An L shaped wooden desk with a cat sitting in a box, dual monitors on a stand, there is a small dino toy on the corner of the right one, there is a black cat sitting in the window. the walls are painted a grey-blue and the wall is decorated with framed prints

The tools I use to work

When I see an article with the title, “I do X and this is how I work” I immediately click to read more. However, I’m hesitant to write this sort of post for myself. Why? I customize my tools until they’re almost unrecognizable or I use something that is incredibly boring. For years I thought my software requirements were very different from anyone who would read my post.

While a hardware company is a different business from mine, reading the first section of this article “The tools and tech I use to run a one-woman hardware company”, had me reevaluating my stance on how I can contribute to the conversation. What caught my eye? “I’m not trying to chase the state-of-the-art, I’m trying to use well-understood tools and technology to accomplish my goals…. While this philosophy can lead to choosing solutions that aren’t “perfect”, I try to pick the best tool for the job that works for me right now and gives my creations a fair shot at longevity.”

This is the stance I take at PSG Studio. As a microbusiness, budget is always a concern. I need to balance new technology against tried and true.

How do I accomplish this? With careful balance. I often take a break to test something new so I can advise clients, but for my own needs I tend to be traditional. While I’m unsure how many will relate to the exact scenario that led to my choice, I hope someone finds it helpful. There are links to products and companies in this post, please note that none are affiliate links.

Setup

My studio is my own space in the basement. I claimed this room when we bought the house over a decade ago, I’ve worked here full time for nearly a decade. While there have been some times where I kept a dedicated workspace elsewhere in the house, last April I completely refreshed it to better fit my needs, never expecting what 2020 really would bring. I have a small couch, space for fiber arts, and my large desk.

Even with this a room of my own, I often migrate throughout the house, and in warmer weather outside as well. I often bounce between devices — a desktop, laptop, tablet, phone, e-reader, and of course notebooks. This means that the transitions need to be as seamless as possible. To do this I rely on Dropbox and a basement file server. I also take time to configure software to provide a similar experience no matter what device I’m using.

An L shaped wooden desk with a cat sitting in a box, dual monitors on a stand, there is a small dino toy on the corner of the right one, there is a black cat sitting in the window. the walls are painted a grey-blue and the wall is decorated with framed prints

Notes and Tasks

My primary logbook is paper based, the digital version is a plain text file. For the electronic version, a new file is created each day is a new file. I used to care about the ink I used preferring to write my notes only in black ink, now I grab whatever will write. In order to manage repetitive tasks, I prefer to keep them all in a digital system. After some catastrophic synchronization issues (probably of my own making) with my beloved and highly customized todo.txt setup, I migrated to Todoist years ago.

Client websites and Tutorials

Most of the work I do for client websites requires me to access a database, webserver, and modify text files either for code or content. What I use to edit text files depends on my mood; if I can access from the command line I tend to use vi. If I think it’s easier on windows, then I use Notepad++. How I manage all of this changes depending on the phase of the project.

Documentation and tutorial creation happens either in Scrivener or in Word. I backup key files into different formats to help ensure longetivity — either to keep formatting (PDF) or to keep content (text files). I track time and finances in a spreadsheet. At the moment I use the Adobe Cloud suite, but I’m evaluating switching back to open source tools such as Gimp and Inkscape.

Hardware and Software

I use hardware for as long as I can, then try to squeeze more out of it. Mobile devices are Android, for laptops I have an old iBook as well as a newer Dell XPS. I keep the Mac around mostly for testing purposes, it can’t stray far from a power outlet.

While I pay for a few software subscriptions, I try to keep them to a minimum. I prefer the more traditional license model or open source.

Final Thoughts

I hope this helps you understand a little more of what I use to get work done. Maybe someone will find it helpful. If you really want to know more details about my setup, please ask — I’ll share. If you have questions, non-sales suggestions, or other feedback, please let me know.