As a developer and engineering manager I use a lot of tools for my day to day work. This page is my attempt to document those tools in hopes that maybe someone will find them useful as well as simply to keep track of the time for myself.
Why document my tools?
There are three reasons why I think it’s a good idea to document my tools:
First, as a blogger and teacher it helps folks getting involved to find tools to solve their problems. For example, I used PhpStorm for years and have been a major evangelist of it for much of my career. I can’t tell you how many WordPress devs I’ve suggested it to that are still using it to this day. Those are the moments when these lists really pay off.
Second, it helps me avoid the distraction of new software. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve switched tools to something new and, later, how many times I considered a new tool only to be reminded I’ve tried it before. I’m a firm believer that simple is best when it comes to our tools and an archive of what I use and have used is a great way remember that.
Finally, a “uses” list or page helps me keep track of the changes I’ve made in my work and, in many cases, in my life in general. From health tracking to development and travel the tools we use can often speak to how we conduct a lot of our lives in the modern world and, honestly, I love to see the evolution of it.
My Use Case
So what do I use this all for? I tend to think our use cases are just as important as the tools themselves. For instance, I wouldn’t recommend some of my own tools to someone just starting out in code or who is only writing code for themselves. How we use are tools defines, or at least probably should define, the tools we use so here are my own use cases.
- Software Developer – Though I don’t write code for my day job I am still a software engineer at heart. These days that means side projects, both personal and occasional as a volunteer for various organizations, working in a host of technologies including PHP, GoLang, Docker, Bash and a lot more.
- Blogger – I love writing on this site and spend a lot of time both on content as well as the site itself. This role encompasses creating content and writing code to share solutions to problems I’ve encountered in hopes that they’ll be just as helpful to others as they were to me.
- Teacher/Speaker – Though I’ve done less of this since 2020, I still very much enjoy talking to and teaching groups of people. Historically this was mostly in person but since COVID I’ve invested a lot of time and energy to be better able to do this through video and audio to make certain my content is available to everyone.
- Human – While the last one might seem obvious it is clear that most tech doesn’t agree. As a human I want tech that respects my rights and allows me to connect with the community around me. This includes eliminating surveillance, ensuring availability and maintaining features at prices that are acceptable not just to myself but to all humans in all the communities I am a part of.
My Desk and Chair
- Uplift Commercial V2 30″x60″ – 1″ bamboo top
I love this desk. Before it I had IKEA desks which would warp and sag after just a couple of years. This desk is solid and gets me standing far more often throughout the day.
- Uplift Pursuit Ergonomic Chair
I’ve tried the popular, more expensive brands and found they just weren’t that comfortable to me. This chair is solid and comfortable. In fact, I loved my desk and chair so much that we bought copies for my wife Joy as well.
- 2021 16″ MacBook Pro (Silver) – M1 Max, 64GB RAM, 1TB SSD
This is my personal laptop and it’s more than capable of handling anything I need to throw at it. I honestly prefer to work on Linux when I can but the integration of all my Apple devices makes that impractical so still do a lot of my own stuff on this machine.
- framework laptop – DIY 12th ed i7-1260P, 32GB RAM, 500GB – WD_BLACK™ SN850 NVMe
I run Ubuntu on this little machine and use it primarily for code and working with Kana. At one point I thought it would replace a Mac as my daily driver but I don’t think that’s the case anymore.
- 2021 12.9″ iPad Pro (Silver) – M1, 1TB SSD
I bought his when it first came out hoping it could replace my personal laptop but the OS is just too limited. I use it as my travel machine when I’m not planning on writing code as well as for content creation (blog posts and other writing mostly). I have an Apple Pencil (2nd generation) and a Magic Keyboard for it which, together, almost make it as powerful as a traditional laptop. I also have the Brydge Max+ keyboard which allows me to write with the iPad in my lap.
- 2019 13″ MacBook Pro (Space Grey) – 1.4 GHz i5, 16 GB RAM, 128GB SSD
This is my work machine and I use it for pretty much everything at the day job. It’s small enough and does what I need to do so I can’t complain.
- iPhone 15 Pro Max (Natural) – 256GB
This replaced an 12 Pro Max and works just fine for me. I like that it’s lighter than the old phone and am grateful they’re finally using USB-C as it’s one less cable or adapter I have to keep with me.
- Apple Watch Series 9 (Silver) – Aluminum, GPS
This replaced my Series 6 which just wore out. I use it daily for fitness tracking, notifications, timers and so much more. When I first bought my Series 6 I was skeptical if I would care for a watch at all but, 3 years later, I’m hooked. It’s an integral part of my daily routine at this point.
- Panasonic LUMIX G7 4K Camera – LUMIX G VARIO 14-42mm Mega O.I.S. Lens
This is my primary camera. It isn’t the most expensive on the market but it seems to suit me well as it can record all day without overheating while taking great video.
- Elgato Cam Link 4K
Using a mirrorless camera as a webcam requires an interface to actually capture the video it produces for my computer. That’s where the Cam Link comes in. The camera plugs into this and this plugs into my computer which then uses the whole kit just as it would a regular webcam.
- Gonine DMW-DCC8 AC10 Power Supply BLC12 Dummy Battery
It wouldn’t make a lot of sense to just use the standard battery on the LUMIX. This allows me to plug it into the wall without worry.
- Elgato Solid Arm
This is how I mount the camera. It connects to my key light’s stand and seems incredibly sturdy for the role.
- Elgato Key Light – (x2)
The primary lighting for my office. Prior to using these lights I had actually been asked by people if I was sick as the bad lighting did not do wonders for my complexion. Since adding these I haven’t been asked those types of questions which seems like a solid endorsement to me.
- Logitech BRIO Ultra HD Webcam
The Lumix is great but it’s also more than I need for some things, particularly as it takes more to use it than a standard webcam. The BRIO is my day-to-day camera for Zoom meetings and other things where video quality isn’t as important.
- Shure SM7B Microphone
My primary Microphone that sounds great for just about anything I could throw at it.
- Cloudlifter CL-1
This amp boosts the output of the microphone so it can pick up my voice without any background noise.
- Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Generation)
This is a two-input (maybe I’ll use the 2nd one day) interface that connects a mic like the Shure to a computer. The mic itself plugs into the Cloudlifter to boost it, then the Cloudlifter connects to this interface which finally connects to the laptop via USB.
- Samson MBA48 microphone boom arm
Finding a boom arm that is actually long enough for my desk and still strong enough for a heavy mic has been a long-time challenge. The Samson can do both and for a very reasonable price. It doesn’t look as nice as my old Blue Yeti mic boom, but it does what I need it to and does it well.
Other Hardware and Accessories
- Yubikey 5C NFC
This is used for my most important services and apps as an extra layer of security.
- Keychron K13 Pro– Gateron Brown Switches
I bought this because I really needed a keyboard that could easily switch between 2 computers and my Dygma Raise just couldn’t handle the task
- Logitech MX Vertical mouse
I had dropped this for a while but it’s back. It allows me to switch between my work Mac and my personal Mac with ease.
- Dell U3415W monitor
I’ve actually never been a huge fan of external monitors but this curved, ultra-wide monitor has changed that. It really makes working on code or anything else with multiple windows a pleasant experience.
- Brother HL-L2350DW laser printer
This replaced an HP as I won’t deal with HP’s ink subscriptions. It really is a little workhouse and plenty for our needs.
- Meross LED Desk Lamp
I’m a sucker for Phillips Hue bulbs so, when I needed a new lamp to fit on my desk I wanted to get something that would also work with Apple HomeKit. This light does a pretty good job at that.
- Linksys Velop AX4200 Wifi 6 Routers
Ever since our Apple TimeCapsule router died years ago we’ve gone through a number of different home routers looking for something stable that could reach our whole house.
- Kindle Paperwhite – 8GB, 11th edition
If it wasn’t for the Kindle I probably wouldn’t still have an Amazon account. I love the device and use it more than just about any other. I’ve tried a Kobo but it just didn’t last and, add in the 1,000 or so books I already own on Kindle, I’m trapped here for now.
- Beats Fit Pro wireless earbuds
These replaced PowerBeats Pro that simply died after about 3 years. I have a hard time with earbuds as most don’t fit in my ears. I’ve tried and returned AirPods Pro and other brands. The “wing” on these work great and they sound great with pretty much all the features of AirPods Pro.
- AirPods Max (silver)
I added these only after getting a good deal on them. I had missed over-the-ear headphones, particularly on days with a lot of meetings where anything in my ear could get uncomfortable. They sound great, seem well built and work well with my Apple devices.
- Sonos (various models)
I have a Five in my office and an assortment of other models throughout the house. These speakers have been great. Overall we use them about 10 or more hours a day for music, podcasts or just broadcast radio.
- Anker Powered USB-C Hub
This makes it possible for me to work my work Mac into my desk and monitor setup. For years I didn’t even bother but I grew tired of dealing with just the 13″ screen so this lets me connect to the Dell monitor, with it’s built-in KVM while leaving the laptop itself in clamshell mode, which is just fine for my use.
Historically my software toolbox has been as minimal as possible. Lately that’s changed a bit but I still try my best to not replace default or other apps that would otherwise perfectly handle my workflow.
- Safari Browser
It’s fast, clean and works so well across Apple devices. If I had to go to something else I would use Firefox but that really doesn’t make much sense to me on iPad or iPhone as everything is really just a wrapper around Safari anyway.
- Firefox Browser
Firefox is my primary browser on Linux. It’s fast, powerful and does what I need it to do. Frankly I don’t find it as user friendly as Safari but it’s a close second.
- VS Code
I’ve gone through a lot of editors over the years but, since moving past WordPress code, I’ve settled on VS Code for its ability to seamlessly transition between technologies without slowing down my whole system.
- Apple iCloud (Apple One Premiere plan)
Up until 2021 I was self-hosting a lot of this tech but that simply didn’t work for my family. Today we use their hosted domains for email, I keep most of my data in iCloud Drive, Ted Lasso (Apple TV+) is, easily, my favorite TV show of all time, my wife loves Fitness+ and I live on Apple Music listening to it for hours each day. It isn’t perfect, no solution is, but when considering my whole family (I also support my dad’s tech) iCloud is the best choice for us and sometimes that is all that matters.
This site still runs on WordPress for no other reason that nothing else can so easily manage the content. Sure, Hugo and other static site generators are faster but they’re not content management systems. I might not have a lot of content on this site but I have more than enough to have felt the difference when I tried something else.
- Apple Pages
I don’t need a word processor often but, when I do, Pages is just fine for my needs.
- Apple Numbers
I do a surprising amount of work with spreadsheets, even for personal use. Numbers can handle all I need it to and, like Pages, that makes it perfect for me.
- Apple Keynote
Work mostly requires me to use Google Sheets but for any other presentation I still prefer Keynote.
I’ve tried just about every Mastodon client available and Ivory just offers the best combination of ease of use and power features.
- OBS Studio
I don’t do a lot of video work so this is plenty for my purposes.
- Pixelmator Pro
These days I don’t need to edit photos too often so, when I do, this app is perfect for the task.
- Affinity Photo 2
I pretty much just use this for basic photo editing on my iPad when the need arises.
I’ve looked for the perfect WordPress development environment tool for years. Today I’ve given up and written my own. Kana is a simple CLI tool, written in Go, that makes spinning up WordPress websites super simple.
Containerized apps really have revolutionized the development world. With Docker I don’t have to play guessing games when working in a team as I can guarantee everyone is on the same page. I’ve used it for self-hosting apps, development work, testing and more. There’s a learning curve but, once you get past it, Docker really is a game-changing tool for any developer.
- Mac Terminal App/Gnome Terminal
I do an awful lot, even beyond code, from the terminal. While I’ve tried nearly every emulator on both Mac and Linux, the defaults just do what I need them to, particularly with tmux. It isn’t perfect, but it makes my life easier. I customize it for with Oh My ZSH which gives me all the power of any of the alternatives without dealing with all the annoyances that come with them.
This comes in very handy when working with WordPress and so many other apps.
A very handy tool for working with REST APIs.
- Apple Reminders
I’ve also tried just about every to do app on the market and Reminders, like so many other apps on this list, just works. If you’re all Apple, and you don’t have crazy needs, it is great as it syncs flawlessly and can remind you even if you forget to open the app (something all other apps fall short on).
- Apple Notes
Like reminders I’ve tried pretty much everything. Apple Notes isn’t perfect but it syncs well and is easy to access. We use this and Reminders a lot in my family to sync data and that has helped in so many instances that I couldn’t imagine using anything else right now.
- Apple Calendar
Like reminders, Apple Calendar is the only option I’ve found that will remind you of a meeting even if you forget to open the app. That is HUGE to me. I don’t have a lot on my personal calendar these days and we use Google Calendar at work. Apple Calendar mikes a nice viewer of the work calendar while ensuring I can actually see across all of my calendars and my wife’s calendar when planning anything.
- Apple Mail
Notice a pattern here? Apple Mail works and is the same on all my devices.
- Mozilla Thunderbird
Apple Mail is, of course, not available on Linux so there I use Thunderbird to get my iCloud mail. It’s one of the oldest email clients on the market but it’s also still one of the best. It’s powerful, fast and well maintained, what else could I want?
I’ve used Moom for years to manage window placement on my Mac. It’s super simple and keeps out of the way allowing me to move things around as if it is a native function of MacOS.
My company moved from Lifesize to Zoom in 2019 and it’s been so much better. I usually spend 20 or more hours a week in this app.
When I’m not in Zoom I’m on Slack. It’s the only work app I keep on my phone.
- Google Workspace
I don’t have a personal Google account anymore and I’d rather not give them any data but I don’t have much of a choice at work. We do a lot in Google Calendar, Drive and Email. From a UX perspective there are worse choices. From a privacy perspective I just make sure I restrict these to my work computer and no where else.
- Google Chrome Browser
My work is basically a Google client and really pushes us to use Chrome. I’ve long since given up fighting that and just make sure I use it only for work tasks.
- Ubuntu Linux
I’ve been bouncing between Linux distros for most of the last year but Ubuntu seems to be the most stable on my hardware.
iMessage might be popular but Signal is more private. It’s like iMessage available on every platform. I’ve used it for about 6 years now. For a while nearly everyone I knew was on it. Most have left but there are still enough people using it that I keep it around.
I’ve tried everything else and it simply works best for us. I have a record of almost every transaction I’ve ever made going back to the 1990s and it’s really helped us keep on top of things.
Thanks to apps that don’t clean up after themselves I’ve gone back to using this handy utility again lately. It keeps the Mac menu bar clean.
This might be the first app I ever bought for Mac and I’m still using it 15 years later. It makes a huge difference in a world where app developers absolutely refuse to clean up after themselves.
I’ve used this with my family for over a decade. With each new version it gets a little worse but changing over 5 people just hasn’t been feasible, yet. That said, it is reliable and cross-platform and does allow me to be able to help my dad with so many computer and app issues.
I honestly don’t know how anyone can use the web these days without a good ad blocker. This works on all my Apple devices and does a great job at it.
I’ve lived in Florida for 8 years and this is our 6th wireless carrier. It’s also the first time we’ve had unlimited data that actually works (we had Sprint for years but that was basically not like having data at all). It’s become a great tool for me to write or work away from the house.
- Reeder 5
Other than Mastodon nearly everything I consume on the web is done via RSS. Reeder makes that so easy. It’s clean, fast and works on all my devices. I use Inoreader behind it to store the feeds and syncing data as well as to get access to sites that refuse to use RSS anymore.
Managing apps on any computer is a pain. Homebrew fixes nearly all of that on Mac. I’ve used it for years to manage all the software on my machines. I even use it on Linux for managing developer tools like Go, NVM and PHP as it easily keeps everything in sync and at the same versions and configurations as the same tools on my Mac.
I use Maccy on my Mac to manage my clipboard history. It’s fast, lightweight and incredibly reliable.
- Al Dente Pro
I don’t use my laptop on the road much anymore so this helps me make sure I’m not abusing the battery as the machine is always plugged in.
- JetBrains Mono (font)
I’ve gone back and forth between this and system fonts (Menlo, typically) for years but, at least for now, this is what I’m using in my Terminal and editors.
For a list of tools I’ve used in the past as well as my older annual “uses” posts, please take a look at my decommissioned tech page.
This page was last updated on 31 January, 2024