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Here are the tools I use nearly every day. I have some general rules of thumb when choosing my tools:
Each tool has to be simple enough for me to use, yet reliable when used. I don’t necessarily want a product that does everything because most times, those products actually do a lot of things not very well. I’d rather it do few things and do them really, really well. My favorite applications are cross-platform, meaning you can do work on your desktop, smartphone, and tablet and never skip a beat. My favorite example of this is Evernote.
I use tools that other people are using. Why? Chances are, there will be good community and forum support when I don’t know how to do something. I also know I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed. (see what I did there?) I listen to what other pros use and try it out. If it doesn’t work for me, I don’t promote it. If it does, I make sure to tell everybody.
Personally, I like freemium tools. These are tools that you can ‘try before you buy’. A freemium tool is one that you can use and pay nothing for. This is great because the last thing anybody wants is to pay for something that doesn’t work. Often, this means you’ll get ads in your app or software. If you want a few other features, you can select a paid option that gives you added value to the product. Most of my tools use the freemium model.