8 Great Apps that Every Freelance Developer Needs

screenshot_01Every freelancer has certain apps they use in their day-to-day business operations. Developers, especially, have to keep a tool belt full of useful apps that touch multiple areas in development, design, client management and billing.

It’s important not to let your apps rule your working life. If it’s not quick enough, crashes all the time and is too pricey, perhaps you should think about switching to something else.

I’ve tried lots of different apps over the course of my freelancing career, but have only found a few that really speed up my workflow, are inexpensive and intuitive. What are these great apps?

1. Adobe Photoshop $999

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I’ll say this right now–I hate Adobe products. They’re overpriced, bloated, very buggy and their customer service stinks.

That being said, there really is no good alternative to Photoshop that I’ve been able to find. I’ve tried a couple of other alternatives:

  • GIMP–It’s free, but doesn’t support layer folders (which I can sorta live without) and rasterizes all PSD text (which I can’t have at all).
  • Pixelmator –It’s $59 and has an awesome interface, but doesn’t support layer folders either, and was very slow and buggy on my Mac running Snow Leopard.

Why does a developer even need Photoshop? If you’re a backend programmer, you can easily get away without having Photoshop and using one of the free alternatives for the occasional image edit.

But, if you specialize in front-end development, like XHTML and CSS, you have to have a powerful image editor to cut up your clients’ PSDs and optimize the images for the web.

2. Coda $99

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After I dropped Adobe Dreamweaver, I tried out several all-in-one development apps, but I really liked Coda the best. It comes with the FTP program, Transmit, built right into it and handles all development file extensions, so you no longer need a ton of applications open when coding. Plus, it’s pretty snappy and takes up little computer resources.

3. Billings $39.99

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The perfect app to send estimates, track time and bill your clients with. I prefer this app over Freshbooks, a similar online-based app, because it stays on my machine, backs itself up and has a one-time fee of $30, versus a $20 a month fee and limited clients on Freshbooks. I have more control over the way my invoices and estimates look and what information is included in them.

I also love how they include the timer in your top task bar, which allows you to start or stop and quickly move between open projects and clients. It also runs great reports, which allowed me to file my taxes quickly and painlessly.

4. Adium $Free

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A freelancer needs to be available to clients in as many ways as possible–but there are over ten instant messenger companies! To have all of these open at once would kill your computer–and your productivity.

Adium is a free instant messenger app that has 15 of the most popular chat clients integrated in it. You can have as many accounts signed in as you want, and they all display nicely in one buddy list.

5. Skype $Free

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Skype is probably the most popular, and useful, way of communicating with clients and doing business. It includes a regular instant messenger, screen sharing and video and audio chat. Calls to any Skype user anywhere in the world are free.

6. iPhone $99

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Freelancer…meet “Mega App”. While the iPhone itself isn’t technically an app (it’s a device), it carries lots of useful apps I can use while on the road or away from my desk to help clients.

Some of these useful apps include:

  • Twitterific–I try to only check Twitter this way, to stay productive
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Fring–An all in one IM client, including Skype
  • USAA–My bank, allows me to deposit checks on the iPhone!
  • Budget Touch–Syncs with Budget, a personal finance app
  • Billings Touch–Syncs with Billings
  • WordPress – allows user to add/edit posts and moderate comments.

7. XAMPP $Free

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An awesome free app from Apache, XAMPP allows you to set up a local testing server, so you can view your websites without having to upload them to an actual server. Combined with Firebug in Firefox or Chrome, this speeds up development time exponentially.

8. SnapNDrag $Free

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SnapNDrag allows you to take screenshots by selection, by window or the whole screen. This app has been super useful on more than one occasion. As a matter of fact, this app took all the screenshots on this post!

What Apps Are Necessary to You?

Do you have an app you consider necessary to your business? What is it?