This is somewhat of a continuation of Great Firefox Plugins For Any Web Designer or Developer where I talked about some handy Firefox plugins, and now I’d like to speak at you about some applications that I’ve found useful throughout my career, whether it be something that can help make a task a little easier or something that just helps me get through a day of work by making it more enjoyable.
For a long time I held off on checking out Twitter. The idea sounded silly to me. I just sit around and write about what I’m doing, and read on what others are doing at that moment in time? Really? Why the heck would I care about that? While it’s not technically a computer application in the sense that I was planning on writing about, it is pretty invaluable for anyone who wishes to be involved in the web community. In this field of work, those that don’t get involved are the ones who get left behind. If you ‘follow’ the right people then Twitter can provide a doorway for you to see what is happening with web designers and developers all over the world in real time, and most of their ‘tweets’ are useful. Your own list of ‘followers’ can also act as a great support group if you want to bounce ideas off of others or ask questions. For now, Twitter has not caught on in the way that Facebook or Myspace has with the general public, but that could change in the future.
I haven’t experimented with many Twitter applications, but for now I use Twitterfox which is a Firefox extension that allows for quick and easy non-intrusive access to your Twitter account while you are browsing the web. More Twitter applications can be found on this post of 19 Handy Twitter Mashups and Tools. I try not to spend a lot of time on it because too much social networking can give me a stomach ache, but I’m always paying attention during the week on my normal work hours if you want to stalk me on Twitter.
LogMeIn is a quick and easy to set up remote access application. The free portion of it lets you access any computer that you have the LogMeIn software installed on remotely from another computer just by logging into your account on their website. It also installs a Firefox plugin which helps it run a little smoother. It supports multiple monitors and you can run things in full screen. You can control the mouse and keyboard, as well as copy and paste things from the client computer to the remote computer. This can have many uses, from collaborating on a project with another user to troubleshooting another PC (just say NO I will not fix your computer), to also how I use it the most by logging into my home PC from work to start a download, or send myself a file that I needed, the list goes on.
Sorry! I’m sneaking a non-free application in here. Both of these apps help you manage and improve upon your screen real estate, so I felt compelled to put them in the same section. Synergy is free and its functionality is pure genius; it allows you to control multiple computers with a single keyboard and mouse without purchasing any extra hardware and it uses nothing but your already existing network! It even works cross-platform with OS’s. For example, say you have a desktop PC and a MacBook. You can setup the MacBook on your desk to the left of your PC’s monitor, set your PC as the host and the laptop as the client and configure Synergy’s settings so that when your mouse moves off the left edge of your PC monitor, it will be in your laptop’s screen just as if it was being used in a dual monitor setup. Your multitasking boundaries just got enormous! Go on, start watching a resource-sucking-high-definition video of Old School while you whip out some Adobe Photoshop brushes. Or, create that awesome dozen monitor display you’ve always drooled over in Swordfish. Here is a good tutorial on setting up Synergy.
Ultramon can be given a spin for 30 days free on the PC, and then you have to pay for it after that. Ultramon really helps take advantage of a multiple monitor set up like it was meant to, from creating hotkeys for bouncing a window from one monitor to the next or maximizing it, a second taskbar, and a host of wallpaper/resolution/screensaver managing options.
Dropbox is one of my latest affairs. You know how super sweet Foxmarks made your life? Try the same concept with any data at all. If you haven’t given it due attention yet, I urge you to check out its screencast. Your jaw will drop, and if it doesn’t then you need to start working on improving your geek-ness. Dropbox perfectly synchronizes any local data that you place in your dropbox folder across all computers that have it installed and are logged into your dropbox account. It can create links to uploaded images on the fly for you, so you can stop logging into that cheesy imageshack account of yours. It only uploads recently changed data to lessen bandwidth usage. The list of features goes on. You can get 2GB for free, and purchase more if you’d like.
It’s great if you use a separate computer at work, or if there are files that you like to have on multiple computers that you hate transferring back and forth with that flash drive (and then you want to beat your laptop senseless with a flaming brick when you accidentally overwrite a file with an older version). I really love using it to store all of my download fonts, icons, brushes, etc., as well as any current projects that I am working on so that I can bounce between computers and know that I am working on the same file, or at least as close as it gets. Dropbox’s web interface is pretty fantastic as well, including a bunch of other features like recovering files that you recently deleted from your Dropbox.
Filezilla is a pretty handy FTP client. There isn’t much to be said that makes it special, other than it has all the FTP functionality that I need, a simple and easy to use interface, and it has that one thing that we all love – f r e e.
With version 3.0 just released, Open Office has gotten even better. There really isn’t much reason for you to go out and purchase Microsoft Office anymore.
A couple useful AIR apps that I have stumbled and tripped over are FEAT and Font Picker. FEAT is short for Freelancer’s Estimation Assistance Tool, which comes in handy for, well, coming up with freelance estimates. Font Picker is a nice way of laying out a bunch of fonts for you to quickly scroll through and find what you are looking to use in your design much quicker. If you’d like to take a look at some more application specific to us web-heads, check out webdepot’s list of 27 Adobe AIR programs.
I hope you enjoyed this application extravaganza. I poured my heart and soul into it, and writing this brought me that much closer to carpal tunnel syndrome. If you have any other favorites you’d like to share, please do so.