Developers and designers love their tools. We sit down with DEV Principal Software Engineer, Josh Puetz, and DEV Lead Product Designer, Lisa Sy, to talk shop about their most obscure resources and tools, as well as the ones that they think everyone should be using.
In this episode, we go through our favorite hardware and software that allows us to be the best developers and designers we can be. We invite DEV Principal Software Engineer, Josh Puetz, and DEV Lead Product Designer, Lisa Sy, to talk about their favorite desk setup, organizational, and efficiency tools.
Ben Halpern is co-founder and webmaster of DEV/Forem.
Jess Lee is co-founder of DEV.
Josh Puetz is Principal Software Engineer at Forem.
Lisa Sy is Lead Product Designer at DEV
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[00:01:27] JP: You can have Windows and they can overlap and you could be this messy California creative… sorry, Lisa, like that was our adding. That’s not thinking it’s you. That was their advertising campaign.
[00:01:37] LS: Steve Jobs.
[00:01:38] JP: Yes. Yes.
[00:01:50] BH: Welcome to Dev Discuss, the show where we cover the burning topics that impact all our lives as developers. I’m Ben Halpern, co-founder of Dev.
[00:01:57] JL: And I’m Jess Lee, also a co-founder of Dev. Today, we’re talking to our Dev colleagues about resources and tools, Josh Puetz, Principal Software Engineer, and Lisa Sy, Lead Product Designer. Thank you both so much for joining us.
[00:02:09] JP: Hi, thanks for having us.
[00:02:11] LS: Yeah. Thanks for having us.
[00:02:12] BH: So we invited you both on the show because you’re amazing at your jobs and big advocates of the tools you use when you’re working with us. But before we get into it, Josh, can you kick us off by telling us a bit about your developer background in general?
[00:02:27] JP: I’ve been a web developer for, oh gosh, it sucks to say out loud, probably over 20 years now. I’ve worked at a combination of large companies and small startups. I mostly work on backend web development, Java, way back in the day, Ruby and Rails for about the last 10 years.
[00:02:46] JL: And Josh, can you tell us what you do at Dev with your 20 plus years of engineering experience?
[00:02:56] JP: I am a principal software engineer. So that means that not only do I have responsibility for helping to implement features and produce code myself, I’m working to help magnify and amplify the efforts of the developers around me.
[00:03:10] JL: And Lisa, can you tell us about your background?
[00:03:12] LS: Yeah, totally. So I’m a product designer here at Dev. I’m the first product designer at the company. And so in addition to sharing with people product design and the process of what that is to inform how we build products at Dev, I also get to help with informing the design culture in the company in general, which is really fun and exciting. I’ve been doing product design for almost a decade now and actually one of the first ways I got started in this industry came from working with Peter and Ben about seven years ago. We launched this startup called Texts.com, which is a two sided marketplace for students to sell and buy textbooks from one another. We did this at Wesleyan University, which is where I went to school and also where Peter went to school.
[00:04:07] JL: What are the projects that you two are working on now that you’re most excited about?
[00:04:12] LS: I have been working with our team on improving tools for moderators to keep the platform as safe as possible. And this is a space that I’m pretty passionate about. I used to work at Facebook on their community integrity team and was doing this for a few years, thinking about the entire ecosystem, and it’s pretty complex. There are a lot of considerations there. And I also have worked with startups here and there doing similar work. And so I’m excited to bring this over into Dev because it’s such a huge consideration and it’s easy to not think too much about the people behind the scenes that keep these online communities safe, but it’s so important to the work we do and to making everybody who is a member on Dev feel safe.
[00:04:58] JP: My team is working on improving the algorithms and the code that produces the homepage feed. When you go to Dev.to, the homepage feed is the first thing you see. So it’s critically important that you get stories, news, podcasts, videos that are relevant to your interests. So we’re continuing to make that better in response to community feedback.
[00:05:27] BH: So let’s start with some of the more critical tools that we sort of lean on day to day. Josh, do you want to start?
[00:05:34] JP: Sure. I will take your question literally, as I’m leaning on one of my tools right now, it’s a standing desk. I work remotely like many of us at Dev, like many of us nowadays do in general. And when I first started working remotely, I had a crappy little desk in the corner of my room and my back was hurting. My posture was terrible. There was stuff piled up all over it. A couple of years ago, I upgraded to a standing desk and it’s not very big. It’s maybe like 30 inches by 40 inches. It’s just big enough for my keyboard and monitor, but it converts up and down so I can go from sitting to standing and it has done wonders for my posture. It’s done wonders for like that sense of fatigue you get sometimes in your legs and your back when you’re hunched over your computer all day long. All I have to do is just raise the desktop up. We put on some Britney Spears. I do a little desktop dancing, not dancing on my desktop, like dancing to it. I just feel better. It’s great.
[00:06:35] JL: Okay, real talk. How many hours do you stand?
[00:06:38] JP: Well, okay, so this is a complete side. I think you should be able to adjust your goal on the Apple Watch, like 12 hours of standing, whatever, that assumes I’m up for 12 hours. That’s a lot. I’m probably standing a good six or seven hours at my desk a day.
[00:06:54] JL: Wow!
[00:06:55] JP: You have to work up to it though. Like you don’t start with that. Like I started up doing like maybe 20 minutes out of every hour.
[00:07:00] BH: What about your hardware, the computers you use? Tell us a little bit about that.
[00:07:05] JP: I’m glad you asked. I’ve loved talking about tech tools. I love it. Love it! I’m one of those people that I subscribed to all those office Reddits where people post pictures of their completely beautiful, unlivable, workspaces. There’s not a cord anywhere. There’s no children. There’s no food or drink. Probably no oxygen. That’s how it looks so clean. I wish. I have a 15-inch MacBook Pro that we lovingly called “the lunch tray” because I think it’s huge and it pretty much stays at my desk all the time. It’s plugged into a 27-inch monitor. I have an external keyboard and a mouse and it pretty much stays there all the time. Like I mentioned, my desk is convertible. It goes up, it goes down. Sometimes I will take the laptop with me, but a lot of times I take my other favorite piece of hardware and that is my beloved iPad Pro.
[00:07:55] JL: I knew you would say that.
[00:07:56] JP: Yes! Oh, you do it. You do it. Yeah. I have a 12-inch iPad Pro. It has a keyboard cover on it. I love the thing dearly. It is my favorite piece of tech right now. It has built in LTE connectivity. So if I’m on call and I’m going to go somewhere, instead of carrying my heavy laptop with me, I just have to carry this iPad. I have a thin keyboard and I’ve got Slack, I’ve got email, I’ve got a terminal. I can do coding from it. I can just do it all. It’s great.
[00:08:27] JL: That’s awesome that you’re able to code on it. That’s my go to as well for any coffee shop work back in the day. And I love that you are like an Apple fan. I don’t even know if anyone else caught this earlier, but when you were talking about your standing desk, you already mentioned your Apple Watch.
[00:08:42] JP: Oh yeah. Okay. So let me put my Apple credentials on display. A million years ago when I graduated from high school in ’95, I had graduation pictures taken with my Mac.
[00:08:55] JL: Like were you holding it like in your arms or something?
[00:08:57] JP: Oh, no, no. Oh, it’s like Bill Gates style. I’m laying down kind of like over it. It’s really cringy. Thank God those pictures do not exist in a digital form. Stop your Google searches right now. It’s not out there.
[00:09:08] JL: We should put these in the show notes.
[00:09:09] JP: We should not. I don’t know where it is. I swear.
[00:09:12] JL: All right. Lisa, what are some of the tools that you use every day?
[00:09:15] LS: Yeah. So I also use a MacBook Pro. It’s 15 inches too. I connect it to a 27-inch display, which is a Wacom tablet, which if you’re not familiar, Wacom tablets are ones that you can draw directly on. I do comics work and some illustration work. And so that’s kind of fun for me. It also works as a double monitor for product design work. When I begin my day, the first thing I do when I open my computer is go into Notion, which is this tool where you can put your notes in, you can make to-do lists. You can have spreadsheets. It just is this kind of all in one. What’s really great about Notion is that it’s really customizable to your preferences and what you want it to be. So kind of think of it this way. Notion gives you the Lego pieces and it’s up to you to build the Lego blocks and the different shapes that you want to construct. And so it gives you a lot of freedom. And as you can tell, this is why people like engineers really enjoy it using Notion because you can kind of organize it however you want to. And so for me, how I use Notion both in my personal life and also in my professional life is in my personal life. I have like a week by week play of what I’m intending to do, and they’re all laddering up to two weeks’ sprints. That is for my personal life.
[00:10:43] JP: Wow!
[00:10:43] LS: And then each of them, I bucket it into quarters that match like the fiscal quarters and I have personal goals for each of those quarters. And then it ladders up to like the yearly goal. Clearly, when the pandemic happened, a lot of things got shifted, especially like travel goals or like other things. But yeah, so I kind of replicate that kind of model for my work life as well. And then I think it gives me the sense of structure, which I really enjoy, and also you can color code different things in Notion so it makes it really fun.
[00:11:16] JL: Yeah. I don’t nearly use Notion to the extent that you do. It’s one of those tools that I sort of like begrudgingly open because I need to like check something. Anyway, Josh, do you use Notion a lot?
[00:11:32] JP: I don’t. So I hadn’t used Notion before I started working at Dev and I really like what we’re using it for organizationally. Just to give people a little bit of background, we have a lot of the things that you would maybe find in a company Wiki or in Notion or things like our HR procedures and like a directory of all the employees, what to do when you’re on call. It’s a nicer Wiki. It’s a way more organized than a Google Docs folder that’s got crap littered everywhere. So I really, really like it. But in my personal life, it’s just a little overkill for me, but that’s because like Lisa, you sound so much more organized than I am. I don’t know what I’m making for dinner. And it’s like two hours from now. I’m just barely hanging on. So I’m just not. It’s not Notion, it’s me.
[00:12:23] JL: What are some ways that you kind of organize what you’re going to do in a day if it’s not like a thing like Notion? Do you have to-dos on a daily basis or weekly basis?
[00:12:37] JP: Yeah. I feel like most engineers, I have multiple to-do, I have a long history of to-do tracking and task tracking programs. It goes back in time. There was the getting things done period. There was the inbox zero period. They’re all just kind of still like littered on my desktop. Right now, I kind of am divided between work tasks and home tasks, and home tasks are just interesting. But for work tasks, our team at Dev has been experimenting with a project methodology called “Shape Up”. It was introduced by the people at 37signals. That’s what the company used to be called. It’s now called Basecamp. And their product, I believe he’s a product designer, Ryan Singer, wrote an eBook about design methodology and development methodology that they use to come up with what they’re going to work on as a product team, and then move that to a development team. It’s things like instead of two weeks’ sprints, they do six weeks’ sprints. They do two-weeks cooldowns in between their sprints. And interestingly and suspiciously, they use their own product, Basecamp, to track their to-dos and to track what they’re doing, what their progress is, and communicate with each other. So my team has been experimenting with using parts of Basecamp do that. So we track our work to do is in Basecamp where we’re at, who’s working on what. It’s a lot less structured that I’m used to. I think like everyone, I’m a refugee of a Jira and Pivotal Tracker and the like. So I’m used to just like ticketing madness, like, “Oh, you had a spare thought? Make that a ticket, make that a sub-ticket assigned for other tickets.” Everybody gets the point where you’d look into your backlog and you have to do what’s called “Backlog Grooming”, which is the worst task ever. You just go through all these tickets you have and you decide which ones are good and which ones aren’t good. This is much more loosey-goosey. You just kind of like come up with a task that your small team has to do. You work on them, and at the end of the cycle, you basically throw away what you didn’t do. Then like day to day, like during my day, I use a little program called Focus. It’s a Pomodoro Timer. Pomodoro is a task focusing technique where you work for 25 minutes or 20 minutes. You can adjust it. I do 25 minutes. You work for a period of time and then you have a small break and then you work for a period of time. And the idea is that you really only have to worry about what you’re doing in the next 20 or 25 minutes and then you’re going to give yourself a little break and that’s kind of how I arrange my day.
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[00:16:29] JL: Ben, are there any tools that you use on the day to day?
[00:16:32] BH: for the Rubyists out there, I’m an outputs developer, like a print statement debugger, which I think is sort of a type of personality. Like some people use debug tools and then some people put print statements. So I’m definitely on the print statement side of things and I think it extends all the way to my toolkit. So for my to-do list or my software development for everything, I pretty much just use my code editor environment as a directory. So I have a VS Code project for obviously Dev, but I have one just called Notes and I have some other ones for other organizational practices. And it’s not that they’re better than some of these other tools. I have a harder time, I think, keeping the tools straight. So I rely on things like notes and fuzzy search and everything. And not that I’m necessarily getting the job done here like in terms of keeping up with my to-do list, I’m sure there’s a better way. But to this point, I haven’t quite figured it out and my just regular document strategy, a lot of fuzzy search, I liked the launcher on my Mac just to kind of get into stuff. I’m old school, I guess.
[00:17:47] JL: You too might be horrified than probably less horrified, but I use Slack for my to-do list more often than not. I just DMed myself like a list of things to do.
[00:17:58] JP: Like Slack bot?
[00:17:59] JL: No, just like I just DM myself, not even a bot, like nothing fancy. It’s basically like pen and paper.
[00:18:05] BH: Oh, yeah. I think people have been doing that for forever with email and of course on paper, but like email myself something or other like one last tool. I kind of love that.
[00:18:15] JL: I just discovered they’re like a remind me later thing, which has been life changing.
[00:18:21] JP: Yes. Isn’t that?
[00:18:23] JL: Yeah. I used to just like mark unread, mark unread, and that was a huge pain.
[00:18:28] JP: For people that don’t know, there’s this functionality in Slack that you could take a message. Like if you’re working on something and a coworker is like, “Hey, could you check this out?” You can say, “Yeah, I’ll get that later.” And then you could right click on that message, whether it’s in a private conversation or at a public room and say, “Slack, remind me.” And you can pick like tomorrow, two hours, three hours, and then it goes away. You don’t have to worry about marking it as unread or whatever. I use that constantly. I have an email program I use called Spark and it has similar functionality for email messages. It lets me snooze an email message. And so if it’s something about my daughter’s school, I should probably pay closer attention to those emails, but I’m like, “Yeah, I’m going to deal with this tonight.” So I’ll just say snooze and it snoozes it and comes back into my email box at like seven o’clock at night and not during my workday. Get that stuff out of my way.
[00:19:18] JL: I love that we’re getting into lesser known more obscure tools. I love to dive into that so that our audience can get some recommendations on what other tools you use that they might not have heard of.
[00:19:31] BH: I use a utility called Git Standup, which is a delightful little command line extension. By default, if you type Git Standup, it just tells you sort of what you did this week. It defaults to seven days in parameters like days seven or the last day or whatever and I find it really, really, really helpful in that context of like when you need to kind of report on what you might’ve done last week to anybody, if you just want to look back at what the last three days has been because you sort of forgot where you left off. it’s a small thing. It’s probably a hundred lines of code or less, I’m sure, in its implementation, but It’s delightful and I really love that one. As soon as I found it, it’s one of those ones I cannot install pretty quickly on a new machine if I don’t carry over my environment.
[00:20:22] JL: So I use Spectacle every day and that is just a very simple window management tool and it’s so convenient. I also have a mechanical keyboard and I configure just one button or like these two buttons, whatever combination, but like a very, very simple combination to manage all the windows on my screen, and I really highly recommend that. Unfortunately, Spectacle is no longer an actively maintained project. There’s a very sad note on the read-me of the project. So I’m on the market looking for a new window manager, if anyone has any recommendations.
[00:20:58] JP: Well, Jess, let me just like motion this. Step into my office right over here because I’d like to introduce you my favorite windowing tool, which is called Magnet. It’s very similar. There’s a lot of these different utilities out there. I don’t know why I focused on this one, other than I really like its keyboard commands for quickly putting a window like in the lower quarter of your screen or the entire left half of your screen. So you can move windows around and have them perfectly lined up. So they’re not like overlapping. That’s my big bugaboo. I cannot have the windows overlapping by even like a pixel or it’s no good.
[00:21:38] JL: Drives me crazy.
[00:21:42] BH: I shopped around and I also settled on Magnet. So I’m a Magnet user and I’m pretty happy with it. I find it’s almost never given me any problems if ever and it feels like a native part of the operating system. I remember loving Windows 7 so much when it came out because it had this feature and Mac never got it natively. So everyone’s just trying to copy Windows 7. I don’t know if anyone else in the room can relate to that, the software installs, but I thought Windows 7 was the greatest thing ever with the windows management.
[00:22:17] JP: I think a lot of it is like the back ethos, like way back in the day, that was the whizzbang feature of the Mac is that like you can have a Windows and they can overlap and you could be this messy California creative… sorry, Lisa, like that was our adding. That’s not thinking it’s you. That was their advertising campaign.
[00:22:32] LS: Steve Jobs.
[00:22:33] JP: Yes. You can just be as creative and messy as possible. Tiling windows, that’s for MIT nerds, weird artists, windows everywhere. I don’t know if this is a correct impression, but my impression generally is that multitasking, using multiple windows and multiple apps at the same time is a pretty advanced computer user technique. My friends that don’t work in tech and my family members that don’t work in tech will never use more than one thing at a time. They’re running maximized windows, the entire screen all the time. I did something it’s split view on my iPad and my mom was like, “What did you do to your computer? What happened over there?” Like, “Oh, I do this all the time.” Like my friends and family, they’re always running like a web browser maximized, their email program maximized. They just do one thing at a time.
[00:23:25] JL: My partner is one of these people that you’re describing.
[00:23:29] JP: We call them doubles.
[00:23:30] JL: Yeah. He always wants to maximize the Zoom Conference, which is not my preferred experience. But what he does that really irritates me is that he will minimize on his MacBook and then it’ll disappear into the doc and then you can’t like toggle to it, like you have to like click on it in that situation to get it back or he will manually minimize the windows so they’re next to each other and I’ve shown him my window manager many times and there’s just no adoption there.
[00:24:02] JO: I’ll go next. Like I mentioned before, I do a lot of web development. Typically, cURL is a command line utility that you would use from your command line to go get something from a web address or maybe send a request, especially if you’re doing API work or REST work, use cURL a lot. I have an alternate tool that I use called HTTPie. It’s httpie.org. And it’s an alternative to cURL that has some nicer verbiage and formatting. I get really confused. I have to look up how to issue different commands with cURL. It could be kind of terse and I find HTTPie to be a lot nicer formats by JSON. It does great stuff.
[00:24:46] BH: Lisa?
[00:24:47] LS: So as a designer, there are a few tools that I use to help me with my workflows. One of them is called ColorSlurp and I use it whenever I’m trying to quickly pick up the color hex code of something that I’m looking at on anything that is in front of me on my screen and I just want to pick up that color. And so I opened ColorSlurp and I press the button and I point at this exact pixel that I want to pick the color off and it makes a slurp sound like, “Slurp!” And copies it to my clipboard. And then I move over to Figma, which is the screen design tool that I use every day to draw boxes and UIs and everything and I use that color. ColorSlurp is what it’s called. I do a lot of video recording for work because sometimes if I’m designing out this interactive flow and I want to show people how it works, it’s easier for me to just video record it and send it over rather than trying to explain it like screen by screen. And so when I’m doing that, I usually might film it on QuickTime, but I might want to convert it into a gift so that it’s easier for people to see quickly. And so there are a few apps that I use for that. They all have similar names. And so sometimes I forget which one does what. I think Giphy or Gifski is the one that converts it from a movie file to a GIF. And there’s also Giphy Capture, which lets you record a GIF from your computer and that’s really fun.
[00:26:23] JL: Cool. I use CloudApp to record GIFs or videos. They’ll just grab whatever’s on your screen and then it’ll spit out a link and it’ll automatically copy it for you so you can just paste it and it’s there. I use CloudApp every day mostly for screenshots. So if you’re in Slack and you’ve ever seen me drop a screenshot, it’s usually from CloudApp because it’s so easy and it just unfroze that pretty image right into Slack that people can see. And it also has a feature where you can annotate on top of it too. Very simple, useful tool.
[00:26:53] JP: That sounds so nice. I should also use CloudApp. I use Skitch just because I used Skitch like a billion years ago. Skitch my dear friend that has been through so much, like Skitch has had some really hard times. Skitch got acquired by Evernote a couple of years ago and like it’s a bad relationship. I don’t know. I don’t know if Skitch is going to be gone or not. I have 2,000 screenshots in Skitch and I can’t give them up. There’s just like a little hug, just scrolling back years and years, so many memes.
[00:27:27] JL: Speaking of acquisitions, there was like that tragedy a couple of years ago. Was it ScreenHero? It got acquired by Slack, I think, right?
[00:27:37] JP: Yes, they did. They were acquired by Slack and they slowly started to build their features into Slack and then they slowly pulled them out. And there’s a new screen sharing tool by one of the founders of ScreenHero.
[00:27:53] BH: Yeah, it’s called Screen.
[00:27:57] JP: There you go.
[00:27:58] BH: Screen is kind of like the 20-20 version of a startup name. You got to use as few syllables as possible.
[00:28:05] JP: Screen.so.
[00:28:06] BH: That was really sort of a total shame because Slack ultimately got rid of those features because they were just causing a lot of problems. We had to move off of Slack video calling on to Zoom just because Slack wouldn’t work properly. And I was so sad about that because the notion of being able to just spin up a call with people so much more easily and fluidly, like Zoom is easy enough and a really well done productivity tool in itself, obviously. But I don’t know. I feel like if Slack hadn’t kind of gone and taking a few missteps here, trying to get all the screen-sharing just right before mastering actual video calls, I don’t know. I think that might’ve stuck as the tool for us and other companies.
[00:28:50] JL: I just want to mention another video alternative while we’re talking about the topic and because we are fans of open source. Jitsi is becoming pretty popular right now, especially as video conferencing demands have gone up in their open source project that people might want to check out.
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[00:30:33] BH: So now we’re going to move on to the segment in the show where we look at responses from you, the audience, based on a question we sent you earlier this week.
[00:30:40] JL: The question we asked you all this week was, “What is your top tool that most devs would be surprised you use regularly?”
[00:30:46] BH: Here’s a voicemail that we got about a very innovative tool.
[00:30:51] MAN: Top tool that most devs would be surprised I use regularly, paper, as in the stuff from trees. I have so much of it on my desk because I’m always sketching out flowcharts and quick and dirty UML diagrams and pseudocode and lists of functions I need to write. Honestly, if I could only have one development tool besides the code editor, it would probably be paper. I use it for everything.
[00:31:14] JL: I think that’s a great answer. I use paper all the time, and then we talked about to-do lists a bunch and I don’t have a dedicated to-do-list app. I bounce around lots of different things like Slack, for example, but I do love that visceral feeling of checking something off on a piece of paper.
[00:31:29] LS: Yeah. And I also feel like mentally when we are working through a problem, our brain approaches it differently when we’re typing it out on the computer or working on paper. I have read somewhere like why writing in a journal is really healthy for people or just like handwriting in general. It’s because it activates a certain part of your brain. And when you’re taking notes physically on paper, your brain retains that information much differently than if you were just typing it out in a meeting, for example, like on your computer. And so I also am a very big fan of paper. Like sometimes my workflow is going from paper to then digesting that information and then typing it out so that I can share it back with other people that I’m working with.
[00:32:15] JL: So we actually had another member, Simon, who responded with pen and paper as well. And their argument is that paper is 100% safe from ransomware and it’s GDPR compliant. Even if your power goes out, you don’t lose your work.
[00:32:32] JP: I am very envious of people that carry around like a little notebook, like a field notes book or Moleskine. Grazie.
[00:32:46] BH: So if we were to print out our database onto paper, we would still need to shred that paper, if we got a request for deletion, I imagine. So I just want to maybe poke a hole. It’s not necessarily GDPR compliant.
[00:32:59] JL: I should have read Simon’s entire quote. I’m sorry. I broke the rules here. But they wrote, “GDPR compliance can be achieved with fire.”
[00:33:09] BH: So this was a really accurate, not even my little kind of question about the accuracy of the response. This is 100% correct.
[00:33:20] JL: Okay. And Nick wrote in, “The URL bar to convert rich text to plain text.” I actually have no idea what that means.
[00:33:29] JP: Okay. I’m going to try this. I think what he means is let’s open up our text editor. I’ll grab some bolded text and some italics text, and then I’ve got some colored text here. And if I paste it into the URL bar of my browser, it is super genericized. That’s amazing.
[00:33:46] LS: That’s cool.
[00:33:47] JL: Can you just like paste without formatting?
[00:33:52] JP: Yes, but then you have to remember what crazy command that is.
[00:33:56] BH: Yeah. That’s the problem. That’s the problem with all tools. I use the URL bar for all sorts of stuff like this. Google’s done a good job of making all those useful utilities like dictionary lookups, calculator jobs, even color picker, if I don’t really know where my color picker I need is, like using the URL toolbar as a search bar, obviously, but then if I need a place to paste values and I’m in my browser and I don’t have another good setup, like I don’t have another tool I’m using for that, I’ll use my sort of toolbar as like my pasteboard for multiple values, which really speaks to my lack of sort of good tooling before I get to that point. But I just don’t often need that enough. But when I do, I sort of use the URL toolbar for a lot of different things like that.
[00:34:44] JL: Yeah. I use the Chrome URL toolbar for very basic arithmetic.
[00:34:49] LS: This is so cool. This is fascinating to me.
[00:34:51] JP: I use iOS 10’s, was it Sherlock? No. What do we call it?
[00:34:55] LS: Spotlight Search.
[00:34:55] JP: Spotlight. Yes. Yes. But the things I do with Spotlight Search are like basic math, but my biggest one that I use is temperature conversion. So when I’m talking to one of our coworkers from Europe and I’m saying like, “Oh, it’s 50 degrees out here.” I just have to type in 5-0-F and Spotlight will be like, “Yeah, that’s 10 degrees Celsius.”
[00:35:13] LS: That’s incredible. I use Spotlight Search for calculator, but never for temperature. This is a game changer.
[00:35:19] JL: I use Alfred for my Spotlight Search now and I don’t even use it to its full capabilities. I just use it because Peter kept telling me how great it is and I finally just downloaded it, but I’m just not leveraging it. Well, speaking of search, Ben, would you like to share Manisha’s response?
[00:35:37] BH: Yeah. I use my homemade search engine. What I mean is an HTML input box that creates a string for a Google Search that uses only the sites I love. That’s pretty cool. I’m sure this only took a handful of lines of code and it leveraged Google, which is probably more than a handful of lines of code. I love little tools like this.
[00:36:00] LS: Hearing about a tool like this makes me wish I were a developer so that I can make any tool I want to exist, exist.
[00:36:06] BH: Well, I think 99% of the time as developers tend to like think we can do something useful and then get like most of it done and then it’s just harder than we think or we don’t account for all the different edge cases or anything, it’s a lot harder.
[00:36:23] JP: How hard could it be?
[00:36:26] BH: I think knowing your appetite for what you want to achieve is really important and I think this is like easy to add to, easy to sort of change when you want to. I’m a big fan of this one.
[00:36:37] JL: Well, Lisa, Charles wrote in, “Lucidchart. I had a colleague recommend it to me and I’ve never looked back since. I find it far easier to explain solutions with a prop or a diagram. Other good solutions, e.g. draw.io exist, but I have settled on this one and I’m happy with it.” Is this a tool that’s crossed your path as a designer?
[00:36:57] LS: I’ve used Lucidchart before in the past. So as I can recall correctly, it’s a way to draw a diagram. So I imagine it’s to draw like different maps in flow charts and everything like that. Nowadays, when I’m trying to make flow charts and other visual communication artifacts, I use Figma, which is it’s this collaborative design tool that’s built for the browser and you can also download the native desktop app for a better experience. And it’s awesome because it combines being able to do UI design, vector design, and also prototyping. And when I was starting out in my career as a product designer, we had to use different tools to accomplish each of the different types of things we wanted to do. But now with Figma, it rolls it all into one tool, but the best part of it is that it’s collaborative. So it’s almost like a Google Docs, but for UI/UX design. So I might be looking at something on my machine and I could see Jess also with her cursor looking at the same thing. And so all of that collaboration happens in real time too. So I might be working on a screen and then another designer could also be working on the same thing next to me. Figma.
[00:38:18] JL: Lisa, definitely a fan.
[00:38:20] LS: Yeah. I went to their conference and got cool features.
[00:38:26] JL: Do people still use Envision? I feel like that was like a hot prototyping app for a little while.
[00:38:31] LS: Yeah. So I was actually texting my friend who’s also a product designer about these different tools today. And she was like, “Whatever happened to Skitch, whatever happened to Envision.” I really like Principle App. Principle is this prototyping tool that I use and what you can accomplish in Principle is not yet possible with Figma. It’s more like a motion design. And so there are some prototyping tools that still have their niche and their expertise in what they can do that Figma cannot do. But I would say Figma lets me accomplish what I used to use Envision to accomplish.
[00:39:12] JL: So this next one is from Bertel and their response really does surprise me. They said, “The GitHub Desktop Gooey. Yeah. Yeah. You’re a lot faster on the command line. Still, I find it convenient. It provides a new overview of the changes I’ve made as just good enough for most cases.”
[00:39:29] BH: I use the GitHub Desktop Gooey.
[00:39:31] JL: Really? What about you, Josh?
[00:39:35] LS: Skepticism in your voice.
[00:39:38] JP: This is so weird. This is the one area I don’t use the tool. I just use Command Line Git.
[00:39:43] JL: Yeah, me too.
[00:39:44] JP: I think as a little baby bird, I imprinted on it, I don’t know, I've internalized it and I’m just like, “Oh yeah, you would, of course, type in these 15 odd sort of English words.”
[00:39:54] JL: Not if you have aliases.
[00:39:56] JP: II don’t even alias it. I’ve internalized the whole thing. It’s really weird.
[00:40:01] JL: So Anan wrote in, “Excalidraw.com.” And they use this for wireframes or mocks, also for note taking. And they said that it is simple and awesome.
[00:40:14] BH: Excalidraw kind of seems like the stripped down simplest version of Figma.
[00:40:20] JP: I had a colleague at a former job who really love this tool.
[00:40:25] LS: Hello? Can you hear me?
[00:40:26] JL: We can hear you.
[00:40:28] LS: Okay. I was like trying to look that up and then I accidentally pressed the Siri button and everything paused and I was like, “Crap!”
[00:40:37] JL: Okay, Siri. Is Siri a tool that any of you use? Because it irritates me so much on Mac. Like I always accidentally, on the touch bar, I accidentally like swipe it and it just makes my blood boil.
[00:40:48] JP: I don’t use it on the Mac. I use it on my iPhone and Apple Watch constantly, constantly.
[00:40:56] JL: Oh, our producer Levi just messaged me and it looks like he also had issues accidentally hitting the Siri button and he has good news. Apparently, we can remove it. All we have to do is go to the system preferences and go to keyboard. And once you’re in there, click the “Customize Control Strip Button”, and that’s how you can drag the Siri button out of the touch bar and into the trash to remove it. I guess that’s what I’ll be doing after we’re done talking here. Josh and Lisa, thank you so much for joining us today.
[00:41:27] BH: It’s really great.
[00:41:28] JP: Thanks for having us. This is fun.
[00:41:29] LS: Thanks for having us. This is great.
[00:41:40] JL: I want to thank everyone who sent in responses. For all of you listening, please be on the lookout for our next question. We’d especially love it if you would dial into our Google Voice. The number is +1 (929) 500-1513 or you can email us a voice memo so we can hear your responses in your own beautiful voices. This show is produced and mixed by Levi Sharpe. Editorial oversight by Peter Frank and Saron Yitbarek. Our theme song is by Slow Biz. If you have any questions or comments, please email [email protected] and make sure to join our Dev Discuss Twitter chats on Tuesdays at 9:00 PM Eastern, or if you want to start your own discussion, write a post on Dev using the #discuss. Please rate and subscribe to this show on Apple Podcasts.