About 7 years ago I started using Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) after buying a used iMac. It started out as pure personal use for checking my mails and surfing the web.
Later on I got a MacBook Pro from my employer and I started using this magnificent piece of hardware on a personal and professional basis. At this moment I’m a Linux System Engineer and consultant for some years now and I have gotten used to working with Mac OS X. Actually I’m a Mac power user, kinda cool isn’t it?
Therefore I would like to share with you the apps and tools I use on a regular basis on my MacBook Pro.
I have the urge to test out new apps even though the current app I use is doing what it should do. I just want to try out something new once and awhile to check if I’m missing out on any functionality that I didn’t know of or an interface that knocks me off my feet. This sometimes results in the use of a new app but I often find myself reverting back to the app I was used to.
The basic apps
Well these are the apps that are being used for basic day-to-day tasks such as surfing, communicating and listening to music.
Actually I used Safari for a few years but I switched over to Chrome last year. The reason for this switch is first of all the speed of this browser in comparison to Safari. Second of all I find it more convenient to use the Chrome Webstore to quickly extend the browser with more functionality. And of course I can also synchronise the browser tabs etc. to my Android device.
I have tried out different e-mail clients on my Mac such as Thunderbird, Airmail and Outlook but I kept coming back to the stock Mail app from Apple. I like the clean interface over the ones from Thunderbird and especially Outlook. Airmail is a possible replacement but at the time I tried this app (late summer of 2013) this was a bit too buggy. I realise there are a lot of new upcoming mail clients for Mac but at the moment I keep clinging to Mail app. It’s just more of a habit I guess but as I mentioned I like the simple interface and I’m used to the shortcuts.
There is one app that caught my attention and that is Mail Pilot but I haven’t got to testing this app yet. This app might be a valid replacement for the stock Mail app.
Well, I like to listen to music while I’m working and with Spotify premium I can listen to anything I am in the mood for. I can even continue to listen on a long ride back home. I was doubting about paying for Spotify or Deezer (Beats Music isn’t available in Belgium yet) but I went for the app that the majority of my friends are using.
I use Skype because this is the main communication app that is used in the company I work for. I have used Hipchat in the past which offers more possibilities to integrate into your company’s likings and tools. The new alternative for Hipchat called Slack also seems a pretty neat app to communicate company wide.
The reason I chose for Tweetdeck was the ability to have more columns with information based on personal needs. You can create columns with specific searches, mentions, lists and many more.
These apps are focussed on gathering information and generally improving productivity by relieving me of some common tasks.
I use Pocket to gather articles, web pages, videos and such which I come across. These are saved when I don’t have the time to check them at that moment. I chose Pocket over Instapaper just because Pocket is free. I prefer only to pay for app which I use on a regular basis instead of casually using them.
Who doesn’t use Evernote to write down notes and gather information? You can create different notebooks with your own categories of notes, tag them, add location information, configure reminders and share them. The only thing I have difficulties with is the lost text formatting upon copy-pasting from and to Evernote.
This is one of the greatest apps I use. I can keep track of every to-do, both personal and professional. I add every to-do, big and small, in Wunderlist so I can keep my mind clear on other things instead of wondering if I still needed to do something. The biggest benefit is that even the free version comes with a whole set of extra’s. These include sub-tasks, notes, attachments and reminders. Must have app in my opinion.
I use Sublime Text as a text editor for coding purposes. The great advantage of Sublime Text is the extendability by letting you install plugins for syntax highlighting and automatically adding code snippets based on the build system. I use it to write bash scripts and puppet code (instead of Geppetto for puppet). But I am merely scraping the possibilities of this text editor as this app has its own package manager, lets you install custom themes, offers git integration, has great automatic text alignment possibilities and many many more.
Kind of strange to create this blog post and add Microsoft apps but I prefer Word over the OpenOffice/LibreOffice alternative because of document formatting issues between those. And as most of the people and companies still use Microsoft Word I don’t think I will switch over any day now.
The same thing goes for Microsoft Excel as for Word. As office suites come installed with different apps and tools I was not going to switch to another suite for an Excel alternative. Yet I must admit that I actually haven’t worked with Apple’s Numbers.
Not an app I use that much (therefore the “lite” version) but a very neat basic app to easily start mind-mapping without a lot of bells and whistles.
Actually there are not a lot of FTP clients on the mac so the choice is rather limited. The application offers a slick interface and the possibilities to manage FTPS, SFTP, WebDAV and Amazon S3 connections. There is not much more to say about this client and the choice is more of a personal preference for the interface as I haven’t had any issues with this app.
Flycut is a tool which I cannot work without anymore. This is a very simple tool that lets you manage your clipboard. Gone are the days where you copy, switch to another window, paste, go back to the other window and repeat. You can just copy different parts of text or words after the other and then go to another window to paste them as you can browse through the previously copied words or text.
Having almost 300 different passwords linked to various accounts and sites it is only logical to make use of a password manager. 1Password is not a cheap app but it is certainly worth your money if you want to keep all of your passwords secure. Every login entry can be modified to contain every bit of information that you prefer, even allowing you to add your own fields of information. Besides account and password information this app allows you to store secure notes, credit card details, server credentials and software licenses.
Lately I stumbled upon Dashlane which seems like a valid alternative for people who don’t want to pay over 40 euros for 1Password.
This calendar app is a great app to manage your calendars and tasks straight from the toolbar. You can add and manage your calendar items directly from the toolbar without opening up your Mac Calendar app or surfing to your online iCal/Google account.
More technical apps
I use CoRD just because there aren’t any other good alternatives to connect to Windows servers over RDP. I also don’t put any time in looking for an alternative because I don’t connect to Windows servers that much lately.
A few years ago I chose this app above the Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection app because this app let me save my server connection so that I wouldn’t have to enter my credentials every time.
This app is basically open all the time. I prefer this app over the default Terminal app that comes with every Mac. The reason behind this is that I can select text from a terminal window which is automatically entered into my paste buffer. Without the need to click CMD+C. I was used to this functionality from being a PuTTY user a long time ago.
Other perks include split panes, an easy search through the terminal history, hotkey window management and more. See the feature page http://www.iterm2.com/#/section/features/unixyness for more information on this app.
RVM is a Ruby Version Manager that can be used to have multiple Ruby versions installed on your mac. This might come in handy when you have tools or scripts that require a specific (older) version of Ruby.
You can drop a .ruby-version file in any folder you like and specify the Ruby version to use in that specific folder and subfolders.
What would a system engineer nowadays be without Vagrant to test new setups on a local virtual environment. Vagrant is very easy to setup and you can have a new virtual environment up and running within a few minutes.
The reason I use Homebrew on my Mac is that I can install new CLI tools or updates of existing CLI tools that are a bit outdated. A few of my Homebrew installed tools are for example git-flow, browsertime, sitespeed.io, whois, tree and some more.
Oh-my-zsh is a replacement for the default bash shell in the Mac terminal but with a lot of extras and cool features. First of them is the ability to customise the theming of your shell, just go check out https://github.com/robbyrussell/oh-my-zsh/wiki/themes for a list of themes and examples.
But the custom theming is just a small feature. Tab completion is more advanced in comparison to bash by letting you use your arrow keys to navigate through long lists of auto-complete possibilities. Tab completion even works with the scp command to other servers.
You can activate custom plugins for autocompletion of commands and its parameters, git status based on your working directory, case insensitivity, fuzzy matching on files and directories and many more. Just a must have tool for any productivity geek.
Alfred is actually a rather basic app with a lot of possibilities under the hood. With Alfred you can get things done on your mac just from a small command window where you can type anything Alfred can understand.
This means that you can search on Google, Youtube, Imdb, Maps, Twitter, Wikipedia etc. But you can also configure your own web searches, I use Alfred to search on Jira, Confluence, PHP.net pages and many more. You can also use Alfred to quickly launch an app, lock your mac, empty your trash, search through your browser history,…
The Alfred developers offer a paid service pack that allow you to extend Alfred even more by adding workflows to control Spotify, add notes in Evernote, create tasks in Wunderlist,…
As I said, this is a simple app with a shear endless set of possibilities in workflow improvement.
I downloaded Spectacle because I couldn’t stand not having an app window in the absolute center of my screen (OCD alert!). Spectacle allows me to
- center a window by a keyboard combination
- switch windows to other screens and desktops
- equally divide windows over my screen
- put my windows full screen
- make my windows smaller or larger
All this just by using a simple keyboard combination.
I often have to share screenshots or other files with my colleagues or customers and that is where Cloudapp comes in. I can create a screenshot with a built-in shortcut. That automatically sends the image to Cloudapp which in its turn automatically creates a short hyperlink in my clipboard.
I can also drag pictures, pdfs and other files to the small menu icon and the app creates a short hyperlink for me.
- Out with the iOS, in with the Android
- Migrating Varnish 3 vcl to Varnish 4