367 – Software Apps I use Daily
Is there a plugin for that?
With more than 50,000 plugins in the WordPress repository, it’s hard to find the perfect one. Each week, I will highlight an interesting plugin form the repository.
For more great plugins, download my 50 Most Useful Plugins eBook.
Background Image Cropper is a WordPress core feature-plugin that adds cropping to a background image for parity with header images
Software Apps I use Daily
- Run local versions of my site
- Update plugins here first
- Update theme code
- Run WordPress Locally Webinar Replay
- My text editor
- Use it for making code changes
- I open the entire wp-content folder so I can quickly navigate around my site
- Chat with colleagues
- Keep connected with local WordPress community
- Organize WordCamp
- Direct message other WordPress developers
- Quick access to personal P2
- Tab for Brain.FM
- Catch up on P2 Posts
- Use Reader to stay updated with Friend’s blogs
- See WordPress.com notifications
- Quickly take screenshots for customers and add arrows and text
- Easily upload to the cloud
- Keyboard shortcut to upload to CloudUp
- Online image sharing tool
- Embed images into ZenDesk support tickets
- Quickly adding text to tickets
- Adding my email address to forms
- Search for GitHub repository
- Toggle between WordPress dashboard pages
- Highlight an order number and load appropriate refund page
- Quickly create a markdown formatted link
- Cloning WordPress repositories
- Creating Pull Requests
- Running wp-cli
- Quickly open the WordPress database for test site
- Easily run queries
- Much easier to navigate than phpMyAdmin
- Keeps track of all my tasks
- Identify what I need to work on each day
- Email inboxes for Automattic and personal
- Has the same interface as Gmail
- Transfer files from computer to server
- Connect directly to Amazon S3 or Backblaze B2
- Make sure I stay on task
- Automatically pulls in my hours I’m scheduled for live chat
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Full TranscriptBusiness Transcription is provided by GMR Transcription.
On today’s episode, we are gonna look at the apps that I use daily on my Mac to keep me running, right here on Your Website Engineer podcast, episode No. 367.
Hello! And welcome to another episode of Your Website Engineer podcast. My name is Dustin Hartzler. Today, like I said, we’re gonna be diving in to some software and some things that are running on my Mac that just keep me going every single day and just some of the software pieces of tools that just make my life easier. We’re gonna get to that in just a few minutes.
I have one announcement and one plugin to share with you. The first, a piece of news – and it’s been kind of a slow news week, it’s the week after WordCamp US, and so everybody’s very slow to get back into the swing of things – so there’s not a lot happening in the WordPress space. The one thing that I do want to mention, though, is that WooCommerce now has an affiliate program, and you can start earning for all referrals, and so you can sign up and you can get 20 percent off each referral that you recommend to the platform and extensions that they purchase, and you can learn more by going to refer.wordpress.com, or you can see the link in the show notes for more information.
And then the plugin of the week that I want to share with you today is called Background Image Cropper, and this is a plugin – it’s a core feature plugin that adds cropping to background images, so it looks very much like the header images. When you add a new header, it tries to give you the option to crop that image, and now you can do that with backgrounds. It’s a small feature that they’re looking to add to WordPress at some point, so they started out with this feature plugin to gauge the interest and whether the feature improves the user experience of background images. So if this is something you need or something that you’re like “Oh, this is a really cool project,” I recommend installing that on a website and start using it today. So that, again, is Background Image Cropper, and you can find a link to that in the show notes for episode No. 367.
Alright, today then we’re gonna dive in, and if you’re a big podcast listener like I am, you probably have heard the podcast like “The Top Gadgets to Buy Geeks This Summer” or “This Holiday Season” or, you know, there’s all these different posts that are saying “the best this,” “the best that,” and I thought since it’s been over a year since I’ve talked about some of the software and the tools that I use on my computer, I thought it’d be a good time to go in because if you want to invest money into your business or invest money into your computer, these are some of the software apps that you use.
Most of them are gonna be Mac-dependent, but there are some that are cross-platform and you can use on either one. So, the first one that I want to talk about is Local – this is one that I talked just a few episodes ago, that’s my new development tool for my local environment. I have switched over from Desktop Server – I still love Desktop Server – to Local. Just something new, something flashy, and something different. That is always running on my computer, so I can always pull up that woo.dev site, so I can do some troubleshooting on a live ticket or a live chat, any question that I may be having and working on for my daily job. So, that’s what I use that for. You can run local versions of your website, you can update themes and plugins, and write code, and all that kind of stuff. And so that is Local by FlyWheel.
The second piece of tool that I probably don’t use quite every day, but it is open nearly every day, is Sublime Text 3, and it is the text editor that I use of choice. It is used for making code changes – I open up the folder of the wp-content folder of my local environment, and I just go through and I can navigate all the way through and find the changes that I need to make, whether that be looking at a plugin, looking for code inside of a plugin, maybe looking at theme files or whatnot, and so that’s the second thing.
And those are a couple – Sublime Text has been on my list for quite a while – of tools that I have been using.
Alright, moving right along, we’ll keep going here. I’ve got a bit of a sore throat; we’ve had some gunk going on here at the Hartzler household. The kids – one kid picks it up and brings it home, and then the other kid gets it, and then of course both of the kids breathe on me, and now I have the junk in my throat.
But the next tool – and this is one that is brand new, haven’t been using for super long – but it’s called Franz. I believe this is platform-agnostic; you can use this on any type of device or any type of operating system. It is a tool where you can load a bunch of chat extensions, is primarily what it’s for. You can load Slack in there, and you can have different instances of Slack, so I have the Automatic Slack, I have the WordPress Slack, I have the Dayton Wordpress Slack, and I have the Slack group for Franz, the tool itself, and then I have a couple more things running.
I have a link to my internal website that I do a lot of tracking for my daily job; I call it my internal P-2. And so I kinda keep track of everything that I do on a daily basis there so I can do a quick recap on the next week and let everybody on my team know what I’ve been working on. So you can kinda build that in, so basically, Franz, think of it as a web-wrapper, so anything you can view on a website, you can build a little application inside of Franz, and you can kinda keep it hidden and out of the way.
The other thing that I use is a music service called Brain.FM, and I use that inside of a Franz window as well, so I don’t have to keep a tab open for Franz. And so you can add your email clients in there, you can do Facebook messenger in there, you can do all sorts of things. Those are the things I use, basically – Slack, the P-2 for myself, and Brain FM. And then I’m always looking to see, what tab do I have open regularly on my computer, and if it’s been open for a long time, then okay maybe that’s one that needs to go into Franz. So I would definitely check that out. And I’ve got links to these in the show notes, so you can go ahead and find out where you can download these programs.
I also use the WordPress app. This is one that I opened up at a WordCamp presentation a few weeks ago, and people were like, “there’s an app for WordPress?” And there is, and it’s again on all platforms, and you can go in and – the thing that I use it the most for is reading P-2 posts and keeping up with my friends and their websites. And so I subscribe. If you have a blog that’s on WordPress, I can go ahead and subscribe to that, whether it be on WordPress.com or a self-posted version, and I can get all the latest updates in a feed. And so I follow my closest friends, the people who I want to stay in contact with, and every morning as I’m getting ready for the day, I just read through the WordPress reader and see what’s out there and see what people are talking about.
And then I also have access to the WordPress.com notifications, so any time that I’m mentioned on an internal blog post, I get a notification right in there and I can see that right away. And so it’s another way – not only can you consume, but you can also manage your WordPress sites. I can go in and update plugins, I can change themes, I can do the customizer, I can do pretty much anything you can do with a WordPress site from the dashboard. You can use this new interface, the Calypso interface, all within the WordPress app, and it’s just a really neat experience. So if you haven’t checked out the WordPress app, I recommend that, and that’s a free application.
One of the premium extensions that I use is called Annotate, and it allows me to quickly take a screenshot for customers, and I can add arrows and texts, so if somebody has a question about “where is this button?” or “how do I do this?” or whatever, I take a screenshot, and I add some arrows or add some text, and what I do from there is I upload it to a service that is owned by Automatic called CloudUp.
And this is an image sharing tool, and it allows you to embed images – like I can upload a file, and then once that file has been uploaded, then I paste in the link inside ZenDesk and then the customers can see it automatically as that email gets sent out to them. And so that is something that I do and use CloudUp every single day, taking screenshots and send them to people – I even send them through text messages or I send them in email messages because I know that if you click on the image itself, you’ll actually get to see it, whereas sometimes if you embed images inside of messages or inside of mail, they don’t work quite so well. So that is CloudUp.
A new one to my list is called Typinator, and this used to be TextExpander, but I’ve switch to Typinator mainly because I was just having a lot of problems with TextExpander over the last six months or so. I would try to expand text, and then it would just paste whatever was on the clipboard. Or I would try to search, and then it wouldn’t search right. And it was just kind of a real pain, and it was costing more time than it was actually saving, it seemed like.
So Typinator is a stand-alone application. It is one I believe just for the Mac. You can quickly add text; I have TextExpander, or I guess Typinator, snippets for all of my email addresses, my phone numbers, the stuff that I use regularly. That way, you can just type it in real quick and it expands into these full paragraphs. I have some custom snippets that are made for tickets, and so if somebody is asking – if I need to see details of their website, if I need to log in, I can give them all the steps to do that and send over the credentials without actually sending the password and whatnot, so I’ve got that all saved. So that’s Typinator.
Going along with all the other tools, and this is one that I use probably hundreds of times per day, and it’s Alfred. And this is a Mac-only application, but it is a quick keyboard shortcut thingamajig, that you can go in and you can create your own custom workflows. Some of the ones that I do is I have a quick search for GitHub, and so if I’m looking for a plugin or somebody needs code for a plugin or I want to know what the latest version is, like maybe it is the subscriptions plugin. And so what I do is I literally just type command-space and then start typing – I type G-I-T, and then tab, and then I start typing subscriptions, and then I hit enter. And it’s going to do a custom search on GitHub, pull me right to that repository, and then I can start browsing and get the information I need. Super, super handy.
I built an application, or a workflow, that’ll allow you to – if you’re looking at a dashboard page of a WordPress site, you can type W-P and then you can type “posts” and that’ll take you to the posts page. Or “orders,” and that’ll take you to the orders page. Or “shipping,” and that’ll take you to the shipping section. It’s super super handy, I love that feature, and it just helps me navigate across a customer’s website very very quickly.
Another one that I built recently, another workflow, is one that – there’s a few steps that we have to do to refund an order, if somebody purchased something at WooCommerce.com, then there’s some steps involved to refund that order. So what I did was I actually created this workflow that I can highlight the order number and copy that to the clipboard, and then I type that command-space again and I type “order” and hit Enter, and that opens a new tab, it takes me and it searches for that ID, that order number, and then automatically pulls in the information I need. It’s super handy and super quick.
And there’s other things that you can do with Alfred, you can check to see how fast your download speed is, do a speedtest.net. You can do all kinds of things. The most recent one that I’ve added is to quickly create a markdown-formatted link by copying the link, and then you highlight the text you want to use, and then that will copy that text as well, and then it’ll spit it out as brackets and then the text bracket and then a parenthesis and then the link and then a parenthesis. So it’s formatted for markdown. Saves tons of time, super super cool.
Hyper is the next one on my list, and this one I heard about on the Syntax.FM podcast a few weeks ago, and this is actually a terminal replacement. So on Mac, there’s a terminal – it’s just called terminal – and it’s how you use the command line inside the Mac. There are other ones – the one that was on my list before was called iTerm, and that was a free application that you could add and you could have access to that same terminal, but this one is called Hyper. It’s a little bit cooler because it’s running HTML5 and some other things behind the scenes, so more like a web-type app, and you can use CSS to customize it and whatnot. It’s really pretty cool. It’ll allow me to clone WordPress repositories, pull things down off GitHub; I run WP-CLI, so I can do WP plugin activate, and I can activate certain plugins, so that’s super nice, and so I use Hyper for that.
Every once in a while, I need to look at a WordPress database, running local on my website or on my local environment, and so in order to search, the quickest and the best tool that I’ve found is one that’s called Sequel Pro, and I can quickly open up that WordPress database and I can run queries. It’s much easier to navigate; it looks a lot better than PHP, my admin, it just works better, you can set up custom queries and so you can do things on a custom query basis. It’s just really nice, and it works really well. I believe it’s Mac-only, but it is a free, open-source application, and I absolutely like it. It makes it really easy if I am looking for a specific piece of information for a customer – maybe they’re like, “where is this data stored in the database?” – and I can do a partial search, or I can search for “does not contain” or “contains part of” or “does not contain,” so you don’t have to have all of the keywords just right, so you can search and then you can find where those product values and that information is actually stored.
The next one on my list is called OmniFocus; I’ve talked about this one in the past, but this keeps track of all my tasks. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of things in there that I don’t do. I use it a lot for capturing ideas and then processing them later and seeing if it’s something I wanna do or kind of take action on. So I use that; I always keep it open on the fourth desktop. So on a Mac, you can have a desktop and then another desktop to the left or right, and then another one, and so I have four desktops normally set up. The first one is Chrome, and then Safari, and then Franz, and then the last one is OmniFocus. And so then I know where everything is and I can quickly navigate to all of them.
MailPlane 3 is the application I’ve been using for mail. It is the most simplistic app that’s out there. I normally like to keep my email open for work; I don’t get a lot of email from work, but it’s nice to see that throughout the day. I turned off all notifications, so I don’t get pinged every time I get an email message, but MailPlane 3 is what I’ve been using. It looks very much like the same interface as Gmail, so it uses all the same keyboard shortcuts, it visually looks the same, it uses all the plugins and the add-ons that you can install to Gmail, so that’s really nice, and I just have my Automatic email box and my personal email box open in that same window, and then I can navigate through those through the course of the day.
I use Transmit as my FTP editor, and this allows me to transfer files from my computer to the server or pull things down from the server onto my computer. The other cool thing is you can automatically connect to Amazon S3 or Backblaze B2 or any of these other sharing files systems that are out there or hosts that are out there. You can easily connect to those really, really quick, and that’s super easy. So, I use Transmit for that. That’s a Mac-only app and it is a premium extension, and it costs – I don’t know – thirty, forty dollars, something like that. It’s totally, totally worth it.
I use Calendar, the default Mac calendar app, and I make sure I stay on task, I kind of plan out my day, I’m scheduled different blocks of time of what I’m gonna be doing when, and then it also automatically pulls in from a service that we use at work – it’s a tool that was created in house – but it allows us to schedule and sign up for our live chat shifts, and then that automatically pulls in so I can see it on my calendar – “Oh, I’m scheduled for a live chat from one to four today,” or two to three tomorrow, whatever the case may be. So that’s the calendar.
And then I use two different browsers, they’re normally always open; that’s Chrome and Safari. I try to use Chrome only for developer-y type things; I like the web development tools in there, so I can see what’s going on, I can look at the code, I can see what kind of errors are happening. That just works a lot, lot better than Safari, and I find that if I have too many tabs open in Chrome, then that’s when my battery dies really, really quickly because Chrome is a resource hog and it takes up a lot of energy. That, along with Slack, seems to eat up most of my battery, and so I try not to have too many instances of Chrome open at the same time.
And then Safari, I’m using ZenDesk, that’s where our live chat tool is, and then anything else internally, anything that’s a WordPress.com site, gets opened in Safari. And then Safari is the default web browser, so anytime I click on a link anywhere, it opens in Safari.
Alright, those are the main applications, I do have a couple utilities that I want to talk about real, real quick because they are very useful, and most of the time they are running. The first one is Backblaze. This is one that, if you want to do a little bit of investment in your digital security or digital backups, this would be the one for you. It is a very inexpensive service that you can sign up for, and it will back up your entire computer and any hard drives that are connected to it.
So I have three computers in our household: I have my work laptop, I have my wife’s laptop, and then I have an iMac that sits on my desk and it’s plugged into a Drobo, and it has all of the backups and the details and it stores all of our media files. Well I have three plans with Backblaze, and I use it for my iMac, and it backs up the two terabytes worth of stuff that’s on the Drobo. Which is super helpful, so if I ever have a problem, or the Drobo dies and the redundancy in the Drobo isn’t working, then I will have all of my files up on the cloud. And it would take a really long time to download them, two terabytes worth of files out there, or I can pay a hundred dollars and have them mail me a hard drive, I can clone the hard drive and then I can mail it back to them or whatever. So I use Backblaze; that’s always running, always backing up my computer.
I use Bartender 3, this is a Mac app that will allow you to hide items in the menu bar. So this one is really powerful if you’re running a bunch of applications like I am; it fills up that bar at the top and Backblaze allows you to hide these items or put them kind of in a separate window so then you can still get access to them very quickly, but then they’re not cluttering up your workspace.
Another one that I use is called Better Snap Tool, and I use this primarily for moving windows from one place to another by using the keyboard, and so if I’m testing an issue that’s on mobile itself, I have a keyboard shortcut – it’s command-control-left arrow – and it’ll make the window, the Chrome browser or the Safari window, it’ll take it all the way over to the mobile-size window on the left-hand size. And it just shrinks it all the way down, makes it really small, and so I’m in the mobile view right away. I use command-option-up, and that is an option that will full-screen items, and so that helps me navigate really, really quickly and get the windows in the right place the way that I like them set up.
I use a tool called Podcast menu, and this was one I found on GitHub, and it is a little application that allows you to play your podcasts through Overcast in the menu bar of your Mac. And so I think that’s really cool; I don’t use it that much because I can’t work and listen to podcasts at the same time, but every once in a while, if I’m doing budgeting or I’m doing some mundane task, I can listen to a podcast and do it right through my computer. And then because I use Overcast, Overcast will sync to any device, and so if I listen to a podcast episode, the next time I refresh on my phone, it will go ahead and sync up where I left off, or if I’ve completed that episode, it’ll just delete it. So that’s really cool.
And then the last app that I want to talk about is one called Transducer, and this is a very specific one only for podcasters, but this one allows me to connect to Libsyn, which is the media file hosting company that I use, and I can connect there specifically with an app on my computer, and then I can tag the files with every piece of information I need. I never have to log into Libsyn, and it just goes ahead and uploads.
And then it’s got some cool scripting that’s built in, so I can then go ahead and build a script to spit out different information, so if I wanted to – I’m still working on building this script out, I’ve only had this program for maybe a month or so, couple months, and I can run a shell script, and so when I’m done, I can say “Oh, well this is the output that I need for the smart podcast player shortcode, this is what I need for the excerpt, this is what I need for the title. I can get all this information so I can easily copy and paste it into WordPress.
I’m sure if I’m smart enough, I could take that information and I could pipe it out of this program of Transducer, and somehow WP-CLI into a draft, and it would be really cool if I could figure out how to do that – that would save me a lot of time. But right now, I just use it to quickly upload my files and get them tagged appropriately for iTunes.
So that’s my list, I know that there wasn’t really a lot of WordPress stuff in here, but we’re getting close to the holidays, I just wanted to share some of these cool tips and tools and the applications that I use regularly because I really enjoy them, and I use them a lot, and I think they could help speed up your workflow, whether you’re building websites for yourself or getting into the webspace or just overall want to be a little bit more quick and more efficient on your computer, and so that’s why I shared those this week.
I do have more WordPress stuff lined up, and I thought this would be a little shorter of a show with my hoarse voice; of course it goes a little longer because I’m always excited about talking about the software tools and things that I’m using. But that’s what I wanted to share this week in episode No. 367 of the Your Website Engineer podcast, and next week, we’ll talk more about WordPress. Until then, take care, and we’ll talk to you again soon. Buh-bye.