Tools of a Remote Age

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.

1 - Slack

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

2 - Zoom

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

3 - Jira

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

4 - Monday

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 |

5 - Figma

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.

6 - Zeplin

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.

7 - Pixelworm

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 remotely.

8 - Serene

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.