I recommend the tools I use the most

I often find myself talking to colleagues, fellow developers or friends who would like to start doing work similar to what I do and I tend to tell them: you should use this or that tool, it's the best! 

They don't always agree and of course preference is a personal and varied thing, but nonetheless, that doesn't stop me from recommending my favourite tools and platforms.

I've spent quite a few years finding these, learning how to use them and how to best apply them to my work. They may not work the same way for you, but give them a try anyway.

Quite a few of these have been recommended to me by my friends too, so I am paying it forward now - here they are, grouped together for your convenience. If you find something useful, enjoy! If you have questions, let me know. Please note that some of these may be affiliate links and if you end up buying or subscribing to some of them, I might receive a small commission - at no extra cost to you.

Programming and development software


Microsoft Visual Studio

Not a minute goes by that I don't have this development environment running. Because I develop .NET websites and applications, it is indispensable and I wouldn't be seen without it. It used to cost a lot of money but now the 'Community' edition is free, so code away!

Microsoft Visual Studio icon

Redgate SQL Toolbelt

If you do any SQL Server database development and you need to deploy or maintain database schemas across databases or servers, this is your tool! In fact, it's a bunch of tools - a database schema compare, static data compare, source control and much more. In maintaining the CCIDesq database structure on more than 50 websites - this software has saved me tons and tons of hours!

Redgate software logo

 

Maintenance, synchronisation and other utilities


SyncBack Pro

This must be the best synchronisation and backup tool I've ever found. I use it to synchronise websites to all of my servers, backup all of the websites from my servers and vice-versa. It works with FTP, network drives, cloud storage (Amazon S3, Azure, etc.), back and forth, unattended, automated, and has so many options and customisations, in all the years I've used it I have not exhausted everything it can do. And they update it so often it's annoying! They also have a free version that should take care of a lot of the tasks before you need the Pro one. If you've never used this, you really are missing out!

SyncBack logo

Try SyncBack Pro

 

Graphics, design and multimedia tools


Xara Designer Pro X

Absolutely each and every graphic design project I do starts in Xara - whether it's a logo, a website layout, a brochure, some illustration or even a quick sketch or concept - is first drawn in Xara. There are a few different variants and the software has evolved a lot over the years. I've started using it about 20 years or more ago (back when it belonged to Corel and it was called 'Corel Xara'). If you can, I recommend you get 'Xara Designer Pro X' - it has everything and it's so easy to use - sometimes it feels like I'm wearing a glove - it's so easy to design with it.

Xara Designer Pro X graphic

Try Xara

Camtasia Studio

The best screen capture tool for PC you could ask for, period. Records your screen smoothly (even from a retina display), and then the editing tools for cutting, moving, splicing your video and audio are fantastic and quite similar to those found in Adobe's Premiere. 

Whether you need it for a quick tutorial, walkthrough or for longer sessions, it works first try and when it comes to exporting, the video size is unbelievably small. Includes YouTube uploader, exporting to local disk and more.

After trying various free and not so free screen capture tools, some of which don't record properly, make the mouse cursor jump or indicate the wrong screen region, don't do audio or work with exotic formats, I've settled on Camtasia Studio.

Camtasia Studio Logo

Try Camtasia

Marketing, social media, promotion services


ConvertKit

ConvertKit is an email marketing service that is as powerful as it is simple to use. It allows you to create email lists your website visitors or customers can subscribe to and then send them messages, create powerful tags, segmentations and automate your entire email marketing.

I guess the word you want is 'uncluttered' - I've deployed it for several clients and at the moment I am busy integrating its powerful API into my own Content Management System (CCIDesq). 

It shines at simplicity and automation - it was primarily built for professional bloggers - but once you scratch the surface and discover the capabilities for tagging, categorising, automating e-mails, dynamic subscribe and unsubscribe and more, you will find it's no toy! Read my ConvertKit review and try it FREE for 14 days.

ConvertKit logo

 Try ConvertKit

Web hosting and optimisation


Bluehost

One of the most popular web hosts out there, particularly for Wordpress designers. Recommended by most bloggers, they consistently have low prices and great value: free domain, free SSL certificates, 1-click installation of Wordpress and 24/7 support.

Bluehost logo

 Try Bluehost

Cloudways

When I need to host some Wordpress websites, I sometimes use Cloudways. This is not a shared hosting account! I like the quick new virtual server provisioning with many datacenters and Wordpress preinstalled, as well as the ease of scaling up when I need it. Combine that with setting up multiple Wordpress installations on the same virtual server and free SSL certificate installed with 1 click!

Cloudways logo

 Try Cloudways

Email services


G Suite

When I need to add email to any domain, I almost exclusively use Google's G Suite. It's like Gmail but for business - you can use your own domain name for emails and you get 30Gb of space plus everything else that's included (online word processing, spreadsheets, etc.).

You can get a free 14-day trial here.

G Suite logo

Try G Suite