Welcome to another installment of "What I Use to Do What I Do," the series in which people talk about how they use hardware and software in all parts of their life -- and what tech they love and hate. Today, we've got a user experience designer and developer who also runs an Android- and Google-centric podcast.
Who are you?
Describe your current hardware set-up: What kind of desktop or laptop computer(s) do you work on and what operating system are they running?
I have a 13" MacBook Pro with Retina Display, hooked up to a 27" monitor. For the keyboard, I'm using the Logitech Easy-Switch. I recently became an owner of the Evoluent VerticalMouse 4, which has given my hand and arm a much-needed rest. I'm running the latest Mac OS X 10.11, El Capitan.
What desktop apps do you absolutely depend on to do your job?
Most of my projects start in iA Writer, a markdown editor. Being able to quickly jot down ideas and setup an outline helps me move forward with a design. Then I'll start sketching ideas and wireframes on paper, depending on the level of complexity I'll either go into Sketch to provide a digital wireframe or go straight into code. My current text-editor of choice is Atom, but I really like being able to see live previews in Coda 2.
Our team lives in Slack; it's the quickest way for all of us to communicate on a project without having to send out an email. We even have a channel where it posts Trello board updates, allowing people to see how projects are moving along inside of Slack.
Which desktop apps do you absolutely depend on to do your life?
My must-have apps are Bartender 2 and iStat Menus, because both those apps keep my Mac menu bar nice and tidy. Bartender hides any menu items that I don’t need, and iStat has nice computer monitoring options. My all time favorite feature of iStats is being able to see the different timezones, really helps when talking to people across the world.
Tools that help me stay connected are Hangouts and Polymail. Being able to reply to texts via the Hangouts app has been pretty awesome, I can leave my phone in the other room and never miss a conversation. Recently became an alpha tester of Polymail, and so far I'm impressed. The UI is slick and for an alpha it is very refined. My favorite feature is the “send later” option, allowing you to write emails at midnight and send them during normal business hours. Looking forward to seeing what improvements they make in the coming weeks.
Which desktop app(s) do you begrudgingly use and why? What would you change about these apps if you could?
Ugh, although our creative and marketing team lives in Slack, the entire organization still uses Skype. My first week on the job was spent asking my manager for colleagues' Skype names. It's a terrible experience in terms of adding team members, I wish there was a private hub where I could find all my colleagues. Also, I really just want to give my colleagues a :thumbsup: but always forget (y) is how to make it happen in Skype. It's is a great tool for audio and voice calls, I just wish I didn't have to use it for chat. I'm pretty lucky that I'm given the liberty to use whichever tools I need to get the job done.
If Skype is the bane of my existence, I think I have it pretty good. Just don't get me started out the content management system we have to use to update our site.
What's your current mobile set-up? How many different devices do you have and what do you use them for?
I'm running the latest version of Android on my Nexus 6P. The phone has a large screen that allows me to do a lot of tasks without feeling like I need to grab my tablet or laptop to get the job done. We have an iPad Air and Nexus 9 around the house, but those are mostly used by my daughter to play games. The larger screen on the 6P allows me to comfortably answer email, play mobile games, and check Twitter.
What are your must-have mobile apps? Why?
Google makes my world go ‘round. The Google Search app allows me to change the temperature of my nest thermostat, ask what Wonder Woman’s real name is, and help me navigate to different places. Google Now gives me the information I need, it taps into my calendar and let’s me know when it’s time to leave for my next appointment.
One of my favorite features in the latest version of Android is the “Now on Tap” feature, allowing you to take actions related to what is on your screen. If a friend wants to have lunch tomorrow at your favorite spot, you long press on the home button, Google scans it, and provides action items like reviews on the restaurant or adding the date as an event onto your calendar. Google does a lot of the leg work for me, making my life easier.
Google is continually putting many of these smart features into their other apps, like Inbox, which bundles up your email into categories, and only notifies you when email hits your primary inbox. This helps me get to the important email first, and deal with the other emails later. You can also snooze email and have it remind you at a certain time or place. It doesn’t make me think, it automatically sifts through my data, and prepares insights for me.
What cloud-based services do you use and love? How do you use them and why do you love them?
Our team at work uses Dropbox for collaboration and syncing. It’s the best way to share files across teams. It’s also how the Material Podcast team transfers audio files. For recording purposes, we use Google Docs to keep track of the show outline. We’ve found it to be the best for real-time collaboration. Although the Google Doc helps us keep track of topics, we use Slack for chatting, and Skype has been the most reliable for video and audio.
What one weird and nonintuitive app or device helps you do your work better?
My life wouldn’t be complete without Giphy goodness. Sometimes an emoji isn’t enough to express your excitement, you need some /giphy dance party to hit the slack. It’s also the best way to really express yourself in Twitter interactions.
What other tech in your life or household rocks your world?
Google Photos is a star, it automatically backs up my photos from my phone, and will create animated gifs, movies, and stories based on pictures and videos taken together. Imagine you’ve gone out for a day trip with your friends, you’re taking photos and videos throughout the day. On your drive home, Google will start creating a movie and story based off the pictures and video. It’s a delightful way to show off your trip, without going through the work of creating the movie yourself.
Photos also has Chromecast support, so everyone can watch it on the big screen instead of trying to huddle around your phone. If your’e looking for a way to share memories, back up your photos to Google Photos, buy yourself a $35 Chromecast, and start reliving the moments. Google Photos is found both on iOS and Android, letting you collaborate with friends and family regardless of device.
Are you someone who wants to talk about the tech you use for work and life? Do you have strong opinions about the tools you use to get things done? We'd love to feature you -- reach out on Twitter to @lschmeiser or connect with Lisa Schmeiser here.