My first exposure to using design software dates back nearly twenty years ago. The programs were simplistic then, more amusing than practical. With programs such as CorelDRAW and PC Paintbrush I could render a basic element for a design, but more often than not, I used traditional techniques to complete my work.
It wasn't long after that I abandoned the tedious work of creating a mechanical for the convenience of creating a layout in QuarkXPress. And it was from that point on that software packages became an integral part of my design tool kit.
Photoshop: I've been using Photoshop more than 15 years. When I first began using the program it was merely to color-correct a scanned image or remove an unwanted element in the picture. But now I use Photoshop more often than any other design program. Whether I'm creating an effect for a design or fleshing out the layout for a new website, Photoshop has long been the most vital part of my tool kit.
QuarkXPress & InDesign: During the first half of my career I relied heavily on QuarkXPress for my desktop publishing needs. Whether the project was a simple flyer or a booklet with numerous pages, there wasn't a better a program out there for rendering page layouts.
And I'm certain that there are those who would argue that hasn't changed. In fact, once upon a time, I was a stalwart QuarkXPress proponent. I refused to acknowledge that a competitor such as InDesign could rival Quark's features. But when InDesign CS2 was released, I couldn't ignore the truth. Quark had languished while Adobe had released a program that was far superior. Today, QuarkXPress is every bit as powerful as InDesign, but as Adobe has snatched up the distribution rights to a number of applications, I tend to use InDesign more for its integration with the rest of the Adobe Creative Suite.
CorelDRAW & Illustrator: I learned to use Illustrator in college on a Mac but I owned a PC at home. And although I could've gotten Illustrator for a PC, it lacked many of the features I could get with CorelDRAW. And thus, for several years, I used both — Illustrator in the workplaces, CorelDRAW at home.
Regardless, whether I was creating a logo or other graphic that needed to be fully-scalable, those programs were a vital part of design tool kit. Today though, programs such as InDesign and Photoshop have so many vector tools that I've come to rely on Illustrator less and less. I tend to use it more in special circumstances than on a daily basis, as I once did.
Dreamweaver, Fireworks & Flash: When I first began to learn HTML, I was using Microsoft FrontPage and Adobe PageMill. But by the time I made it to hollywood.com I was using Macromedia Dreamweaver, Fireworks, and Flash. Along with Photoshop and Illustrator, they were the most important parts of my web designer's tool kit.
I wrote code in Dreamweaver, sliced images in Fireworks, and created interactive content with Flash. When Adobe acquired Macromedia, I was surprised at first, but since have come to enjoy how those programs fit neatly with the others in the Adobe Creative Suite.
Today, Dreamweaver is still a vital part of my tool kit. That isn't to say I rely on a WYSIWIG editor to write code, but I appreciate Dreamweaver for file management and shortcuts. I don't use Fireworks as much as I once did, as Photoshop can accomplish many of the same tasks. And as the popularity of iOS has exploded, I've turned away from Flash altogether, instead seeking other ways to accomplish similar tasks through HTML5 and jQuery.
Blender & 3DS Max: I wouldn't ever claim to be an expert when it comes to 3D software programs but I can construct and render models as needed. I've used these programs to create 3D logos, diagrams and charts. I've only just started learning these powerful programs and one day they just might be a more important part of my tool kit.
Other Programs & Tools: I also have extensive experience using other programs in the Adobe Creative Suite such as Acrobat, Premiere, and Bridge. I use Lightroom to edit RAW camera stills from photo shoots. For web development I take advantage of some of the browser tools like Firefox's FireFTP and Firebug.
And I'm still learning more and more each and every day. I've always had an interest in technology and how best to use it for my design. I won't ever know it all but as I continue to add more tools to my kit, I make myself a more valuable asset to other organizations & perhaps even yours.