Brian Wangila: Apps I Couldn’t Write Without

For the past few weeks now, the writers here at Appstorm have been giving you insights into the setups and applications that they use to do their writing. It’s been interesting to see how my fellow writers get the job done…and now, it’d finally my turn.

My name is Brian Wangila and I live in beautiful Nairobi, Kenya. By day, I’m the Lead Developer at Skyline Design – a local web development agency trying to make the web beautiful, one website at a time. By night, I’m a student pursuing my Computer Science degree online at the University of South Africa while writing articles for Appstorm and reviewing new funky gadgets.

The Hardware

I’m pretty liberal when it comes to operating systems and brand loyalty so I usually pick  whatever works for me. That said I have a custom built Windows PC that I use mainly for web design, gaming and other heavy tasks. I also use it as a home media server. It runs on Windows 8 with an i7 2600K processor, 16GB RAM, a GTX 680 graphics card and 7TB storage space.

For my daily office duties, I have a kitted 13 inch 2012 MacBook Pro. This one is my daily machine that I lug around for office work, web development and writing on the go. I love it for the light weight and battery life.

I also have a Nokia Lumia 920 and an Amazon Kindle tablet running Android Jellybean.

The Apps

Writing

Let’s kick this off with the most important apps in my workflow, the ones that I use to get my writing done. My primary criteria here was that I needed an app that I could dive into, anytime, anywhere and start writing with minimal setup.

Google Chrome

Appstorm runs on WordPress, the critically acclaimed blogging and CMS platform. For most of my writing, I use Google Chrome. I like the convenience of simply being able to open my browser, log in and start writing.

The browser also comes in handy because it automatically syncs my tabs across devices and I can continue writing even when I switch from my Desktop PC to the laptop.

Google Chrome is single-handedly the most important app in my workflow

iA Writer

Opinion and Interview articles require full concentration and blocking out everything else..and it is for this reason that I have iA Writer in my arsenal of writing tools. iA Writer provides a distraction-free interface, blocking out everything else but a clean minimal typing sheet.

There’s also a nifty Focus Mode where everything but the sentence you’re crafting fades into the background. That and it also supports Markdown, which allows you to write in plain text as you normally would and automatically converts it to HTML. This really comes in handy for articles such as this or roundups

Images and Screenshots

As they say,  a picture is worth a thousand words. This is even more important for blog posts. A screenshot will explain the functionality of an app more than words ever could. A great product shot can make you change your mind about a gadget. For most of my articles, I rarely need to take product shots, but when I do, my Nokia Lumia 920 has got that covered.

Windows Snipping Tool

Most of the time however, I need to capture screenshots of apps that I am reviewing. For this, I use the built in Windows Snipping Tool simply because you get to select the screen area you want to capture.

It also a light-weight tool that easily integrates into my workflow…just launch it, select the required screen and capture. Print Screen comes in handy too.

Adobe Photoshop

Most images and screenshots are usually blog-post-ready straight away, and this is where Photoshop swoops in to my workflow to save the day.

For many articles, there is usually a pre-defined structure requiring thumbnails  and screenshots of certain dimensions. I use Photoshop mainly for cropping and resizing images

Music

Personally, I find it hard to write or work in a totally quiet environment…and that is where music fits into my workflow. It provides a well-proportioned mix of inspiration, entertainment and ambient noise.

Grooveshark

In case you haven’t heard of it (highly unlikely), Grooveshark an online service that easily lets you stream your music. I have compiled a playlist of songs I like for inspiration when am writing or working.

Other times, I just click on a genre, mostly Classical or Jazz, and let it surprise me.

In Conclusion…

There are a bunch of other apps that I use to make my life easier, such as Evernote for organizing my ideas, Launchy for quickly launching windows apps and AvaFind for easily searching for files on my PC.

All in all, I hope you picked up one or two useful apps you could use.