We’ve been at this for over 3 years and in that time, we’ve used a ton of different tools to get the job done. Event Espresso has gone from being a one-man show to a team of 10+ and in that time we’ve learned, largely through trial and error, ways to effectively communicate to each other and our users. Here are a few of the tools we use internally and for EventEspresso.com.
We’re predominantly Mac users with a few holdouts running Windows 7 and Linux. The apps covered here will be a mix of the popular votes from across all three platforms as well as web-based apps or systems.
We’ve been using IRC internally for the past year. It has successfully enabled us to communicate better as a team and respond to issues that come up in the forums and as we are developing code much faster. It’s hard to imagine how we managed to do things before we were using IRC. We have one closed channel we use for internal and development communication and another channel we’re planning on opening up to VIP members soon. To keep our private channel closed, we’re using IRC access restrictions. We also have a bot running Phergie that is able to do helpful things like pass messages to other team members who are away from their computers and Google searches, or not so helpful things like tossing each other a cookie, beer, wine or cocktail.
Phergie is also feeding posts from our P2 site (mentioned below) to keep the team updated on new comments and discussions happening there.
As far as apps go, for Mac, most of us started off with Colloquy before moving on to other things like LimeChat and Adium. For the Windows users among us, we’re predominantly using mIRC, and Xchat is the most commonly used client for Linux, though a Windows version also exists.
In the last month we’ve started trying to use Twitter for both internal and external communications. Everyone at Event Espresso was already on Twitter, and Event Espresso has it’s own Twitter account. On our personal accounts, we use the #EventEspresso hashtag for general Event Espresso-related tweets and #eesupport or #eedev for support or development-related tweets. Not only can we keep each other in the loop with what we’re doing, but this gives our users a level of transparency about what we’re up to as well. So, what are we using to manage Twitter? For OSX, there’s the native Twitter app in the App Store or, for everyone, the cross-platform web app TweetDeck.
To the developers out there, it should come as no surprise that Chrome and Firefox are our browsers-of-choice. The powerful tools of Chrome’s built-in inspector and Firefox’s Firebug extension are invaluable to developing and testing markup. For the Mac users among us there’s Parallels and Oracle’s VirtualBox for Windows virtualization for testing Internet Explorer.
Screenshots & annotations
Formerly, the popular favorite for screenshots with annotations was Skitch. Recent changes to the platform have been universally less well received by our team, and some of us have begun looking elsewhere. The Awesome Screenshot extension for Chrome is…awesome…for browser-based screenshots and Droplr and Screencast.com have also been used by some of us for sharing screenshots. I wrote up an Alfred* extension to replace the timed screenshot feature that Skitch dropped from their app.
* covered later…
Event Espresso uses Google Apps extensively, so many of us just use the Gmail interface for mail. However, the Sparrow for Mac is hands-down the best desktop email client and also has an iOS app replacement for Apple Mail. Speaking personally, Sparrow makes me actually enjoy looking at my email inbox. It’s definitely worth downloading the free (ad supported) version and convincing yourself it’s worth the ten bucks to use it without the ads.
While the cross-platform workhorse of FileZilla is definitely a favorite, some of the Mac users among us cling to Transmit, by Panic (who also make Coda), which also allows file transfers to Amazon S3 buckets (which we’re using as our CDN).
A good IDE is important when you’re spending all day staring at it. Sublime Text 2 gets our popular vote with some runners up being Coda and NetBeans. (If you’re looking for a good IDE or have just gotten started with Sublime, this is a great resource that goes through a lot of the amazing built-in features of the program as well as the plugins that can be added.) Windows users (that don’t want to deal with NetBeans) can either grab a copy of Sublime as well, or take a look at the free Notepad++.
Version control is essential for any development project, large or small. Even if you aren’t part of a team of developers, version control is invaluable in being able to “roll back” changes to an earlier version when something breaks. Having a solid, reliable version control system (and app) is a required part of ensuring that everyone on the team is looking at the same — and the correct — version of the code. Event Espresso currently uses Subversion for our version control (though we plan to eventually move to Git). Most of us Mac folk started out using Versions but have since migrated to Cornerstone. For Windows, there’s TortoiseSVN and for Linux, we recommend RapidSVN (if you’re not just more comfortable using the commandline). For Git, we recommend Tower (for Mac), the GitHub Git client (for Mac/Windows) or TortoiseGit (for Windows). Alternately, if you’ve already started using Sublime, there are excellent Git and Subversion extensions for Sublime, and NetBeans also has integrated SVN support as well as a plugin for Git support.
What other programs and apps are we using? Here are a few of our favorites:
- P2 – we have an internal P2 blog that we use to announce and discuss issues with the entire team
- Codebase – where all our SVN repositories are stored and for internal issue tracking
- Asana – for support issues and other non-coding-related task- and project management
- Google Drive and Dropbox – cloud storage
- Codebox, Gist, Piratepad, jsfiddle (and, recently Koding) – storing and sharing code snippets
- Alfred (Mac) – all-purpose productivity app (some of the automation features of Alfred — such as the previously-mentioned timed screenshot extension) are simply amazing and well worth the cost of the Power Pack add-on)
- Textexpander (Mac) – keyboard shortcuts for commonly-used text (or code) blocks
- TotalFinder (Mac) – Finder add-on/replacement that enables tabs in Finder windows
But what about the plugins we use for WordPress, you ask? We use a combination of custom-built plugins, premium plugins and free plugins from WordPress.org. Here are the ones that are most frequently used or most essential to the site:
- bbPress and GetShopped Support Forum for our forums
- Post Types Order and Category Order and Taxonomy Terms Order – all of our products, testimonials, showcase sites and support docs are custom post types, this plugin helps us organize them
- Gravity Forms for all our forms
- Livefyre for comments
- PostMark (and a new PostMark plugin for WordPress by Event Espresso plugin that we’ll be adding to the WordPress.org repository soon)
- Progress Bar (for, uh, progress bars, as seen on the Languages page, among others) and WordPress Wiki That Doesn’t Suck for support documentation (both by yours truly)
- s2member for all the membership, user levels and access restrictions
- User Switching to test user accounts and access
- WordPress HTTPS for SSL
- WordPress SEO by Yoast
- WP-Markdown for the WYSIWYG toolbar and previewer in the forums
- WP Affiliate Platform for our affiliate system
- Last but not least, Plugin Update Engine which is powering our automatic update system (we liked the system so much that we hired Darren to be a core Event Espresso developer!)
…as well as custom-built plugins handling the 404 pages, new bbPress topic notifications, testimonials, showcase sites, product features, and various Plugin Update Engine tweaks and add-ons. We’re also using a Google Custom Site Search for our search pages with a custom template and modified searchform so searches go to the Google search.
What are your favorite tools to use in your business or on your website? Let us know in the comments!