Tools of the Trade – 2014

It was February 18th, 2011, a week before my 30th birthday that my answers to AppSumo’s Tools of the Trade questionnaire were posted. A metric shit ton has changed since then – new jobs, new hardware, new software. At the same time, some things never change. This post is the 2014 version of the same post that I did back in 2011. This very well may become a yearly thing, we shall see.

Tell us about yourself in 280 characters.

My name is Josh Sherman and I am a thirty-something full stack hacker with a passion for building tools that bring people together. Husband, father and the Chief Alchemist & Founder of Gravity Boulevard.

What 3 web services or software can you not live without?


I adore GitHub more than any other service. The recent scandal aside, I love the product, I love the articles that come out of their shop and I love their open source source contributions. If I could add a fourth item to the list it would be jekyll because it’s my de facto choice for a blogging platform.


In my opinion, there are two main camps in the NoSQL movement. There’s the MongoDB camp and then there’s the Redis camp. I never got into MongoDB, mainly because I’m not much a Node.js guy, and I really fell in love with Redis. I’m still not to the point that I’m using it exclusively as an RDBMS replacement, but I’m getting pretty damn close.


Yep, I’m still using vim. In fact, in the last few years I’ve really started to embrace the key as well as introducing `vundle` into the mix and focusing on MOAR HOT KEYS to help reduce any and all time sinks that I have.

What services or software do you pay for?

Embracing Apple’s OS X has changed how I value software. When I was solely running Linux I rarely purchased any software and it was even more rare for me to donate to a project. At this point in my life, I feel as if I value software more than ever.



This is a no-brainer for me. Sure, I could use BitBucket because they provide free private repositories. Sure, I could even run my own git server and save some money that way. The fact of the matter is, I feel like I get so much more out of GitHub than just a git server. I love the articles they have written, I apply their methodologies to my own best practices and hell, I even use GitHub to stay up to date on popular projects. I’d be willing to pay for all of those things without the git repository, that’s just icing on the cake.


Yeah yeah yeah, my data isn’t secure and Condi Rice on the board isn’t helping matters. I hate to break it to you, most employees of companies have access to your data, this isn’t new and most companies aren’t nearly as transparent about it. Privacy concerns aside, Dropbox just fucking works. There’s something to be said about the speed and simplicity they provide compared to most other providers. I’ve toyed with some, not all, of their competition and always come back to them.

Amazon S3

DropBox is great for backing up my personal files, but not an ideal choice for my server backups. That’s where Amazon’s S3 service comes in. I am currently storing encrypted backups to S3 using the AWS Command Line Interface which makes it as easy as using cp or mv to transfer files. Oh and it costs me less than 5 bucks a month!

Spotify & Netflix

Music is super important when I am coding and commercials are the devil. Paying for Spotify makes sense considering the ever increasing cost to own music. I will die a little bit happier knowing I didn’t waste my income on owning music. Same goes for movies at this point, Netflix is a must have for us. Hulu may be added to the mix soon because of some recent show recommendations from my friend Jaime.


I have always loved AppSumo for the discounts but have recently grown to love them even more for the exposure to new products. Noah’s done a great job with the site / platform and has done a great job of not making every “deal” about generating revenue from the users. Free deals happen quite frequently and it makes me feel warm and fuzzy after working for a daily deal company that was only in it for the money.



Spotlight is great but Alfred is way better, enough said. Even with the upcoming Spotlight features in OS X Yosemite, I still feel like Alfred will be ahead of the curve in comparison. Spotlight is only updated with OS X and never experiences the iterative awesomeness that the Alfred team is able to provide.


Let’s just get down to business, the status icons on any system are a jumbled mess. Most of the icons are only really useful for a few seconds a day if not a few seconds a week. Bartender allows you to organize your icons in the order of your choosing, but also hide the icons you don’t want to see that often, while providing easy access to them if you want. I used the trial for a hot minute and was hooked and paid for the app well before the 4 week trial was over.

Adobe Creative Suite / Cloud

Moving from Linux left me pretty heartbroken when I had to give up on GiMP and Inkscape. In the last few years I’ve grown to tolerate, maybe even like the Adobe equivalents. Sadly, there are still a few things that the Adobe product don’t do but it doesn’t sway me from keeping my Creative Cloud subscription active.

Steam & Humble Bundle

Entertainment is just as important as productivity software and gaming definitely falls into that category. I don’t game a ton on the computer but when I do it’s thanks to Steam and Humble Bundle.

Donationware a/k/a Shit I should be spending money on

Sadly, the applications that I use the most are the ones that I have spent little or no money on. I plan on changing this in the future because I actually do feel really shitty about it.


If you still use the built-in OS X terminal application, I feel really bad for you. iTerm2 is not only absolutely amazing, it’s also incredibly awesome too. Hot keys for splitting the screen, tabs, tmux integration, OH and there’s a HUD terminal window as well. It’s a great app, it’s probably the app I use more than any other app, and it’s free.


Spectacle is something I’ve only recently started to use. It allows you to place windows with hot keys not unlike how xmonad works. It’s free and it scratched my itch more than HyperDock which I felt did way more than I was looking for, and wasn’t free.


Considering vim has been my editor of choice for both code and prose for 10+ years, I really should be donating regularly. I plan to start donating yearly to Bram’s chosen charity, which helps the children of Uganda. I’m hoping to be able to catch up on my back child support payments to those kids as well 😉


I’m not a total cheapskate, I did donate to OpenSSL not too long ago because they were facing financial trouble with keeping their lights on. The fact of the matter is, nearly everyone uses OpenSSL is one capacity or another and hardly anyone bats an eye at the fact that it’s so damn important and yet we get to use it for free. I’m working towards being able to donate to more projects that impact my day to day well-being on a more regular basis.

Show us your dock!

Far cry from my Linux days:

What’s 1 service you love most people don’t know about?

This would seem like brown-nosing if it were posted on the AppSumo blog, but SumoMe is the service that I love that most people don’t know about, In fact, no one I’ve mentioned it to thus far has known about it.

I know it’s supposed to only be one, but if I had to pick a less brown-nosey service it would be I was actually planning on building this exact software service until my buddy Justin came across It’s a task board that sits on top of GitHub Issues and it’s absolutely amazing.

If our readers could solve any problem. What should they build for you?

This was a hard question for me back in 2011 and is still kind of hard today. Fortunately I do have a couple of ideas that I would like to see solved without any legwork from myself:

  1. Something I would like to call Sprite PNGs. A new image format or pseudo-format that browsers would be aware of. The image itself would know how the sprite should be used so that we can stop fucking around with CSS background-positions.
  2. A centralized repository for commercial applications. apt-get is great, brew is pretty all right, but what about when you want the latest version of Chrome or Dropbox? There’s no central place to get a link to download the latest version or even a specific version. Or there is and I haven’t found it yet. The obvious use case would be when building / rebuilding a system from scratch. I script my setups and generally have to go looking for at least a few commercial packages.

How do you stay organized / productive?

GitHub Issues, mostly as it allows me to keep a to-do list right on my projects. I love the ability to close an issue right from a commit message and have it automatically knocked off the list. Milestones are great for wrapping up my issues up and set a drop dead date on when something should be done. Combine that with and you have a pretty complete / agile package.

Who else should we interview?

This wasn’t part of the published article but was on the questionnaire as a way for AppSumo to find other people to hit up. If I had to answer this question today I’d definitely like to see a similar post from Justin Davis, Matt Branton, Geoff Oliver, Dean Jones and Dekin Dorcas. If they are interested, it seems like AppSumo still has their interview form up. If that form is actually dead and/or they are no longer taking submissions, I’d be more than happy to post the interviews as guest posts on here for the losers that don’t have their own blog 😉

Josh Sherman - The Man, The Myth, The Avatar

About Josh

Husband. Father. Pug dad. Musician. Founder of Holiday API, Head of Engineering and Emoji Specialist at Mailshake, and author of the best damn Lorem Ipsum Library for PHP.

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