Be more productive, use the tools coders use

You know that scene in Willy Wonka (the original, of course), when they open that door and walk into the that LSD-trip of a candy factory?

That’s kind of what it feels like to be let in on all the tools coders use that no one else knows about. Here are a few you don’t need to know an ounce of code to start using, and they’ll instantly help you be more productive. In general, these tools are centered around keyboard shortcuts and not using your mouse.

Free, pay for upgrades.
Do you resize your windows just perfectly to have one right next to the other? Do you want to make things full screen without taking the time to go up to the top left corner and click the plus icon? Enter SizeUp. You can resize windows in half, quarters, full screen with simple keyboard shortcuts to save time. SizeUp also keeps track of how much time you’ve saved by using it. So far, I’ve saved 35 minutes.

Free, pay for upgrades.
Alfred is a great little alternative to Apple’s Spotlight. Hitting alt + space-bar launches a search box in the middle of your screen to search for files, folders, contacts, apps. You can also search Google, Wikipedia and Amazon without launching the browser. Alfred’s search box can also be used as a calculator. I find it much faster than Spotlight.

Free, pay for upgrades.
Eve teaches you keyboard shortcuts. After you install Eve, it will tell you the keyboard shortcut for any action you perform with a mouse that could be more efficiently performed with a keyboard shortcut. Overtime, you learn shortcuts and will fly around your computer.

KeyRocket is like Eve, but for Gmail. Once you learn a few quick Gmail shortcuts, you can cruise through email rather than slowly clicking on each one.

Whenever I want to pull a color from a website, I would take a screenshot of it, open the screenshot in Photoshop and then use Photoshop’s eye-dropper to get the hex code. Eye-dropper Chrome extension replaces all of that with a few clicks. Click the extension, click the color, there’s the hex code.

Markdown & SmartyPants
Do you blog a lot? Do you hate adding reference links back into your posts because highlighting, clicking on the insert link button, filling out the fields, and saving takes too long? Don’t you wish you could just add basic HTML while you were typing? Markdown is a simple text-to-HTML conversion tool for people who write on the web. Instead of inserting a link, making it bold and putting it in a list all through clicking and highlighting, you can use Markdown to add the formatting while you type. SmartyPants auto converts your straight quotes into typographer’s quotes, dashes into em and en dashes, and three dots into ellipsis. Paste your content into a simple converter and it will output HTML that you can paste into WordPress or other blogging software.

(Larry Buchanan is an illustrator, designer and columnist living in Brooklyn, NY. Some of his work lives here.)