I work from home on my own computer, so of course I have a bunch of apps to get me through the day. You know, I listen to music, send and respond to email, and am constantly using one browser or another. To tell you I stream music using Spotify or use Safari to browse isn’t really letting you in on any secrets of how I get through my day or giving out any tips on what apps I can’t live without.

Instead of looking to the more conspicuous apps that I use everyday and always have open, I want to let you in on some of the apps that don’t seem so integral at first blush, but that I just can’t make it through the day without.

For Writing

Google Drive

Beyond the obvious surfing and searching, I do all of my writing in Google Chrome using Google Drive. I’ve always got access to all of my files no matter what device I’m using, and using Google Drive, they’re editable. There are other great cloud services, arguably better ones, but not every service allows you to edit your documents and even create new ones.

I suppose I’d run into trouble if I ever didn’t have an internet connection, but I have other word processing apps on my computer that would allow me to write if I needed to. The last time I didn’t have the internet for any period of time, I also didn’t have power and had just survived a major hurricane, so I wasn’t doing a lot of writing anyway. Other than nationally declared disasters, though, I’m pretty much always connected, so using Google Drive gives me access to all of the articles I’m writing, wherever I happen to find myself.

Price: Free
Requires: OS X 10.6 or later
Developer: Google

For Notes


I’ve seen some Evernote tutorials, and there are note-taking geniuses who absolutely get the most out of Evernote. They have great systems for managing just about everything in their lives and keeping themselves 100% organized. I’ll tell you I’m not that girl, and while I’m not getting everything out of Evernote that I could, it’s still become an indispensable part of how I work.

I have to keep track of the articles I’m working on, what’s assigned to me, and all of the ideas I have but I haven’t pitched. If I get a great idea but don’t write it down somewhere, it’s gone; worse yet is when I write down a great idea but forget where I stuck it. That’s why Evernote is so important to me. I have templates to take care of all of my articles, to manage my ideas, and everything is organized into notebooks for all the different projects and sites I’m writing for.

Beyond just work, I also let Evernote handle all the bits of paper and emails that would otherwise get lost but that I’ll probably need down the line. Warranty and receipt scans go into Evernote and confirmation emails get forwarded to my personal Evernote inbox. Evernote handles all of my bill statements and hangs onto copies of tax documents, too. Though I still need hard copies of some of those documents, I live in a flood-prone area, and it’s good to have backups close at hand in Evernote.

Price: Free
Requires: OS X 10.6.6 or later
Developer: Evernote Corporation

For Keeping in Touch


There are a few people I like to keep in touch with all day, including my mom who texts constantly but doesn’t have access to a chat application at work. I want to keep up with my mom’s office goings on, but I don’t like having to move from my computer to my phone whenever a new text message comes in. It slows me down and drags me out of whatever I was doing more so than just switching to a different window.

That’s why I was so happy to adopt Messages as my primary chat client when it came out of beta with Mountain Lion. Not only can I let my mom in on what’s going on with my cats and she tell me all about the passive aggressive note she found on her yogurt, but I can still chat with my friends who are using other chat protocols. With a few sleights of hand, Messages is doing more than just connecting you to AIM or Google Chat; you’ll even be chatting on Facebook, too. With the new Project Amy for App.net, you can get your private messages in Messages, as well, and use it like an App.net instant messaging service.

Apple was offering a Messages beta for Lion users, but that was discontinued in December 2012. If you want to use Messages, you’re going to need Mountain Lion; Messages isn’t available via separate download, unfortunately.

Price: Free; included with Mountain Lion, $19.99
Requires: OS X 10.8
Developer: Apple

MenuTab Pro for Facebook

When I said I was going to tell you what apps I use, I didn’t say it was going to be pretty. This is the part where I tell you that I may be more than a little addicted to Facebook. I’m hardly a serial friender–I’ve only just made it past the century mark–and I know how to use my privacy and account controls so I only see the updates I want, but that may be the denial talking. Because with MenuTab Pro for Facebook, I’ve always got Facebook open, and I’m always ready for updates.

Now, before you start planning an intervention, it really isn’t as bad as all that. I get banner notifications to let me know what the update is, and MenuTab lets me decide exactly what sort of notifications I want for which events. If you don’t need to know every time you’ve got a new friend request, turn that off entirely, and since I’ve got Messages handling Facebook Chat for me, that’s switched off, too.

So I’m only getting the notifications that I want, and I can see what’s happening in the banner before I decide whether it’s worth it to stop what I’m doing. Best friend tagged me in a cat picture post? Drop everything. My husband posted some boring graphic design tutorial he made? Whatever. MenuTab actually saves me time and makes me more productive, because it keeps me on task and away from the Facebook website when there’s nothing new for me.

Price: $1.99
Requires: OS X 10.6.8 or later
Developer: FIPLAB Ltd

For Everything Else


I’ve probably got more apps than are good for me, and I’ve got lots of one-off apps that don’t do a whole lot, but the one thing they do, they do a good job of. I like app specialization, because bloated apps that try to do too much often end up not doing anything very well at all. The problem is that I end up with a lot of apps, and because I have so many, I try to stick them up in my menu bar out of the way. At a certain point (that I reached a long time ago), even the menu bar can’t handle all those icons for all those apps.

Enter Bartender, which has made it a lot easier for me to get more done. My menu bar had literally gotten so crowded, I’d run completely out of space up there. Bartender fixed all that by moving everything I didn’t need to be looking at all the time to a secondary menu bar, controlled by Bartender’s single menu icon. Bartender will leave your icons as they are, shift them to the Bartender bar, or hide them entirely if you want. If you get a notification to a hidden menu bar icon and want to make it visible or just want to bring everything back all at once, Bartender can take care of that, too.

Price: $15.00
Requires: OS X 10.6 or later with a 64-bit processor
Developer: Surtees Studios


When I was working in website QA, I had to work in Windows almost as much as Mac OS, and I became spoiled by some of the great features I was missing out on in (at the time) Snow Leopard. Hover over an active program icon on the Windows taskbar, and you’ll get a preview of all of your open windows displayed as thumbnails. That’s not all, though; drag a window to the left or right, and it will snap into place without being manually resized. Pretty awesome and a huge time saver if you need to keep several windows up and active on your display. We’re still missing those sorts of features in Mountain Lion, but Hyperdock finally gives Mac users a taste of what the folks on Windows have had for so long.

With Hyperdock running, hover over an active application icon on your Dock to get a preview of your open windows, and select or close them right in the preview. If you’ve got iTunes open, you can control your music in the Dock using Hyperdock, too. Drag active windows to either side or to the corners to resize them to fill half the screen or just a quarter; pull a window straight up, and it maximizes. Hyperdock seems to crash on me a lot, and that’s not a happy circumstance, but I otherwise love it so much, I’ve placed it on my watchlist in Continu, an app that automatically relaunches crashed apps.

Price: $9.99
Requires: OS X 10.6.6 or later
Developer: Christian Baumgart

Final Thoughts

Those are just some of the apps I need to get by everyday. What do you think of my choices? What apps do you use that are completely indispensable? Let us know in the comments!