Must have tools of the trade: 4 life-saving online apps

Designers don't just design, you know. The other day I realized that I don't just use one particular application for work anymore and I've moved mostly over to online applications and resources. I know, I'm a geek, but honestly, I'll take anything that makes my life easier. My online applications have moved to four new systems that have helped to make this mess of a business so much easier. Here's a couple:

1. Modenus

This online app is much more than a sourcing guide for materials and equipment, and I'm sure my little smarty-pants Veronika Miller from Modenus is working on more, but It's a pretty awesome project manager already. This is what I use it for:

  • Upload contacts for key players of the project including client, contractors, installers, and sub-trades.
  • Upload project documents such as the client contract, contract drawings, cut-sheets, and specifications.

Here's what Veronika said in her press release:

“No one needs to tell interior designers that times are tougher. We are launching Modenus to help them make the most of challenging business conditions by offering them free tools to work more profitably, a platform from which to network with peers and meet potential clients and a curated catalog of products from the US, Europe and beyond, putting new and exciting resources at their finger tips.”

The best part? It's free for designers. Free. FREE!

Contact: | press[at]

2. Oilioboard

Material and concept boards are a pain in the ass. No one really wants to touch a small sample of the products on the boards, and this app, you guessed it, is free! Tonnes of picks, easy to use and resize in your favourite geometric pattern. So, have your product samples to the side and use this is an online material concepting tool for you to piece it all together. This is what I use it for:

  • Digital concept boards to visualize all equipment and materials together on one sheet

Best part? VANCOUVER rocks.

Contact: | @olioboard

3. Specify

This tool has been an incredible addition to my work flow. The office loves it so far (and we're just on a trial!) Polo from Specify and I have been going back and forth and he's been amazing as taking my suggestions and tips for how we work (fast paced, residential design, mostly kitchens) and there have been so many great improvements. I run this in my design work flow and add product as I go so that if I win the job, at least I have the critical pieces put together already. Here's what I use it for:

  • Digital creation of cut-sheets, which I then store and print
  • Sending and entering quotes (bids) from suppliers

I mean, cut sheets used to be the biggest time consuming part of the job, but now it's cut down to about an hour, and that's hours more of selling and servicing time for my clients. I can't live without it. I think the $29USD/mo far out-weights the time spent creating each cut-sheet.

Contact: | @specifyapp | 510-269-SPEC

4. Freshbooks

As much as we don't like making cut-sheets or material boards, accounting can be a nightmare. Freshbooks to the rescue!! It emails, it prints, it evens sends invoices and statements in the post, and it pulls reports. Here's what I use it for:

  • Keeping track of quotations, invoices (still create those by hand for now), statements (again, by hand)
  • Recording client payments
  • Job costing
  • Profit & loss statments

When you compare that accounting software is about $150 per year, $19.95/mo is a $30 per year savings. Again, can't live without it.

Contact: | @freshbooks | info[at]