Tools Of The Trade: 2013

Amidst the summer conference/convention cycle, one of more enjoyable shop-talk conversations that come up is comparing notes on tools used to get stuff done. Consequently, let’s expand the discussion to the extended online crowd and talk about what you use for tools of the trade.

Caveats (*)

Since part of my business incorporates web development, some of the tools used are due to those efforts. As such, any item marked with an asterisk (*) indicate a tool used as a direct result of that work but wouldn’t otherwise be a part of the kit.

Operating Systems



  • Desktop: dual monitor, AMD quad-core processor system with two external hard drives.
  • Notebook: convertible laptop/tablet device running Windows 8 and a traditional non-touch enabled Windows 7 device.
  • Tablet*: first generation WiFi only iPad.
  • Printer: Oki C5500cn color laser with the duplexing add-on; the latter makes all the difference in the world and is well worth the added price.
  • Keyboard/Mouse: Logitech MX5500, little things make all the difference and this combo is loaded with them.


  • Chrome: a fast, regularly updated, and non-intrusive browser. I keep mine updated to the most recent version available.
  • Firefox*: a rapidly falling star. Even IE 10 versions have outpaced what used to be the leading PC based browser.
  • Safari*: iOS version.
  • Internet Explorer*: Version 9, and 10 (both RT and full Win8 versions). And aquick personal plea to anyone out there running IE8 or earlier: upgrade now!
  • Android: stock browser.

“Can’t Live Without It” Software (installed and cloud)

  • Microsoft Office 2007: haven’t upgraded yet as the latest versions don’t really add much to justify the cost but the newer versions of Office 365 have my attention.
  • Adobe Creative Cloud: I genuinely love this product; the monthly license fee structure means I get the full Adobe suite and all updates, all the time. Plus I can install whichever programs I desire on up to two different machines.
  • Freshbooks: a great accounting service but they aren’t cheap. But they excel at keeping track of a myriad of billing cycles, credits, time tracking, etc.
  • Basecamp: another expensive, but well designed service. It works equally well with both traditional consulting and web development based projects. Clients who have never used a project management service always have an easy time learning how it works.
  • Dropbox: no better way to get big files from Computer A to Computer B. It has one of the best integration elements into a variety of operating systems and devices, which only increases its usefulness.
  • LastPass: syncing more than 500 passwords across multiple devices, I would have gone insane years ago without it.
  • Filezilla*: makes short work of file transfer tasks.
  • Notepad++*: basic code editing made easy.
  • Thunderbird: it has been my email client for more than a decade but honestly, it is losing its charm in the day and age of multiple devices. I’m currently searching for a solution that does a better job at syncing across multiple devices and can import the 5GB+ data file of existing thunderbird based email messages.
  • Skype: I don’t love it but it gets the job of face to face, voice based, and screen sharing communication done. If I engaged in those tasks more often, I’d likely upgrade the solution.
  • Email Marketing: I use both MailChimp and Vertical Response; the latter has a few unique strengths with regard to managing client accounts but the former is point-for-point a better service.

Wish List

  • Power height-adjustable desk: when I first came across these, my first reaction was “what an extravagant waste of money.” But talking to colleagues and seeing one first hand has changed my mind. The ability to easily move the entire working area to a standing position in a few seconds would be a welcome addition to the office space. Anthro makes two
    versions worth looking at.
  • Multi display stand with added device cradles: I love my current multi-monitor stand but I’d appreciate having the ability to have an integrated tablet and Smartphone cradles that provide the same ability to position and move and the touch of finger.
  • Galaxy Note 3: although not yet released, it isn’t far away; I love the Note 2 and with the integrated hotspot service, it makes any need for a tablet or laptop device with integrated cellular functionality unnecessary. This would replace my current Android Smartphone.
  • WiFi Only iPhone or iPod Touch*: Apple’s subtle differences between iOS for their phones and tablets mean having a WiFi only device for web development testing purposes would be a nice, but not necessary, addition.

Did I miss anything you’re curious about? And what about your tools of the trade? Take a moment and share what’s in your toolbox and why.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

Related Posts

  • Not unlike many across the country, I became absorbed with current events yesterday so today's original topic will have to wait. It's been an…

    Adaptistration People 143
  • Whether you're home all day enjoying the holiday with family and friends or your orchestra is putting on a performance today, try to take…

    Adaptistration People 118
  • Whether you're home all day enjoying the holiday with family and friends or your orchestra is putting on a performance today, try to take…

    Adaptistration People 118

4 thoughts on “Tools Of The Trade: 2013”

  1. Home includes work for things like ATXclassical and other projects. At work, I spend most of my time in Infusionsoft.

    Devices & Operating System:

    Dell XPS M1530: Windows Vista (Home)
    MacBook Pro (and extra monitor): OS X (Work)
    Google Nexus S4G: Android 4.1.1 (Home)
    Nikon D3200 + Rode VideoMic (Home)


    Chrome (Home / Work)
    Firefox (Home / Work)
    Internet Explorer (Home)
    Safari (Work)
    Chrome for Android (Home)

    Can’t Live Without Software:

    Productivity: MS Office 2007 (Home) | MS Office for Mac 2011 (Work)
    Production: Adobe CS3 (Home) | Adobe Premiere Elements (Home)
    Web: WordPress (Home) | Notepad (Home) | Sublime Text 2 (Home / Work) | FileZilla (Home)
    Email: Gmail / Google Calendar (Home) | MS Outlook for Mac 2011 (Work)
    Marketing: Infusionsoft (Work) | MailChimp (Home)
    Other: LastPass (Home / Work) | SimpleDiagrams2 (Work) | GoToWebinar (Work) | TeamWorkPM and/or Basecamp (Work) | Toggl (Work) | Litmus (Work)


    Laptop that can handle HD video editing (home)
    Android tablet (home)
    and/or Galaxy Note 3 with both GSM/CDMA capabilities (home)

      • It’s wish list, and it would be cellular version, replacing my Nexus.

        And by the way, Drew, I would highly recommend Litmus as well. Great email design testing platform. I’ve been trying to come up with an email template to rule them all. I’ve even seen some responsive design in email design lately. Email standards are even further apart than browser standards. Nested tables are actually recommended…

      • Thanks for the tip on Litmus, I’ve actually been enjoying MailChimps recent responsive release, albeit it’s not designed for heavy duty table based use but it does begin to incorporate many standard column/row based features that work equally well in most email clients.

        But I know what you mean about email clients in general, I’ll have to dig it up again but I posted a link to a fantastic resource awhile back that tracked the differences in standards and differences between major email clients.

Leave a Comment