Since October 2015, I've been running an app development company called Code Hangar. Here are some of the free and paid tools we use for design, development, project managment, accounting, and generally running our business.
Before Sketch, I used Photoshop to create all of my web mockups. Over time, I kept hearing more and more about Sketch from my designer friends so decided to give it a try. Holy COW! What an improvement. It took some getting used to but now I use Sketch for all of my UI work.
I still use Photoshop sometimes, but only for editing photos or creating images that will end up in my Sketch mockups.
What I love most about Sketch is that you can define how individual objects move and scale within groups, which allows for super easy resizing of views, making responsive design a breeze. There are also tons of plugins that add lots of extra cool functionality to Sketch. At just $99 a year, Sketch is totally worth the time it has saved me.
Note: Keep your eye out for Invision Studio which comes out in Spring 2018 and is likely to be a strong competitor to Sketch. I'm super excited about it!
Speaking of Sketch plugins, Craft is a plugin for Sketch, made by Invision. It allows you to add dynamic data and images to your designs. It also allows you to link buttons to different screens and sync the whole thing with Invision, helping you save tons of time building clickable prototypes.
Invison Professional (Paid)
Website: http://get.invis.io/mecwZw8 (Full disclosure, this is a referral link. If you sign up for a paid Invision account using this link I'll get a free Invision t-shirt 👕 and that would make me so happy! If that bothers you, you can just go to invisionapp.com)
Invision is the tool I use to present my designs to clients. They offer a free tiers so you can try it out, but it limits the number of projects you can create. I love Invision because it has a great UI for organizing your projects, collaborating with clients, and building awesome clickable prototypes. If you haven't used Invision, you need to try it out. It's a game changer.
Webstorm is an IDE (Integrated Development Environment) for web developers by JetBrains. It seems that most web developers today are either still using a text editor like Sublime Text or Atom OR they have moved over to VSCode. All of these options are free, so why would anyone pay for Webstorm?
Well, its not that expensive and before VSCode, it was really the only good IDE available for web development. I was a Sublime Text user for years and I finally switched to Webstorm after being nagged by my biz partner (former Java developer) to switch to Webstorm because it makes doing things like refactoring, debugging, and jumping to function definitions possible. Now that I've made the switch, I can't go back to a simple text editor.
I've been considering trying out VSCode, but changing editors is hard because you are inevitably less productive for a while until you get used to it. I want to see what all the VSCode hype is about, but my company pays for my Webstorm license and VSCode still hasn't reached feature parity with Webstorm yet. It will be interesting to see how things develop for both Webstorm and VSCode over the next year.
Github for Teams (Paid)
Cost: $25/month which includes your first 5 users
If you are a professional software developer you are probably already using Github. Github offers unlimited free public repos. But when working on projects for clients, you can't expose the source code in a public repository. This is why my team signed up for the paid Github Teams account. Before that we were using Bitbucket, because they offer free private repos. But, we like TravicCI a lot and it doesn't integrat with Bitbucket. So we decided it was worth it to pay for private repos on Github.
Team/Project Management Tools
Cost: Was Free | Now Paid with Slack
Screenhero is (or was) THE BEST screehsharing tool out there. With Screenhero, you can not only share your screen with one or more teammates, each person in the screenshare gets their own cursor and everyone can write code together. When it comes to pair programming, I prefer to use Screenhero remotely over sitting next to my team mate becuase of the tendency people have to put their fingers on your keyboard. We shouldn't have to share our keyboards! Long live Screenhero!
Ok, so there is some bad news. Screenhero was acquired Slack and they will be closing down their app on Dec 1, 2017. So now you'll have to use Slack's PAID account to get the Screenhero features you love. What a bummer!
Slack has become the default messaging app for teams these days. If you haven't used it before, it's sort of like Skype, but more team oriented, so you can only chat with people who have been invited to your Slack group. We love Slack at Code Hangar because we can integrate it with other apps like Github, or Trello and receive Slack notifications whenever important events take place like, so-and-so just pushed some changes to Github, or so-and-so just move a Trello card from 'In Progress' to 'Done'. Slack is like our command center. In fact we wrote a post a while ago about how we transformed Slack into a command center for our app.
I do have some complaints though. While you can make calls via Slack, they are almost always buggy. I hope this gets fixed up soon because it would be nice to keep all communication in one place, as they promise. Instead, we use Google Hangouts for video calls. Screenhero was always the most stable choice for calls, but alas, we must say goodbye (Thanks Slack...).
Slack offers paid plans, which removes the integration limit, and apparently gives your screensharing now (because they acquired Screenhero), but the pricing is pretty high at $6-8 per active user per month. If you have a large team, this would likely become one of your most expensive tools.
G Suite (Paid)
Cost: $5 per user per month
Ok, so I just complained about the cost of Slack, and now I'm about to tell you that we pay $5 a month per user for G Suite by Google. I know people have problems with Google becuase they are so big and powerful and there are no checks on what they are doing with all of the data they are collecting, but their tools just work and as a small business you can't argue with that. G Suite offers teams Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Hangouts, Sites and more for just $5 a month per user. That's more than I can say about Slack (seriously, no hard feelings :P ).
Trello is the tool my team uses to track project related tasks. Everything that needs to be done to complete a project goes into a Trello board for that project and then each task is moved from column to column, Scrum style, until everything is done. It helps us pace our work so we meet target deadlines. It helps us keep all information related to the work that needs to be done in one place. We use Trello instead of something like Jira because its free, and since our projects and our team are relatively small, we like how light Trello is in comparison.
Slack offers paid plans but I don't know why you would need to pay for it. Extra stickers I guess???
Quickbooks Online (Paid)
We use Quickbooks Online to manage all of our business finances. It connects to our business checking account, allows us to invoice all of our clients, pay employees, pay taxes, and run business reports. It has a really nice user interface and we couldn't run our business without it. Quickbooks can be a little complicated so we do also pay an accountant to make sure we are doing everything right, which just makes me feel super cozy. He charges $75 an hour and its totally worth it. We don't usually need more than an hour or two of his time per month. I thought the money management part of running a business would be super tedious and scary but its actually been pretty easy. When its not, we just call our accountant!
Ghost Publishing Platform (Free)
Cost: Free (Self-hosted)