

1Password stores nearly all of my passwords and a bunch of other sensitive data. I’ve started using it as my two-factor authentication tool of choice as well.

The Dropbox app icon - an open cardboard box

Dropbox is where I keep files that I want to sync between different devices regularly for now. That may change to iCloud some day, but it’s Dropbox for now.

The Fantastical app icon - a calendar

Fantastical is a much better interface to my calendar than either the built-in Mac calendar OR Outlook. I also use this on my iPhone and iPad. Flexibits (the makers of Fantastical) also make a great app for managing and viewing contacts called Cardhop that’s quite lovely and nice, too.

The Rocket app icon - a rocket ship

Rocket is a better way to find and paste emoji than the built-in keyboard tool that has to be enabled from your system preferences. It works similarly to the emoji completion in Slack where you type a colon and the emoji name.

On the web

  • Craft CMS is my CMS of choice for several sites including this one and UXcellence. I love how well it works for various kinds of content and how easy it is to build templates for it. I’d love to build more sites using Craft.
  • Digital Ocean hosts all of my sites. I have a couple different droplets hosting a whole bunch of different sites for myself, my wife, and various side projects.
  • Hover is my domain registrar of choice. They include privacy by default and have reasonable prices without a scammy checkout process.
  • Pinboard is where I keep bookmarks of resources, articles, and useful web tools, going back to 2004 (I imported them from Delicious at some point).


  • For work, I use a 2021 16" MacBook Pro with the Apple M1 Pro chip and 16GB of RAM.
  • At home, I use a 27" iMac Pro with 3.2GHz 8-core Intel Xeon W, 32GB RAM, and a 2TB SSD.
  • On the go and around the house, I alternate between a midnight blue M2 MacBook Air with 16GB of memory and a 512MB 12.9" 2018 iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil and the handy Smart Keyboard Folio.
  • Finally, I have a 256GB Natural Titanium iPhone 15 Pro Max.