We all have our little private toolboxes. A set of services, plugins, and tools we use every day. They are far from perfect, but if we use something every day it can’t be all that bad, right?
This post is not sponsored in any way. I don’t know the creators of any of the mentioned tools nor are any links affiliate ones. I genuinely use these tools every day, and they help me save time, money and sanity. What’s also important to note is that I’ve tried their alternatives, I’ve gone through most of the tools out there, both free and paid, and I choose the ones I use. So they didn’t materialize in my bookmarks by accident. If you hate them or know of better ones – perfect, leave a comment down below and let me know. I’ve left a lot of tools out to keep the article at a reasonable length and because I thought everyone uses them already. An example? Bootstrap. Please note – the list is not sorted in any way.
I don’t know the creators of any of the mentioned tools nor are any links affiliate ones. I genuinely use these tools every day and pay for most.
Unsplash – massive repository of hi-quality photographs
I’m sure you already heard about Unsplash. It never hearts to repeat they host over 700,000 “do what you want” images from over 100,000 photographers. No registration is needed. Open the site; search for the image; click download – you’re done. The user experience is better than what you can see on most paid-for stock image sites. If you’re still using Google Images and risking massive lawsuits for using unlicensed images – stop. Unsplash is a better replacement.
All photographs on this site came from Unsplash. Each time I needed a featured image I was able to find one on Unsplash in minutes.
unDraw – repository of free vector illustrations
If Unsplash sounds unreal (for offering that many free images), unDraw will have your draw dropping too. A single person created nearly 500 SVG illustrations you can use for free. That on its own is great, but once you realize you can recolor them on-the-fly, you’ll stop using all other illustration sources. Only “problem” with this site is that you’ll soon see that many WP theme designers use their illustrations so you’ll start looking at themes in a different light.
Regular Expressions 101 – regular expression builder, debugger & tester
Without this site, I’d be a dead man. It’s a godsend! Regular expressions are a nightmare to debug in any language. I’m pretty sure the author of this tool knows that more than well. He probably got frustrated at some point and decided to build this comprehensive regular expression debugger and tester. Trust me, if you ever touch anything related to regular expressions you simply must bookmark this tool. It’s everything a developer can dream about when it comes to working with regular expressions, in any language.
Noun Project – a repository of over a million icons
I can already hear you saying: “But I don’t need any icons. What am I gonna do with icons?” I too most often use FontAwesome Pro as it now has nearly 5,000 icons which cover 99% of my needs. But, Noun is more than just a mear repository of icons. It’s an everlasting resource for inspiration, a place to see what others have done and how others envision common objects. If you do find yourself in a situation where you often need icons, Noun has pro (paid-for) tools that bring icons directly into your app of choice like Photoshop or Sketch making the workflow much faster.
Animista – visual CSS animations generator
I’ve been using Animate.css for years. It’s my default go-to piece of CSS for animations. However, it’s more than obvious that out of 80-ish animations it offers I use maybe five leaving me with quite an overhead. That’s where Animista comes into play. Not only can you cherry-pick only the animations you need you can also use a GUI to create new animations and generate CSS for them. Customization options are endless! Don’t worry; you don’t start from a blank canvas. There are a plethora of predefined animations that you can customize. An incredible tool to impress your clients with zero to no effort.
SVGator – SVG animation creator
Unfortunately, this gem does not have a free tier, and it runs for $18 a month. That’s money thrown away if you don’t work with animated SVGs, but if you do, it’s peanuts. There are not a lot of SVG builders available in general, and there are even less good ones. Gator is far from perfect and has its limitations, but I find it easy to use, especially when it comes to drafting things and doing proof-of-concept stuff.
Not necessarily an alternative but if you’re bound on keeping things free have a look at Snap.svg. It’s still in beta and doesn’t have a visual builder but can come in handy.
FireShot – screenshot tool for browsers
There are a lot of browser extensions for making screenshots. Some free and some paid-for. I’ve tried a lot of them and ended up with FireShot. The free version is decent, but I recommend getting the pro since it’s only a one-time $39 fee. I’m not going to list the features it has because I guarantee it has everything you need and more. It’s fast, stable and predictable – exactly what you need from a utility like this. I make at least 20 screenshots every day to note things down, document bugs or simply to type less. FireShot saves me hours upon hours of time. If you ever catch yourself making a screenshot of a website and then going into an image map to edit and save it – stop doing that and install FireShot.
Zapier – (workflow) automation tool
“What am I going to automate? I don’t have any repeatable tasks. Everyone is raging about Zapier, and I really don’t get it!” – I hear you; it can be overwhelming when you “have to” use something just because everyone else is using it. For what can you use Zapier? For everything! I know how that non-answer sounds and that it’s not helpful. Most people will give you an example in line with “when someone subscribes to your mailing list you automatically subscribe him to five more and save the details to Dropbox.” Yea works, but it’s such a cliche. Let me give you a more practical example – you click a link in your bookmarks toolbar, Zapier calculates some data and creates a new row in a Google Spreadsheet. You glance over the data, add something if needed and close the tab. How’s that for saving time?
Grammarly – intelligent spellchecker & writing aid
Windows spellchecks text, MacOS spellchecks it too, so does Chrome and every other app that you type in, so why would you install another app to do the same job? Because Grammarly doesn’t do the same job. It does a lot more than spell checking. Let’s be clear – you still have to write the text. It’s not some out of the world AI that creates an article out of three bad sentences. But it’ll make your writing so much better! If English is not your native language using Grammarly will not only instantly fix whatever you’re writing, but it’ll help you write faster, smarter and better. You’ll also never again mistake “its” for “it’s” or “then” for “than” and similar “little things” people are allergic to.
The free version is decent enough to get you started. For PRO, which I recommend, you’ll have to pay about $11 a month.
Another service that, at first glance, falls under the “why the heck do you need a VPN and why would you pay for it!?” The reasons I use it are somewhat sad. There’s Netflix that thinks I shouldn’t be able to watch the latest movies, so Nord fixes that. YouTube has the same opinion sometimes, and Nord cuts through that crap too. Then there’s geo-based pricing. After I found out that I was charged more a few times just based on my IP address I got so pissed I started using a VPN. Perhaps I’m still paying more, but now I feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
If you want alternatives to Nord, and there are some free ones too, check out the roundup of 100+ VPN services on UCP.
Visual Studio Code – open-source code editor, IDE & much more
Microsoft recently bought Skype, and messed it up to high hell! It’s barely usable. So how can the same company, at the same time, make the best code editor that came out it the last decade? I don’t have an answer to that question, and I’m puzzled as you are, but I use VSC for hours and hours daily, and it’s just good! Beyond good! Will they screw it up at some point? I can’t say, but till they do, I’ll enjoy its endless flexibility, excellent speed (regardless of open file size or count) and a general feeling that it’s built by developers for developers. I used to pay for my IDE and my editor, but VSC is light years ahead of them. Seriously, give it a go. You’ll thank yourself.
Dig – DNS lookup & debug tool
Google has so many tools, both big and small, that’s impossible to keep track. I’m willing to say even Google doesn’t know what tools they have anymore. That’s why they frequently shut them down to keep focus. Hopefully, they won’t shut down DNS dig as it’s an irreplaceable tool when it comes to debugging anything domain or DNS related. Even if you’re not versed in DNS shenanigans, you can play around with Dig. After all, it’s a reporting-only tool – you can’t break anything with it. There are a lot of dig tools around, but I find Google’s is the fastest (no cache what so ever) and it has the cleanest GUI.
As a part of the G Suite Toolbox, Google has a lot of tools for webmasters such as Check MX. They are all useful and free.