Here’s our run down of the essential apps available for web developers and designers. Rather than focus on one element of the web development or design process, we’ve pretty much covered all the bases here. You’ll find apps designed for code editing, file and data transfer, collaboration, database management, image editing, invoicing, time tracking, expenses tracking and much, much more.
The apps explored below are a rather disparate group, but there are two common threads tying them together. Firstly, as you might expect, they are all perfect for web developers and designers, greatly reducing the time, hassle and heartache needlessly expended during projects. Secondly, they have all been designed to be used on a Mac, by a dedicated Mac user, who expects his or her apps to operate in a certain Mac-like way.
Most of them are relatively inexpensive and almost all of them offer a free trial period, so pick the ones that are right for you and give them a go. You never know, they might just change your professional life!
1. Coda ($99)
Rather than have several windows open at the same time, all doing different things (one text editing, one saving files to the server, one previewing in Safari etc.), combine each aspect of web development into one unified window with Coda, to make editing CSS that little bit easier.
As well as syntax colouring, line numbering, auto-completion and block editing, Coda offers some unique features, such as Live Collaboration, which lets you edit code live with any co-worker in the world, and Clips, a floating window which lets you insert frequently used text CSS snippets quickly and easily.
2. CSSEdit ($79.90 with Espresso)
Unlike some of the other code editors available, CSSEdit is strictly limited to the coding of CSS. Luckily, it performs its sole function extremely well. Web developers with any level of expertise will be able to code more quickly and simply with this great program.
CSSEdit’s strongest features include Live Preview, which without saving or uploading, lets you preview any changes you make to your stylesheets in real time, and Milestones, which saves your work continuously so that you can tweak away to your heart’s content without the fear of screwing things up!
3. TextMate ($48.75)
TextMate, the self-styled “Missing editor for Mac OS X”, is a text editor inspired by Apple’s approach to operating systems. Lightweight and easy to use, TextMate offers programmers, developers and designers the ability to search and replace in a project, select and type in columns, use tabs when working with multiple projects, and bookmark visually to quickly jump between places in a file. It supports over 50 languages and comes complete with simple project management apps too!
File & Data Transfer
4. Transmit 3 ($29.95, $17.95 to upgrade from Transmit 2)
Transmit is quite possibly the simplest GUI FTP client to use. Mac users will instantly feel at home with its Finder-like interface. New features in Transmit 3 include column view browsing (Mac OS X style), a sidebar for the most frequently visited locations and tabs for multiple transfer sessions in one window. Transmit 3 can also be used as a Dashboard widget, and its Dock logo shows the status of your transfers at a glance.
5. Dropbox (free basic package)
Dropbox makes it easy for you to store and transfer files across any number of computers and/or smartphones. Once downloaded, a Dropbox folder is added to your desktop. Drag any file into the folder and it will ‘magically’ appear in the Dropbox folder on each one of your machines. What’s more, each file is automatically saved to another folder on the Dropbox website, which is accessible from any computer in the world. No longer will you have to continuously email yourself or transfer files between computers with a USB stick.
6. Meerkat ($19.95)
SSH tunneling is a way of shunting data securely across the internet on behalf of other programs. It’s often used to bypass firewalls and provide secure communication to programs with poor encryption capabilities. It sounds complicated, doesn’t it? Well, in fact, it is very complicated, which is why Meerkat, an SSH tunnel manager designed especially for Mac users, is so incredibly useful. With Meerkat, you’ll be SSH tunnelling in no time.
7. Basecamp (from $24 per month)
Basecamp is the world’s leading project collaboration tool, endorsed by National Geographic, Warner Brothers and thousands of very satisfied web developers and designers. Basecamp’s uncluttered, customisable interface encourages seamless collaboration between team members.
Write to-do lists, assign tasks to specific team members, store and share files effectively, write on your team’s messageboard, create milestones to keep track of what’s been done and by who, track time spent by team members on different tasks, and get an all-encompassing project overview.
8. GitHub (free basic package)
GitHub is another collaboration tool with glowing endorsements from giants of the business and web world, such as EMI and Yahoo! Unlike Basecamp, GitHub is specifically designed for collaborative coding, allowing you to fork and merge code, send pull requests and monitor web development at the touch of a button. It’s designed to function like a social networking site, with each user assigned a profile which tracks progress and participation. Follow specific developers to keep tabs on their activity.
9. Querious ($25)
Querious is a great MySQL database management application, perfect for web developers looking for an alternative to the rather dated and fussy front-end of MySQL. Importantly, Querious lets you manage how your data is structured (through the Columns tab) as well as the data itself (through the Contents tab). With Querious, you can view, search, edit, import, export and structure your data easily and effectively. Furthermore, it operates in an intuitive way that all Mac users will be completely comfortable with.
10. Sequel Pro (free)
Sequel Pro is another MySQL database management application, but unlike Querious, it’s completely free. Again, unlike Querious, which will only connect to MySQL 5 servers, Sequel Pro connects to both MySQL 4 and MySQL 3. Sequel Pro performs the same basic functions as Querious, albeit in a less polished and less stylish manner. However, Querious easily outperforms Sequel Pro when it comes to running queries, offering both syntax highlighting and code completion, which make a huge difference.
If you don’t mind spending $25 (which really isn’t that much to ask), I’d recommend Querious over Sequel Pro every time, unless you need to connect to MySQL 4 or MySQL 3, in which case you don’t really have a choice.
11. Photoshop ($699)
Perhaps it goes without saying that Adobe Photoshop is the finest piece of image editing software on the market, used to some extent by almost everyone involved in web development and design. There’s no point in listing its features; they’re far too numerous to mention. All there is to say is that it’s very expensive, but unsurpassed in its field as yet. If it’s too expensive for you or you don’t need as much power, there are plenty of alternatives on the market to look into.
12. Layers ($24.95)
Layers is a unique screen capture application which lets you take multilayered screen and webshots. When taking a screenshot, which can be done simply by pressing “Alt Shift S”, each different element on the screen, including application windows, desktop icons, the Dock, menu bar, cursor and even menu bar icons, are saved as different layers in a PSD file. When opened in Photoshop, you can simply uncheck a layer to remove an element from the image, or select a layer to move the element around.
Layers works in much the same way when it comes to webshots. A shot of the full web page is captured, even if some elements are off the screen, and everything, including video frames and Flash, is included in the layers.
13. Charles Proxy ($50)
Charles Proxy is a web proxy which runs on your own computer. It records all data that’s exchanged between your web browser and the server when you access the internet, displaying this information in plain text for your consumption. With this invaluable information at your fingertips, you can quickly diagnose and rectify any problems you may be experiencing with your websites. Besides proxying, it also provides bandwidth throttling, which allows you to experience websites as a modem user.
14. Changes ($49.99)
Changes is a file and folder comparison tool which aims to unclutter your digital life by allowing greater folder comparison and merging. With Changes, you can easily sync folders, getting rid of .DS_Store files, .svn directories and other rubbish which accumulates over time, keeping up-to-date and organised in the process. You can even compare text files for code and prose, collapsing text and editing as you go.
15. xScope ($26.95)
xScope brings together seven great tools for measuring, aligning and inspecting on-screen graphics and layouts. These tools include: Dimensions, which gives you the dimensions of anything on-screen; Rulers, which measures pixels on-screen; Screens, which displays the usable screen content area for any screen size; and Loupe, which magnifies anything under your mouse. These tools, accessible via the Mac OS X menu bar, float above desktop windows, saving you valuable screen space.
16. FreshBooks (free basic package)
FreshBooks is a great app for tracking time and money. It gives you an instant overview of how you and other members of your team are utilising time, letting you update your timesheets from your smartphone if you wish. It lets you track your expenses and send and manage professional-looking invoices. Never again will you fret over a lost invoice, as each one is saved and stored exactly where you’d expect to find it.
17. Harvest (from $12 per month)
A similar application to FreshBooks, Harvest is a great app for keeping tabs on time and money, with packages designed for freelancers and individuals, small businesses and teams, and larger companies. Harvest presents information in a highly visual manner, giving you a snapshot of time spent on projects, expenses accrued and invoices created.
Like FreshBooks, Harvest is a web app, which means that nothing has to be downloaded and that all your information is accessible from any computer in the world (provided it’s connected to the internet, of course).
Add to this list
If you have any other applications web or not that you use daily as a designer / developer please leave it in the comments section.