Hey, it’s Matthew, the editor here and on Web.AppStorm. Ever wondered which apps I use to get my work done each day?
For the past few weeks, we’ve been running a series of articles about the Apps We Use, letting you get a peek into the workflow of each of the writers on our team. I’m up this week, and here’s the apps that are most important to me — the apps I require to get work done, productively, on my Mac.
It may be the apps that really count, but it still takes an honest-to-goodness Mac to run all of those great Mac apps we write about. For me, that Mac is a mid-2012 13″ MacBook Air, with the default specs aside from a factory upgrade to 8Gb ram. It’s an awesome machine, getting 6-7 hours on battery easily, and the only problem is that my 128Gb internal SSD feels a bit too cramped. Cloud apps don’t help, but my USB3 500Gb external WD hard drive keeps me from going crazy. I run virtual machines off of it, which run great, and offload most of my movies and photos to it. I’ve also got a Nifty MiniDrive for extra storage, which has become my go-to place for downloads and other forgettable files.
Beyond that, I’ve got an AirPrint-enabled HP Photosmart 3-in-one printer, an iPhone 5 (black, if you must know), and an iPad 1 that my wife uses mainly these days. I’ve also got an awesome little Alcatel onetouch 3G USB dongle to keep me connected to the ‘net on the go. Oh, and a set of original Apple Earbuds and the newer EarPods; I still like the older ones better. That’s the entirety of my tech setup.
The Most Important Apps
Then, there’s the apps I rely on, which make my Mac my Mac. I have tons of apps, but there’s really only a (largish) handful of apps that I really couldn’t live without. Those would be:
For me, the browser I open every day is Safari. Why? OS X integration. It feels the most integrated, with swipe-to-go-back and pinch-to-zoom that works as you’d expect: beautifully. Also, I can keep bookmarklets in the bookmarks bar, then tap CMD+number to use them without ever having to go to my mouse. I switched back to Safari from Chrome after Lion was released, and haven’t really looked back. It’s great. I do keep Chrome around, to run sites that use Flash so I can keep Safari Flash-free.
I know, I know: I need to switch to a new email app. Sparrow’s the only dated and essentially unsupported app in my workflow, and I really should have switched to Mail.app way back. But Sparrow just works the way I want, with quick in-line replies only an alt+r away, and great integration with archiving and Gmail tags. With 3 Google Apps based accounts to keep up with, and easily over 3-4 dozen emails per day, I need an email app that’s fast and efficient, and Sparrow still hits the spot for me. Here’s to hoping that the upcoming .Mail app can fix my Sparrow addiction.
Dropbox is where all of my files live. No joke. Ever since I went pro, I’ve used Dropbox to store just about everything, and have come to rely on it for my notes, pictures, password sync, website backup, documents, and so much more. It’s awesome, consistently works great, and since you can selectively sync folders, I even use it to keep some larger folders off my Mac.
Let’s just say that I have nearly 350 passwords in 1Password, and I couldn’t tell you more than maybe a half-dozen of them. Instead, I use 1Password’s password creator to make all of my new passwords as random as they can be, and just remember my insanely-long master password for 1Password. It’s the only way I can get into most sites, including all of my work sites, and is easily most important apps I have. Best thing is, I can check my passwords online from Dropbox, from my phone with the amazing new iPhone app, and even from a Windows PC.
Alfred 2 is one of those apps that you have to use daily to really appreciate — and you’d better have the powerpack when you’re trying it, too. At first I didn’t get the appeal of Alfred; Spotlight seemed to be plenty for my needs. Then, I finally tried it, complete with the powerpack, and fell in love. The latest version and its workflows are better than ever, and I use it daily for everything from searching my Mac and launching apps to custom-searching AppStorm sites, translating text, creating new plain-text notes, taking the formatting out of text while pasting, and so much more.
iA Writer was the first app I purchased on the Mac App Store — for $17.99, mind you — and it’s easily been one of my best purchases ever. It’s the writing app I use all day, every day, whether I’m writing on my Mac or iOS device. The beautiful Nitti Light font, clean interface, and lack of buttons makes it the perfect place to pen your thoughts, and its Markdown support makes taking your writing from idea to HTML as simple as it could be. I use it for writing everything from articles to my notes, now that I’ve switched from using Simplenote to using plain-text notes synced in Dropbox. A quick Alfred search, and I’m reading or editing my notes in iA Writer.
For coding, the incredibly popular Sublime Text 2 is my main app, and I’ve even switched to writing my Markdown/plain text stuff in it from time to time, but still come back to iA Writer every time. This past week, the new Textastic for Mac has become my main coding app, and it looks like I’ll be keeping it around. It’s really nice, too, for light coding.
There’s tons of things I need to do each day, and OmniFocus is how I keep up with everything. It’s the best productivity app if you’re really wanting to keep up with a ton of stuff, complete with due dates, recurring tasks (that are easy to setup), notes, with all of that wrapped in an interface that’s not tons different than a text editor. I can’t wait to get my hands on OmniFocus 2, but even OmniFocus 1 still beats every other productivity app on the Mac, hands-down, for me. And yes, I’ve tried most of them.
There’s two other similar apps I use as well: Clear and Fantastical. Clear is where I put quick lists: the store list, movies I’d like to watch, and so on. Fantastical is how I keep up with appointments and other calendar events. All together, they work out to make a pretty nice productivity solution that’s not too overwhelming.
Now here’s the most underrated feature in OS X: Preview. That little app is awesome, and if you’re not using it daily, you should. You might notice I have no screenshot apps listed; that’s because the built-in screenshot tools in OS X are all I need, at least 99.9% of the time. I then can quickly open images in Preview and resize them for our site here, or just save them in another format. It’s also how I convert .icns files to png icons for our articles here, as well as how I fill out PDF forms, sign documents with my MacBook’s camera, merge pages in PDFs, and more. It’s awesome
I do also have Photoshop CS6 on my Mac, and use it tons as well, even for screenshot work. Another handy tool for the same purpose is Automator, another underrated built-in Mac tool that’s great, say, for bulk-resizing photos.
I use tons of web apps, both in my work at Web.AppStorm and also just in the process of working online. I have separate Gmail and Google+ accounts for both AppStorm sites I edit, and signing in-and-out from Safari all day isn’t fun. That’s where Fluid comes in, giving me a way to turn each of those accounts into an app of sorts, so I can be logged into as many Google accounts as I need to be. Plus, it’s great for checking my feeds in Fever now that I’ve switched to it from Google Reader, since there’s no native Mac app for it yet.
I’ve self-hosted my own blog, Techinch.com, for years, first using WordPress and now using the flat-file CMS Kirby. That means I need a simple way to publish files via FTP, since everything I write on my site is in a plain text file that has to be uploaded. And, of course, whenever I want to change my CSS or tweak something else on my server (or install something like Fever), the handy FTP app is needed again. For me, that app is Transmit. It’s fast, simple, and works great syncing folders. Best of all, it works great for Amazon S3 too, so I can keep my photo archive there on the cheap.
There’s one thing I really love doing just for the fun of it: running other operating systems in virtual machines on my Mac. That’s where VMware Fusion comes in. I keep a library of almost every semi-modern version of Windows and Office installed, as well as Ubuntu and a testing OS X machine, along with whatever else I’m playing with that week. It’s a fun way to push your hardware to the limits, stay informed about the other side, and have fun. That is, if seeing how little ram Windows 8 can run — or learning more about Linux — with is your definition of fun.
The Other Apps
That’s not all of the apps I use, but it’s the most important ones. There’s a handful more, though, that really should get a mention since I find them so handy. So here goes:
- TextExpander: I don’t use it nearly as much as I should, but even the amount I do use it is enough to keep it around. Great for speeding up typing for those repetitive things we all have to type.
- PopClip: The little, iOS style text selection popover that’s turned out to be quite the handy little tool. It’s one of my must-haves, even if it’s tiny.
- Boom: A little app that gives your MacBook’s speakers an extra boost, Boom is a rather essential app for me since my wife and I use the MacBook as our main way to watch movies. And it really does work great.
- CloudApp: Still the best way to quickly share files online, which I use daily.
- Tweetbot: The best way to use Twitter on a Mac, especially if you have a ton of accounts to manage for work (as I do). Also, a hat-tip to Wedge, a similar app for App.net that I use daily, though it’s a bit rough around the edges.
- Soulver: What a calculator/spreadsheet should be.
- Skype: It’s far from perfect, but it’s the way I make calls from my Mac, both to real phones and to other Skype users. It’s rather irreplaceable.
That’s about it for me. There’s a ton more apps I use from time to time, even weekly, but these are the main ones that get me through the day.
Any apps you think I should change out? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!