Today I came across an article with a few ‘tools’ for web design and frankly, I thought it pretty lame and unexciting. There were 2 things on there that I felt were actually good information, Color Schemer and Typetester. The other, information was either lame (a “handy dandy” notebook) or untrue (“Mountain Dew“).
So, here are 6 tools that I find to actually be useful. A few of these apply to web design as a whole, while others are more mac related.
- w3Schools.com – I’m still shocked on a daily basis by the number of people that don’t know what the w3 is or have ever heard of w3schools.com. The w3 is basically the governing body of web standards. They are the people that define what is XHTML and CSS. Now, what is w3Schools? It’s free, complete documentation for all things web. If you don’t know your <pre> from your <ol>, this is the place to go. If you still rely on dreamweaver to sort out your <div>s or, heaven forbid, you still code with tables, the w3schools is a great place to start learnin’ yo self some real code. It takes a second to get past the design (it’s aweful, ironically), but there’s a metric ton of good information there.
- Apache – Oh Wait, it’s already there. Just click that “Personal Web Sharing” check box in your Sharing system preferences and you have everything you need to build a basic static HTML site. I get all my software updates from entropy.ch and there are a hundred good tutorials out there for installing PHP, Ruby On Rails, django, or whatever software you plan to use.
- subversion – Subversion is amazing, to say the least. Once you go “version control system” you can’t go back. Basically, subversion is a way to keep all of your sites (or your blog theme, etc) backed up and versioned. You install subversion server on your computer or a remote server, and then check in your site to the server. Then you can checkout your site to your webserver and always have an updatedable, but also revertable site. If you break your design, roll it back to the last time you checked it in. Want to move webhosts? It’s as easy as 1 command. And want to update your site to that new design you’ve been working on, “svn up” and your good-to-go. For a great tutorial on installing subversion, check out this great tutorial from Hivelogic.
- Textmate – Put down Dreamweaver and step away from the handholding. Seriously people, it’s really not that hard, and you’ll make so much nicer sites because of it. Textmate is a god send for web site designers. Yes, you’ll have to code by hand, but you can also post to your blog, get live updating previews of your code, and use the aforementioned subvesrion, straight from inside Textmate. And, with code competion and bundles, a well experienced ‘mater can type 2 or 3 characters and complete entire lines of code.
- Firefox – Ok, this one seems like low-hanging fruit, but if you add Firebug, Web Developer, and Colorzilla to Firefox 2, you have one sweet testing/debuging environment. Firebug is like sending Firefox to medical school, seriously slice and dice capabilities. Web Developer extesion is like buying one of those nice big red Snap On tool chests full of tools, and shoe horning it into your browser and Colorzilla is just that, a color picker as powerful as Godzilla. I can’t imagine doing webdesign with out these great little pieces of kit.
- Safari from O’Reilly Publishing – Safari from O’Reilly is amazing, that’s about all I can say. If you can’t tell, I’m big on documentation, and Safari is like having a bookstore in your computer. You can search through hundreads of REALLY REALLY great books (sorry about the caps, Safari gets me hot). My favorites on there are Bulletproof Web Design, The Zen of CSS, and Eric Meyer on CSS.
- BONUS – Here’s all the other mac only software that I use and abuse that is worth a mention: xScope, CSSEdit, Transmit, Linotype FontExplorer X, Xyle Scope.
I hope that helps a few people out (and you find it better than suggesting a “handy dandy notebook”) and turns someone on to some awesome new tools. It’s not all Mac only software so pass that along to your PC friends too. I’m sure there are other great tools out there, if you know of one I missed, make sure you post it up in the comments so I can learn about it.