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Engineering

The Apps We Use at Postlight

What can we say, we have OPINIONS

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Image by Iconic Bestiary

I have a confession to make: I form opinions about people based on the tech they use. I’m not proud of it, but I know I’m not alone. Who among us has not raised an eyebrow at an aol.com email address or judged the green bubbles? So I’ve embraced this character flaw of mine, chalked it up to years of tech blogging, and thought a bit about the tribal lines drawn by whether you spend more time on Twitter or Facebook, use a Mac or a Chromebook, wield a selfie stick or wear a Bluetooth earpiece.

“Hello, I’m a Mac.” “And I’m a PC.”

I recently started as a Director of Engineering at Postlight, and during my first 10 weeks, I’ve been on a mission to get to know my new coworkers. My first line of inquiry was: What apps do these people use? How do they use them? Is this place Photoshop or Sketch? JavaScript or Python? Docker or Vagrant? Hacker News or ProductHunt? Thanks to Jeremy Mack and a Trello board he put together, I got some answers.

This list is more a peek inside how we work right now than a list of apps you should use, too. The answer to the question Which app should I use? is almost always What are you trying to do? Postlight is a collection of about 40 people (and growing) who build software and are therefore very [Editor’s note: VERY, VERY, VERY] opinionated about software. About one third of our team is remote, so that weighs into the choices we make. And not everyone here uses every app mentioned, so we’re constantly trying out new processes and tools.

The usual suspects

This story inevitably begins with Google Apps. On your first day at Postlight, you get a shiny new Google account, which sets you up with the basic tools we all use every day: Gmail, Calendar, Drive, and Hangouts. The bad news is that Google may some day start running text ads in our inboxes that directly reference the company’s most guarded strategic secrets—but the good news is that in the meantime we don’t need to hire a systems administrator for the mail server. Thanks, Google.

Talking to each other

Postlight is a client services company so we spent a huge amount of our time communicating and collaborating with clients and internally, often remotely. To do that, we use a mix of in-person and video or text chat meetings. It’s not that interesting or unusual that we use Flowdock (many of the team are really in favor of the way Flowdock does threading), Slack (especially for remote chats with clients, who increasingly use Slack), and Google Hangouts for those meetings. We also use a handful of useful utilities that make those interactions smoother and easier.

  • It’s annoying to have to open Google Calendar and go to the event to get the Hangout link in order to jump into a scheduled videoconference. Entry puts a link to the next Hangout in your calendar right on your toolbar or in your notifications shade.
  • While you’re on those video or audio calls, Shush mutes the noise of passing sirens, jackhammers, and coughing fits (important given that our offices are right on Broadway in NYC).
  • When you need to show someone what is happening in an app, take quick screen recordings as animated gifs and share a link to them with LICEcap or Jeff.
  • I’m paranoid about password hygiene (yes that’s a thing), so I was happy to see Postlight uses 1Password to manage and share credentials with the team. (PSA: Don’t share passwords in chat.)

As a new employee in a growing, distributed org, looking up who is who, what they’re working on, and where they are is really important. Pingboard helps us keep track of the org chart and everyone’s daily status and location.

Being productive

When it comes to project management, Trello is currently the go-to app around here, and GitHub’s built-in Issues tracker gets a lot of use, too.

Clever convention: labels that indicate the size of a task’s scope.

Individual todo list app choices vary by person and range from 2Do to Workflowy to OmniFocus and Wunderlist.

For brainstorming, note-taking, work journaling — people here take great notes , seriously it’s intimidating — tools also vary, from iThoughtsX, Ulysses, to nValt and Journey [Ed note: Also emacs org-mode]. For multi-tasking and window management, SizeUp, Divvy, and Moom are in use.

Product design

Most-used design tools here at Postlight? Sketch and Invision. Product designer Skyler Balbus adds, “Craft has proven to be super helpful, especially for creating or maintaining style guides within Sketch files.” There’s also love for lesser-known mobile and animation prototyping tools, like Flinto, Principle, Pixate, Framer, and Proto.io. Over lunch last week I heard a newly-hired product manager fawning over Figma.

Engineering

The engineering team here lives in GitHub (with Flowdock and Slack integrations), and uses Tower and GitHub Desktop to manage branches, pushes, and pulls. For hot command-line action, iTerm2 — especially the latest build 3.0, turn on “Show Tip of the Day,” you’ll learn something — is a very worthwhile replacement for OS X’s built-in Terminal. We also like CircleCI for continuous integration, and have been moving from Vagrant to Docker for managing virtual environments.

On my second day of work here I thought why not? and took the risk of starting a holy war as a litmus test for Postlight’s engineering culture. In our #code channel I asked what code editors people like the most. And lo! No flamewar erupted, very few eyes rolled, and the discussion was calm and reasonable. Sublime Text peacefully coexists with Atom here, and Emacs users code shoulder-to-shoulder beside Vim lovers. Being an adult is pretty great. Next up: tabs versus spaces.

 

Gina Trapani is a Director of Engineering at Postlight. She is Gina Trapani on Medium and @GinaTrapani on Twitter.

Story published on Jun 15, 2016.