I like to think I have been making the most of what’s available on my Mac. This means taking advantage of some obscure and some not so obscure apps. I want to go through some of those apps and a little about their usage to help others get some of the benefit I get. There are certainly other products available and even ones I use. The 5 apps I describe are the ones I use the most frequently (and recommend to just about everyone I come in contact with who uses a Mac).
Just is case you haven’t heard of Boxcar, it’s what notifications for the iPhone should have been. You can get push notifications for a ton of different services ranging from Facebook, Twitter, and email to Github or even something more custom (for those of you techies who read this blog). This awesome iPhone application has recently been released for Mac desktop. This means that those same notifications that you used to have to have tabs open for Facebook, Twitter, RSS feeds, Email, Github, or whatever other services you use are now all centrally located. Boxcar for Mac is still beta-ish so expect it to get a lot better. But centralized notifications helps to prevent you from checking all 80,000 (or so) locations for new items to distract you.
Alfred App is what Spotlight should have been plus some. It is by far the application that I use the most on my Mac. It means that I grep through files, search my entire filesystem and either open a file or find the containing folder and open it up. And with the Powerpack you have the clipboard manager (which happens to be my favorite feature). It does favorite snippets and can save old clipboard contents for long period of times that can searchable. If you try Alfred and it doesn’t make your life easier, then you are using it wrong. I could go on for hours with how Alfred can make your Mac life better, but it’d faster and easier to just read the Tips Blog.
Caffeine is not really a productivity app, but something more to prevent annoyance and generally an all around handy app to have. It does one thing and does it well. Caffeine prevents your computer from going to sleep. This is great if you have a short screen saver that you don’t feel like changing or if you are watching a movie on Netflix and don’t want your computer to go to sleep. There is something to be said for simplicity and doing something well.
- Notational Velocity
Mac sticky post-it style notes are good, but Notational Velocity has taken it to the next level. It’s freeform, searchable, remote-syncable, taggable notes (too many buzzwords, right?). But the fact is, you just start typing and it saves as you go. When you are done, you can add tags. And if you have an iPhone, then you can install SimpleNote and have your notes from the computer sync’d to your phone (and vise versa). But my favorite thing is just the fact that you can start typing and it is immediately searchable. I have it open on all my spaces and I am constantly making notes. I take items from my Alfred clipboard and paste them into NV as notes for how I get stuff working. This way I keep track of everything I tried and then just remove the things I don’t use (and then use those notes to write a blog post).
I have tried the gamut of package management for the Mac. I compiled things from source (and that just gets messy). I have also tried Fink and Macports and they just both felt a little hackish given the naturally usable feel of OS X in general. So I installed Homebrew and everything just sort of fell into place. It’s just as simple as “brew install $package” (after Homebrew is installed of course). And since every package installed is installed in isolation (/usr/local/Cellar), removing and upgrading can also be done with ease. If there was a solid GUI in front of it, I would recommend Apple adopt it as a 3rd party package management system.
If there are other packages or apps for the Mac that has had a great impact on your productivity, let me know.
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