Oh dear: a few weeks ago Wess Daniels started a Twitter discussion about the new Mac app Cardhop. In the thread he asked me about other apps which apps I find essential. I thought I’d type up something in ten minutes but then the draft post kept growing. I’m sure I still missed some. I guess I didn’t realize how particular I am about my computing environment. 🙂
Okay, maybe it’s a bit OCD but I hate cluttered Mac menubars running along the top of my screen. This app was just rebuilt for High Sierra and is an essential tool. I have most everything hidden and have set up a keyboard shortcut (the little-used right “option” key) to toggle the full menubar icon set.
This is my favorite calendar app. It sits in the menubar, ready to give a beautiful agenda view with just a single tap. It can open up to a full view. Manage calendars is easy and the natural language processing is suburb.
Just released, this is Fantastical’s newest cousin, an app for managing contacts from Flexibits. It works with whatever you have set up for contacts on your Mac (I use Google but iCloud is fine too). Given Flexibit’s track record, and Cardhop’s resemblance to the discontinued Cobook, this is likely to be a winner for me.
I’ve been a Chrome user since the week it debuted but lately I’ve been trying to switch to Safari, wanting its superior battery management and syncing of bookmarks and tabs with iOS. Many of Safari’s annoyances have lessoned as Apple itinerated with each release. There are enough extensions now that I can get by. I am, though, one of those weird people whom John Gruber identified: wannabee Safari users who really like Favicons in tabs. Fortunately, Faviconographer has come along. There are occasional oddities (floating icons, icons that don’t match site) but overall it improves the Safari experience enough to make it a win over Chrome.
Uses the built-in content filtering system built into Mac Safari. Good syncing with the iOS app. “Content filtering” (aka blocking) has become an important security concern and let’s face it: the web runs so much better without all the crap that some sites throw in along with their content. You can whitelist sites that respect readers. Honorable mention in Chrome or as an alternative for Safari is uBlock Origin, a great blocker (and distinct from standard uBlock, which I don’t recommend).
Lets you remap the generally useless Caps Lock key. I have it mapped Brett-Terpstra style so that a single click opens Spotlight search and a hold and click acts as a hyper key (imagine a shift key that you can use for any keystroke).
Remap keys and key combinations. With Karabiner, I can use it to have Capslock-C open a particular app, for instance.
I used to think VPNs were a luxury but with people hacking in on public Wi-Fi accounts and the loss of privacy, I’ve signed up for this easy-to-use VPN service. One account can power multiple devices so my laptop and phone are secured.
It’s been around for years. I currently have 13,000 notes stored in Evernote, including every issue of the magazine I work for going back to the mid-1950s. There was a time a few years ago when I was worried for Evernote, as it kept chasing quirky side projects as its main app got buggier and buggier. But they’ve had a shake-up, ditched the distractions and have built the service back up. Most of my projects are organized with Evernote.
There are a gazillion writing apps out there that combine Markdown writing syntax with minimalist interfaces (Bear, IaWriter, Byword) but Ulysses has edged its way to being my favorite, with quick syncing and ability to post directly to WordPress.
There are also a gazillion task managers. Todoist does a good job of keeping projects that need due dates in order.
You should be using a password manager. Repeat: you should be using a password manager. 1Password is rock solid. They’ve recently changed their economic model and strongly favor subscription accounts. While I’ve tried to limit just how many auto-pulling subscriptions I have, I understand the rationale and have switched.
A great email app for Mac and iOS that can display and sort your Gmail accounts (and others too). Almost too many options if you’re the kind to fiddle with that sort of thing but easy to get started and great with just the defaults.
Google and Apple and clouds
The Big-G should get a shoutout: it powers the databases for my email, calendar, contacts, and photos. All my hardware has migrated over to Apple, helped in large part by the opening up of its ecosystem to third-party apps.
What’s also useful to note is that all of the data-storing services are cloud based. If my phone or laptop disappeared, I could borrow a new one and be up to speed almost immediately. Since many of these apps run on databases run by Google, I can also switch apps or even have multiple apps accessing the same information for different purposes. There’s a real freedom to the app ecosystem these days.