First things first. I’m not a designer. And I don’t play one on television. I support a dozen or so Mac designers (and their Macs) from my office. What Mac apps do they use?
It varies greatly beyond the basics. Some do web graphics. Others do print graphics. They’re not the same. My informal survey of our best Mac designers turned up a surprising list of apps they all use (almost).
First, The Basic List of Apps
Everyone in the graphic design group that I support has an Adobe app (or two or three or more) so I’ll exclude them from my list. Photoshop rules. Illustrator is the Jack of all trades.
InDesign and QuarkXpress are standards. After that, it’s a various and sundry list of Mac apps that do a little of everything.
Something else I noticed. Designers are a finicky bunch who want their creations a certain way. So, they keep plenty of apps (tools) on hand and the six-month-rule doesn’t apply.
Even if an app hasn’t been used in six months, I need to make sure it’s updated and ready to go when it’s needed.
Second, The Best 8 Of The Best
Unfortunately, I can’t rank the Top 8. Remember that finicky term? What’s a requirement for one designer, sits on the bench for another. So, they’re merely numbered, not ranked.
#8 – LittleSnapper: Nearly everyone in my graphic design support group (that has a connotation that’s not intended) has a need for screen snapshots and LittleSnapper came in as the big winner.
It takes a click to snap, grab, and save web pages, portions of the screen, or anything else you can see—then save them in graphic collections, sorted, tagged, and smartly stored and shared. You can even annotate the snapshots.
#7 – TextExpander: Time is money in many graphic design shops. Amazingly, it’s that way with many state agency support groups, too. Projects have to be tracked, so saving time is what TextExpander does.
A few keystrokes gets a whole sentence or paragraph or whatever dropped into a document so the whole thing doesn’t have to be typed over and over and over. Again.
#6 – Coda: For our web design teams that also muck around in code, there’s been a decided shift away from Adobe’s venerable Dreamweaver to apps that are less bulky and don’t require training. Coda is the coder’s app that’s friendlier than anything Adobe publishes.
The real benefit seems to be the multiple window panes. HTML in one window, CSS in another, and a live preview in the third. Thank you, Large Screen Gods, for giving us what we pray for.
#5 – ColorSchemer Studio 2: This amazing little app was on every Mac in all the offices. Color freaks love their color tools and ColorSchemer Studio was one of a number, but seemed to be the one most used.
If you can’t carry a color tune in a bucket but need colors to harmonize, this does it. Create and save palettes, match color harmonies, pull from a million pre-developed color schemes, even pull color palettes from photos or images.
#4 – xScope: Every designer on a Mac also had xScope, whether print or web. xScope is a palette of designer tools, seven in all, that float above everything else on your screen or in the Menubar.
Click to get the dimensions of any graphic object. Click to get on-screen horizontal and vertical rulers. Click to magnify with the built-in Loupe. There are Guides, Frames, Crosshair, and various sized Screens that overlay on your Mac screen to check sizes.
#3 -The Hit List: This one surprised me, but all but a few of my designers swore by it. The Hit List isn’t much about graphics at all. It’s an app that makes lists.
Think of it as a more graphical version of Things. The Hit List helps you keep track of lists, to-do items, small projects, and comes with a built-in timer, and scheduler. Our creative folks need these functions, too. The biggest complaint for some was a lack of an iPhone version.
#2 – FileChute: I’m proud to say that I had a hand in getting FileChute into the hands of our designers. They don’t work in the same office, yet need to share files and images. FileChute is drag and drop.
Drag a file onto FileChute and it uploads it to a server, and creates a link to the file, and creates the email message with the link so you can send it to whomever. After so many days, the built-in scheduler will delete the file and the link. It even archives (zips up) multiple files and folders. Destinations can be preset so there’s no thinking, just dragging.
#1 – GraphicConverter: Not surprising at all, GraphicConverter was on every Mac among our designer staff, and on other Mac’s too. It’s the graphic tool everyone wants, and some love to hate. But it reads and converts and saves to about every graphic file format on the planet and everyone has used it for years, so support is minimal. I like that.
That’s the Top 8. What did I miss? Do you have a special non-Adobe graphic designers tool that should be in the Top 10? There’s two slots open. Share your priceless gem in the Comments section. It’s open 24/7.