Web Developer Economics: One Off Software Costs

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Chris Coyier on (Updated on )

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We kicked this little series off talking about monthly service costs, then started a poll about earnings, now let’s keep it going and talk about software again. This time, software that you only buy once. Maybe it has paid upgrades once in a while, but those are optional (e.g. Adobe Creative Suite).

Below I’m going to list my set of one-off software. I’ll list the name, why/how I use it, and free or cheaper alternatives if I know of any. This is only paid software, not free software. I’ll be listing Mac software because that’s what I use and know, but don’t feel excluded if you use a different operating system, that’s just as relevant and please share that in the comments.

The point of this is to paint a picture of the financial ins and outs of being a web developer today. I think we’ll follow this up with one more post about hardware costs, then a wrapup post putting all the numbers together and see what we see.

Sublime Text 2 ($59)

You must have a code editor. This one is fantastic. With once licence you can use it on as many (of your) computers as you want, even cross operating systems. It’s cheaper if you’re buying for a large team.

Alternatives: TextMate is open source / Brackets is on the web

CodeKit ($25-$35)

I work with preprocessors, and CodeKit handles all the compiling of those languages for me. It also does code hinting, concatenation, style injection, and image compression – making it a pretty damn valuable tool.

Alternatives: One off tools like Image Optim (for image compression) / SoFresh bookmarklet (for style injection) / Just using the preprocessors through the command line

Tower ($59)

I work with Git but not always on GitHub. Just like with preprocessors, I could work with Git through the command line. I find using an app more comfortable (simple button clicks), more useful (nice views for difs), and more efficient (switching between projects and branches trivially easy).

Alternatives: GitHub for Mac (or Windows) if you use all GitHub repos / command line

Coda ($75)

I don’t use (and very much discourage) going FTP commando with code editing, but having an FTP client is pretty vital. Perhaps you need to edit some files you intentionally keep out of version control. Those times, I think having the built-in editor is super convenient to have.

Alternatives: Transmit is half the price, but no editor / CyberDuck is free for Mac and Windows.

Creative Suite (Design Standard, $1,299)

I still heavily use Photoshop and Illustrator in design work. Sometimes InDesign as well when I do occasional print work. A very practical choice for those big three is Design Standard which comes with those and a few others you probably won’t use.

Alternatives: Acorn / Sketch / Gimp

MAMP Pro ($59)

The first M in MAMP stands for “Mac”, but there is also a (W)indows and (L)inux versions of this as well. The other letters are (A)pache, (M)ySQL, and (P)HP. This bundles them all together giving you the dependancies you need to work on websites locally. Well, websites with these exact dependencies anyway, which include pretty much every single popular CMS. The Pro version adds the ability to create new local domain names easily.

Alternatives: MAMP Regular / These are all open source things, so learn to install and manage them yourself.

1Password ($49.99)

Stores and helps me input all my web passwords. Syncs across all browsers and devices. The amount of browser-hopping I do makes this extremely valuable.

Alternatives: LastPass / a piece of paper taped to your wall

Things ($49.99)

To-do list that syncs.

Alternatives: There are 10 billion to-do apps, you won’t have trouble finding them. My calendar, email client, and operating system all have to-do list functionality.

ScreenFlow ($99)

This is for recording, editing, and exporting screencasts. Not all developers need this, but this is my wildcard. I think all developers have some apps that are very specific to something they do that isn’t super common across all developers.

Alternatives: Record your screen with QuickTime Player


Service Cost
Sublime Text 2 $59.00
CodeKit $30.00
Tower $59.00
Coda $75.00
Creative Suite $1,299.00
MAMP Pro $59.00
1Password $49.99
Things $49.99
ScreenFlow $99.00
Total $1,779.98

This represents what I would consider to be a really premium set of software tools. As in, for love or money, it doesn’t get much better.


It will be interesting to hear what one-off software costs you’ve incurred. Is it much different than mine? If you’re a Linux or Windows user, how different is it? Has anyone spend substantially more or substantially less?