Dine is a remote team since day one. We have an office, but our partners work remotely from wherever they want. So we heavily rely on tools to stay connected, and we‘re continually experimenting with new ones. Here’re some of our favorite tools that we use every day and our thoughts about them, please get in touch if you know something fresh we should try.
- Retired tools are marked as grey, but don’t let it stop you from trying it out for yourself.
- Affiliate links are purple, and you can get sign-up bonuses while supporting our efforts.
- Most of the tools start with a free plan, the prices below are how much do we pay for them.
The central hub of our daily communications since 2013. It’s connected to Figma projects, Zoom meetings, Notion docs, GitHub webhooks, and a ton of Slack bots to make our job easier. We also invite our clients to join Slack via Shared Channel if they happen to use Slack as well.
The best tool for online meetings, period.
We‘re looking for alternatives right now since Zoom stopped providing services in China.
Loom is not only a coincidence by name but also happens to be the most elegant solution for asynchronous communication. Let’s just say we’re obsessed with making tutorial videos internally.
We use Gmail and Sheets. Exported CSVs from Timemator are uploaded to Sheets then send along with invoices.
We‘re excited about Hey for Work.
Mimestream is a native Mac app for Gmail and G Suite. It looks just like Mail.app only feels infinitely better.
Who doesn’t enjoy writing on a freeform paper? Also, it comes with the Dropbox subscription. We draft all of our documents, even contracts in Paper, thanks to its version control and beautiful tables.
To communicate with our domestic clients, we do use its clone Feishu Docs sometimes.
Due to the popular demand for WeChat, now it has officially become one of the ways to reach us.
We’re a big fan of presentations, the best way to sell a design is to present it beautifully. Paste is super easy to use. You can focus on the content and let it take care of the rest automatically.
Paste recently lowered its price for small teams.
We love Spark for being able to write emails together and discuss without getting stuck in reply-all hell. My favorite feature is Templates, which saved me so much time.
Replaced with Mimestream.
We installed the Standuply bot in Slack to automate standup meetings and weekly reviews.
Replaced with Roadmap.
Notion is our document center. We gave up the idea of using a centralized todo app a long time ago since we all have different preferences.
Switched to Free plan.
We recently switched to Roadmap for project management. It‘s a timeline-based approach, which is more suitable for visual thinkers, you can really see what’s coming next and who’s working on what.
All of our legitimately paid fonts and top-secret multibillion-dollar contracts are safely stored in the good ol' box.
We‘ve tried many fancy new tools, but they have failed us. We signed up for Zoho one day and never looked back.
We use Harpoon to send estimates and invoices. But we ditched its time tracking because the mac app lacks features and updates. Instead, we use Timemator for much more accurate tracking.
Excellent customer service but too slow. Replaced with Zoho Books.
We have been paid customers of Basecamp for many years. As I mentioned above, now we invite clients directly to our Slack. We still use Basecamp occasionally if the project requires a lot of sending deliverables and documents back and forth.
Too slow to use in China. Also too expensive for small businesses.
Octopus is so much more than a visual sitemap builder. It makes so much sense to track the progress of web projects when you can see the whole picture.
Not suitable for our workflow.
Our primary design tool. We used to have Sketch, Abstract, and Zeplin, but it was messy and expensive. Now everything is in one place instead of all over the place. We also use Ai and Ps for brand identity work occasionally.
Currently, Drama is our favorite tool for creating sophisticated interactions and animations. Although most of the time, we use Prototype in Figma. Before Drama, we have used Origami, Flinto, and Principle.
We’re all huge font nerds, and we enjoy using Fontstand to try out fonts for each new project.
We started using Dropmark when there weren’t many choices around for collection. Now, the market is crowded, but we stuck to it mostly because we forget to unsubscribe…
Overflow is an amazing tool for creating diagrams and flows. But Figma has replaced so many tools and saved us so much money.
Replaced with Figma.
The best tool for designing wireframes and flowcharts.
Too expensive and not used often enough. Replaced with Figma.
We value our visitors’ privacy as much as our own. That’s why we replaced Google Analytics and Gauges with Fathom, a privacy-focused alternative. No cookie consent popups, yay!
Finally we can publish (and schedule) Instagram posts from the desktop. But weirdly you can’t boost your posts right from the app.
If you’re a subscriber of Dine News—which you should be—you probably have seen Revue, our email marketing service.
Smallchat is connected straight to one of our Slack channels, visitors on our website can talk to us directly from the page.
We removed Smallchat from our site because it tracks our visitors.
Simple and easy to understand analytics service.
Replaced with Fathom.
All of a sudden, collaborative presentation software is the hottest new thing. If you need more control over the details and layouts, Pitch might be the right choice for you. But for us, Paste is good enough.
It’s basically an online version of PowerPoint, not as convenient as Paste.
We use GitHub for all of our websites and client projects. Thanks to the generosity of Microsoft, we no longer need to pay for private repos.
GitHub is great for most of its job, but for speed and compliance reasons, we also have our own GitLab server and a CI/CD workflow set up on Aliyun.
- Approx. $5/mo
AWS hosts all of our websites, builds code with CodeBuild, routes all the traffics through Route 53, hosts all of our files on S3, and serves via CloudFront.
Replaced CodeBuild and CodePipeline with Amplify.
- Approx. ¥240/mo
It’s vital to our business to have a fast website for domestic visitors as well as a pleasant experience for our clients to use their CMS that we provided.
We are in the process of migrating most of our services to Aliyun.
Everyone loves CloudFlare. From their robust DNS service with speed optimization to the powerful Workers that turns Notion page into a website with a custom domain.
Fork is our preferred git client. It’s fast, friendly, and made git less intimidating for designers like us.
Call me old-fashioned, but I have tried VS Code numerous times and always find quirks that turn me off and make me go back to Sublime Text.
We build our website using Jekyll and test internally with Fast.io.
Replaced with Netlify.
The shiny new toy. Currently serves as our build and test platform for Jekyll and Gatsby sites, it’s super fast and a pleasure to use.
We have fully migrated our dev environment to GitLab.
All-in-one easy-to-use online PDF tools, for those who can’t afford Acrobat.
Since we have been using more and more videos on our website and in client projects, Handbrake really comes in handy when dealing with MP4 files.
Here’s our preset for compressing videos to use on the web.
From time to time, we need to optimize image file sizes manually. Optimage is the best choice after trying almost everything.
Krisp is like AirPods Pro... but it also works for your microphone. It mutes background noise in any communication app. Perfect for a time like this if you’re also working from home.
Other file transfer or storage tools have many constraints even to share one single file. That’s why we choose CowTransfer for unthrottled transfers.
Grammarly is a must-have tool for us to find and correct writing mistakes. We recommend it to everyone who works in an English speaking environment.
DocuSign is the de facto standard in electronic signature services. We use it with our foreign clients and contractors.
Manually tracking your time can be troublesome and easy to forget, also inaccurate from the employer‘s point of view. Tell Timemator which files you’re working on or what applications you use for your work, it will automatically start the timer for you.
Roam is a new kind of knowledge management tool. Yes, it’s not the prettiest in the world, and it‘s fricking expensive, but it stands out in so many different ways. I highly recommend you spend some time with it. It can be gratifying.
CleanShot is our team’s favorite screenshot tool. With its powerful annotation utilities and built-in cloud sharing feature, it’s a superior replacement for the macOS tool, Droplr, CloudApp, etc.
We use uPic to share files with clients through our private server.
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