The year 2023 has brought a breath of fresh air with advancement in AI tools threatening human incompetencies as well as new releases of some sophisticated tools (it was nice knowing you HR teams). In this post we will provide our honest takes on tools we've explored in depth, broken our own systems with and learnt a hell lot in the process. We are going to talk about the tools we can't live without and those we absolute can do without.
Tools our management team loves
First up, Linear. This tool is our personal favourite, we use it for all our projects and vouch for it’s reliability. It's incredibly fast, intuitive, and perfect for our team that loves to get things done without the fluff. Linear’s simple UI cuts down the extra noise which you find in other PM tools. It comes with various hot keys (for example: G+M, to take you to your tasks) and is highly customisable to suit your team’s requirements. Our personal favourite is how well it integrates with Github. Once the task is merged on Github, task status is updated on Linear, removing that extra hassle of going through each ticket and marking it done.
Both a benefit and a drawback is that Linear is fairly unopinionated in comparison to others on this list. What this means is that it takes time and customisation from your side to make it work the way you want it to (which can be frustrating at times). It’s important to find your way of keeping up with tickets, so we would advise spending half a day just setting up what you would like to see within Linear.
- My tasks
- Our teams tasks
- Tasks that are urgent split into team members
- Specific team members board views of tasks
Take the time out to do the above and you’re sure to have a good time, but don’t expect instant results, any tool that’s worthwhile using actually takes time investment.
On our list of things we’d love to see are - Hot Take 🔥
Build a god damn iOS app. No, a PWA is not the answer.
Needless to say, I don’t believe in PWA apps, I don’t know whether we’re all living under a rock and we’ve decided that a hacky, non-native feel where the application is just a glorified safari window is the standard we should live up to, but I certainly hate it. Plus there’s a bug right now in Linear where if you scroll down a swimlane it breaks after about 300px, so I’m especially salty. That being said, even with these minor irritations, it’s still the best of the bunch.
Next, GitHub Projects. It's more than just a code repository; it's a project management powerhouse for developers. The integration with codebase makes it a dream for tracking progress on software development projects. Its Kanban-style boards and automation features make it a winner for us.
You’re going to notice an ongoing theme here - Hot Take 🔥
Guess who doesn’t currently have an iOS app, or any ability to manage swimlanes and tasks through the github iOS app? Bingo. You have to… You guessed it, navigate manually to the website to view the swimlanes that don’t work properly on mobile.
It blows my mind in the year of (soon to be 2024) we don’t have a well optimised, hotkey enabled project management tool that has a native app. Or at least I haven’t found one yet.
Lastly, Notion. This tool is like the Swiss Army knife of project management. From notes to databases, task management to documentation, it's got it all. Notion is the go-to for teams that need a versatile, all-in-one platform for managing projects and content. It’s almost fun as a project management tool because of all the thought that’s gone into user experience.
For us, the real benefit of Notion is it’s ability to cover all bases when you build a kanban board. For example if you need a multitude of views, one gantt chart, one board and each of the tickets turns into a collaborative Google Docs-esque format, you can do that.
Guess what, it actually has a mobile app - Hot Take 🔥
However, the issue is, it still feels weak when you’re working with Swimlanes inside the app and I’m not sure if it’s me, but very quickly the performance diminishes significantly when working with lots of tickets.
This leads me to nest this very heavily in the “works perfect as a weekend project kind of PM tool, but not so good as a long-term multi month project”.
Tools our dev team loves
I think one of our agency friends shared this once on LinkedIn, and I thought it was a bit of a weak offering for a native application: “It’s a very good screen recording system that makes your products look pretty”. Okay, and what?
Well I cannot tell you how well it does the above. So much so that it’s our only tool we use when uploading our screen recordings to the web. It eases, it zooms, it does some really nice blurring effects on the mouse when I’m shooting around the screen at 1000 pixels per second and doesn’t make it nauseating. Check it out, this we knocked up for a project in 30 seconds flat.
The other beautiful thing is that you can set up templates, which means the amount of border radius on your browsers, the background gradient, the amount of screen it takes up and the ratio of the video. These all combine to make it far easier than ever before to record something fast and get it out for the world to see.
If you’re looking for a screen recording app, this is the one. Seriously try it. It’s worth it.
It’s actually good, and there’s nothing hot about this take - Hot Take 🔥
Oh, we’re not actually sponsored. Although I should have probably set myself up with an affiliate link to shill this app.
Basically take exactly what I’ve said above and apply it to screen shots within Mac. You can easily bind the same hotkeys and stylize it with the same gradient background. I’m going to save you some time and just re-read the review above again and take this recommendation.
We’re two apps in and I haven’t got paid for either endorsement -
I don’t want to talk too positively about Cursor, or clients are going to assume I sit around all day picking my nose. That being said, it’s improved our performance significantly. Crazily, it even suggested a fix for the Roboto Studio website which actually fixed the barrel file issue we ran into. We’ve tried GitHub Co-pilot and it’s far better than that, it’s actually integrated and the UX feels very nice, especially being able to step back, line by line with AI.
We primarily use it just to cut down on significantly time consuming an boring tasks… E.g generate me a select with all the countries of the world - then step away for a minute and get yourself a cup of tea. It’s also a banger when you’ve actually forgotten the syntax for a specific framework.
E.g: “Write me up a Sanit & Next.js image that optimises the image to be 60x60 and includes a blurhash for the blur effect”. Yes this actually works.
I don’t think devs are going anywhere, but the gap will get larger between those that don’t use AI and those that do. Let’s just hope we don’t all get stupid-er in the process - Hot Take 🔥
Oh and if you’re considering using this, a couple of tips:
- By pressing CMD + Shift + L you can add custom commands to your editor
- You can add a custom command to always default to tailwindcss styling for example
- You can index entire documentation using the @ documentation feature
- You can also ask your entire codebase a question, this helps no-end at a dead end
I cannot tell you how many hours Loom has saved us. This is the tool that allows you to “tells the team what the issue is, without any: if’s, but’s or confusion”. Our primary use cases fall into one of two:
- I want to describe an issue, but it’s too finicky to write it down
- I want to show off a feature to a client with some extra pizazz
But for solving these two issues, there really isn’t anything that beats it. Because it asynchronously uploads your video as your recording it, you don’t have to go through the arduous process of Recording → Go to YouTube → Upload it → Make sure you don’t close the tab. It also let’s you do quick and easy re-takes if you don’t like your face, or your cat decided to flaunt it’s butt to the camera mid-clip.
Something that’s also neat about it, that I actually recommend paying the little bit extra for is the AI functionality. It ultimately takes what you’ve said in the video and it generates a description, a transcription and a title. Most of the time (probably 80-90%) it’s actually correct with what it says, although we’ve had 1 or 2 blunders, so always check.
This was a newcomer for us this year, and it’s blown us away. Completely changed the paradigm for how we thought of component libraries, and in our opinion is the missing link for more complex Tailwind components. For those of you not in the know, it’s essentially components built out of Tailwind, that range from simple, to “you actually built a datepicker, good job”. There’s no doubt in our mind it saves you about 10-100 hours on every project.
Tools that we hope stop being used
This is going to be the tool that gets me blacklist from working enterprise. I loathe this tool. I really hate it so much from the crappy optimisation that takes a solid 5-10 seconds load time to just see 200 tickets, to the fact that it’s taken them nearly 4 years to implement a dark mode.
Honestly Jira haunts my dreams. Every time I think about this tool I get acid reflux as it’s synonymous with never getting any work done. You want to know something beautiful too. I’ve never actually seen this tool improve accountability or velocity in any time it’s used in. It’s always a hindrance.
Oh, Jira. It's like that bulky, complicated gym equipment no one really knows how to use effectively. Sure, it's powerful, but its complexity often slows us down more than it helps. It's just too clunky for our taste.
I honestly salute whoever built this originally. We feel as though it’s one long running joke where somebody took a to-do list application that you learn when you first start development and went: “We can make a full app out of this”. There is one singular redeeming feature of this tool and that’s the unicorn that sometimes turns up if you complete a task. Well I’m a sucker for positive reinforcement and the little rainbow is like an endorphin shot.
This is one tool we hope to never use again. Not only does the Teams: New edition completely lock us out of our accounts and get stuck in a loop, Teams Classic does the same, but we can at least still access our chats once it’s crashed completely and reopened again.
Honestly I have no idea how this tool got out of QA. It’s hacked together - seriously there’s an 80px blank space between the chat box and chat history. The icing on the cake was the “Now you have to use Teams” to the Open AI guys during that fiasco.
We didn’t want to include on here, because we already unabashedly shill them, and really genuinely love them.
This has been a game changer, and every year it gets better and better. There isn’t a better content management system. If you’re looking for a headless CMS, just learn it. Side note: we've torn down a lot of these here.
This is always a huge time save, I know you can technically roll your own AWS instance or some weird infra that breaks every month, but just don’t bother. Just use this. It's not like we're experts or anything...
Oh surprise, surprise, it’s not like it’s our go-to stack or anything. React Server Components have been a game changer and although I know it’s a divisive topic, overall they’ve been advantageous for us, with a little bit of a learning curve. So just use them.
God, I absolutely didn’t want to like this, everything about it makes my skin crawl, but it’s incredible. Combine this with the newly released Shadcn/ui and you’ve saved more time than I like to think about. There’s no point in using any other frontend styling method, this is the one you’re looking for… Despite how ugly it makes your classNames look.
Here's to another year
Well, if we're not the saddest of sad acts. Yes we actually did draft this just before midnight on New Years Eve, no this isn't scheduled. Here's to another year of fun, frustration and screaming at screens. We wouldn't be where we are without our incredible team, so thank you for all the hard work! Peace.