Tools/Tech I Use That You Should Consider
Some are highly geeky. Some are highly pragmatic... Gmail
Tools for work, tools for music, tools for life
I’ve been invited to take part in a brand sponsored survey on the various tools and technologies I use to create content and organize my creative life.
Add: Recently, someone on my YouTube channel asked me to cover the process of recording music. They want everything from gear and software, to things like mic placement & mixing. I’ll get to that too.
So: I decided I would give an overview of the tools I use across my scattered brain. From business tools - organization, project management, software development… to creative endeavors: making music and some light photography.
I won’t cover each in detail but I will discuss the why’s of several of them. I have them loosely separated into the following categories. Loosely because there is a lot of crossover, particularly with the software I use.
Also, the list is not comprehensive as I will often adopt a technical tool for a specific niche need. But the list gives an idea of the tools I most commonly use.
Social Media/Digital Content
Dell XPS 15 Laptop: I wanted 32GB of RAM & 1 TB of SSD drive space. I probably could have saved a couple hundred dollars but Dell still provides the simplest platform for keeping your system up to date. I have no interest in doing future upgrades. It is likely I purchase another XPS in the coming year.
It’s fast! It’s reliable. Runs Davinci Resolve great! Runs Reaper great! And there you have it.
Logitech K780 Keyboard: I love this keyboard! It has three buttons that allow me to switch control between devices. #1 - the aforementioned Dell laptop. #2 - my Samsung Galaxy S20. #3 - my Meta provided Lenovo laptop.
Edit: Wow… my keyboard is dirty. I was doing work in the office and neglected to wipe it off. :-o
The keys are light touch and responsive. Comfortable and allow me to type* fast.
*Advice: If you cannot type by touch, without looking, learn to. It is a HUGE productivity tool.
Google Workspace: Gmail, Drive, Sheets, Docs, Calendar, YouTube, Maps, Keep
To suggest I am a Google devotee might be an understatement. What you get, for free, with a standard Gmail account is phenomenal. I could do an entire piece on these tools - and probably will one day.
Note: If you are using AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail… please… just stop! Or not but you are limiting your productivity.
With one account, connected to your phone (Android or iPhone) for extra juice, you can create documents, spreadsheets, organize and store files, collaborate with others in real-time, share calendars with your team and/or family, publish video content, navigate to your destination, make notes, list, etc.
There are particular ways I organize my folders to make sharing and collaboration simpler. That is probably worthy of a video unto itself.
If you have a business domain, you can also pay for a company Workspace account which gives you additional space and depending on your plan, other valuable business features.
I won’t go on much more except to say, my move to writing software for Google’s cloud products was driven, in part, by Microsoft’s horrible cloud implementation. Also, with Google Drive, Dropbox and most other file sharing platforms are unnecessary.
Airtable: Airtable is a relational database in the cloud. It looks like a Spreadsheet, so most people who set up their linked sheets/database often know very little about database design. Prior to going to work for Meta, I made a living fixing and automating Airtable features. Well, it made up a good part of my living.
I often say that Airtable is amazing and horrible at the same time. This is due to a lack of security controls and logs that some clients need. Also, its interface design features, while growing, are pretty bad. But, in a pinch, it is a multi-user, relational database, that you can have running in an hour or two.
Microsoft Office: Yes, I still use Microsoft Office from time to time. I still write software using VBA, Microsoft Access, and SQL Server. It used to be about 90% of my consulting work. Now it is probably 5%. Again - their integration in the cloud is horrible and their automation in the cloud is non-existent.
But, holy cow, Excel is incredibly powerful for data/financial analysis and reporting.
”I can’t quit you!”
There are a few frustrating gaps between features available in drive and its associated apps and App Script. But that gap continues to close. Prior to being hired by Meta I had moved most of my clients to Workspace and had built several report dashboards that ran unattended.
Visual Studio Code: A free code editor from Microsoft with a huge add-on community.
Bootstrap: A UI/Javscript library to simplify and speed up web development.
PowerApps/PowerAutomate: Microsoft’s no-code productivity and application development platform. I had used it a couple years ago but while at Meta I’ve done a couple projects that connected to dynamic data in Sharepoint and provided amazing value and increased productivity. I’ll be using it more going forward.
Notepad++: A FREE powerful text editor that supports flexible formatting and editing of text files. Also, programming language support - not so much for development but for formatting and reviewing code.
Google Looker Studio (Data Studio) | Google BigQuery: Google Looker Studio used to be Google Data Studio. I think Looker Studio sounds like a creeper voyeur but, whatever. The must have market tested something before changing its name.
I use Looker Studio to help client’s with online data dashboards and I use BigQuery as a data repository for said clients. Looker Studio is similar to Tableau and Power BI - both tools I use as well - but it is not as powerful. However, it is easily integrated into an existing Google-centric infrastructure and it does plenty to help layout data.
I started using BigQuery when I needed a place to move Airtable data due to Airtable’s horrible reporting “features.”
Social Media/Digital Content
DaVinci Resolve: Video Editing, color correction, audio enhancements. Resolve is the MOST powerful FREE video editor available. It does take a decently powerful computer, 16gb or RAM (minimum) and a good video card.
But, if you can run it, the completely free version is remarkable. For $300 you can get the studio version - with hundreds of built-in fx.
Want to learn it, follow Casey Faris on YouTube. I also have a video on how to create lyric videos and how we made a song promo video.
Canva: Canva is an online image and video editor with hundreds of social media templates. I use it for video thumbnails and some instagram posts. Deb uses it for posters, social media images, and even quick logos. The free version works great. The paid version gets you many more automation features, graphics, and videos.
GIMP: Freeware Image Editor. I find the interface confusing but I’m not much of an image editor/graphic designer. However, I use it primarily to resize images and a few other niche uses.
Canon EOS RP with our Sigma EF 30mm 1.4 lens. I use this for videos and photography. The RP is Deb’s old camera. We got her a Canon R6 and I took the RP. It makes great videos and excellent images. Certainly a strong enough camera for my needs.
Samsung Galaxy S20: I’m an Android user. It is much easier to move data (images and other files) from system to system than an iPhone.
TIP: Whether you are iPhone or Android, store your contacts in you Gmail account. Never store them in your phone’s local address book. Store them in your gmail account and when you change devices or move from Android to iPHone or vice-versa, your contacts will all be there.
Reaper (DAW): You can spend thousands on ProTools - which is often slow and buggy. Reaper costs $60 (personal license) or $225 (commercial license). It is the same software. You can download a full-featured demo. After the demo period the software continues working with all features (no limits) after a short nag screen. The use the honor system.
I buy a license every two years even if it is not due, just to support great software at a great price.
Mackie Big Knob Studio: This is a basic mixer and audio interface. It is what my mics or instruments plug into and brings the signal into Reaper. I saw on a video that Phinneas used a Big Knob to record his sister’s (Billie Eilish) first album. That’s good enough for me.
Microphones: Rode NT-1a Condenser Mic, Shure SM57 & SM58, MXL 990 Condenser Mic
Guitars: Gibson J45 (acoustic), Ibanez (acoustic), Fender Telecaster (electric)
Alesis VI61 (keyboard/midi controller)
Canon EOS RP: Full-frame, mirrorless camera
Lenses: various Canon RF lenses. Sigma EF 30mm 1.4
Adobe Lightroom: I’m an amateur in both photography and in using Lightroom. I do the basics and little else.
That covers the bulk of it. I also use my phone as a digital recorder, quick video of song ideas, etc. I have a Zoom H1n digital recorder as well. I use it to augment audio for videos as it can mount on my camera.
But the above lists include the primary tools I use in work, music, and creative output.
If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions on the tools I use, have at it in the comments. I’ll do my best to answer your questions.
Thanks for dropping by.
January 11, 2023