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Essential Tools – E.Webscapes Blog Design Style

By Char

essential blogging toolsEssential Keystrokes readers – you are in for a treat today! Grab your cup of coffee and get comfortable. This week’s Essential Tools post is jam-packed with tips and tools from Lisa Sabin-Wilson, the author of the soon to be released, WordPress For Dummies book. I follow Lisa at her blog, Just a Girl in the World and you can also find her beautiful design work at E.Webscapes Blog Design Studio.

Lisa’s Tools For Success

1. Isolsoft Help Center

Because Lisa runs two small companies where customer service is a priority, and her own time management and organization skills are seriously put to the test, the one piece of software that she uses on MORE than regular basis is the Isolsoft Help Center. It is a fully automated Help Desk Solution that Lisa uses to provide technical support to her clients at Blogs About Hosting, and also uses it, exclusively, to communicate with clients and potential new clients at E.Webscapes.

Using the help center has almost 100% replaced email communications – which is extremely nice because over the past 5 years of doing business with clients, I no longer have the “your email was lost” or “sorry – it got stuck in my spam filters for some reason!”

The help desk is tied to Lisa’s contact form – so whenever someone sends correspondence via her contact form, it automatically creates a new ticket in the system and the person gets a confirmation email with the access key to their ticket, and Lisa gets an email notification that there is a new request/inquiry. People can also hit the help desk directly and open a new ticket, as well. Isolsoft Help Center is also fully configurable from a design standpoint – Lisa has completely customized the design for the help desk at E.Webscapes to match the branding and design of the main website.

The help desk is web-based solution and it also works extremely well as a project management tool. Lisa uses that aspect of the software for her design studio, mostly – which allows her to add new tickets as scheduled tasks for herself, or any of her designers, to keep projects on schedule. She’s also able to attach files to tickets – allowing her to share graphic mockups with clients with ease. Lisa’s been using it for their help desk for hosting for 5 years, however she just recently installed it at E.Webscapes within the past 3 months and it has boosted her productivity 100%!

2. Color Cop, Adobe Kuler and Color Schemer

Lisa reveals all:

I’m going to come out of the closet and share with you my dirty little secret as a designer: I am color blind. Its official name is “tritanopia” – or blue-yellow color blindness, so I’m not completely color blind (monochromatic) – - just certain areas give me troubles. Discerning between shades of blue into purple gives me the biggest issue of all. When I first began designing and clients would tell me they wanted blue as a color choice, more often than not, when I shared the preliminary mock up I would hear this: “I really like what you’ve done – but can we go more blue and less purple for the background color? That’s really purple.” Shades of cream, yellow, tans and orange give me issues – -and discerning between different shades of green sometimes give me pause. Bright, vivid primary colors I can generally do – - it’s when we get down to the shades and variations that I draw total blanks on – and as any designer knows, color is extremely important!

Lisa has several tools that she uses to help make her way through every design that she does:

  1. Color Cop – A free tool that you install on your system and it sits in the task bar until you want to use it. When clients give Lisa a sample color scheme, or photograph to work off of, she uses color cop to give her the exact RGB or Hex code so she knows she is dealing with exactly the colors they want.
  2. Adobe Kuler – from Adobe Labs is a neat tool to create color schemes and view schemes created by other users (Lisa then uses Color Cop to get the exact color she needs).
  3. Color Schemer – similar to the Adobe kuler, but has a downloadable application that is helpful in creating creative color schemes. There is a free online version that is pretty basic, but helpful. Color Schemer also has a gallery of user created palettes that can serve as inspiration.

3. WordPress

Every single one of Lisa’s sites are powered by WordPress, naturally. Originally, she started blogging with Movable Type and made the move to WordPress in 2003 and hasn’t looked back once, and now also uses WordPress for non-blogging sites, as well.

4. UltraEdit

UltraEdit from UEStudio completely replaces Notepad or any other text editing program for Lisa. She uses it exclusively for coding and creation of CSS files. UltraEdit is the ideal Text, HEX, HTML, PHP, Java, Javascript, Perl, and Programmer’s editor. It’s versatile and easy to use, and it’s always, always open on her system and in use constantly.

5. Graphic Design tools

For graphic design, Lisa uses a variety of products depending on what she is doing (listed in order of how often she uses them): Adobe Photoshop, Corel Paint Shop Pro X, CorelDRAW, Adobe Illustrator.

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What’s in your tool box? Have you tried any of the tools that Lisa recommends? Let us know! Leave a comment and join in the discussion.

I am working on a new page for this site that will keep a running list of all the Essential Tools contributors and all of their recommended tools. If anyone has any snippets of code or plugins that might make this task easier, let me know.



Char- another great list of tools. I love this series! Doesn’t the category archive function as a page that keeps a running list of this series? You could link to it in your main nav if you wanted to, of course. Or, maybe you’re wanting to format it a bit differently…?


I was thinking of doing something a bit different – like listing the tools out by category and also having a quick list of the contributors as well. I think if I want to list the tools out by category I am going to have to suck it up and do it myself.


[...] read Char’s Essential Tools features – there is no time like the present! Especially because this week’s feature is yours truly – what more reason do you need? Plus – in this weeks feature, I reveal a little known secret about [...]


Hi Char – thanks so much for the feature this week. I love this series of yours and look forward to the tools each week. Great work! :)

You may want to have a look at Alex Kings Link Harvest plugin:

Link Harvest will go through all of your posts and pages and compile a list of all external links. Then it will create a live updating linkroll for you, based on your actual linking activity.

You probably don’t want it to go through *all* of your posts to harvets *all* links — but if it can be configured to go through just the ‘Essential Tools’ category and harvest the links from those posts – - that would be helpful for what you want to do.


Lisa – I knew I had seen something like that mentioned somewhere – probably in one of the past tools posts.

So glad I could feature you today! Color Cop is one I am going to have to try out.


Wow– there’s some excellent information here! I’ve bookmarked Lisa’s blog, too. Char, thanks for all the information you share!


I have looked back through your Essential Tools archive, Char, and I don’t think I’m doubling up on too many of these tools:

I love the Web Developer toolbar. Mostly I use it to wrangle my CSS and HTML. It manipulates your page in real time without actually making any changes. It just gives an idea of what changes would look like. You can then cut and paste any desired changes into your presentation page. But it is chock-full of features (half of which I’m too much of a scaredy to use.)

ColorZilla is a completely cool colour picker. It sits as a little dropper in the firefox footer – and when you click on it you can mouse over any part of the page and it will give you the hex number of the colour. Great for picking out colours from a photo, or finding the number of that great colour you spotted somewhere.

And, like Wendy, I have begun using FireFTP, and it is excellent!

Just a few of the Firefox tools I use.


Again another good one. Thanks for sharing this.


Julia – you are welcome!

Rory – thanks for the additional tools. Colorzilla looks like a good one.

Ingo – glad you like it! I love learning from all my readers.


Thanks for Essentials Info for the Blog Design.


successful designer who’s colour blind – now that’s something to get inspired :-)

My favourite Firefox tool for Web design is FireBug add-on.


inspiration bit – thanks for stopping in! I’ll have to check out FireBug.


I had no idea about Adobe Labs or Kuma – thank you for sharing!


[...] Randa Clay (RandaClay), Sarah Lewis (Blogging Expertise), Ponn Sabra (Empower Women Now), Lisa Sabin Wilson (Just a Girl in the World), Leah Maclean (Working [...]

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