Product Numbering Standard: Moving to Lists

A few months ago I documented the Brettro Product Numbering Standard. Since then, Microsoft introduced Lists as part of Microsoft 365. After moving my editorial calendar to a list a few weeks ago, I decided to move the list where I kept and created product numbers for Brettro creative files from an Excel spreadsheet into Microsoft Lists.

Getting Ready

One option to create a new list is to import an Excel file. Since my current tracking document is an Excel spreadsheet I thought I’d give that a try. But I needed to do a few things before importing the list.

Prepping the Excel File

Every Microsoft List includes a “Title” column. It can be renamed to anything, but it starts as “Title.” My spreadsheet didn’t have a “Title” column, so I created one and populated it with the content in my “Slug” column. Looking back, it seems a bit duplicative to have done that, but it made sense at the time.

The next thing I needed to do was define a table in my spreadsheet. This was new to me, so I had to do a web search to learn how.

With that done, I needed to save the spreadsheet to my OneDrive. You have a choice to upload it to OneDrive during the import process, but I didn’t realize that until I’d started.

Create a SharePoint Document Library

Prior to creating this list, I was saving all Brettro’s creative files in my OneDrive. In planning the list, though, I realized I could use Power Automate to create folders to store the files related to the list entry automatically. I decided to have the Automate flow do that in a SharePoint document library, so I created a document library and using the “Move” function in OneDrive, I moved all my existing files to the library. And while this was overall pretty fast, it did take some time.

Now that the prep work is done, I can create my list!

Creating the List

The import-from-Excel process is very easy. In Microsoft Lists:

  1. Click New list button
    1. Choose From Excel
    2. Select the Excel file and click Next
    3. Assign column types to the columns; in my case:
      1. Set “Slug” column to Title
      2. Set “Product Category” column to Choice
      3. Set “Creation Date” to Do Not Import

And with that, the list was created.

Fine-Tuning the List

With the list created and the contents of my spreadsheet imported, I needed to do some fine tuning.

  • Confirmed that the “ID” column matches “Unique ID” column: all the product numbers I’d created previously had used a column in the spreadsheet called “ID.” It was important to make sure the unique ID number assigned to each entry matched that original ID column. A quick check determined that they matched.
  • Add all the choices to “Product Category”: the Product Numbering Standard has 20 different categories for products. I haven’t created a product in each category yet, so the “Product Category” column choices needed to be updated to include all of them.
  • Added the “Link to Folder” column: as I was preparing my Power Automate flow, I decided it would be nice to have a link in the list to the folder for the product. I added this column so that the flow could add that information once the folder was created.

Adding Some Automation

Microsoft’s Power Automate is an incredibly powerful automation tool for use in pretty much every Microsoft 365 product. I’m not going to go into detail about the Automate flow creation, except to say that the flow I created:

  • Populates the “Product Workspace & Filename” column in my list. The information is used to not only name the directory where files are stored but also the source document files.
  • Creates a folder in the directory structure. Using the “Product Category” column from the list, the flow can determine which directory in the directory structure to create a new folder and then create the folder with the correct filename.
  • Updates the list with a link to the folder. The list entry is then updated with a link to the newly created folder so that if you’re looking at the list, you can jump to the related files very quickly.

Changing the Standard

I developed my Product Numbering Standard before version control was really built-in to places where files were saved. SharePoint document libraries do have great version control, so with the move of all my creative files to SharePoint, I’ve removed the version number requirement from both the folder structure and the product ID.


Microsoft Lists have a great deal of potential. I have a few other ideas in mind for lists to create, though I’d like to someday do a deeper dive into how Lists, Microsoft Planner and Microsoft To Do all complement each other.

Blogging Workflow: Moving Editorial Calendar to Lists

When Lists launched as part of Microsoft 365 this past summer, one of the built-in templates included with it was a Content Scheduler. This template was the most interesting to me because, like I identify in my Website Content Workflow post, I currently use a table on a OneNote page to manage my editorial calendar.

So I decided to give this Lists template a try.

Creating the list is very easy. It’s a matter of clicking a few buttons, setting a name and a location and the list is created.

But I want to customize the list a little bit to use my terminology and workflow.

Customizing the List

The list comes pre-populated with nine fields, several of which I decided to customize:

  • Content Type
  • Content Image
  • Draft Due By
  • Publish By
  • Status

I also added a few columns to enhance my workflow.

‘Content Type’ to ‘Post Type’

Since the only thing I’m using this for is to track entries in my blog, I don’t need a “content type” column. But I do need a column to track the types of posts in my blog, so I changed this to “Post Type” and changed the options to:

  • Blog Post
  • Page
  • Portfolio
  • Event

I also changed this to only allow a single selection.

‘Content Image’ to ‘Featured Image’

I changed this to “Featured Image” to match the WordPress terminology.

‘Draft Due By’ to ‘Publish Date (Planned)’

My goal is to post a blog entry every month in both of my blogs. For this blog, my scheduled post date is the first Thursday of every month. At any given time I’m working on about four different blog entries, so having a “draft due” column isn’t useful to me. Knowing the planned publish date, however, is.

‘Publish By’ to ‘Publish Date (Actual)’

And sometimes I miss my publication goal, so I like to keep track of when I actually posted my blog entries.

Status Column

The choices included with the “Status” column didn’t match the statuses I’d developed for my workflow, so I changed them to what works for me:

  • Planned
  • In Progress
  • Final Review
  • Posted
  • Deferred


I added this column to be able to track content for both my blogs.


The slug is a three to four word phrase that succinctly describes the blog entry. It’s used by WordPress as part of the URL and I use it to create a folder for storing my Word document and any related graphics and images.

Customizing the View

Customizing and creating views of Lists are both very easy and very handy. The standard, default view is “All Items.” I edited that view order the entries by the “Publish Date (Planned)” column so the newest entries are at the top of the list.

I also created a view for the planned, in progress and final review statuses so I can quickly see where I need to focus my attention.

Lists also has a handy calendar view, but since I’m only posting two entries a month, it’s not particularly useful to me right now.

Creating a Folder

My Office 365 subscription includes access to Power Automate, Microsoft’s tool for automating tasks and workflows. Using the data from a few of my Editorial Calendar list columns, I created a flow that automatically creates the folder where I save content and assets for a specific blog entry. (An automation in Power Automate is called a “flow.”)

The flow concatenates the planned publish date column and the slug column to create the folder. For this entry, the folder’s name is entry – 2020-12-03 – editorial calendar to lists.

Power Automate is an incredibly robust automation engine. My folder creation flow, while a time saver for me, barely scratches the surface of its capabilities.

To List or Not to List…

Moving my editorial calendar from a clunky, manually created OneNote table to Microsoft Lists was very easy to do. And the functionality available in Lists makes it easy to quickly see where I stand in the writing of my blogs. So far, I really like it. And according to Microsoft’s Roadmap, they seem quite committed to the product. (An iOS app is slated for release in the next few months which will make working with lists even easier.) I see potential for Lists to replace other tracking tools I’m using, like Excel, for other areas of Brettro.

Adobe CC Libraries: Paragraph and Character Styles

A few months ago I wrote a post giving an overview of Adobe CC Libraries. Since that time and after integrating them into my workflow, it’s clear that one of its most powerful features is the ability to store paragraph and character styles.

The ability to create a style once and share it not only with others but also with different Adobe apps is remarkable and an incredible time saver.

Establishing Standard, Baseline Styles

From the moment I started desktop publishing in the mid-1980’s, the standard content creation workflow always seems to start in a word processor. Over time Microsoft Word has become the de facto one, so as I formalized my content creation workflow, I decided to standardize my paragraph and character styles on the default ones from Microsoft Word. That way when I place a Word doc in InDesign the style formatting will be automatically applied.

To see all the styles in one place and to have a better understanding of the depth and breadth of the styles, I created a Word doc listing all the standard Word paragraph and character styles.

A Word doc listing all the standard Microsoft Word paragraph and character styles.
A Word doc listing all the standard Microsoft Word paragraph and character styles.

Recently I updated that to include a text example of the style.

A Word doc listing all the standard Microsoft Word paragraph and character styles with examples.
A Word doc listing all the standard Microsoft Word paragraph and character styles with examples.

Which Adobe Apps Can Use Styles?

According to Adobe’s Help System these Creative Cloud desktop apps can use styles from CC Libraries:

  • Adobe Illustrator,
  • Adobe InDesign, and
  • Adobe Photoshop (character styles only).

As of this writing, CC Libraries don’t have very robust integration into the Creative Cloud mobile apps. Hopefully over time that will change, including making text styles available in the incredible Photoshop and forthcoming Illustrator apps for iPadOS.

Creating Styles

I decided to create my styles in InDesign (versus Illustrator or Photoshop) because InDesign has the most robust set of options when creating them, so it seemed important to create them with the most options defined as possible.

As a starting point, I created a source InDesign document using the Word doc I had made with all the styles listed and with text examples. That way if a style needed to be changed or a new one added, there was a single “source of truth” to update and then that “source of truth” could be easily used to import the styles into a CC Library.

An InDesign file listing all the standard Microsoft Word paragraph and character styles imported into and defined in InDesign with examples.
An InDesign file listing all the standard Microsoft Word paragraph and character styles imported into and defined in InDesign with examples.

Organizing the Styles Library

When I initially established my CC Libraries for Brettro, I created one specifically for text styles, appropriately named “Brettro – Typography & Type Styles.” The styles were then organized by group:

  • Paragraph Styles – Front matter: styles for title, subtitle, date, etc.
  • Paragraph Styles – Body matter: styles for headings, body copy, photo captions and credits, etc.
  • Paragraph Styles – Back matter: styles for endnotes, bibliographies, etc.

This seemed like a perfect organization scheme until I realized that many of my styles were different depending on the type of print document I was making. For example, my marketing-focused materials use different titles and headings compared to my long-form documents.

Multiple Type Style Libraries

To minimize confusion, I now have two “source of truth” style documents for InDesign and two CC Libraries for text styles:

  • Brettro – Marketing Material Type Styles: for all type styles necessary to create marketing-style materials like one-to-two page handouts or fact sheets, and
  • Brettro – Presos, Proposals and Pub Type Styles: for all type styles necessary to create long-form documents.

These library names are aligned with how I store and name my documents using a document numbering standard I developed in late 2008.

Type Style Library Groups

I changed the group structure of these libraries to this:

  • Titles & Headings: contains the paragraph styles for the document title, subtitle and the headings
  • Body Copy – Basic: contains the paragraph styles for the body copy paragraph styles
  • Body Copy – Stylized: contains the paragraph styles for the different text elements in the body copy the may need styling, like quotes, captions and photo credits
  • Lists – Bullets and Numbers: contains the paragraph styles for the various levels of bulleted and numbered lists
  • Character Styles: contains the character styles for things like bold and italicized text and hyperlinks
  • Document Formatting: contains the paragraph styles for the document headers and footers

This makes it easier to more quickly find the styles I need when I’m working in specific parts of the document.

Wrapping it Up

So there it is: paragraph and character styles in Adobe CC Libraries. The value of this is incredible because now you don’t need to go hunting through InDesign documents to find a style you once created, you can keep them in a CC Library.

Adobe CC Libraries: What Are They?

In 2015 Adobe released new functionality called the “CC Library” as part of its Adobe Creative Cloud. The intent was to provide a cloud-based repository for quick access to frequently used graphics, color themes, brushes and more across devices. The potential for this was—and remains—incredible. As more and more people, including me, are start working on one device and finishing on another, having this kind of functionality is ideal.

What Can CC Libraries Store?

This is a consistently changing list as Adobe makes the Libraries’ capabilities more and more robust. As of right now, according to Adobe’s Help System, they can store:

  • graphics (like logos and other brand assets),
  • icons,
  • video clips,
  • brushes,
  • character and paragraph styles,
  • layer styles,
  • looks,
  • patterns,
  • 3D objects,
  • video, and
  • color themes

Setting Up Libraries

Adobe’s web-based Help System provides quick and easy explanations for:

  • Creating a library,
  • Adding elements to a library, and
  • Logically grouping those elements within a library.

Brettro’s Libraries

After some fiddling, I settled on the following CC Library structure for Brettro:

Library NameGroupsContent
Brand Identity ElementsBrand name
Sub brands
Elements of the brand identity that should be conveniently available
Color SystemsPalette – default (RGB & Hex)
Palette – default (CMYK & PMS)
Palette – supporting (RGB & Hex)
Palette – supporting (CMYK & PMS)
Palette – web (RGB & Hex)
All color palettes for the organization divided into color spaces for digital (RGB and Hex) and print (CMYK and PMS)
Graphics, Brushes and Color Themes Automatically created “My Library” library by Adobe where it stores Adobe Stock images and graphics, color themes and brushes
IconographyDigital (.gif, .jpg & .png)
Print (.ai & .eps)
Icons assigned for a specific purpose that help underscore the overall brand identity.
Reproduction Files (??)Covers
Grids, covers and other largely unchanged templates that are frequently used
SignaturesSignature – cmyk
Signature – rgb
Signature – one color
Lock-ups of the organization’s logo with all the elements that comprise its signature.
Typography & Type StylesDigital styles (Photoshop)
Marketing Mat’l Styles (InDesign & Illustrator)
Publication Styles (InDesign & Illustrator)
Type styles to help easily create properly structured graphics, charts and documents.
VideoFront Bumper
Back Bumper
Lower Thirds
Text Animations
Standard video elements like bumpers and color “looks.”
Brettro CC Libraries Structure


I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible with CC Libraries and Adobe is continuously improving them. I can’t wait to see what features they add next, but two features I would love to see are:

  • Ability to add InDesign and Illustrator template files (.indt and .ait)
  • Ability to add code snippets for Dreamweaver

In both cases this functionality would allow for quick access by multiple people to frequently used document and graphic templates and frequently used code patterns when marking up text.

How ‘Resilient Management’ Helps, Part 1

Initially this was going to be a book review of Resilient Management, an A Book Apart Book by Lara Hogan. But in jotting down my notes and as I began to write this, I realized that a multi-post series about how this book helps my management style would be more interesting.

The book was published in June 2019 and throughout my initial read I highlighted quite a bit as reference. Months later, I find that I still reach for it frequently, especially in our new work-from-home-during-a-pandemic world. In both cases, it validates many aspects of my current management style and each time I flip through it, I discover new, important ways to be a good manager.

Part 1 of this series focuses on how the book validates aspects of my management style and part 2 will cover some of the things I learned to adapt and improve my management style.

Validating My Management Style

I’ve been managing people on-and-off since the early 90’s. My bedrock management principles have always been:

  • Be fair, transparent and honest;
  • Never take credit for other’s work, give credit where credit is due;
  • When mistakes are made ,take responsibility and work with your employees to ensure that both you and them learn from the error;
  • Do. Not. Yell. Ever.; and
  • Listen.

Managing people is challenging. I’ve learned over the years that the most effective way to manage is to understand what motivates each of your team members. In that time, I’ve also learned:

  • Leave your office and make sure you see each team member every day,
  • Be open to feedback and provide venues for it, and
  • Recognition, not matter how small, is always appreciated.

See Each Team Member Every Day

One of my Management 101 professors drove this idea home at the top of every single class. “Get out of your office,” he’d always say. And while at the time I remember thinking, “this is so obvious. Duh,” it took some time before I recognized the value in it. The simple act of stopping by an employee’s desk to say “hello” underscores that employee’s value, that they matter and that employee’s work is important to the organization.

The return on such a minor effort is huge.

Be Open to Feedback and Provide Venues for It

Early on I didn’t have one-on-one meetings with my employees. (“1-1’s” as I like to call them.) It never occurred to me to do so. I always thought, “if they need something, they’ll stop by.” While I still encourage each of my team members to stop by (even virtually through chat or email), at some point I read something about the value of providing each of your team members with a consistent, scheduled time to meet.

I wish I’d saved the link to that article because reading it was such a light bulb moment for me. It seems so obvious now that having a consistent way for an employee to privately ask questions, provide feedback, discuss personal items that may be affecting their work or even to provide an “in the weeds” rundown of their to-do list is so beneficial. Not only does it help you gauge your employees workload and ability to deliver, it also says to the employee that they matter and that they have my undivided attention.

Also, if you say you’ll take action on something in your 1-1, you should do so well before the next one or do your best to have information to report back at the next one.

Recognition, No Matter How Small, is Appreciated

Everyone likes to be recognized differently, but in my experience everyone appreciates recognition, now matter how small it may be. A simple “thank you for your work” or “you consistently produce fantastic work, I’m so glad you’re a part of this team” may seem unnecessary, but it is absolutely necessary. It demonstrates to your employees that:

  • They are important and integral to team success,
  • The work they do is valuable,
  • You are aware of their work products, and
  • You are paying attention to the quality of their work and the extra effort and passion they put into it.

Several years ago, Knock Knock—an incredibly clever paper products company—produced multiple small notepads with checkboxes and areas for freeform text to provide quick recognition for a job well done. I purchased several of them to use with my team:

I subconsciously established a hierarchy for them, with:

  • “Thanks a Bunch” used to acknowledge a little something an employee did to help another employee or make an someone’s life at work easier;
  • “High Five” used to acknowledge standout work or effort on a product or project;
  • “Awesome Citation” used to acknowledge an effort to go above-and-beyond what is necessary or expected to create a fantastic or remarkable outcome to a product or project; and
  • “Honorary Unicorn” used to acknowledge the flawless (or nearly flawless) execution of a deliverable, product or project. A note from this pad is used extremely rarely.

I was—and remain—surprised and tickled at how well these were—and are—received. Most recipients hang them at their desk for a period of time. I try to deliver them when an employee is away from their desk as some of my employees are uncomfortable with direct recognition. Initially I didn’t sign them because I thought the anonymity would be more exciting. But even after it became known that these notes came from me, I still don’t sign them.

Over time I have distributed these notes outside my team and even outside my department, but those instances are extremely rare because I want to ensure that receiving one of these remains special by those who receive them.

(They also have notepads to call out less-than-stellar work, like a bad parking job or poor office etiquette. They are hilarious, but probably not an effective management technique.)


In the first chapter, “Meet Your Team,” Hogan explains humans’ core needs at work:

  • Belonging
  • Improvement/Process
  • Choice
  • Equality/Fairness
  • Predictability
  • Significance

These needs and a human’s perception of whether they’re being met are handled in the part of the brain responsible for analyzing our environment which is called the amygdala,. She further explains that each of these core needs are not equally important to everyone, some are more important than others for different people.

This brief section of Chapter 1 validated for me my approach to management with

  • Belonging aligns with See Each Team Member Daily: the book says “this core need is about sense of belonging, a connection to a community or to a group of people.” Stopping by each employees desk reinforces their value to the team and to the organization providing them with a sense of purpose and…well…belonging.
  • Equality/Fairness aligns with Be Open to Feedback and Provide Venues for it: the book says “the Equality/Fairness core need boils down to the idea that your environment includes equal access to resources, information, and support for everyone in it.” The speaks directly to having consistent 1-1’s with each employee as a way to listen to them, hear feedback privately and be present and available.
  • Improvement/progress aligns with Recognition is appreciated: the book says “…the core need to feel improvement, a sense of making progress—whether for your organization, for your team, or for your personal life.” Being recognized for good work provides a measure of progress in the work an employee does and empowers them to try new things to improve their work experience.

Stay Tuned for Our Exciting Conclusion…

As I said at the top, this is a two-part series. The next part will be posted in the coming months and will focus on things I learned from Resilient Management and how I am going to integrate them into my management style.

A Bit About A Book Apart

Resilient Management is an A Book Apart book, which “publishes detailed, meticulously edited examinations of single topics” (their words). Initially the books were largely focused on the web world: discovery, design, coding, good practices, etc., but in the recent past the topics have also expanded to management, public speaking and accessibility. Those topics are not only applicable in the web world, but also relevant across professions.

I’m a huge fan of the books. They are great, well-written, easy reads and the authors are engaged on social media and interested in conversations about what they wrote.

My Creative Toolbox

Some time in early 2014 I ran across Tom McFarlin’s post My WordPress Development Toolbox and thought, “how clever and what a great idea!” I immediately sat down and started documenting my own toolbox but didn’t finish it and publish it…until today.

‘Creative’ vs. ‘Development’ Toolbox

While the structure of this post is heavily influenced by Tom’s, I realized as I started to dig into my own toolbox that it has more than just web development tools. I decided to document all of them. (So Tom, if you’re reading this, thank you for the idea and the great outline!) I’ve sectioned my toolbox like this:

Because of that, I chose to call it my “Creative Toolbox.”


16” MacBook Pro

I picked this up a few weeks ago after having a 15” MacBook Pro for about a year (and an iMac before that, and a MacBook Pro before that…). I absolutely love this machine. The screen is gorgeous and the extra bit of screen real estate is remarkable. The keyboard has returned to its old, more enjoyable (to me) mechanism and the battery life is great.

11” iPad Pro with Pencil

I’ve always loved the iPad. I use it for reading, emailing, task management, note taking, word processing and working in spreadsheets. I have always been anxious for the day when it can be used for more than just the information consumption and light productivity work I do. With iPadOS, I believe that it will become more of a creation and development powerhouse. With Microsoft’s bevy of Office 365 iPadOS apps and Adobe releasing Photoshop for iPad and working on Illustrator for iPad, the powerhouse tablet is not too far away.

Originally I bought the 12.9” iPad Pro, but it was just that much too big to hold and read or keep with me on the sofa to pick up and poke around on while watching TV. For now, the 11” is perfect for me.

iPhone 11 Pro

I actually debated getting the Max version of the phone this year, but decided to stay with the regular size. I don’t actually use my phone for that much besides listening to music, taking pictures, tracking health stuff, replying to emails and starting notes, so the regular size works best for me.


Brettro had four main capabilities when it was in business: website design and development, visual identity creation and management, print product design and videography and post-production. While most of the software I use is exclusive to a particular practice, you will find some repetition too.

Software for Document Production

  • Document production: I’ve been using Adobe InDesign since it was first released in late 1999. It replaced PageMaker, which I also used. It is an incredibly powerful document production application. It also exports pretty clean HTML, which I do from time to time, and has impressive looking ebook capabilities, though I’ve never used them (but have always wanted to try).
  • Document creation and editing: I use Microsoft Word to create my source documents for review and edit prior to importing the final version into InDesign.

Software for General Productivity

“General productivity” to me is email, task management, note taking and general life organization.

  • Email: I’m old school, I use Apple Mail. I honestly keep a pretty disorganized inbox and a slapdash folder structure. If there’s something actionable in an email, I either flag it to remember later, add it to a to do list or complete it right away.
  • Task Management: I love lists and get a great deal of satisfaction out of crossing something off a list or checking a box when it’s done, but I have yet to settle on a single task management solution.
    • Reminders: I use Apple Reminders for personal stuff like my grocery list, errands and chores. (Being able to say “Hey Siri, add soap to my grocery list” is really nice.)
    • OmniFocus: at one point when I was working my full-time job, going to school full-time and running Brettro part-time, I used OmniFocus religiously with the Getting Things Done (GTD) framework. It was magical. Nowadays I’m less committed to GTD and don’t use OmniFocus that much, but it is an incredible piece of software worthy of a mention.
    • Microsoft To-Do and Planner: as much as I hate to compliment Microsoft, their commitment to Office 365 and rapid deployment of its tools is impressive. Both To-Do and Planner are worthy apps, the former for individual task management and the latter for group task management. As I’m ramping up my writing for this blog, I’m leaning towards using To-Do and Planner for managing tasks related to it. (Stay tuned for a separate entry on Office 365.)
  • Note Taking: since the iPad was released I dreamed of a day that I would be able to use it to take handwritten notes. Every few years I would buy a third-party stylus and try it, but it never felt quite right. Enter the Apple Pencil in 2015 and I never looked back.
    • Nebo: this note taking app is remarkable. It recognizes your handwriting as you write and learns the quirks of your handwriting over time. You can also correct a recognized word by tapping on it and choosing from a list of suggested words. It has iCloud synchronization, though I don’t use it because I keep all my notes in Microsoft OneNote. My only complaint about Nebo is the export-to-OneNote function. While I’m glad something exists, I wish it was a little more native.
    • OneNote: I went all-in on Microsoft OneNote in 2014 and never looked back. I had been using Evernote for awhile, but they kept redesigning the interface and trying out different paid tier models. The constant interface redesigns created an irritating learning curve, plus I was already in the Office 365 ecosystem, so it seemed logical to adopt. Plus the apps were (and still are) available for Mac, iOS and iPadOS and are really quite good. The only thing I don’t like about OneNote is that text recognition for handwritten notes is only available on Windows.
  • Password Management: a client of mine suggested 1Password to me in 2009, I bought it and have never looked back. This is an incredible product that is easy to use, syncs across devices and is available on macOS, iOS, iPadOS and as a web-based app. It also integrates into the browser on macOS and functions as an extension on iOS and iPadOS.

Software for Video

  • Camera: while I don’t shoot much video right now, when I do, I use my iPhone.
  • Post-Production: years ago I used (and preferred) Apple Final Cut Pro, but abandoned it when they rewrote the app in 2011. So I picked up Adobe Premiere Pro. It’s available on for both Mac and PC, which I needed because my full-time job requires me to use a Windows PC (which is a real bummer, let me tell you). I also use Adobe After Effects for motion graphics. And use Adobe Media Encoder to render videos for posting.

Software for Images and Graphics

  • Camera: I am not a photographer. I can take a snapshot, but I cannot shoot a photograph. There is a distinction and I wish I had the skill, but the camera I use when I do take pictures is my iPhone. It’s the one that’s always with me.
  • Image Management: for my personal photos, I use Apple Photos. For large scale projects for clients or friends, I use Adobe Lightroom.
  • Image Editing: like just about everybody else, I use Adobe Photoshop. And probably only use about 1 percent of its total feature set.
  • Graphics Creation and Editing: between Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, I can create just about any graphic I need to. I’ve been using Illustrator since it was released in 1987 (no, really). Next to MacPaint, it was the app that drew me into the world of design. It has a special place in my heart.
  • Slideshow Creation: on multiple occasions I’ve created slideshows for events. I use Boinx FotoMagico to do so. The software is great and very capable.

Software for Web Design

  • UI Prototyping: most recently, I’ve used Photoshop to create my user interfaces, but as I tackle creating a new UI for, I’m excited to dive into Adobe XD.
  • Browsers: now that Internet Explorer is dead, give me all the standards-based web browsers: Safari, Chrome and Edge.

Software for Web Development

  • Web Server and Database: MAMP Pro was recommended to me eons ago. I like it and I’ve never tried anything else.
  • IDE: I’ve used Panic Coda since pretty much the moment they released it in 2007. I’ve always loved the app, from the opening screen containing all your sites and projects to the coding environment that just gets out of the way. the original Coda had a built-in reference library, which I found very useful. Coda 2 made an already great app even better. Recently Panic announced Coda’s replacement, Nova, which I’m very excited to get my hands on and use.
  • FTP: before Coda there was Panic Transmit. I never thought I’d be so excited about an FTP app, but this FTP app is really good. It’s fast. It’s feature complete. And, like Coda, it gets out of the way and lets you do what you need to do.
  • Database: I’m not sure when I first discovered Sequel Pro, but it is such a simple and elegant way to manage, view, edit and create MySQL databases I can’t imagine using anything else.
  • Helpers: I’m not sure how I came across CodeKit, but it does exactly what it says it’s going to do and it’s amazing. Plus it works very hard to work well with other development apps like MAMP. I essentially use it for SASS compiling and JavaScript minification, though I’m sure it does much more.
  • Diff Tool: honestly, I chose Kaleidoscope because I liked the icon. Fortunately for me, the app behind the icon is incredibly good and useful. It integrates with Tower, the source control app I use. for the rare times when I need a diff tool, Kaleidoscope makes it easy to do a compare and solve an issue.
  • Source Control: I was a hardcore Subversion fan for source control, but in either 2013 or 2014 a friend of mine convinced me to switch to Git. And at some point after that I ran across Git Tower for managing my repos. It’s great. I love it. And between their book on using Git and the app itself, it makes using Git incredibly easy.
  • Marking Up HTML Text: while I do my development work in Coda, when I need to mark up a long or complex piece of text, I use Adobe Dreamweaver. The environment feels more tuned to that with menu commands to insert a table (rather than code it yourself) to menu commands to insert special characters. Plus Dreamweaver has a special place in my heart. In the late 90’s when the web was new and I was a fledgling designer/developer, Dreamweaver was the most amazing IDE ever. But it was $300, which priced it out of reach for me for awhile. once I was finally able to afford it, I felt like I’d arrived.

Software for Writing

  • Brainstorming, Outlining and Mind Mapping: like I said above , I use OneNote for capturing notes and ideas.
  • Writing: I’ve tried other word processors and text editors over the years, but I always come back to Microsoft Word. It’s definitely more than I need for blogging, but it’s familiar and ubiquitous.

As Things Change…

This is my toolbox on the day I posted this. As things change I’ll keep it updated.

What Is ‘Uncle Sam, Inc.’?

Besides formerly running a part-time, small media design consultancy, I work full-time for a U.S. government agency. It is my bread-and-butter, the gig that pays me. I’m lucky enough to have a full-time job doing something I love: content creation and management for web, print and video. Especially since I’ve been doing it for nearly 25 years!

It’s important to me to keep a clear separation from and distinction between the work I do for the government and the work I do on my own, be it for my own media design firm or in the writing I do for this blog. Because of that I won’t ever explicitly identify the agency where I work and only in extremely rare situations will I write anything specific about it, but should I mention it, I will refer to it as Uncle Sam, Inc.. (What I will say about it now is that it has an extremely noble mission and the work we do makes me very proud.)

Everything I write about here is something I’ve taken the time to learn on my own, but from time-to-time there are things that happen at work worth mentioning here, mostly about being a manager, but sometimes about working or being a creative in an enterprise environment, too.

Content Management Systems I’ve Used

In my two decades of developing and managing websites I’ve used quite a few different website content management systems (CMS). I thought I’d take a minute to document each of them, where I’ve used them and which I prefer.

Content Management Systems I’ve Used

These CMS’s I’ve either developed for, used on a production website or both. They’re listed alphabetically.

Big Medium

Used from 2006 – 2010.

This file-based CMS I used for smaller sites for several years until I realized the developer had essentially stopped working on it (this was in late 2008/early 2009). Soon after, he announced its end of life.


Used from 2002 – 2006.

I used this while I worked at the U.S. Senate Sergeant at Arms. It was more than we needed and not easy to use. I stopped using it because I changed employers.


Used briefly in 2006.

When I left the Senate and started at my new full-time gig I inherited this CMS for our intranet. I immediately dumped it for flat HTML. The backend was clunky, creating templates was difficult and managing users was not intuitive.


Used from 2009 – 2017.

I also absolutely loved ExpressionEngine. When I started using it in 2009 it was a cutting-edge CMS for both membership sites and for creating a website with a unique content model. The user and developer community were actively engaged and its creator, the developer community and the plugin development community were second-to-none for support. The product was rock solid. After several years, open-source and equally capable products like WordPress and Drupal drained interest in a product with a price tag. I ultimately stopped using ExpressionEngine because the plugin community dwindled, the product was slow to provide updates and it was becoming harder and harder to find developers who had used the product.


Used from 2008 – present.

I absolutely love WordPress. The backend interface is gorgeous. Those who use it to publish websites find it incredibly easy to use. With the right plugins, it can power a very high-traffic, high profile website. The user community is massive. This is my “go to” CMS for just about every project.

Closing Brettro

After 12 years in business I closed Brettrospective Media’s virtual doors in mid-2017.

I started Brettro in 2005 on a whim. At the time, I was the manager of the technical side of a prominent U.S. government website but I wanted a place to stretch my wings, experiment, learn and have some creative fun with graphic design, web design, web development and content production. Brettrospective Media was born.

Beyond previously developing, launching and managing a handful of websites, I had no idea how different running a business would be.

I didn’t know how to start a business. I didn’t know how to price projects. I didn’t know how to find clients. I didn’t know how to advertise my new venture to family and friends. I didn’t understand that there would be a slight—but important—difference between working with clients and working with colleagues.

But that was the whole point of starting Brettro: to learn. And learn I did. In fact, much of what I learned is captured over the years in this blog.

Brettro was always intended to be a part-time venture and throughout its life, it generally was. But there were times where I stretched myself and there were times where I bit off muchmore than I could chew. Ultimately the combination of working full-time for Uncle Sam and part-time for myself took its toll and in early 2013 I burnt out.

After letting Brettro languish for about four years, I decided in mid-2017 that it was time to close the business.

And while I won’t be taking on any new clients, when the mood strikes I will still be writing about design and business and the things I learn, so check back every once in a while.

The Bland Brettrospective

When I sat down to rekindle my blog hadn’t been touched in nearly seven years, including the custom theme I’d created for it. 

The web changed significantly in that time, most notably the advent of responsive web design. My custom WordPress theme was so dated it was not even responsive. Though I’m starting work on a new responsive custom theme, I wanted the site to be responsive now, so I decided to use a free custom theme during development. The theme is called Independent Publisher 2  and its minimalist design appealed to me.

While I design my new custom theme, I plan to document here the decisions I make and the things I learn. Let the adventure begin!