My pro web apps: June 2010

June 8, 2010 | 3 comments

I thought I’d list the third-party web applications I use on a daily basis to do my job. There are plenty more that I use for fun (Flickr) or find useful (Twitter) – but these are the things that have become integral to how I make money. I’d be interested to hear yours: if you post them to Twitter with the hashtag #myprowebapps, or leave them in the comments, I’ll do an update in a future post.

My apps, then:

  • Gmail (email). I used to be a die-hard Mozilla Thunderbird user, but during my Elgg days I switched over. There are probably better email web apps to be using these days; ideally I’d like one that runs on my own infrastructure rather than in Google’s cloud. But with one tweak (I have a separate pane that keeps all starred messages at the top of the screen, so I know what to reply to imminently), the default interface is all I really need.
  • Google Calendar (scheduling). I didn’t get into Google Calendar until I figured out how to sync it to my iPhone – and then it became invaluable. I get a reminder of imminent tasks wherever I am. Interoperability with Gmail for event invitations means I have an integrated system for keeping on top of calls and conferencing.
  • Producteev (task management). Until I found this, I’d been using Remember the Milk for tasks, which I never really got into, despite buying a pro account. Integration with Google Calendar is perfect, and the iPhone app has its own push notifications. And for my purposes, it’s free, which is even better.
  • Freckle (time management) has dramatically simplified the way I bill for my time. The integrated timer means I can effortlessly keep track of how many hours I’m spending on what project, and I get to export unbilled hours to a nicely-formatted automatic invoice. Offline access and the ability to mark invoices as paid would make me even happier.
  • Beanstalk (source code management) is by far the best hosted subversion repository provider I’ve found. (Projects can also be hosted using Git.) It integrates with a bunch of different applications, including Basecamp and Zendesk, but so far I’ve only needed to tie it to Lighthouse.
  • Lighthouse (issue management) is low on features compared to Trac (which I’ve used for years), and it’s true that I’d prefer an easy-to-use bug tracker that managed to incorporate things like Mylyn integration and bug priority levels. But when it comes to interacting with clients, given the choice between feature-packed and non-developer-friendly, I’ll pick the latter every time. Lighthouse is simple, well-designed and light years less painful to use than a tool like Bugzilla. It’s also proven pretty useful inside teams of developers, although there are usually complaints about missing features.

It should go without saying that I’m not involved with any of these companies, and none of them have paid me for this post. In fact, in the case of Freckle, Beantalk and Lighthouse, I happily pay them. I think subscription or one-off license charges are probably a better way for smaller software houses to fund their web applications, and I’m really glad to see these kinds of premium models become more popular.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these, and the apps you find useful in your work. Leave a comment or write your own post and tweet it with the hashtag #myprowebapps.

Synchronize your iPhone with Google Calendar

June 19, 2009 | 5 comments

Finally!This how-to isn’t in the usual remit of this blog, but it solves a problem I’ve had for a while – I can’t use the iPhone’s built-in calendar functionality with Google Calendar – so I thought I’d share.

The iPhone 3.0 software update supports CalDAV, an open standard for sharing and updating calendar information. Luckily, so does Google Calendar.

It should really be easier than this; one of the important aspects of integration through open standards isn’t just its possibility, but also its accessibility. This feels more like a hack than real functionality – but at least it works.

  1. On your iPhone, press Settings, and then Mail, Contacts, Calendars.
  2. Press Add Account… and then Other.
  3. Press Add CalDAV account.
  4. Follow the instructions for enabling Google Calendar in Apple’s iCal. Specifically, this means using your Google account details for the username and password, and setting the CalDAV server name to be
  5. I found that the iPhone didn’t pick up the authentication first time round – you may need to go into Advanced settings and re-enter them. The www in the server name seems to be important.

You can also do it using Google Calendar’s Exchange emulation, but that never worked for me. As with this, your mileage may vary.