Essentials is an interesting and useful app that takes almost every type of information you could want and makes it only a keyboard shortcut away. It doesn’t impose structure on you but instead gives you a broad use utility that you can use however you want.
What can you do with Essentials? Read on to find out!
When you launch Essentials, you’ll see the icon pop up in your menu bar to let you know the app is active. From here, you simply hit your defined shortcut, Command-Space by default, to bring up a resizable black box.
If this is starting to look familiar, you’re probably thinking of Jumper, a similar Mac launcher that’s been around for a few years. This isn’t a mindless clone though, it’s a different take on a similar idea. Both apps have their own unique strengths and weaknesses.
As you can see in the image above, the interface is divided into two main areas: the groups on the left and the content within the groups on the right. The Default group just has a few basic folders and works about like you’d expect: double click a folder to launch it in Finder.
There’s only one group to start and I was initially quite confused as to how to add a new one as there are no visible controls in the interface. It turns out, a double click in the sidebar does the trick.
Now that we know how to make groups, let’s see what we can put inside them.
The first folder I made was one for Applications. Once again I wondered how to get stuff into here, especially since this time a double click didn’t work. It turns out there are two ways, the first is the most obvious: simply drag items into the group. Alternatively, you can right click in the empty area to bring up the following options:
I chose to go the dragging route and before long I had a nice little group of applications that I could quickly access from anywhere in OS X just by bringing up Essentials.
Not a One Trick Pony
At this point, you’re likely rolling your eyes at yet another run of the mill launcher. After all, how many utilities do we need just to launch an application? Fortunately, Essentials can handle a lot more than apps and folders, let’s look at some of the other things it can do.
The next thing we’ll do is create a folder for snippets. By taking advantage of that right click trick from before, we can then make a new text snippet inside of our Snippets folder.
In here you can place any sort of text that you want and it will be saved as a little snippet icon in your folder. You can then either drag it somewhere or right click on it to copy it to the clipboard.
Here’s a weird one that I thought was pretty cool. Essentials lets you save colors. Using the default Apple Color Picker, you simply choose a color that you want to remember and title it to save it in your group.
As a web designer, I find this to be a very useful feature. For instance, I could save groups of color schemes for different projects that I’m working on, then quickly copy the hex values to my clipboard for quick insertion into my code.
The functionality doesn’t stop there, Essentials can hold pretty much whatever you want: your favorite files and images, Terminal commands that act as droplets (quite handy), scripts, URLs, etc. You can even Quick Look files right inside of Essentials.
A Good Start
For less than ten bucks, Essentials is a really hand app that could conceivably change the way you use OS X and speed up your workflow in a number of ways.
In its current state, I found it to be quite useful, but I have to admit that I would change a lot about it if I could. For instance, the biggest problem is the overall UI, which is pretty much driven by right click contextual menus. We’re all used to these being an option for navigating an app’s various settings and actions, but it seems bizarre and unintuitive as the primary way to accomplish anything. Some minimal icons for basic functions would go a long way.
Further, some of the default actions seem a bit off. One example is that I have to double click an application to launch it. The problem is, the app feels so much like the dock that you expect a single click to get the job done.
Finally the workflow to add items could use rethinking. Currently adding a new text snippet inserts a blank snippet, which you then have to right click on and choose to edit. What should happen is that creating a new snippet brings up this edit dialog by default.
Basically, I think the app is great, but I recommend that the developer hire a UX expert to come in and rethink a lot about how it functions.
If you’re looking for an affordable way to dramatically increase the speed at which you can access files, folders, text snippets, URLs or even colors, Essentials is definitely a great place to start.
It’s a solid little utility that’s not quite to that “refined” Mac app stage but is definitely still well worth the modest price. The key to this app, as I mentioned in the introduction, is that it’s quite versatile. Find ten of its users and you’ll likely find ten different ways to use the app!