My Mac Apps

Someone I know is getting a MacBook Air tonight and as I was pulling together a list of ‘suggested apps’ for her I realised it’s been a while since I posted about what I use so I thought I’d just share it all with you. I know, I know, you can thank me later…

Admittedly there is nothing revolutionary here, although personally it’s interesting to see that OSX Yosemite has removed my usage/need for some apps I used to rely on – the last time I did this was a couple of years – bye bye Alfred (replaced by a vastly improved Spotlight Search), Adium (replaced by Messages app), Growl (Notification Center), and Sparrow (GMail in browser).

I’ve also switched to Safari full time. The ONLY thing I miss is the ability to set my bookmarks view as ‘Home’ but other than that, it does everything I need. It also has extensions for 1Password and Evernote Web Clipper which help cement those applications places in the lists below too.

So here it is, a list of apps I use regular on my own MacBook Air.

Productivity

  • Google Drive – FREE – much as I love the Apple versions I find the familiarity (aka ‘feels a bit like MS Office’) of the Google apps covers everything I need for simple documents and spreadsheets
  • Todoist – FREE/Paid Premium – took me a long time to settle on a To Do list app and whilst Todoist still lacks a couple of features, it’s nicely designed, works on multiple platforms and, importantly, it works for me.
  • Evernote – FREE/Paid Premium – It took me a while to really get into using Evernote but it’s now become a key part of how I work/live. I use it to store all sorts of things, a backup to my ailing memory.
  • Simplenote – FREE – simple text/note app, syncs with iOS app. Feels ‘lighter’ than Evernote so I use it for transistory information, useful during meetings or on calls. Anything that I need to keep is tidied up and moved to Evernote.
  • Fantastical – £15 – I’d be lost without my calendar, but iCal is less than great, this makes using the calendar quick and easy, syncs with my Google Calendar (and the 9 other Google calendars I’m subscribed too), and my work Exchange server. I use the iOS app too.

Utilities

  • 1Password – £40 – Works on multiple browsers and on my phone, saves me remembering multiple passwords and will generate ‘better’ passwords for me too. Life saver!
  • Moom – £10 – gives me window positioning and sizing, customisable and fast.
  • BetterTouchTool – FREE – I love the touchpad, multi-touch gestures are changing how I work, this add-on lets you take that to the next level, still figuring it all out!
  • Bartender – £10 – file under, why didn’t Apple fix this? Removes a LOT of visual clutter (it’s the small bar on the top-right of my screenshot above).
  • Caffeine – FREE – one click to stop your Mac going to sleep until you say so, handy for viewing movies etc.
  • Keka – FREE – file archiver (ZIP/UNZIP) deals with most archive file formats, nice and simple.
  • Witch – £14 – window switching made easy, a must have if you are moving from Windows.
  • VLC – FREE – video player, supports a multitude of formats.
  • Skitch – FREE – fantastic app for screenshots and image tweaking. Part of the Evernote set of apps.
  • uTorrent – FREE – for downloading torrents. Duh.
  • AppCleaner – FREE – for when I want to remove some of these apps, it’ll find all the related files and get rid of them too.
  • Hazel – $29 – a simple way to keep your Mac tidied. Watches folders then runs rules, very powerful and very useful.
  • Flycut – FREE – Clipboard manager, nice little popdown menu of the last [x] copied items.

Worky

  • Pixelmator – £23 – A bit like Photoshop because sometimes you need a little more power than the standard editor gives you. Not yet tried the iPad version as I don’t do that much graphic editing.
  • FileZilla – FREE – FTP client. I don’t have need for anything fancy, I’ve used FileZilla for years and it does everything I need.
  • TextWrangler – FREE – powerful text editor. Mostly used for checking code snippets.

Cloud services apps

  • BackBlaze – £4 per month – I recently switched away from Crashplan which would drag my internet connection to a halt. BackBlaze seems simpler but provides the same service. Cloud based backup.
  • Dropbox – FREE/Tiered – quite simply I don’t know where I’d be without this service. Hosted files, apps on all my devices. Drop something in a folder and it’s synced everywhere.
  • Spotify – FREE/Paid Premium – because sometimes listening to random playlists created by someone else is all you wanna do!
  • Pocket – FREE – I moved from Instapaper to Pocket largely because, at the time, Pocket seemed to be further ahead and have more integrations to other apps I used. These days it seems Instapaper and Pocket are separated mainly by marketing/buzz.

Lifey

  • Day One – £8 – Journal app, only downside is no web app, syncs with iCloud and/or Dropbox.
  • ByWord – £8 – my writing app of choice these days. I compose blog posts and other random writings in it. Syncs to Dropbox, and the accompanying iOS apps are great.
  • Calibre – FREE – eBook management, for my Kindle, it’s a bit clunky and not the prettiest but does exactly what it says on the tin.
  • TweetDeck – FREE – Because Twitter.

And there you have it. Outside of this list I use iTunes (I KNOW!) and MS Office if I need to open any files for work purposes but I’m lucky enough to have a separate laptop for work.

Less is less

I remember when I moved into my current home. I was recently divorced and starting over, so I only had a few items of furniture and a few boxes of possessions, most of which was bound for kitchen cupboards or wardrobes.

I’m never been a sentimental hoarder; we moved around a lot and got pretty good at getting rid of unused, unwanted things, so outside of the bulk of my books, most of my personal possessions fitted into a few boxes.

Of course since then I’ve bought furniture, ornaments, art, soft furnishings and more. I’ve bought gadgets, implements, knick-knacks, lego, books, lamps… well you get the picture. I’ve accumulate a lot of stuff.

Naturally some of the stuff is practical, a sofa, a bed, chests of drawers. Some of it desired, artwork for the walls, a vintage mirror, an Eames recliner. Some of it was gifted and now holds sentimental value, and some things have commemorative value.

But I have also accumulated a lot of ‘stuff’.

Stuff I don’t need. Some of which I probably didn’t need in the first place but that’s a different issue.

Recently though I’ve started to declutter.

I’m selling things on eBay, taking items to charity shops, recycling the unwanted and, so far, I’ve had little that is just being thrown out. I’m starting to see the difference when I walk into a room, or open a cupboard. There is a way to go yet, I’m not really working to a plan, more just tackling areas of a room when I have the time, but I’m noticing the difference and even the process itself is helpful.

I can remember the first few weeks in my flat, my Eames chair and foot stool had arrived as had my new TV. I had no bookcases, no TV unit and boxes remain unpacked and out of sight in my spare room. My living room was virtually empty.

Minimal.

I loved it.

I knew it wouldn’t last but part of me wanted to keep it that way.

I’ve always loved minimalism, my preferred style lies somewhere between Oriental and Scandinavian lines, a freedom of clutter. It feels good to be getting back towards that.

I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that more recently I’ve been feeling a lot less stressed, a lot less worried by life in general. I’m finding time to read, to write, and maybe that dusty guitar will survive the decluttering axe after all.

Snow joke

Last night we had some snow.

Chaos is the word that sprang to mind. A couple of hours of heavy snowfall turned Glasgow to virtual gridlock. From an appointment in the city centre (more on that later) it took me almost 1hr 40mins to get home, for a journey that would normally take 20mins tops.

One the route, which includes two hills, I had to stop twice to help push cars that were struggling. When I got to the steep hill near my flat I could see a lot of people halfway up the hill helping stranded cars, struggling for traction. I pulled in at the bottom of the hill and left my car there.

Walking up the hill I could hear shouts of help and encouragement from about 20 different people, some fetching snow shovels, others fetching grit and salt, it was almost jovial. A real spirit of helping others so, on my way past I stopped too and helped push a further three cars, mostly sideways off of the main road.

It was treacherous, the heavy fluffy snow fell on un-gritted roads, was quickly compacted then froze to sheets of ice. I waved down a couple of cars at the top of the hill to warn them. One turned back, the other continued. I hope I don’t find that car at the bottom of the hill tomorrow.

It was oddly quiet in that walk up the hill, so few cars able to move, the study thrum of rush hour silenced by the glowing white snow. It was an oddly nice moment to end my long journey home. A soothing balm after a stressful drive full of slips and spinning wheels.

Last year I felt very proud of my city, the Commonwealth Games and the vote for Independence seemed to bring something new to Glasgow and Scotland, or perhaps it just revived some things that never really go away.

It was nice to find it again, if only for a few moments, in the freezing cold as a group of strangers slipped and slid and struggled together to help another stranger, that spirit of camaraderie; Glasgow, the friendly city. Snowbound or not.