So for the second part of my 5 items I can’t live without, I'm focussing on Mac applications. I use a Mac at home and at work (I'm lucky – basically I bought my work laptop myself!) so I've a fair few apps that I've tried for various tasks, both at home and work. However, the best tools will be the ones that are used in both locations.
Alfred is one of the most used apps on my Mac. Think of it as a supercharged version of Spotlight. Not only can it sort through your files, folders and web search, with the extra power pack, you can expand it to run applescripts, shell scripts and hotkeys at will. It’s a fantastically useful tool. I've even designed a few extensions for it myself which you can find at my Github page.
The extensions and power pack really make the tool worthwhile – otherwise it’s a slightly expanded Spotlight.
Total Finder is a plugin for Finder that lets you have a tabbed interface. When I first discovered this, I didn’t think it would be worthwhile but after testing for a while, I realised it made far more sense and worked very well. In fact, I miss it a lot if I have to use Windows for any length of time now (and Total Commander that it’s based on isn’t as good as this) It allows you to use one Finder window for two folders, ideal for comparing two folders of work or if you're moving files around. Simple, unobtrusive and incredibly helpful.
TextExpander is a program that expands small text snippets into either full sentences, runs Applescripts or more. It’s incredibly handy to be able to type a small abbreviation and have it insert a full sentence for you. I use if for all sorts – I have it able to convert a few three letter acronyms into my email addresses for me (which are case sensitive), I use it to insert LaTeX code automatically (in a restricted number of programs – i.e. only those programs I use for LaTeX coding) and I use it for inserting dates from a simple two letter abbreviation using an Applescript. Other features mean you can have it expand a text clip and ask for an input as well (I use this in my Markdown coding for example, where I have a tag to insert a HTML centre tag pair but a pop up box asks me what I want to go between the start and end tags – saving me editing the expanded snippet when I've input it)
It’s incredibly powerful and get used daily. In fact, you can see how well it’s doing for me from the in built statistics it records.
As you can see, it’s saved a fair bit of time so far (that’s since I bought it last month!). It also syncs with Dropbox and can be used on the iPhone and iPad with the iOS version of TextExpander (on that, I use a mixture of the new iOS text replacement (as that works everywhere on the phone) and TexTExpaner for apps that have TextExpaander support).
Divvy is a window management software that lets you move and rearrange your windows with hotkeys or via a pop up menu and grid. It’s fantastic for setting windows to use half the screen left and right so you can have two windows next to each other (better on larger screens like my 25" monitor at home) but is also helpful for making apps screen full screen (on my 13" MBP). Again, it sits out the way until it’s needed and does what it’s supposed to do and does it well.
Tracks is a primarily an iTunes search program that sits in the menu bar and lets you search your iTunes library. However, the reason I paid the (small) program cost is that the software gives Growl desktop notifications of what’s playing in iTunes and scrobbles all played tracks to Last.fm. As an avid Last.fm, that was great news as it means I didn’t have to use the bloated and annoying Last.fm software to do so! Whilst the Last.fm software also did Growl notifications, it annoyed me it didn’t have album art in them, which Tracks does show – it’s a small point but something I wanted.
So there we have it, a list of my daily used bits of software that cover a broad range of my day to day workflow. I think there are a few others I feel I could have added here but I'll briefly mention them below – I don’t think I use them on a day to day basis to warrant their inclusion above but they're worthy of a mention.
- Type2Phone – It bugged me there wasn’t an app that let me send texts from my iPhone via my PC (Android has them and my old Motorola managed to do it). This fantastic app lets me use my computer as a bluetooth keyboard for the phone, letting me send texts quickly whilst I'm at my desk!
- myTumblr – A fantastic Tumblr client for the Mac that lets me type up posts in Markdown and send them to Tumblr without an issue. Cheaper than MarsEdit as well!