The Best Project Management Tools for Web Developers

Development Strategy
Sean Dean
08/31/20

My current workload includes migrating a Fortune 100 client’s servers to a new cloud services provider, moving another major client to a faster server so in a couple of months they can launch a better site, managing developers, countless meetings during the week and also, (crazily enough) doing development.

All that is to say I have a lot of balls in the air — and that’s before I get home to be a full-time student and parent. Keeping it all straight has become a challenge. Fortunately, there are a series of tools that help me be clear about what needs to be done and when. 

Developer Tools to #Get$#*!Done

Text Editors

A text editor is a simple program that allows you to type text — think Notepad on Windows or TextEdit on Mac. Text editors are incredibly flexible, giving you the ability to create lists, write code, write that Twitter thread you know will be fire, but want to get just right before you post it — or any of a hundred other things. They generally don’t have any formatting tools (unless it’s TextEdit because Apple), so you’re not going to be formatting your thesis for world peace in them, but you could at least get the text written first. There are a lot of text editors on the market to choose from and most of them are free. 

I’ve been using SublimeText since at least 2012 — it’s my go-to text editor. SublimeText is free to use initially, but at some point, you need to buy a registration. It was the first of a recent generation of text editors that made it easy to install plugins to increase the functionality of the editor. This flexibility has made it possible to be my goto development platform rather than being forced to use a bulky IDE. I’ve used it for so long I have a hard time using any other editor. Thankfully it is cross-platform (available on Linux, Windows, and Mac), so whatever computer I’m on I can use it. If SublimeText isn’t what you want, a couple of other good choices are VisualStudio Code, and the geek favorite Vim (remember esc :q to quit or esc:x to save and quit).

To-Do Lists

I have to-do list ADD. I’ve used a lot of different types and services, but none of them have really stuck. That being said there are a couple that I keep returning to time and again. Asana is likely the service I use most for maintaining lists in the cloud. They allow you to create traditional to-do lists or use the Agile kanban board system. If your team is looking for a task management system Asana is a great choice. Other great choices if you’re not into Asana would be Trello or Jira – but honestly, nobody wants to use Jira.

When I need to create lists that are just for me I’ve come to really enjoy Taskwarrior. This is a command line tool for maintaining lists. It’s super powerful and fast to use. Of course, you need to feel comfortable within the terminal app on your computer to use it. If the terminal isn’t your speed, Google Tasks (in your Gmail sidebar) or creating a list in your text editor is always an option.

Git Tools

As a developer, a lot of my work is done within Git repositories. I have several projects where I am working in multiple branches in the same repository. I have found having a graphical user interface for my repositories to be very helpful to remind me where I left off. My favorite is LazyGit, which runs in your terminal. This works out for me since I’m in my terminal a lot anyway. Plus it’s one less app to have open at any given time. If you don’t want to be in the terminal there’s always SourceTree, which has proven to be quite robust as well as GitKraken that I expect to become very popular in the Seattle area very soon.

Documentation

Getting older has taught me several things with perhaps the most important being to write things down and save them where you can find them. Documentation is generally seen as something we do for our projects, but not necessarily for life. I would argue that documenting processes you use or need will make you more productive in the long run. 

I write my documentation in markdown using Typora, a minimalist markdown editor. It allows me to write like I’m in a traditional word processor but saves in markdown allowing me to produce “notebooks” using tools like MkDocs or GitBook. If you’re not the DIY type there are other good options out there like Evernote, Boost Note or Google Keep.

Find What Works For You

My system for productivity is a little all over the place, but it works for me. Finding what works for you is ultimately the key to being productive. These are a few options out of many. Find the ones that work for you and forget about what everybody else is telling you.