I’m always amazed at the different tools and apps that people use in their computing workflow. We all discover little tricks and tools and people are happy to share them with friends. Whether it’s a new iPhone or Twitter App, a browser add-on, or a hidden shortcut, people love to share their computing tricks and secrets. There are a ton of websites dedicated to efficiency tools and if you work with computers or social media often, your personal workflow and the apps and utilities in your toolkit are indispensable. I’ll be sharing my own personal workflow and bag of tricks, starting with my apps and setup for Mac OS X.
I’ve only been a Mac guy for two years, but I’m happy with the setup I have on my MacBook.
Dock – I automatically hide and show the Dock from System Preferences to maximize screen real estate. Once you set this up just drag your mouse to the bottom of the screen and the Doc pops up.
Expose – The hot corners Mac users set up are often the thing that trips up a PC user when borrowing some one’s Mac. Dragging the mouse to the screen corners activates certain functionality. Right now I’ve got the top right corner displaying all windows, top left shows all windows for the current application, and bottom left brings up Dashboard Widgets.
Desktop Folder Aliases – You can create an alias of a folder from the right-click context menu. Then drag the alias folder to the Desktop and you’ll have access to important folders there while still storing large files where you want them.
Stacks – You can also create aliases for applications. This is great because you can create a folder of app aliases and then drag the folder to the Doc to create an application stack. This is great if you have a lo of apps in a unique category that you don’t want littering up your Dock. I have an app Stack of applications I use for Broadcast and Media that comes in handy often.
Dashboard Widgets – I don’t use these Widgets very much but I do like the Weather Widget and iStat Pro for Mac for monitoring system resource in use.
Cinch – This utility brings brings the functionality of Windows 7′s Aero Snap Feature to the Mac so you can easily re-size windows to full or half screen. (nagware for free, $7 to eliminate pop up register reminder)
AppTrap – Each time you uninstall an application from you Mac, AppTrap prompts you to move related user files to the Trash. This keeps your system clean since a lot of software leaves behind preference files that your system keeps in case you ever install the program again in the future.
Unarchiver – Replaces the system unarchive tool for unzipping files. Unarchiver can sometimes handle file extensions that the system default tool can’t and it handles them faster too.
Growl – Lots of social media applications rely on Growl to provide system notifications and pop-ups for new messages. Growl shows up as an item in system preferences and enhances a lot of other programs including Skype, Adium, and most desktop Twitter clients.
Onyx – This is a great system utility. It’s great for diagnosing a problem if you’re ever having a problem with your hard disk. You can verify your disk, set lots of system preferences across your Mac in one place, and generally optimize your system. If you’re switching machines give this a go first to see if you can get a speed boost or turn off some preferences you don’t need.
In Mac, Menu Bar Space is often at a premium, since application menus appear there and lots of apps keep additional controls there. These are the ones I’ve found worth the menu bar real-estate.
you control:tunes – If you’re always toggling between windows just to flip to the next song in iTunes, this handy app is for you. This brings iTunes basic controls (Play, Pause, Forward, Back) and info on the current playing song to the menu bar.
Flux – Flux adjusts your screen hue and brightness with the time of day. Based on your location, Flux knows when the sun is setting and adjusts your screen to the ambient light around you for easier night computer use. You can set it to match Halogen, Florescent and a few other kinds of lighting. You can disable the feature temporarily from the menu bar if you ever need Daylight conditions. You’ll get used to the change in a day or two and your eyes will thank you.
Caffeine – This is a must have if you often give presentations or watch movies on you Mac. Click the coffee mug icon in the menu bar and Caffein keeps the battery saver from kicking in. Your screen won’t ever go black in the middle fo a presentation or key action film scene again.
Jumpcut – Enhances the system clipboard. With Jumpcut you can copy more than one piece of text into memory at a time and select which one to paste in from the menu bar or with the shortcut, Option-Command-V
Language options – If you ever write in a second language on your Mac, you’ll want to have it handy. In System Preferences, choose Language and Text, then choose Input Sources, check the languages you want, and check Show Input menu in menu bar. I use this mostly for when friends borrow my machine and want to switch over to Hebrew or Dvorak.
Utilities i Love
Crashplan – Free system backup on an external hard drive or, if you have a paid account, in the cloud (30 day free trial). Do you really want to lose your data? Even if your machine fritzes and you wind up able to get it fixed, you’ll be glad you did this while it’s in the shop.
Fluid – Lets you run browser based apps as though they were standalone Mac applications. That way you can keep apps like Gmail and Hootsuite accessible in the Doc.
Filezilla – My FTP client of choice. I’ve also heard good things about Cyberduck but haven’t tried it.
Handbrake – Convert video files of practically any format to any other fast.
Burn – Save files, music or movies to CD or DVD in lots of formats.
Communication and Social Media Apps
Adium – The best IM client for Mac. I’m just waiting for them to add support for video chat through Google video chat and Skype.
Skype – I use this a lot for screen sharing and video chat.
Hootsuite – Lately my Desktop Twitter Client of choice. My only gripe is the lack of bit.ly integration, but that’s not coming any time soon given Hootsuite’s own ow.ly link shortener. I’m also like Nambu for it’s combined lists view that gives you a feed of all your Twitter Lists combined into one feed. Those two work for me, but Tweetdeck and Tweetie are solid too.
Twunes – Quirky and fun app that lets you Tweet the currently playing song in iTunes. I set it to include a last.fm link, but it can also link to the iTunes store page.
iTunes – My mainstay. I have a bunch of playlists I love. (Another reason to back up with something like Crashplan)
Last.fm desktop – Last.fm is similar to Pandora, except that the service learns your preferences on an ongoing basis by “scrobbling” what you listen to in iTunes or other music players. The Scrobbler also acts as an application for playing your Last.fm library and recommendations without using a web browser. I go through phases, but sometimes I use it as much as iTunes. If your a Pandora diehard, then consider PandoraJam instead to bring Pandora out of the browser.
Chrome – My browser of choice, mostly because of the speed and extensions. More on this later this week in part two of this series.
Firefox – I usually step into Firefox when I need to login with a different social media account and don’t feel like logging out my personal accounts in Chrome. Also, some websites and applications don’t play nice with Chrome yet so you need a browser backup. GoToWebinar comes to mind. I recently updated to the current Beta release and everything is much zippier. If Firefox is your primary browser I’d skip this Beta because it’ll break a lot of your add-ons until developers catch up to the new standard.
TextEdit – The default Mac Text Editor. If you’re a heavy coder you may prefer the more heavy-duty TextWrangler, though I haven’t tried it yet.
Office – Word, Excel, PowerPoint. I’m surprised how much I keep in the cloud, Google Docs, and simple text files, but Office is still a must have for me. I default Word to Compatibility Mode so files I share by email are always accessible to people still on earlier versions.
ScreenFlow – Record Screencasts. (hat tip to John Haydon for the recommendation)
Over to You
That’s my basic Mac setup. What did I miss? What Mac apps are rocking your workflow today?
(photo credit – DeclanTM)