I think it’s time the write about my favorite tools on MacOS X again. There are a bunch of smaller and larger applications that make my life easier every day. I’d like to share with you what and why:
This little program safes me a thousand key strokes every month. You can define small strings that get expanded to much larger strings when you type them.
For instance I have a abbreviation defined as “psjava” that instantly gets expanded to “ps -ef | grep -v grep | grep java” once I type it somewhere.
TextExpander comes with a price tag of about ~ $35 USD.
The Clipboard History does what the name implies. It keeps history of what you put in your clipboard and can restore it later. So you can copy multiple items to the Clipboard and paste it one by one.
The nice thing about ClipboardHistory I found is, that it stores plain text, RTF and even pictures. But you have to choice to paste it as just plain text. This is very handy if you have to cite from HTML formatted emails and the like.
ClipboardHistory is available for about 3,99 € in the Mac App Store.
There is a free alternative called JumpCut that I used before. That stores only plain text in the history. So Clipboard History is a bit more flexible here. And also offers a search windows for you history. So worth the few bucks if you ask me.
ControlPlane is a nice tool that helps me changing certain settings when I switch work environments. I use my Laptop at Home and in the Office. There are different network environments and stuff I would need to adjust every time I move. ControlPlane can recognize these environment changes and can execute certain actions on change.
For me it switches to a different network location profile to adopt the proxy settings and starts and stops certain programs.
ControlPlane seems to be the successor of Marco Polo which is discontinued.
SoundSource is a nifty little menu bar item that let’s you pick input and output audio devices. You can specify to use the headset microphone but the build in speakers etc.
This little Snitch is a tool for control freaks. It acts like a reversed firewall. It captures traffic from applications on your computer to the network. So you can explicitly allow or deny applications to talk to hosts on the network. It also gives you a monitor on which applications talks to which hosts etc.
This is my control center for applications. LaunchBar gives you sort of a command line interface for launching applications and other stuff. Just hit the trigger key (Ctrl + Space) and start typing some letters of the application you want to start. Once there is a match in the LaunchBar hit Enter and you’re done.
No searching and clicking with a mouse for application launch. LaunchBar supposedly also can maintain clipboard history. But I don’t use this feature at the moment.
iStat Menus 3 (commercial):
Unix-Freaks always love those little meters and gauges displaying all sort of system metrics. Of course there is a Mac way to have this. The most popular is possibly iStats Menus. This stays in the menu bar and can display CPU load, Memory usage, Network throughput etc. at a glance and more detailed measures with a simple click.
DropBox (free, premium available):
DropBox offers you 2GB of cloud storage + synchronization for free. Think of it as an folder on your disk that is constantly synced with a cloud service. So you can keep this folder in sync on several Computers (not limited to Macs).
I use this to store stuff I need on multiple computers like Password Database, TextExpander repo etc.
Make sure you read and understand their small print. Basically they’ll own your data if you use the service. So don’t put stuff their that you don’t like to be shared (copyright protected material, unencrypted personal stuff etc.)
Evernote (free, premium available):
Evernote is a note keeping application. That itself isn’t something spectacular. What makes Evernote unique is, that it’ll sync your notes with their cloud service. This way you can access your notes from multiple devices. Additionally Evernote does OCR on pictures you store in notes. This way you can for instance take pictures of business cards and search for the text on it. That is pretty neat.
I’m using different Browsers on different Platforms. But I want to have my Bookmarks available in all those browsers. The most versatile tool seems Xmarks to me. It has a plugins for most popular browsers and thus keeps my bookmarks in sync. Be careful with their additional offering called “LastPass”. That one can sync your stored password with their cloud service. But they have been hacked several times on the past…
Of course one can’t remember passwords for all the online services and website that are in use. So either you use the same password everywhere (bad idea) or you use different passwords and try to memorize them somehow. I use 1Password to help me with that. It stores all the passwords in a strongly encrypted database file and hooks in to my browsers to easily fill in on demand. You can sync the password file via DropBox to your other computers and even to 1Password on the iPhone. So you always have your passwords at hand.
The good thing is that you passwords are encrypted in a file that you own. Not in a cloud service where you hope the provider encrypts them properly.
GTD is a big hype and there meanwhile tens or even hundreds of tools out there to help you getting your tasks and lists organize. OmniFocus was one of the first tools around and is very versatile and capable. Some people complain about the rather technical UI compared to fancier alternatives like “Things” or “The Hit List“. But apart from it’s powerful features OmniFocus has one big advantage. It can sync it’s database with the iPhone version via any WebDAV folder. So I don’t need to pay for an additional cloud service but instead can use my own web server to sync the database between iPhone and MacBook.