The tools we use to run and build 37signals Jason 03 Jan 2006

68 comments Latest by John

We get lots of emails asking us what tools we use to build our products and run our business, so I figured we’d just post it to the blog.

And of course Ruby on Rails powers our apps, Writeboard helps us write, Ta-da List keeps our quick and dirty lists in order, Basecamp helps us manage projects and products, and Backpack helps us all stay dangerously organized.

68 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Grayson 03 Jan 06

Nice little hint as to what Campfire might do in there. Thanks ;)

Jay 03 Jan 06

I’ve read some bad reviews about Quicken/Quickbooks for the Mac. Anyone care to comment???

Doug 03 Jan 06

Do you use Photoshop to create the product logos?

Anthony Baker 03 Jan 06

Am not at all fond of Quicken for the Mac — financial software (imho) is one area where Mac users do suffer.

That said, even on the PC I’d never been a fan of Quicken and had instead been using Microsoft Money’s Small Business edition.

It’s one of the few apps they put out that I really enjoyed. Great, intuitive UI, fully customizable reports, etc. We’re now using it again on my wife’s PC. Should Apple release any Intel-based Macs that you can actually load XP on, I’ll probably do so just for this application.

JF 03 Jan 06

For logos we use paper, a tablet, illustrator, and photoshop.

Chris 03 Jan 06

Good too see that there are other vim-users. I get criticts quite often because I’m using vim, but I just really don’t like using other editors anymore. For projects at university I use Eclipse every now and then, and I can clearly see the advantages of a full-blown IDE, but too bad there’s no IDE with good vim-support.

Jeff Croft 03 Jan 06

Just out of curiosity — why do you guys stick with MT and PunBB rather than building some Ruby/Rails solutions that might be more integrated and more flexible for your specific needs? Just prefer not the re-invent the wheel?

Not that I really care what you guys use (it’s the end product that matters), I was just curious. :)

JF 03 Jan 06

Jeff, cause MT and PunBB work fine for us. We don’t have time or the need to build something custom — that would be a waste of time at this point.

Mike 03 Jan 06

Can anybody suggest a good text editor for Windows? I did use Homesite+ but changed companies. I’m curently using UltraEdit-32 but the trial is close to expiring.

Steve 03 Jan 06

any recommendations on payment processing gateways for handling payments for your apps?

Kyle 03 Jan 06

Now all we need are some pictures of the office to feel like we are right there with you.

Who does your hosting?

harry 03 Jan 06

@Mike (re: windows text editor) -

I have been using, and very happy with, Scite ( And, it is free.

Bryan Buchs 03 Jan 06

Mike - If you’re looking for a plain text editor, Notepad++ is pretty nice (

Brian 03 Jan 06

Nice to see some folks still use paper.

Mike 03 Jan 06

Harry and Brian, appreciatre the help. I’ll take them for a spin.

Ryan 03 Jan 06

Jay: I also read tons of bad reviews of Quicken for the Mac. I went ahead and purchased it anyway, because I really needed the functionality. I’ve had almost zero problems with it since using it full time for the last two years. All of transactions are downloaded through Quicken and my accounts are balanced and transactions cleared. The UI isn’t perfect and sometimes they are a little too happy with multiple windows, but all-in-all it’s a useful and better than anything else in its class, I think.

I’d say you should take the plunge. I did and do not regret it.

rick 03 Jan 06

Any chance you’d ever offer some kind of ’37s bonus pack’ that includes all your pay products? :)

Peter Cooper 03 Jan 06

I find TextPander (Google for it) more elegant, better integrated, and just generally better than TypeIt4Me. Also, it’s free.

Mark 03 Jan 06

Mike: Check out too.

David Demaree 03 Jan 06

I’d be curious to know: on the team, is iChat actually being used as a text IM client, or are you using iChat’s AV features and Adium for everything else?

Andre Stechert 03 Jan 06

What about version control?

tamimat 03 Jan 06

windows editor

I use notepad2.

Jim Jeffers 03 Jan 06

Why MT when Wordpress is free? Just curious I used to use MT long ago but switched to WP when MT started charging licensing fees.

Mark 03 Jan 06

and Backpack helps us all stay dangerously organized

I remain curious on this one.

Basecamp lets you view project milestones in a calendar-style view… Backpack lets you schedule reminders… Where do you schedule/block out your time otherwise? I’ve been using a running note in Backpack to flag dates into the future that I don’t need to get a reminder for. I.e., “20060103…Mark over for dinner?” Whether it be grid-based or not, what about an actual online, easily accessed and updated calendar app?

Don Wilson 03 Jan 06

“For our payment gateway we use”

I could have sworn seeing you guys link to a PayPal page regarding the credit card verifying numbers in Basecamp.

Sam Stephenson 03 Jan 06

Andre: We use Subversion for version control.

Sam Stephenson 03 Jan 06

David: Not sure about everyone else, but I use Adium exclusively. Text IMs only.

Steve 03 Jan 06

So to use you need a reseller right? Any recommendations?

Matt Carey 03 Jan 06

I have never got to grips with Quickbooks, so instead run Sage on our testbed PC. Both our bookkeeper and accountant use it, which keeps things simple.

JF 03 Jan 06

Why MT when Wordpress is free? Just curious I used to use MT long ago but switched to WP when MT started charging licensing fees.

I don’t believe in switching to something just because it’s free. I’m happy to reward companies that produce nice software. I have my issues with MT, but it’s served us well. Plus, the time it would take to switch over to WP and get acquainted with it isn’t free.

One day we may roll our own blog tool that better serves us, but we’re not going to chase this tool or that tool because one costs less than the other.

brad 03 Jan 06

I’m another satisfied user of Quicken for Mac, since about 1992. I’ve never had any serious problems with it, but it’s very lightweight compared with the Windows version. I use it only to manage my savings, checking, credit cards, and retirement accounts; I don’t think you’d want to use it to manage serious investing but for these things it has worked pretty much flawlessly for me for the past 13 years.

Dan Boland 03 Jan 06

Plus, the time it would take to switch over to WP and get acquainted with it isn�t free.

It’s amazing how easily people forget about the most important and precious resource of all — time.

Sam 03 Jan 06

We’ve used a combination of Backpack and Flickr for bug reporting with screenshots.

Biggest surprise on this list is I regret ever using this company and never will again. I don’t know what the story is these days but 4 yrs ago is was constantly going down, a few hrs and there, then a day - finally it went down for more than 5 days and I never looked back.

Seth 03 Jan 06 has caused me no pain. I use it for 3 of my clients with my e-commerce engine writtin in RoR and pump about $2-5k of transactions through it daily no problems.

As far as resellers go, I use Retriever ( They will set you up with everything.

Seth 03 Jan 06

s/writtin/written/…I might still be hung over from NYE ;)

Ben 03 Jan 06

Eclipse w/ the Ruby Development Tools is kick-ass.

Oichi 03 Jan 06

Nobody mentioned PSPad for a text editor ? Blah, blah from below

PSPad editor is freeware programmer editor, usable for people who:

* work with various programming environments
* like highlighted syntax in code
* need a small tool with simple controls and the capabilities of a mighty code editor
* looking for a tool to work with plain text
* want to save money and still have the functionality of professional products

Tyson 03 Jan 06

Cool list Jason, I’m very curious how you label your Gmail labels for tech support. I’ve been trying to get organized in an efficient manner, any advice would be appreciated.

Anindya 04 Jan 06

No Photoshop???

Grayson 04 Jan 06

Anindya - “For logos we use paper, a tablet, illustrator, and photoshop.”

Anon Coward 04 Jan 06

Obviously you’re aware that using Gmail for commercial purposes is against the terms of the licence agreement.

Is it a good idea to ‘brag’ that you don’t have a proper issue tracking system in place, and are using a free web tool designed for personal use only? If Gmail is down does that mean that customers get no support? Rock solid! If I were a 37s customer I’d be looking elsewhere on that ponit alone.

Also, I couldn’t help noticing that you have to use another Project Mangement tool, Trac, to manage your projects. How do you decide what should be a ToDo in Basecamp and what’s a ticket in trac? Roadmap in trac, or basecamp milestones … Wiki in Trac or writeboard? Or, is it the case that Basecamp just doesn’t work that well for IT shops like yourself?

Stuart Robertson 04 Jan 06

Very handy list with a few apps I haven’t taken a close look at yet. Thanks!

Marek Kowalczyk 04 Jan 06

For running our blogs we use Movable Type.

Anybody has anything to say about ?

They’re on the Deck…


Anonymous Coward 04 Jan 06

jEdit is a free, powerful text editor, which runs on Macs, Windows, and Unix. It’s written in Java, and it’s quite well done. It is under active development, and there are lots of plugins to expand functionality. I prefer its Ruby tools to those in Eclipse.

RS 04 Jan 06

Anindya: We use Photoshop for the usual image stuff — icons, buttons, etc. If I want to experiment with a layout, I’ll also paste a screenshot of my current HTML mock into Photoshop and drag the parts around. “What would the tabs look like over here? What if the headers were a different color?” etc.

Stu 04 Jan 06

Oh… hey… you are really professionals… *ahem*

Jamie 04 Jan 06

Stu, I’m also interested in knowing who 37s uses for as their processor/reseller for There are tons of them out there. It’d be nice to get a recommendation from a place I trust.

Who are you guys using? Do you like them?


Nollind Whachell 04 Jan 06

What do you use for time tracking or timesheets? Or do you guys bother with this at all, just “trusting” everyone is doing the work they should be? I mean your company looks more like a team or partnership than one with supervisors or managers.

JF 04 Jan 06

Nollind, we don’t track time. Tracking time is a waste of time. Things either get done or they don’t. If they don’t, everyone knows about it.

Edgardo 04 Jan 06

Does anyone use an app to reduce the time preparing proposals for clients?

Daniel Schutzsmith 04 Jan 06

Thanks for providing this overview JF! Its very refreshing to see other studios using similar software although it is sad that we have so few financial programs available for the Mac.

Cheers in 2006!

Matt Baron 04 Jan 06


Tracking time is not a waste of time if you have hourly employees or time tracking.

Matt Baron 04 Jan 06


that should read:

Tracking time is not a waste of time if you have hourly employees or contractors that bill hourly.

Will 04 Jan 06

Textmate looks cool, but holy cow it’s site is wack in IE. Uh… opps. Did I just admit I was using IE?

Tony 04 Jan 06

Someone should study how much time (and productivity) is wasted at BigCos by employees tracking their time and other metricies.

matt Carey 05 Jan 06

Does anyone use an app to reduce the time preparing proposals for clients?

No, but I wish I did! I tried to convince a major client of ours to let us build a bespoke client proposal system rather than spending 4 times the amount on a commercial system. They went with the commercial because they could put down license costs in the accounts rather than a lump sum of development costs! stupid…

Jeff 05 Jan 06

Jason, who do you use as your processor? Do you like them?

JF 05 Jan 06

There are a million merchant account providers that work with I don’t have good or bad things to say about ours.

Chris Woods 05 Jan 06


How do you use Trac to manage multiple products? I like what I have demoed and read about Trac, but not having multiple Project capability (without some fancy Apache configuration or smart use of the Component entity) is a showstopper.

saleh 05 Jan 06

Mike, for text editing, i prefer TextPad. it’s amazing, free, and very very customizable. it’ll highlight any and all syntax you want highlighted, for each language you specify etc.

did i mention it has find/replace with regexp? wow.

MCC 07 Jan 06

For text editing, and a host of other things, I have used NoteTab for several years. Love it.

Joe 10 Jan 06

What about source control? How do you handle versioning of files or is that not a concern?

Dudu Figueiredo 13 Jan 06

And you guys, have you ever used Django for Python ?

Jonway 28 Jan 06

I just bought and downloaded Quicken 2006 for Mac and I am very upset with how it doesn’t work with my brokerage accounts like Ameritrade or Etrade. The last time I had used Quicken for Mac was from software I had from 2000. In this area it hasn’t changed at all. I had figured that in 5 - 6 years it would have made the improvements in this area. Not so. I sent an email to Intuit to see if I can get a refund (not likely). Maybe they will come up with a solution (again - not likely). It works fine on a PC. My PC crapped out - so unless I get another - I guess that I will have to do without. And if I get a PC then I may just try Money instead. I guess that Microsoft isn’t likely to come out with a Mac version. Now if I am all wet - please offer a solution - and I will gladly eat my words.

John 18 Apr 06

What do you use to capture the video for your video tutorials?