8 Non-Design Apps for Designers

Designing feels like a beautiful rainbow-filled muffin cake (when you’re not the one designing). To the innocents hovering behind you while you sweat over mockups it looks like magic. But we all know good design is hard work, however talented you are. That’s why we’ve asked around and collected apps that will make it easier for you.

It’s not an eye-roll-obvious advice like “Hey, there’s this app called Sketch...” We’re not assuming you just emerged from the depth of Atlantis, you know your work tools. Instead, this collection is about small timesavers. You might’ve never heard of them, yet they will change your life for the better. Here we go.

Sip - Universal color picker with pallets.

Why it’s cool:

It’s hard to overestimate the blunt genius of this app. When you get used to the fact that you can pick colors from anywhere on the screen and they are automatically added to your Color Dock (a sliding palette on the side), you wonder how did you manage to draw anything without it before. Those were dark ages.

Naturally, Sip has any color format you might need for design or web development. You can customize how many colors you need in your history or how you want the code to be formatted (if you’re coding obv). Verdict: small, fast, uber-useful.  

Pixa - Image organizer with smart tags and live folders.

Why it’s cool:

Pixa auto-tags colors, size, location, and all kinds of stuff making it super-easy to find a specific image. Plus, for the pictures you import from the web Pixa will grab web address, extensions, even metadata.

While tagging is nice, the real gold of the app are live folders. You can view, organize, tag, rename, copy, and move images in Pixa while keeping them in their original folders. You don’t have to import and then export them like in Photos. Images are links, the file remains in the folder on your Mac, or even in the cloud.

It’s especially great for constant sync in team projects, because you can use Dropbox folder as the original location. No more I-thought-it-was-the-last-version issues.

Image2icon - Turns images into icons (duh).

Why it’s cool:

Beats manual icon-making big time: Image2icon has 20 retina-ready icon templates of all sizes. You can export icons in a whole range of icon formats, like icns, folder, windows ico (no judgment), iconset, jpg, png, favicon (for mobile and desktop), iOS and Android. The world needs more icons.

Squash - Compresses images, converts images into other formats.

Why it’s cool:

Whenever you need a whole bunch of images converted from TIFF or RAW into JPG, or GIF, or a flying ninja-turtle — Squash does is faster and simpler that most similar apps. It also takes care of quickly compressing files that you need to store or send, because as we all know, some mail clients have troubles receiving those half-a-ton-weighting images.

But the best thing about Squash is that compressed images don’t lose in quality or clarity. They don’t get blurry, grainy or ugly, they only get small.

PDF Squeezer - Compresses PDF and reducing size up to 90%.

Why it’s cool:

If you turn your portfolios or projects into PDFs, you know how their size can grow ridiculously large. Sharing or sending an overweight like that is usually a lose-lose situation. There are often size limits on web forms for PDFs and uploading a PDF into Google Drive to send a link is pretty odd.

The only elegant option would be to reduce the size of a PDF, but most online tools corrupt its quality. That’s when you get PDF Squeezer out of your pocket Applications folder and save the day.

Capto - Records video from your screen and lets you edit it in the app.

Why it’s cool:

Screen recording needs no promotion because it’s the easiest way to show animation in dynamics with user interaction. It’s perfect for tutorials and educational stuff. It’s just a good way to show anything happening on your screen that’s not fit for screenshots.

Capto lets you edit the video and share it in a few clicks which is a huge advantage over apps that do screen recording only.

Hazeover - Highlights the window you’re working in, darkens the rest of the screen.

Why it’s cool:

Hardly something you would google, Hazeover is an app that helps you focus and see your work in a new way. Literally: it darkens the whole screen but for the active window. Hazeover clears out the noise that usually prevents you from immersing into the task. No more blinking shiny icons around your workspace, just the thing you have to finish, staring right at you from the only highlighted spot on your Mac.

It’s also really useful for your color choices, because even the Dock is mildly distracting when it comes to picking the right combinations. So it’s either full-screen the whole time (which is meh) or Hazeover.

Gemini - Finds and removes duplicate files.

Why it’s cool:

The best way to find out why Gemini 2 is a great tool is to run the first scan with it. Just look at the number of duplicate files on your Mac and how much disk space they waste. You seldom notice downloading the same thing again or copying folders and leaving the originals, so the duplicated files just pile up higher and higher (figuratively).

The coolest thing about Gemini is not the space-style design, it’s the similar file search. Gemini has a smart image analysis that looks into the content of the image, not just its name or size. So you can find nearly-identical images and get rid of them as well.

That’s about it, now you’re well-equipped for a life full of marvelous design adventures. None of the apps above will make you a better designer, but they will surely make you a faster one. JK. Have fun with the apps, make those beautiful muffin cakes, and spread the word around. Cheers.