Buttondown outgrew Gmail as a helpdesk inbox around two years ago; after some shopping around, I settled on Helpscout as a solution.

What I love about Helpscout:

  1. Eminently reasonable pricing (we're on the Standard plan, which makes it perhaps the cheapest SaaS I use if going by "monthly cost divided by number of hours I spend in it")
  2. Unlike many of its competitors, it doesn't shove upsells (I do not want an in-app chat widget!!!) at you
  3. Their API and approach to imbuing incoming tickets with data is reasonable and ergonomic


I use imgix to automatically crop and compress uploaded photos. The UI feels fairly dated, and I can't help but shake the feeling when I use them of, like, "this is probably something that I'm paying $75/mo for that I could do for $1/mo with Cloudflare and/or Lambdas". But such is life! If I ever get bumped up into a more expensive tier I'll investigate building it myself and/or churning; for now, it's hard to justify the engineering effort.


Iframely is one of those tools I wish I had invented; it solves a basic but gnarly problem in an elegent way. I use it for powering rich Markdown embeds that let you just drop in a single link to a YouTube video or a tweet and have it automatically render as a rich embed both on web and in email. Great tool, great pricing, no notes.

Fathom Analytics

At this point there is a cottage industry of upstart Google Analytics alternatives: Pirsch, Plausible, Splitbee (recently acquired by Vercel), and so on. But back in the halcyon days of 2020, there was only one that I knew of: Fathom!

I am perhaps an atypical user of Fathom: I use it both for tracking Buttondown’s marketing / doc site performance and I vend it out to newsletters on the platform, which lets me use Fathom’s API to power the analytics page. The API is extremely ergonomic, and I have no real complaints with it or the service at large.

While this space has grown a little commoditized, and I think there are probably cheaper offerings than what I’m paying now, I have no real desire to move off of Fathom.



Listen, Superhuman gets all the hype for being "the best email client for busy thought leaders" and all of that, but — you should try using Mimestream. It feels like exactly what the default Apple mail client should be: fast, polished, opinionated in thoughtful ways, and coherent with the rest of the ecosystem. I had been using it for free during its extended beta, and I am delighted to be now able to pay for it.


Things is a perfect personal productivity app. It is remarkable how it launched six years ago and nothing since has even come close to approaching its combination of ergonomics and polish. I use it across all of my devices; I have never even deigned to try another app in this space. (The one pain point I run into is that it's determinedly single-player, which I understand — collaboration makes for muddy surface areas — but when I'm working with contractors or collaborators I have to fall back to GitHub's roadmapping tools.)


These days I use Texts in more of a business context than a personal one, despite me having originally onboarded to help inbox-zero-ify my personal messages. Buttondown has a number of inboxes outside of email: Discord, Twitter, Mastodon, et cetera — Texts helps me wrangle them.

Miscellanous tools


I first learned of go links during my time at Stripe. They're simple and effective: "go/xyz" redirects to a URL of your choice. I use them constantly, for a more-ergonomic way of managing bookmarks. (They're most useful in an organizational context, but still underrated in a solo endeavor — no more fumbling around for a given dashboard during an outage, just type go/async-backpressure!)


Diminuitively named and spartanly designed, F5Bot is a simple and free service that is basically "Google Alerts for Reddit/HN/Lobsters". One huge tranche of Buttondown customers are the kinds of people who are fairly active on those communities, and it's helped me out more than once in terms of learning that a Buttondown-hosted newsletter is going viral on HN or that someone recommended Buttondown on /r/saas. is a better version of Clearbit's Logo API — basically a slightly easier way to pull a bunch of favicons from a given domain or URL to pretty up data tables where you're showing a bunch of URLs or domains.

It is nothing groundbreaking or game-changing; it solves a trivial but annoying task well-enough that I remain very satisfied with it.

Screen Studio

Buttondown's documentation and blogs have a lot of very pretty short-form videos that show off the product. These historically were very annoying to make compared to the ol' screenshot, but Screen Studio has made it a breeze. It handles a lot of the nice polish stuff — zooming, backgrounding, voiceovers — that once took a lot of time and effort to do manually. (It's a one-time fee, too, which means I don't have to feel guilty about not using it all the time.)