Tools This Engineer Uses: VS Code, Zeplin, Prettier, ESLint, Droplr
You probably use many tools to get through the day. Do you ever wonder what tools get other people through their days? In our Tools This Engineer Uses series, we explore the routines, systems, and tools your peers rely on to solve problems and accomplish goals.
Before we get into this edition of Tools This Engineer Uses, let me take you on a short journey. From socks to bath bombs, Sentry swag is pretty cool — people like to get it, and we like to give it out. A few months ago, Johnny Bell, Senior Software Engineer at StackShare, tweeted and asked for some swag. Then we tweeted back at him and asked him to do a blog post. This is what Twitter would refer to as “engagement” during one of their earnings calls.
When Johnny isn’t tweeting at companies asking for swag, you’ll find him rebuilding StackShare’s website and app. Here’s a look at the processes and tools that carry Johnny through that task.
Johnny’s daily routine starts early. No, like early. He’s in the office by 7:15am. Although the motivation to be in the office has nothing to do with work — he shares a car with his wife, who needs to be at work early — he gladly reaps the benefits. “The office is very quiet, but when there is no one in there at all, I feel like I can get a lot of work done very easily.” Without interruptions, Johnny often gets two to three hours to himself, during which he’s highly productive.
He also leaves the office around 4:15pm every day, giving him a chance to enjoy the afternoon after a productive morning and reinforce a good work-life balance.
Johnny may be alone in the office for the first few hours of work, but he uses a set of communication-focused tools to stay connected.
Take Jell, for instance. As Johnny explains, “standups usually take a long time, and people talk a lot, but you don’t generally listen to anyone else in the standup.” So, to cut down on time spent in standup and sync teammates that span the globe, Johnny’s team enters what they did yesterday as well as plans for today.
Like many other companies, StackShare uses Slack for quick communication. A new Slack channel is created for every new project, allowing all stakeholders to sync and share relevant information. Even as Slack connects remote employees, it’s also become a substitute for email. “Since I started at StackShare about six months ago, I only used email 12 times to email people. We don’t email people. We don’t need to — we Slack them.”
As StackShare has a fairly remote team they need to send each other quick screenshots, or sometimes a gif of bugs or what they see on their screens. That’s why Johnny uses Droplr on a daily basis. “Droplr is a god send, you can take a screenshot, a screenshot with an annotation or a short gif, it uploads automatically, then copies the link to the clipboard then just paste that link into slack.”
Zoom is also an essential tool, especially for its chatroom feature. “Our lead engineer is in New Zealand, and he is one of the smartest people I’ve met. If anyone has a problem, we can Zoom and share our screens.” In other words, they use Zoom to eliminate both the distance between teammates and the isolation of working remotely.
When Johnny first started at StackShare, he used PhpStorm, a PHP IDE that he used at a previous company that dealt with PHP. At some point, VS Code became a more sustainable solution for code editing. He also takes advantage of the extensions available, like Git, which surfaces every person who committed code and which line they wrote, and Indent-Rainbow, which highlights which lines are indented to which other lines.
For design, Johnny relies on Zeplin. “You don’t need to have Sketch or Illustrator installed; you can just export everything from there.” Whenever he gets a mock-up, he can build everything out in Zeplin without any problems or additional tooling.
Johnny’s team also uses Sentry (we wouldn’t be writing this if they didn’t, would we?). “Sentry’s really important to use because we deploy all the time, and we break things. It’s good to see when the error comes in.”
Trello is used for task management. Just like with Slack channels for every new project, a new Kanban board is created for every new feature.
StackShare has a lot of content, so Johnny uses Alfred to locate and open files quickly. With a quick SST (whatever he’s looking for), Johnny saves himself time that would have been spent manually locating and typing out the name of each file.
Also in the name of productivity, Johnny believes that every developer should be using a formatter like Prettier, which “formats everything for you beautifully,” as well as a linter like ESLint, which surfaces all of your linting errors.
The first question people generally ask Johnny is if he has any issues using a computer or a keyboard, as he’s only got one hand. It wasn’t our first question, but we did ask him about his hardware preferences.
As it turns out, Johnny is different — he, unlike many people, enjoys the new MacBook keyboard (and especially prefers them over mechanical keyboards). “At my old work, I was the only one with the Apple keyboard. Everyone else had mechanicals, and I was like, “Can you be quiet? You’re so loud.”
He’s also switched from a mouse to an Apple trackpad. “I’ve got one hand — I’ve got to take care of it.
Johnny uses tabs, but he actually doesn’t really care if someone wants to use tabs or spaces. While he’s always used tabs himself, he sets it up in the Prettier config, and everything is done for him.
Also, if you’re wondering, Johnny got that swag he asked for.