Despite the fact that 2020 started off lousy, to say the least, none of us could have
expected nor imagined living through a pandemic. Even as we watched it unfold in China.
Perhaps it was because of our modern skill of ignoring the yammer of the 24 hour newscycle. Or maybe our
collective expectation of this being another SARS, peaking quickly
and petering out with the same pace. Much to our surprise it was neither, and now we are
all watching the haphazard way our governments are trying to fix a problem they were
never prepared for.
All is not grim, however, as we came to understand for the first time in the history of
capitalism that a great number of us could carry out our tasks without stepping foot
outside our home. I say the first time in the history of capitalism because we have access to
tools that connect us in ways we could not have imagined before. Productivity tools,
collaboration tools, remote access tools, communication tools, and the list goes on. Seeing
as a majority of the workforce is now working remotely, we thought we’d curate a list of
tools that help ease the process.
Slack didn’t become one of the youngest billion dollar companies for no reason. What
looks like a simple chat program on the surface is actually a powerful communication hub.
Slack allows you to create channels for group messaging, gives you the option to make
voice and video calls, and integrates with more apps than you can name. Additionally, you
can set up bots to do manage a number of tasks - a technological boost to productivity. Its
free version could be enough for almost all your needs but if you want to unlock the true
potential of Slack, the paid version is the way to go.
Where work happnes | Slack
Though slack offers video chat, the de facto product in that area is Zoom. Zoom has been a
staple tool in almost every remote working team’s toolbox and, despite security issues,
continues to be so. Coming second to TikTok as one of the most downloaded apps, Zoom
offers, according to testimonials, much better video quality and streaming without a
hiccup. Similar to Slack, Zoom also offers integration to other tools such as your calendar.
On top of it all Zoom adds a little fun to your meetings with quirky features such as virtual
backgrounds and touch-up filters. To make it feel like we are there without actually being
there, Zoom is the way to go.
Video Conferencing, Web Conferencing, Webinars, Screen Sharing - Zoom
When it comes to project management, Attlasian’s Jira is the dominant powerhouse. Built
from the ground up to be used in project management of any and every kind within any
industry, Jira is packed full of so many features that, given the inclination, you can surprise
yourself everyday with a new one. Jira offers different kinds of boards, different workflows,
and a wide array of reports that give you the perfect retrospective review. All this, of
course, comes with the price of a hefty learning curve. As mentioned before, the sheer
volume of features means finding the one you need will take some time.
Jira | Issue & Project Tracking Software | Atlassian
For a simpler, and more attractive alternative to Jira you can give Monday a try. Taking a
similar board based approach to Jira, Monday comes with the added benefit of
automating workflows. Being able to see your team’s workload at a glance as well as your
timeline mapped out in a beautiful graph are a few of the features that are a joy to use with
Monday’s beautiful interface. There is, of course, the option to integrate with other apps
but Monday goes one step further and gives you the option to create and package your
own custom apps and integrations.
The Work Operating System That Makes Teamwork Click | monday.com
Figma is a prototyping tool that has design collaboration coded into its genes. Completely
web based and with a layout very similar to Sketch, you can prototype in Figma using its
vector based pen tool, design responsive with its auto-layout capabilities, speed up the
two with a number of nifty plugins such as stock imagery. And that’s just the individual
creation process. Figma is fully web-based which means you can invite team members to
work together on a project in real-time. Or if you’d rather work on your own time, you can
add embedded comments, questions, and mentions to any part of the design. Oh, and in
case you were worried of the tangle you may get yourself into with too many chefs
manning the soup, Figma also offers version history.
Figma: the collaborative interface design tool.
When it comes to handing off design files to developers, Zeplin was not only the first to market with their
tool but also continue to be one of the best with each new update. Exporting is made easy with
integration to quite a few industry standard design tools like Photoshop and XD. Once exported, Zeplin
provides developers accurate specs along with code snippets to ease the transition. And now, with their
recently released connected components feature, you can point Zeplin assets to code components. When it
comes to handing over design assets to developers in a clear, easy to understand format, Zeplin is the
way to go.
We couldn’t possibly write up a post about remote work without including our very own
product Pixelworm and having just mentioned design hand over and collaboration tools,
now is the perfect time to do so. Handing over files is not the end of the design phase, not
by a long shot. Errors in the implementation tend to pop up quite often and these need to
be caught and remedied in the design QA phase. Pixelworm automates the process of
capturing the differences between the design files that were handed over to developers,
and their output - namely their coded interfaces. These differences are then listed out in an
easy to read format on a platform that is ideally suited for remote collaboration. Pixelworm
is suited for freelancers, software development agencies, and, as is apt for the crisis we are
going through at the moment, any and every developer/designer team that is working
Finally, working at home can be different from the office environment that we are used to
and this difference can be difficult to adapt too, taking away from our focus. Serene is here
to the rescue. It is an app that aims to do what normally you would need a few apps to get
done. You set a goal, choose a time period to work on that goal, block websites that you
feel are distractions, and finally set up soothing music to help you focus in that time
period. It isn’t collaborative, it doesn’t involve communicating, there are no fancy
integrations (save for the browser extensions), but that’s the point of Serene. Like its name
suggests, it’s for calm, untroubled, tranquil focus. The flow we are all seeking.
Serene: The macOS App for Laser-Focus
Well, that’s our roundup of remote tools. Of course there are hundreds if not thousands of
tools out there that each, in its own way, reminds us that we live in an era where
technology enables us to work together, far apart. It is possible that one of the good things
that could come of this crisis is our awakening to that fact. That maybe we do not need to
commute 5 days a week, hustling and bustling to come together under one roof for the
sake of productivity and efficiency. That we can give the planet a break from our constant
harassment. A breather from our unnecessary pollution.