FEDs: What's In Your Toolbox?

One of the cool things about working at Viget is being around serious power-users all day — people for whom nothing is fast or efficient enough, and who are always scouting new tools that might improve their workflow. Now that I live in Vancouver, it's a little harder to keep track of this stuff, so last month I polled the team to see what unsung apps they're using on a daily basis.

There's some cool stuff in here, so I figured we should throw it up and share with readers. Have a look, then post any cool stuff you've found in the comments!

Jason Garber

Use this one every day. Expands a special shorthand string (example: ul.nav>li*6>a[href=#]) to full, indented HTML.

Helpful command line tool for taking full-page screenshots of sites. There’s all sorts of options/switches. I don’t use it a ton, but it comes in handy every now and again.

Another command line utility. It’s pretty straightforward — it’ll base64 encode a binary file and return either a string in the console or drop the output to a file. Great for including small images into a CSS file.

Fast, it-just-works launcher with a lot of config options.

Matt Henry

Unlike TextMate, it's actually responsive when I try to open a file, and it even stays that way after it loses focus and I return to it. (I hear those features are coming in TextMate 2, though.)

Essential Vim plugins:
vim-css-color (see CSS colors in your code),
vim-surround (work with braces, quotes, etc),
sparkup (more powerful Zen Coding alternative).

Edit text for pretty much any application in my editor of choice.

Pipes command-line output to your default browser. Handy for markdown previews, like this: markdown docs/my_doc.markdown | bcat.

OS X package manager. The wind beneath my wings.
Check out Homebrew's list of packages.

Trevor Davis

ImageOptim and ImageAlpha
ImageOptim is a GUI for several image-compression scripts, and it can trim a lot of filesize in no time. ImageAlpha converts big ol' 32-bit transparent PNGs to manageable 8-bit counterparts. This can seriously slash filesize, and it's something Photoshop just can't do yet.

Automator (OS X)
I use it for opening groups of programs and mounting drives when I boot up.

Mounted FTP that you can use through Finder (or, really, any app). Works realllllly well.

Don’t let the Vim people fool you; most of us are happily using TextMate.

Blake Walters

System wide text expansion tool, great for system wide snippets, text correction, and clipboard manipulation.

SO much better than OSX’s default choice of Bash. Get started with ZSH here: Steve Losh's Extravagant ZSH Prompt

GNU Screen
Forget tabs, use screens virtual sessions instead. It’s the first thing I launch (after iTerm) and best of all it’s available on just about every Unix system ever. It’s unbelievably helpful if you spend a lot of time remoted in to other boxes.

Check out Blake's GNU Screen and ZSH dotfiles on GitHub.

Doug Avery

Set your browser to transparent, and lay it right over your comp. Pixel-perfect builds.

Steep learning curve, but worth it. Good Vim use leads to faster writing, refactoring, reading...faster everything. I also like Vim because there’s a lot of depth to exlore — always something new to learn and improve on, rather than just new bundles to add. Start with Vim by watching a few videos from Derek Wyatt.

Essential Vim plugins:
Pathogen (plugin manager),
NERDtree (browseable drawer),
Tabular (table-ize blocks of code),
Snipmate (TextMate-style snippets).

A near-essential app if you use Vim (also great in Textmate). Super-fast, super-smart fuzzy finding that's especially useful in big Rails projects.

Seriously powerful, especially if you want to simplify common OS actions. Bind keystrokes to Applescripts or, even other keystrokes — one great Butler use is to standardize the "next/prev tab" shortcuts between all your applications.

Compass is usually presented as Rails tools, but Compass provides enough value that I use it for standalone builds. The ability to break up files, use variables, and generate sprites can save a lot of time.

Dan Tello

TotalFinder adds tabs, split view windows, a system wide Finder assignable to a hot key, and some other nice features missing from Finder.

Stay saves all your window positions across all spaces for each of your display configurations, and automatically restores them when you add/remove external displays.

Doug Avery

Posted in Article Category: #Design & Content