31 Days, 31 Products: Dash

Day 26: Dash

This post is part of a larger series where for 31 days I’m posting a story about a particular product or service I’ve come to enjoy.

Dash is a super nice and clean API Documentation Browser.

Dash

I use Dash with Xcode and iOS/Mac API primarily but you can in fact integrate Dash with a long list of other third party code editors and download over 150 language/API document sets too.

Having the API docs available at the click of a mouse (or key command) from your favorite text editor is a must have for any serious developer. If you been limited yourself you Xcode’s default experience I highly encourage you to try out Dash.

Dash does have a free trial available with an in-app purchase to unlock the full version for $25. It is available from the App Store as well as direct.

31 Days, 31 Products: Sketch

Day 25: Sketch

This post is part of a larger series where for 31 days I’m posting a story about a particular product or service I’ve come to enjoy.

Sketch is a vector-based design tool for the Mac that is very good for people designing user interfaces.

I’ve owned Sketch for a while now. I’ve used it to mock up some UI and icons in the past but I’m not really an expert. I know enough to say I do like it and if you are interested in using it for interface design I highly recommend it.

I have a goal for the new year to become more proficient in Sketch. I’m signed up and really looking forward to attending the Big Nerd Ranch class on UI design in April. It includes teaching Sketch along side higher level UI concepts. I’ve also bought an online video course that I hope to start working through soon.

If you are at all curious I encourage you to download the free trial of Sketch and give it a go. If you like it, a license can be purchased for $99 from their online store.

31 Days, 31 Products: SuperDuper!

Day 24: SuperDuper!

This post is part of a larger series where for 31 days I’m posting a story about a particular product or service I’ve come to enjoy.

This is a timely recommendation as just yesterday I had a bit of a scare where my external 2TB (platter-based) media drive decided not to mount. Happy to say the drive did wake up eventually but I wasn’t too concerned since I has a fairly recent backup I made with SuperDuper.

SuperDuper is a cloning tool that can help you clone a hard drive to another drive or DMG file. The drive based clones are fully bootable and can help you out when your main drive bites the dust. SuperDuper can do full or incremental backups, and these can also be scheduled to run overnight.

My current home setup includes an 2011 iMac with 2 internal hard drives. A 256 SSD acts as the main system HD and a 2 TB platter-based drive is cut up for various purposes (1 partition is a Bootcamp drive, 1 is a mirror backup of the SSD and the other is a time machine backup of the SSD). I then have a separate 2 TB external media HD which has my iTunes library and general archive (the largest files consisting of old video projects).

I use SuperDuper on a scheduled backup to clone my main system hard drive and then I use a OmniFocus monthly todo remind me to plug in another 2 TB drive to mirror my main media archive. The incremental backup works get here making the task really quick and easy to do.

SuperDuper has save my ass many times and I highly recommend it as a valuable tool to help you migrate data around and help facilitate your backup strategy.

A free download of SuperDuper is available but if you want to unlock the incremental, scheduling and scripting features you’ll need to purchase a license. A license costs $28 and can be purchased from the Shirt Pocket store.

31 Days, 31 Products: Status Board

Day 23: Status Board

This post is part of a larger series where for 31 days I’m posting a story about a particular product or service I’ve come to enjoy.

Status Board is an iOS app from Panic that lets you turn an old iPad into a visual collection of actionable data.

Like all Panic software the app itself is incredibly well put together. New in version 2 you can have multiple boards, wallpapers, photo panels and more. You can even output the status board to a TV to make a large status board (as seen from Panic itself):

Large Status Board

While I love having my own old(er) iPad show me status, my biggest complaint, and warning for people interested, is that the default panels provide very basic data and you are more than likely going to have to do some work to get the good numbers out of your system of interest and in into their format. Panic does link to various third parties that can help but I still feel like more could be done to support the community.

Status Board is a free download from the App Store with an in-app purchase to unlock all the panels for $10.

31 Days, 31 Products: BBEdit

Day 22: BBEdit

This post is part of a larger series where for 31 days I’m posting a story about a particular product or service I’ve come to enjoy.

There are lots of text editors out there for Mac OS X and I’ll be up front in saying I use different ones for different tasks. When it comes to extremely large files, large find and replace, text file corruption or general system configuration files, I turn to BBEdit.

I’ve been a long time BBEdit user, going back to when I first started with the Mac during the “Classic” days. It’s one of the most solid, stable text editors out there and a great tool to add to your collection.

BBEdit has a free trial available. A license will cost you $49 and can be purchase directly from the Bare Bones Software store.

31 Days, 31 Products: Vimeo

Day 21: Vimeo

This post is part of a larger series where for 31 days I’m posting a story about a particular product or service I’ve come to enjoy.

When it comes to professional video hosts, I choose Vimeo.

Vimeo

Vimeo is a video hosting site that empowers creators to have more control over how their content is displayed and distributed than other services like YouTube.

I like using Vimeo since I can pay for a Pro account which then let’s me upload HD content, have access to that content via an API and makes sure no ads are ever shown over my content. Vimeo is also much more reasonable about ownership right.

Right now we use Vimeo for Philly CocoaHeads content and I have a personal channel as well with some odd and ends. No doubt as I look to do more work for my upcomming project you’ll see a new channel open up soon.

Vimeo has a few tiers of membership with different options and you get started with a trial account.

31 Days, 31 Products: OmniGraffle

Day 20: OmniGraffle

This post is part of a larger series where for 31 days I’m posting a story about a particular product or service I’ve come to enjoy.

OmniGraffle is a an app from the OmniGroup that lets people design, I’ll call them, component-based compositions; things like data models, website wireframes, and more.

I’ve been a long time user of OmniGraffle, in particular I love using it to make flow charts to help visualize app launch sequences or data download flows. I’ve even recently come to use it to help me plan furniture arrangements in my apartment (side note: I really want to get more space in the future, I miss having a dedicated office space).

OmniGraffle

OmniGraffle is probably not an app you’ll need on a daily basis but when you do, it’s really nice to use and can help you produce some awesome documentation. Like all the Omni apps, it’s extremely well done with lots of polish and documentation.

While this plug is for the Mac version of OmniGraffle I do want to mention that I did purchase the iOS version when I got my iPad Pro a few weeks ago too. While I’ve only spent 15 minutes with it on the iPad it really feels well done and I encourage you to check it out if interested.

OmniGraffle for Mac does have a free demo available. A license can be purchased for $99 Standard or $199 Pro from the Omni Store or the Mac App Store.

31 Days, 31 Products: Trello

Day 19: Trello

This post is part of a larger series where for 31 days I’m posting a story about a particular product or service I’ve come to enjoy.

Trello is a product I’ve been using for years. It’s an online software version of a Kanban board. Google explains:

A Kanban board is a work and workflow visualization tool that enables you to optimize the flow of your work. Physical Kanban boards, like the one pictured below, typically use sticky notes on a whiteboard to communicate status, progress, and issues.

Sample Kanban board

Kanban boards are a great way to organize tasks that have to travel through a status flow. While a physical version of the board has its own merits in my work and collaborations it has been much more important to have these boards online, enter Trello.

You can start using Trello with very simple boards like this:

Simple

As you become more familar with the app you can then add media to cards, create checklists, add summaries, assign owners, and so on.

Advanced

The first time I remember jumping in and really getting a lot out of Trello was back in 2010 when I was part of a startup. We used Trello to manage almost everything; sprints towards our product work, consulting efforts and even our sales pipeline. It worked great.

In more recent time I’ve seen the CocoaLove team use Trello. They tracked marketing efforts, speaker proposals, sales, sponsors and more. Having it all out on a virtual board, shared with the team and updated in real time — it gave a visual sense of completion and progress that was much appreciated.

For more info check out this walkthrough video or Trello’s own Getting Started Guide. Experimenting with Trello is extremely low risk. They have free accounts that let’s you really get to the know the product and then price tiers if you want to start some more sophisticated collaboration or integration. Trello is highly recommended.

31 Days, 31 Products: Postbox

Day 18: Postbox

This post is part of a larger series where for 31 days I’m posting a story about a particular product or service I’ve come to enjoy.

Email apps can be a point of contention for many people. For me I’ve settled into a very functional but plain setup.

At the base, I use a few Gmail accounts with lots of server side filtering into folders (for things like mailing lists, automated responses, etc). Then I use an IMAP-friendly desktop app. In recent years the IMAP-client of choice for me has been Postbox, a fairly clean and strait-forward email client that has its roots from the Thunderbird project. Despite the cross platform support of Postbox (it runs on Windows too) it still fits in well on the Mac.

My email flow is as follows. I archive most email while deleting the outright trash. I’ll scan the new messages in my spam folder about once a week. I find I usually pull out a few emails which while are promotional though I wouldn’t consider outright spam. I do try to unsubscribe form things that are too noisy. When I need to search Postbox does a fairly good job for resent stuff though I’d be lying if I didn’t jump to the web version of Gmail for searches that need to go deep into the archives.

So yeah, Postbox is not the sexiest software out there for email but it serves me just fine and might be worth a look if you want something solid and simple.

A free trial of Postbox is available, and, if you like it, a license can be purchased from them directly for $15.

31 Days, 31 Products: Elgato Game Capture HD

Day 17: Elgato Game Capture HD

This post is part of a larger series where for 31 days I’m posting a story about a particular product or service I’ve come to enjoy.

Elgato Game Capture HD is actually a hardware/software combo. Its an external capture device that does HDMI passthrough, grabbing whatever video signal you are passing through (be it from a video game console or computer display). It will them compress the video as mp4 on the device and and delver the compressed video to a Mac via a USB cable connection (which is also used for power). On the Mac you’ll run some software that saves the capture to disk and also optionally helps you stream to Twitch.

I originally bought and used the Game Capture HD to help me record some Let’s Plays.

Let’s Plays are video series where an individual will play a game, capture it as well as their commentary while they play. Some personalities are very detailed in the mechanics and secrets of the game while others treat the videos very casually, almost as a diary of sorts, mixing in stories of the past as well as the present.

As for my own “Let’s Play career”, it was short lived. I had a bunch of fun doing a handful of series before quitting mid-way through Final Fantasy IV. I quit because I started to have other life goals and while fun, the amount work it took to produce the videos compared to their small impact — it didn’t feel worth it.

ANYWAYS… the Elgato Game Capture HD found its way to be useful for me once more this past year when we decided to start capturing CocoaHead talks. I now use the device to capture our HDMI output (before it’s redirected to the televisions) and I have to say the recorder software holds up well to us switching machines, resolutions and what not while recording. After the meeting, I take the videos from here and then match a separate audio capture we do through a lapel microphone to build our final video, (edited in ScreenFlow, and published on Vimeo).

If you are interested in video capture you can browse the Elgato Gaming site for a rundown of the current product lineup. The device I use is the base model and costs $150 retail but there are other options if you want higher frame rate capture (mine is 30 fps, they also have 60 fps available).