Over the years, we have done a ridiculous amount of experimentation with software packages in an effort to streamline our business and our processes. Here is a not-so-quick run-down of the software we have come to rely on in our daily business and work flow:
1Password This program is probably the best investment we have made in a single piece of software. Period. 1Password is a secure password management tool that solved our issues with trying to manage hundreds of passwords spread across god knows how many web sites, memberships, and clients. Simply put, this program is a must have app that will make your life easier by a factor of a thousand. For $30, it's an absolute steal ... oh, and it works beautifully with iPhone.
Our never-ending quest for the most airtight backup solution ended last year when we discovered SuperDuper. Not only is this app the best backup solution for Mac bar none, it is also supported by one of the most diligent developers in the industry. Our backup system utilizes a three-pronged approach that is probably far more robust than most people need, but after a massive system failure occurred late last year, we decided not to take any more chances.
For those of you who have made the leap to Leopard, you may have found Time Machine a welcome tool for backing up your data. TM is a reasonable backup solution for the average home user, but for businesses or independent professionals it is simply not the be-all-end-all solution. That position is reserved exclusively for SuperDuper. We use SuperDuper for daily automatic bootable system backups, TimeMachine for incremental backups, and ChronoSync for daily automatic file-level backups.
Doesn't TM do all that? Yes and No. TM is not configurable and runs every hour. This is useful, no question, but the downside is that it means your system (if it houses millions of files) will constantly be allocating resources to TM every second of the day. In addition, while you can use TM for system recovery, the external drive you dedicate to TM is not bootable and the recovery process will require a ridiculous series of steps (read: hours) to complete. Whereas, with SD, you have the ability to automatically backup your data daily, weekly, or monthly at times of your choosing to a bootable clone of your entire hard drive(s). This means that on any given day you have a system failure, you can be back up and working within minutes.
Chronosync is a configurable file-level synchronization tool. We use it as part of our overall backup strategy. But, our primary reason for purchasing this app was to solve one problem that has, over the years, been one of our biggest headaches ... travel. Transferring critical system files (Mail, iCal, Address Book, prefs), application support files, project files, and assorted crap to your laptop is a royal pain-in-the-ass. Under normal circumstances, getting our laptop ready to take our business on-the-road involved a few hours worth of hunting and pecking for each and every file needed to keep 16toads running smoothly while we were away from our main tower. And, nine times out of ten, we always forgot to copy something important, like that one obscure application support file needed to access your client's FTP site.
Once ChronoSync is set up, this process is as simple as rebooting our laptop in "target" mode, launching the Chronosync "travel" Container on our main computer, and clicking "sync". A few minutes (or seconds) later, ding, we are done and ready to go out-of-town with all the files needed to stay on top of our work. Then, when we return, we copy the same files in reverse (configure another sync container). Worth every penny even if you only have to take your work on-the-road once a year.
Email management is a pain every company has to deal with on a daily basis. But, how do you manage your email paper trial? We tried every solution out there before settling on MailSteward (despite many negative reviews) and we have been nothing but pleased with this piece of software. Built exclusively for use with Mac .Mail, MailSteward is an email archive solution that helps us manage our ever-growing collection of thousands of emails and, in turn, helps us keep our inbox sparkling clean. MS allows a user to manage as many or as few email accounts as he/she wishes and to schedule automatic backups on a daily basis, which means you never have to worry about accidental deletions or remembering to back up your collection. We tested a few other solutions, but we chose MS simply because it's fully compatible with OSX and bone-headed simple to use.
If you are in need of an elegant and simple application for managing your information, look no further than EagleFiler. This app is made by the amazing developer who brought us SpamSieve and DropDMG. Archive websites, documents, serial numbers, graphics ... you name it, you can collect and organize it with this app. (In fact, you can also archive emails with EF, but we found MailSteward a more attractive solution due to it's simple integration and speedier search capabilities). Yes, we looked at Jojimbo, but decided that we didn't like the idea of having all of our collected information stored in a single massive database. EagleFiler saves your data to a folder based system, which provides you with easy access to your saved data should you ever need it.
Manage and maintain bookmarks across ALL your browsers with this app. Simple premise, robust features.
From eCamm Software, MegaPhone is a feature-packed utility for iPhone. iPhone is an amazing device with plenty of room for improvement and the one item that has driven us nuts is (unlike iPod) iPhone's completely useless Notes feature. Enter MegaPhone. Notes can be copied to and from iPhone (although we hate the process), making Notes actually useful. We will readily admit to being highly annoyed at having to purchase additional software simply to make such a basic feature useful and while we fully expect this basic iPhone feature to be improved eventually (thereby rendering MegaPhone useless), we, nonetheless, find it highly useful now.
Work flow applications
We are going to skip CS3 simply because, well, if you are a designer this is a must-have software package. Gripe all you want about Adobe's monopoly on the design market, annoyingly restrictive package deals, and yearly (ridiculously expensive) upgrades, this is a software suite without compare.
That said, our process for web design has undergone a few changes in recent years, most notably our ever-decreasing use of Dreamweaver for web development. WSYWIG is useful, but we have been relying heavily on TextMate and CSSEdit for most, if not all, of our web development.
This app rocks. It's superbly easy to use and has one feature we have found unbelievably useful ... "foldings". This simple, yet highly useful, feature allows you to collapse related tag pairs. Why is this a big deal? The "foldings" arrows are an indispensable aid in helping clean up code after we have rocketed through hand-coding our HTML templates and can't find that one tag pair we forgot to close properly. This basic feature has saved us countless hours tidying up code.
In our opinion, CSSEdit is the single best "real-time" visual CSS editor on the market. This app makes layout and visual adjustments to CSS-based web sites an absolute breeze and has helped us tweak layouts in fractions of the time it would normally take re-uploading files each time you want to view a change in a browser.
FTP at it's best.
You may ask, why not simply use Coda instead of three separate apps? Well, we have tried it and, frankly, really like it. It's interface is beautiful and, taken as a whole, it's a solid web development app that could easily replace Dreamweaver. Conversely, taken as whole, it's still young and lacks many of the robust features that the Apps mentioned above (including Dreamweaver) support natively. In the final analysis, until Coda can match CSSEdit and TextMate it's off the table as a dev solution for us.