Developer’s Toolkit: Jackie Balzer

This post is part of a series where Behance developers talk about the various tools they use to get things done and make ideas happen.

1. Who are you, and what do you do at Behance?
Hello Internet! I’m Jackie and I’m Behance’s resident web gradient maker/CSS wizard/semantic HTML evangelist/front-end developer. The short description of my role is that I make things pretty; primarily, I’m the one responsible for taking designs and building the HTML/CSS that you see when you browse our sites. The long description on top of that is being responsible for keeping our HTML and CSS standards compliant, clean, organized and efficient (for example, so that all of our websites and all of your ProSites look good, work correctly and are snappy-quick in every browser) as well as building out entire new features for ProSite, such as cover loading effects and implementing Typekit, among others.

2. What hardware do you use?
My computer is a pretty killer quad-core Mac Pro, 2 beautiful Apple Cinema Displays, an Apple wireless keyboard, … and an old Logitech MX518 mouse. What can I say? It’s a trusty little device, and the Apple trackpad I used for several months proved too awesome for casual internet browsing and not awesome enough for actual work to stick around.

Unsurprisingly, I also carry an iPhone 4 (I’ve had every iteration, sans 3GS, since iPhone’s inception, and you can bet I’ll have an iPhone 4S too) and have an apartment full of Apple products as well. I have both an iPad 2 and Kindle, though I’m finding it hard to give up actual paper books and magazines, and my iPad 2 rules everything when it comes to curling up on the couch with a good Internet, and doubles has being extra-handy for browser testing. For full disclosure, this post was written almost entirely on an iPad 2.

3. What software do you use?
My text editor of choice is the undisputed king of Mac text editors, TextMate. When I’m not running LESS.app in the background, I have some customized CSS/CSS3 Bundles for TextMate that make my life and code way easier and cleaner. When I am running LESS.app in the background, the clouds part and angels sing, for LESS is one of the best things to happen to CSS development since pseudo-elements.

When it comes to browsers, I always have Chrome, Safari and Firefox running for testing, but I build primarily in Firefox because Firebug is a little bit better than the Webkit Inspector in Chrome. (Had I written this post a few months ago, I probably would have said “way freaking better than”, but the Inspector has come incredibly far and definitely has some advantages over Firebug, and only gets better with every update.) I have a few handy extensions for Firefox, namely FireQuery for when I’m doing JS work and Pixel Perfect for overlaying mockups in the browser and ensuring that the page I’m building is, well, pixel perfect!

Aside from all that good stuff, I use Cornerstone for SVN, and Transmit to upload files to my development sandbox. I use VMWare to test in many versions of IE as well as see how things look in modern browsers on Windows, Adium to stay in contact via IM, Alfred as a rad Spotlight replacement/enhancement, and I keep Gmail open in Chrome with the help of Google+Growl for notifications via Growl.

4. What do you listen to while working?
It’s fairly rare that I listen to music while I’m at work. I’m probably the only one, but I really like hearing what’s going on around me, so in general I prefer to skip the headphones in favor of my coworkers’ chatter (honestly, it’s often pretty funny, so it’s usually worth it to listen in). However, on the occasions things in the office get too wild, I’ll probably default to Iron & Wine (my favorite), Death Cab for Cutie, The Decemberists, St. Vincent, or using Grooveshark to listen to whatever my boyfriend has recently turned me on to (I believe the saying goes “the only way to change a girl’s taste in music is to change her boyfriend’s”).

5. Out of all the equipment used, what piece of software/hardware do you feel is the most useful of all?
Right now, LESS.app. Without that, the barrier to entry for using LESS was a little bit higher/somewhat less convenient, but LESS.app had me up and running in literally no time, which meant I could start using LESS immediately, which means the rest of the dev team can move to it sooner (in that now I have to figure out how to make using LESS a snap for all the Windows users I work with!)

In general, it’s a toss up between PixelPerfect and TextMate. Without PixelPerfect, it would take me at least twice as long to do most of my job since I’d otherwise be taking screenshots and pasting them into Photoshop to compare pixels every 20 seconds (been there — it’s awful!). As for TextMate, it is super powerful out of the box and bundles are an incredible extra dose of power. In my years of using it I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of its abilities, but I still always get a little smug when the Windows-using developers here rave about some new plugin that mimics a native TextMate function.

If you love everything you’ve read here, you should totally follow me on Twitter.

Posted on October 13th, 2011 by Jackie