By The Creative Anthology Staff
Over Our decade of entrepreneurial experience, we’ve discovered that there are a lot of similarities between a business and a house.
Unfortunately, for every amazingly helpful hint or internet based implement we find a place for in our well-used digital toolbox, there’s at least seven snake-oil simplifiers that we wish we could return.
Both can take a long time to build and become an intrinsic part of our everyday lives, both will break your budget and your heart when you realize your once solid foundation has started to shift, and both are fragile structures that, though beautiful, are only as good as the tools you’ve used to build them.
From communication to automation, we’ve used more business building tools over the course of our careers than most people realize exist.
Unfortunately, for every amazingly helpful hint or internet based implement we find a place for in our well-used digital toolbox, there’s at least seven snake-oil simplifiers that we wish we could return, broke right after opening, or have never even been taken out of the box.
Overly thorough and incredibly hard fought, this is the actual list of tools that we have used in the past, continue to use currently, or have done extensive research on and would use, to build, maintain, and grow our own lovely company.
If for some reason one of the tools we recommend gets replaced in our digital arsenal with a more efficient or less expensive version, we will update the list accordingly, send out an email to our subscribers, and continue to strengthen the foundation of the beautiful companies we know and love.
This List is Checked Quarterly to maintain accuracy, stylishness, and maximum badassery.
The Creative Anthology Mission: It is our mission to provide you with a thorough and well-researched list of tools that come personally recommended by The Creative Anthology Team. We put a lot of time into finding the right tools and sites that we hope you’ll love and we promise to only publish opinions we fully support and believe in. Some of the Links we publish are affiliate links to the advertisers and sponsors that make this site possible by providing us a small commission at no additional cost to you, so please use our links to show your continued support for the site you Know and Love. ♥
Here are the tools we find Essential in running a Stylish, Profitable, & Well Organized Business
Email Management Tools
Social Media Tools
Tech Bags & Accessories
The Life Force
Feminine Flatlay Photography - With the use of Feminine Props, carefully chosen arrangements, and a variety of hand-curated color palettes, when it comes to feminine flatlay, we’ve got everything you need to give your brand the flair it deserves.
Google Cloud Services - After trying just about every hosting service out there, (Swear) we finally settled on Google Cloud Services, an all in one content delivery, hosting, processing, and everything you have ever wanted a computer to do but were too afraid to ask system. (Including a few things you never even realized that you wanted your computer to do.) If you don't have your own tech team, you will need to subscribe to their support program since having GCS is a lot like getting a crate of servers dumped on your lawn sans instruction manuals, but with a little sysadmin know-how (and/or a little time on Stack Overflow) it’s not too difficult to get your very own virtual server up and running. As an added bonus, having access to all those tools has made scaling and customizing our sites far easier than it was with just about any other hosting we’ve ever used.
AWS - While we did settle on Google Cloud Services as our primary host, in a race where both AWS and GCS were the only participants to even qualify for the competition, Amazon’s AWS was an extremely close second and a genuinely valid option for any thriving online business. Which option you go with really depends on what your specific needs are, and with a free trial period available for both, we wholeheartedly recommend giving them a whirl before settling on either one permanently. Having experienced both, we can safely say that either option you choose is going to put you light years ahead of anything else on the market in terms of usability and Parsecs ahead of the curve in terms of Customer Service and Uptime.
Bluehost - Okay, so we’re definitely still bitter about that time a little company we’ll just refer to as “Start Lizard” ripped down our entire suite of sites rather than the one site we asked them to remove (don’t worry, they left that one up…), covertly charged our company card without permission to put the sites back up, and then left us on hold for SEVERAL HOURS when we called to have the charge removed, but Seriously Though, if you are on any of the well-known discount hosting services that prey on the newbies of the net, backup your site, pull up the nearest web browser, and GYST with Bluehost before it's too late. We used Bluehost for many years and found that if you absolutely cannot and will not touch the tech side of things, they are about the most user-friendly way to get your site started in about 10 or so minutes, with about 8 or so clicks.
WordPress - If you’re looking for a site with all of the bells and whistles but your business bank account isn’t exactly booming, then WordPress might just be your jam. Just about everything we make is crafted on the King of WYSIWYG’s and with over 74 Million sites and counting powered by the blogging behemoth, the internet seems to agree.
Shopify - Don’t get us wrong, WordPress works great for building sites and blogs but, when it comes to the world of ECommerce it tends to leave something to be desired (unfortunately, that something is usually speed, security, and usability). We’ve tried building a store with just Woo-Commerce, and while we 100% Recommend it if you are building a shop that is SOLELY made out of Affiliate products OR that uses a third party payment gateway like PayPal, if you’re looking to build a shop that has a multitude of products that you will be shipping or if you want to securely process payments on your own site, we highly suggest that you go-to a WYSIWYG that will allow you to customize more of the actual shopping experience without needing a strong coding background.
Express - For Node.js developers under an extremely tight time crunch, leaving little room for learning a whole new programming language. True to its name, when it comes to firing up a new Node.js server, Express is about the fastest way we’ve found to go from blank template to running website. Fast, lightweight, and unopinionated (express is super flexible and open to just about any data design, unlike some frameworks we could name *Cough* Rails *Cough*), we prefer to use it to skip the low-level resource management whenever we get the chance.
Genesis - Before we started working with the Genesis framework we followed the more Traditional WordPress theme development workflow: Build a theme base, add in fine details, squash all the bugs, install it in production, update WordPress, weep quietly in the corner when the only thing your theme returns after the update is a 500 error because half the functions you used have become deprecated and are no longer supported. We found the endless cycle of development to be more than a little frustrating, so we jumped ship to Genesis, turning over the worry of compensating for core package updates to the experts leaving our dev team free to focus on the more important parts of the project, getting donuts and putting in the pretty stuff.
.Net Framework - When it comes to speeding up the dev process, Our go-to solution for years was to reach for any of the numerous .Net libraries available. While our more recent projects haven’t made use of any .Net languages, it’s still a great tool to have in your hip pocket.
Blu Chic - When it comes to blogging, we’ve found that it’s not enough to just slap up a new site like a disinterested teenager turning in some half-finished homework, readers tend to appreciate it if your site “looks nice” and “is actually readable”, and that means having a bomb ass theme. While many of all of Our sites' themes are custom made in-house, If you aren’t technically inclined, or need somewhere to start with your customizations, we’ve found that Blu Chic’s themes are beautifully feminine, and offer a great solution until you’re big enough to have a custom template built.
Akismet - For as long as we’ve been making sites on Wordpress, we’ve been using Akismet to keep the spammers at bay. This plugin provides quick and easy protection from spam, and is completely automated, meaning that we don’t have to take time out of our days for the tedious task of filtering out nonsense comments from our blogs.
Yoast SEO - Yoast is the quickest, and easiest way to set up a system for SEO on Wordpress based blogs. It automates a lot of the more tedious parts of SEO and offers a somewhat set it and forget it option for most of our metadata needs.
CommentLuv - The quick and easy way to draw in commenters from other blogs while adding extra links to your pages, we’ve used CommentLuv for years on nearly every site we’ve produced. Automatically pulling the commenters latest blog post, giving them an incentive to comment and you a higher likelihood that they will leave a comment, we love using it for our new blogs that need a quick comment surge in a well-read, but not highly engaged niche.
WordPress Editorial Calendar - Scheduling can be a rough game for bloggers, and while paper might work when you’re small, when you have multiple blogs running at once, a posted post-it of posts just isn’t going to do the trick. Having our editorial calendar attached to our blog made sense at the time, and has been a boon ever since.
Click to Tweet - We’ve been using click to tweet for the last few years to increase social shares for our posts. The plugin lets us quickly create tweetable blurbs embedded within our articles so that we can highlight our favorite passages and make them easily shareable for our readers. While we don’t use the plugin anymore due to Twitter’s dwindling popularity, its a great option if you’re in a Twitter-heavy Niche.
WP to Twitter - A few years back we decided to look into automation tools to cut down on the amount of time that we were spending pushing new posts out to social media. For Twitter, we found WP to Twitter, a simple to use, super lightweight plugin the automatically pushes all of our latest posts titles and excerpts, and since then we’ve made sure that it was installed on every site we worked on. It’s a great way to fill up your feed without having to actually visit Twitter.
Pinterest Automatic - We’ve had this handy automatic Pinterest pusher for a couple of years now, and we don’t know what we’d do without it. Automatically posting all the images out of a post to Pinterest when it publishes, this plugin is a huge timesaver and one of our favorite ways to stay active on social media.
Heartbeat Control - As content management systems go, we’re pretty big fans of Wordpress, but if there was one tiny issue we would take with it, it’s that it sometimes freezes solid and eats 4 hours worth of work. Sick of slow load times and out of nowhere crashes, we decided that it might be time to cut back on some of the more resource intensive functions of Wordpress, namely, the Heartbeat. This slick little plugin lets us turn the heartbeat process on or off at will, ironically enough keeping our WordPress from dieing right in the middle of writing an article.
WooCommerce - While on the hunt for a solution to a store building issue in WordPress we came across a young WooCommerce only a couple of years out from its initial release. While we ended up going with a different solution to that particular problem, we were impressed enough to watch it grow into the staple of WordPress blogs that it is today and even include it on a few of our other sites.
Email Management Tools
MailChimp - Our Newsletter management tool of choice, MailChimp was one of the first mass mailers we used, and while we’ve given a few others a try since then, we’ve found that there just aren’t any options out there that we enjoy quite as much. Easy to use (and there are a million plugins out there to integrate MailChimp with WYSYWG of choice), with a built-in editor that’s saved us hours of frustration in designing and building newsletters and opt-in forms, MailChimp get’s our approval (plus their mascot is a Monkey in a hat, you just can’t beat that.)
Gmail - Most of us have had personal email through Gmail for years (it’s the biggest email provider in the world at this point so it’s tough to find someone who hasn’t), but once we started using Google Drive for cloud storage, not using Gmail for our email would have been a bizarre misstep.
Live - While we don’t currently use Microsoft’s services for our corporate emails, many of us have used it for our personal emails at one point or another (especially if you count the early days when it was split between Outlook and Hotmail.) It’s about the oldest running, large scale, free email platform out there so it’s been pretty ubiquitous in most of our lives since we were extremely young. It's not our go-to email client or even the 2nd in line, but much like a boring slice of pizza when your hungry and need something now, if you’re in need of a tool that will, strictly speaking, get the job done, Live Mail will more than fit the bill.
Dropbox - While Google Drive might be our go-to for storage, it’s definitely not a “one size fits all” solution, and everyone has differing opinions on the best way to keep our files with us when we’re not in the office. Google Drive is great for making and sharing files while Dropbox is better for Sharing already made files that are not currently created on the Google Drive Framework. Some of our team members prefer to use Dropbox over Google Drive for storing files like Photoshop Documents or Video Clips that need to be shared with a group or re-edited after upload, which has given rise to many hours of annoying debate over which Cloud Storage service is actually the best option.
Google Drive - We Practically run our entire company through Google Drive, from organization to communication and just about everything in between. Aside from the storage (which we’ve crammed full of our own personal stash of stock photos), the GSuite tools that come with Drive make for an awesome replacement when you don’t have “Access” to the ridiculously expensive Microsoft Office. Additionally, because it’s literally with us everywhere we go (you can put it on a phone, you can use it while eating a scone..) we can reach all of our hard-fought “work stuff” even when someone forgot their laptop at home.
Alexa Ranking - We love statistics, and findindg out how we stack up in comparison to our competition is something we’ll always be interested in. We use our Alexa Rank to measure our standings against our competitors to see how our site ranks in the eyes of Amazon (the current Owners of the Alexa Company) and the world. Alexa rankings are a measurement of several key stats that indicate the overall traffic flow that your site is receiving. A 3 month aggregate of key statistics is tracked letting you see everything from what keywords your readers searched to find your site, to how long they’ve spent on your site on average, and how effective your SEO is for the keywords that are being used to find you.
Google Analytics - Early on, we found out that there are basically two approaches to analytics and reporting, the option where we pay an exorbitant fee to an outside analytics company to provide us with a detailed lists who’s visiting our site and how they’re getting there, or we could install Google Analytics on our sites and get the exact same information free of charge. We chose Google, so should you.
BuzzSumo - We’re nothing if not fans of analytics, so we’ll line up to see just about any source of new data we can use to determine the best direction for our blogs. BuzzSumo offers up a resource to get info on keyword sharing, statistics on social media engagement with individual sites or articles, and info on the latest social media trends.
Social Media Tools
Tailwind - Thinking about being super active on social media is a ton of fun. Actually taking the time to build an audience, create unique content, and keep up with the latest hashtags and trends on each social media platform, however, is super not fun. If there’s one thing that running multiple blogs, businesses, and websites has taught us, it’s that social media can quickly go from a fun way to relax to a soul-crushing daily grind that consumes all of your free time and most of your soul. (I cry more than I laugh now.) Social Media Automation is imperative to the success of your business, your social profiles, and your sanity. Enter, Tailwind. Their almost magical ability to schedule a bajillion Pins in like a nanosecond and their super neato analytics tools make this social media savior, our champion for both Pinterest & Instagram.
Repost - Ever the fans of automation (even if it is just taking out a few steps in the process, it’s still time saved), and annoyed by the lack of an easy repost system on IG, we found an app that would take the tedium out of copying photos and attributing them properly when resharing.
Social Pilot - After experiencing the automation prowess of the Ninjas, we went on the hunt for other tools to keep us further from the drudgery of social media management. Though we went through the process of testing dozens of tools (and oh what a process it was), the next to really stand out in our minds was SocialPilot, a scheduling system that worked with all of the major social media networks we regularly used (and several we didn’t regularly use at the time). We are nothing if not fans of making a solid schedule, so having the ability to create a cross-platform post plan is exactly what we want in our automation tools.
Planoly - Instagram is such a visual platform, it needs to be perfect every time. Sometimes, however, it can be hard to mentally visualize what photo is going to look good next to another photo. Being the organization loving control freaks we are, we set out for a solution and found one in the well recommended Planoly. It enabled us to see how all potential posts will look in our feed BEFORE publishing and let’s us get most of our post planning for the month out of the way all at once. Plluuuss There’s a free version with less importable photos that’s the perfect size for small accounts.
CoSchedule - With direct blog integration if you’re on Wordpress, and being able to handle multiple platforms in a single place, CoSchedule has become our modern day Mass Planner for Social Media Management.
Ninja Pinner - An absolutely essential tool if you’re looking to automate Pinterest account for business, Ninja Pinner has been our go-to tool for Pinterest automation since we first started blogging.
Ninjagram - Just as helpful as Ninja Pinner, but built for the gram, this simple to use tool has enabled us to automate growth of our Instagram accounts to focus on more important things.
PageSpeed Insight - Optimization and Cross-platform compatibility are two of the least fun tasks when making any web application, so when the two get combined together, the headache it causes can be enough to drive you to join a Tibetan monastery just to never have to see another website in your life. Thankfully for our sanity’s sake, PageSpeed Insight from Google gives a simple and actionable list of steps to get your pages up to top speed across all platforms that we can follow to save a little testing time and hassle.
Photoshop - After years of using paint and paint.net as our primary digital design systems, we finally decided that the time had come to switch from something outdated and underpowered to something a little more professional. While shopping around we were surprised to find that, unlike older versions of Photoshop, the latest release platform can be purchased on a monthly subscription plan rather than all at once, allowing us to avoid paying an arm, leg, and first born child for the ability to edit photos like experts. When we jumped in, it was initially a little disorienting, but it didn't take long for us to get comfortable with the new tools and largely retire our old editing software. If you're looking to not only maintain a professional looking blog, but build a long standing monetizable brand, Photoshop is a non negotiable, must-have editing tool.
Ripl - Getting social media posts that have professional branding rather than a watermark that looks like it was slapped on in paint isn’t easy. There’s a long road from amateur to professional, so grab up any shortcuts you can take along the way to save a little time and start off on the right foot. Ripl offers an amazingly effective way to create Canva style images with animated features, allowing you to quickly take your social media ads to the next level.
Paint.net - When we first started getting into the process of making professional images and assets, we quickly found that we liked the power of Photoshop, but were also fans of actually understanding how to use our programs without 4 years of art school and a week with an instruction manual. Marrying functionality with a clean and intuitive interface, Paint.net was our one-time favorite photo editor before we finally took the leap to learn more about professional level editing.
GIMP - Having tried just about every free graphic design tool out there, we’ve come across our fair share of the good, the bad, and the just plain unusable. Thankfully for us, GIMP fell firmly into the good category, and while it’s control scheme may not be quite as intuitive as say paint.net (or paint if you absolutely must), it makes up for it by offering many of the same features that Photoshop has, and a great community willing to help us learn and grow our talents.
WordSwag - Pinterest and Instagram are both loaded with images of quotes, sayings, and inspirational text superimposed over photos, and while a graphic designer with access to high level tools can quickly create dozens of stunning photos in this style, not everyone has access to fancy tools or incredible designers. WordSwag offers a quick and easy way to get social media ready pics, making it ideal for the newly minted blogger looking to make a big impact.
PicMonkey - We Initially grabbed PicMonkey when we needed a photo editor that could be learned quickly with a simple control scheme, and were delighted to learn that it also carries a highly useful suite of retouching tools (a surprise in a pre-FaceTune world where Instagram photo editing wasn't nearly as common). While it may lack the raw power that Photoshop has, PicMonkey does give an option with a bit more precision than Paint, without the complex interface of Photoshop.
Facetune 2 - As soon as we heard of Facetune we instantly dove on our phones to figure out what the heck a it was. The hills were alive with the sound of editing every photo we could get our hands on. We quickly upgraded to the pro version for a couple of dollars so that we could have access to a wider range of their tools, and have never looked back. This is a must-have tool for editing mobile photos on the go for both business and personal use.
Snapseed - While Instagram filters may be great, there’s only so much you can do with preset options. While we personally don’t use snapseed, preferring photoshop’s plethora of options, we were impressed by the number of professional-level features on offer in its repertoire of retouching tricks.
Canva - While we have an in-house team that takes care of all of our graphic design needs, some of us who are less technically inclined do on occasion use lower power but higher editing speed tools like Canva. While it may not have the raw power that Photoshop has, the simple interface is definitely more approachable for novice designers, and the ability to collaborate on editing is a plus for this free tool.
Google My Business App - Responding to reviews, making on the go edits to our hours of operation, changing our contact info on google, and posting to our listing is made so much simpler with the addition of this app. Handy for on the go and in the office, it's a must download essential to anyone who owns a brick and mortar and needs to stay up to date.
Google Earth - While many people know Google Earth for its outstanding GPS functionality, if you’re a business owner it can do a lot more for you than simply get you from point A to point B without getting lost. We use Google Earth to take a quick 360 degree set of shots of the interior of our business. Earth then stitches these shots together into a full, surround shot of the interior of your building, allowing prospective clients to step into your business before they even head out the door to visit.
StackOverflow - Whenever our dev team runs into a coding conundrum, StackOverflow is the first place they search for possible cause. The Stack Overflow Network represents one of the largest online repositories of knowledge about programming, computers, and all things nerdy on the internet (and one of the largest repositories of confusing and pointless arguments about code readability), making it our best resource for crushing those last minute launch day bugs you didn’t expect to pop up.
Khan Academy - Their Programming course is a must do for newbies trying to understand the basics of web design and their entrepreneur section is great for morning motivation.
Audible - Whether it’s on the go, in the home, or just in need of a little motivation before meetings, we’re big fans of audiobooks. Getting our daily dose of education without having to try and squeeze more time out of our already packed schedule makes Audible one of our favorite apps for both business and pleasure.
Share-a-Sale - Share-A-Sale was our very first affiliate network, and to this day is one of our longest-running and most profitable ways of monetization. We’ve been with them since near the inception of our very first website, and have seen their tools grow right alongside our own sites. From the beginning we were impressed by how easy they were to use, the fact that they gave us importable CSV files to quickly load up all of our affiliate products (if you’ve never experienced the absolute joy of manually adding 50k products to a website, our advice would be don’t.), and just how comprehensive their affiliate catalog was. They were definitely our first love in the affiliate game, and though there may have been a few hiccups in the road since then, they’re still easily our favorite affiliate network.
Amazon Affiliates - Amazon, is, without a doubt, the single largest online retailer in the US with enough sales each year to dwarf the GDPs of many developing nations, so when we found out that we had the option to jump on board with one of our favorite industry titans there was no way we weren’t applying. Given how much we use Amazon, both for our businesses, and for personal purchases, and the fact that Amazon offers just about everything that can be purchased, getting involved with their affiliate program was an absolute must do.
CJ - While Share-A-Sale may have captured our hearts, CJ was a close runner-up, and is still one of our absolute favorites. Initially getting everything up and running with CJ felt a little like being in a foreign country, all of the same appliances are present, but it’s kinda tough to tell if this thing is a dishwasher or trash compactor. Despite some mild confusion on our part in the beginning, once we got our feet wet and got with the program, we found that all of the features that we knew and loved were available to us, as well as some extra bonuses, like a deep link generator, and a system that sends out importable CVS by FTP ASAP.
eBay Enterprise Affiliate Network - eBay is one of the largest online retailers in the world, so having access to their entire backlog of products gives you plenty of stock to choose from when it comes time to select affiliate products to push.
Awin - Awin was a later addition to our affiliate networks, and though we didn’t find it until later in our blogging careers, they have been a very solid addition to our affiliate options. Their tools are impressive, they make grabbing affiliate links easy and we’ve never had any major issues with Awin. Their recent acquisition of Share A Sale means that we’ll most likely be working more closely with them in the near future, a prospect we are greatly looking forward to.
Rakuten Linkshare - Rakuten was another latecomer to our group of affiliate networks, they have so far proved to be a solidly dependable player with a track record of proven success, and the right tools to help us build our online stores. We’ve been using Rakuten in a limited capacity for a few years, and have so far been delighted by their ease of use.
ShopStyle Collective - Monetization is one of the biggest challenges that any blogger will face. Having a great affiliate program on your side with access to some stylish brands rather than more bland products can really make life easier when it comes time to monetizing. Style Collective is one such program, offering a myriad of options for the fashion bloggers looking to keep their recommendations on the cutting edge. Thanks to their opulent offerings, Shop Style Collective has become a necessity for any budding fashion blogger’s collection of monetization sources.
Adsense - We've been using Adsense since our earliest days blogging back in 2009. It is to our advertisements what Shareasale is to our affiliate marketing. They have been one of our stalwart cornerstones of monetization since day one, and there no end in sight now.
Employee Laptops - We use these as our standard issue laptops for employees because they are so inexpensive that in the event someone forgets they are holding a valuable piece of technology and gets it stolen because they “put it down to go urinate at a Mcdonalds” (True Story, I kid you not…) we won’t need to spend a full quarter’s profit and take away donut day just to make up for the loss.
Google Assistant - Similar to Alexa, we got the Google Home Assistant in a bid to try out all of the latest and greatest tech. Today, our Google Assistant is still around, and still fills several gaps inconveniently left by Alexa. Unlike its Amazon made competitor it can cast to our Chromecasts, an ability sadly lacked by the Echo due to Google and Amazon’s ongoing feud.
Philips Hue Bulbs And Hub - Once we got our smart assistants the next step in teching out the office was the bulbs to go with them. At this point it’s pretty rare to find a bulb we haven’t swapped out for the ease and convenience of being able to turn lights on and off in our business, even when we’re at home.
TP-Link Smart Plug - Sadly, not everything can be wired to our smart assistants like our lights can (we have yet to see an Alexa activated wax melter) but, connecting just about everything with smart plugs was just one more way to introduce a little more simplicity into our otherwise hectic lives, and these clever little switches allow us to tech out even the previously untechable.
I-Phone - From the old Mac computers to the iPod, and all the way up through each new generation of the iPhone, Apple has always lead the market in terms of innovation, and their recent entries into the mobile phone market are no exception. From communication and social media management on the go to compliance and compatibility, Apple's phones have always been our go-to mobile devices.
Qapital -Whether you’re a staunch saver or a speedy spender, this super convenient app allows you to put a photo and a name with mini savings accounts to better visualize the goals that you’re headed for. We use it both for business and personal use and can honestly say, that it genuinely makes saving more fun and accessible to even the most spend prone people.
Tech Bags & Accessories
Cellphone Shower Bag - We absolutely love this bag for watching motivational videos and Business Youtubers During our Morning Showers. It's perfect to hang on a well-secured hook and it has never let a single drop of water in. If you have the longest of long nails though (we’re talking Extra Long Stiletto nails here ♥) it can be hard to open the wet bag to remove the phone without potentially damaging your polish.
Waterproof Notepad and Pencil for the Shower - While we realize that everyone has their own level of dedication to the job, this notepad and pencil allow us to take ours to that still cool but verging on crazy level, somewhere between the extreme lifelessness of literally living in the office with naught but a futon and a coffee maker to call home, and the more practical but still wildly Career-centric practice of having a stack of pillows and throws in a basket in case we need to take a nap while working late hours for the fourth time that week. Even if you’re not looking to write an entire blog post while you wait for your conditioner to set in, it’s still super useful for those one-off moments where you want to remember a thought you’ve just had and don’t want to track shower water all over the clean bathroom floor.
Ikea - Inexpensive, stylish, and modular with our needs, Ikea is one of our main go-to’s for Office, and Salon Decor.
Sublime Text - Our programing team have been using Sublime for a long time, and offer it as their number one recommendation for anyone looking for a lightweight IDE.
MySQL Workbench - MySQL is pretty much the programming gold standard for free SQL servers, and is the storage medium for a ton of different architectures (most notably for us, WordPress). Not all of us are happy tapping out lines in a command line environment, so we like to keep something on hand to keep the visual learners among us happy.
Eclipse - Like a little brother tagging along in Visual Studio’s wake, Eclipse shares a ton of the same features, but has a far greater focus on Open Source software. Given how much we use Wordpress, having a tool on hand with a PHP focus is completely necessary and we fully recommend Eclipse as that tool.
IIS - Our team has found that web servers in general can be a complete pain, and while we have yet to find that perfect server (we’re still keeping our fingers crossed) IIS at least took a lot of the pain out of the process. While we don’t currently have any .Net based sites to host, when we do, you can bet we’ll be right back on IIS.
Notepad ++ - Our dev teams secondary "goto", ++ has a few features that our they just can’t live without.
PuTTy - PuTTy didn’t see much use from us until we switch over to GCS (we didn’t have an SSH connection for our previous hosts, a huge red flag by the way), but now that we’ve got back full control it’s nice to have a quick way to make edits and control our server from afar.
TFS - Microsoft’s answer to GIT and SVN, Team Foundation Server served as a valuable way to fix many of the issues he wan into when first getting into web development.
VirtualBox - Any seasoned web designer can tell you exactly how much of a massive pain in the A** cross platform compatibility is, so any tools that can help along the way are always appreciated.
Filezilla - This simple tool has been a part of our team’s standard development kit for years. We love the speed and simplicity, and it’s tough to beat a price tag of free.
MSSQL Server - While we don’t currently have any applications making use of Microsoft’s particular flavor of SQL our past experiences have all been positive, and the suite of management tools left us far more comfortable than a command line.
Microsoft Visual Studio - Basically the king of IDEs, Visual Studio is our one stop shop to start up just about any new non-wordpress based projects that we work on.
SVN - We used to make fairly extensive use of SVN for our source control needs, but over time, we switched out to GIT for portability reasons. If you’re in a more fixed office environment, however, SVN gets a recommendation from us.
MongoDB - We always like to make sure that we’re on top of the latest software trends and developments, so with the newest dev practices tending towards NoSQL environments we got fairly interested in MongoDB as an alternative to MySQL. We’ve yet to fully integrate it with any of our projects but have enjoyed what we have done with it so far including hooking it up with Node.js environments and creating a PHP adapter wrapper for it.
GIT - Moving files around and long-term storage has been the subject of more office debates than we would care to admit, and our dev team is always passionate about using GIT (yes, we knows it’s for source control, but that hasn’t stopped us from using it for a whole manner of other not intended, but still handy things.)
GoToWebinar App - Setting up a live session for a class or course is no easy task, even in today’s world where streaming media is the new norm, so any extra help we can get to simplify things is always a worthwhile addition to our toolboxes.
Square - Right before a major trade show we found ourselves in need of a payment system we could take with us that would let us process credit cards. A quick trip to the store netted us a Square reader, and, impressed with its performance, it became a payment taking staple of ours for a long time. Today, while we no longer use it as our primary, it still has a home iwith us to make sure that we can take cards in times of technical difficulties.
Clover - The newer of our two payment systems, we opted to grab a full clover station to give our busineesses registers and card readers that look modern and professional. While we were surprised at the outrageous cost of this system and the ongoing fees it sticks you with, functionally, it has been a Godsend to keep track of day to day business dealings like employee clock in/clock outs.
Fiverr - When running not just one, but several blogs, time is definitely at a premium, and good help is hard to come by. We use Fiverr to get some freelance help with the tedious little things that take up to much of our teams time to make it worthwhile. For a few bucks, we can take something off of our plates, giving us time back to work on the things that really matter.
Living Social - The more savings options the merrier as far as we’re concerned, especially for something as expensive as travel. Gathering round before we book to pick out the best deals is a huge tradition for us, and with its myriad of hotel options and incredibly cheap travel deals, Living Social is our Top Choice for Travel Stays.
Kayak - We love a deal, and we love to travel, so anything that combines the two is totally our cup of tea. When deal sites are coming up empty, Kayak is our one-stop shop to get our travel plans started up right.
AAA - If you’ve never broken down halfway between your home city and where you’re going, count yourself lucky. There are few feelings worse in our opinion than blowing a tire in the middle of nowhere with the knowledge that the tow costs alone are going to be astronomical. While it’s still not fun, knowing that we’re AAA covered takes some of the edge off of the stress of traveling and when all else fails in our discount digging ways, AAA usually yields a small discount at any major hotel locally or across the U.S.
Groupon - Travel Gets Real Pricey, real fast, especially when you’re traveling as a company. Footing the bill for multiple hotel rooms, meals, and getting to and from your destination can be agonizing, so anything we can do to stave off some of those outrageous costs is right up our alley in terms of tools. Groupon is perfect for finding meal and activity deals during travel stays away, and has lead to some of our favorite group memories in terms of travel finds.
The Life Force
Keurig & Accessories - For us, being business owners often means long nights and early mornings, and that means coffee. Like by the gallon. While there’s no such thing as terrible coffee, (I mean, even the worst still wakes you up…) we’ve all definitely got our preferences in terms of both major chains and individual cups. The ability to make a quick cup whenever we want, of the exact flavor we want, means that while those all-nighters might still be stressful, but at least we’ll be able to make the most of them.