The Apps We Use: Richard Moss

With two Macs on rotation — an iMac and a MacBook Air — plopped on top of 20 years on Apple’s side of the operating system fence, I’ve come to use a lot of apps. More even than I can think of off the top of my head, in fact. But some stick out as essential daily drivers, without which I’d struggle to get anything done.

Here’s a choice selection of the apps I use and rely upon nearly every day.

Words to Remember

I write for a living, so I take my text editing and word processing apps very seriously. But these days I don’t care much about how they look; I just want to save time and limit the pain of organization. My focus is consequently on two old workhorses, with a third there for assistance.

MacJournal

I like MacJournal because it makes it so simple for me to jump between writing tasks, and to look through old stories. I have different journals for each place I write (or wrote), plus a few extras that help me stay organized. I keep a list of article ideas, like most freelancers, but my list is a series of journal entries that can be quickly and effortlessly executed. MacJournal has fallen behind the times in design and features, unfortunately, but I’m still not convinced that the likes of Day One can do the job I want.

I don’t exactly use MacJournal as a journal, but it’s a brilliant way for a writer of many things to stay organized.

Price: $39.95
Requires: OS X 10.6.8 or later
Developer: Dan Schimpf/Mariner Software

Scrivener

That’s becoming less of an issue, however, as I gravitate further toward Scrivener, which is a brilliant app for large writing projects of all kinds — novels, screenplays, theses, reports, multi-thousand-word articles, poetry, and so on. I was a bit overwhelmed at first, but once I’d learned my way around I found it invaluable for coping with complex stories. I especially love the flexibility in viewing documents and integrating research.

My default Scrivener setup involves a two-page view split with a narrow scrolling column on the side.

Price: $45
Requires: OS X 10.4 or later
Developer: Literature and Latte

TextWrangler

I seldom use TextWrangler for any writing, actually, but it’s an essential intermediary between composing and publishing. I’ve set up a script that converts my rich-text-formatted writings into HTML, spitting them out into TextWrangler — where I tweak a few things as required before pushing the text through to the content management system. TextWrangler’s also great for quick editing of scripts and preference files, too.

I’m not a fan of WordPress, so I do my HTML tag cleanup here.

Price: Free
Requires: OS X 10.6.8 or later
Developer: Bare Bones Software

To Stay Plugged In

I seldom bother opening my RSS reader (NetNewsWire) on the Mac now that I have an iPad with The Early Edition 2 and Mr Reader installed, but I still very much live on the Internet at my iMac and MacBook Air. To that end, three apps dominate:

Firefox

I favor Firefox to Chrome and Safari for two reasons. While all three major browsers run into issues when you have many tabs open (I’m on tab #378 as I write this, believe it or not), only Firefox has a built-in option to load a tab only after it’s been selected — which negates nearly all problems you could run into from such a habit. My other reason is rather circular in that it’s because I have all those tabs in my Firefox session — to migrate would be a nightmare.

Tabs as far as the eye can see.

You’re probably wondering why anyone could possibly need 378 browser tabs. It relates to my browsing habits; I like to keep a tab open until I’m ready to not come back, so things to check out later, or to monitor, or that I need for a current project all take a portion. It’s usually between 120 and 200, but I got a bit crazy recently.

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

Osfoora

I was one of those tragics who stuck with Twitter for Mac long after its development was abandoned, but I finally gave up in November last year. My choice was not flavor of the month Tweetbot, but rather Osfoora, which in its current carnation looks and feels like the natural evolution of Twitter’s forgotten Mac app. My only complaints at this point are that there’s no option to combine multiple accounts into one Timeline view, and that you can’t open a saved search or list in a separate window.

Osfoora looks and feels like Twitter for Mac with some new bells and whistles.

Price: $4.99
Requires: OS X 10.6 or later
Developer: Said Marouf

MailPop Pro

Gmail in the browser is a pain, but I happen to like its interface — especially the tablet version. So how do I combine the “true” Gmail experience with the convenience of a desktop app? With MailPop Pro, a cool little menubar app that impressed me on review. It offers all the features of Gmail in your browser, only more tightly-integrated with OS X. The highlights for me are keyboard shortcuts, floating windows, and switching between tablet, mobile, and web interfaces.

It’s unfortunate that the tablet view has started playing up because it’s a fantastic way to navigate Gmail.

I’m still waiting for multiple account support, though. And tablet view started misbehaving recently following a change to Gmail’s tablet and mobile interfaces.

Price: $0.99
Requires: OS X 10.6 or later
Developer: Binary Bakery

A Helping Hand

I use heaps of utilities and in-the-background productivity apps, so I’ve decided to just highlight a few less obvious or controversial choices. Keep in mind, however, that I also make serious use of Evernote, Dropbox, and SugarSync for cloud storage, along with Bartender to keep my menubar uncluttered, iStat Menus (which I reviewed) to monitor my Mac, and PopChar X for special characters. And that’s without going into the irregularly-used tools.

ScreenFloat and Snapz Pro X

Much of my writing involves reviewing apps and games, which requires copious amounts of screenshot-taking. I recently put Snapz Pro X back in the hot seat as my general-purpose screenshot tool, for capturing windows, regions, or the entire screen, after realizing it’s still a powerhouse — despite UI issues.

The keys to a very powerful screenshot app.

Price: $69
Requires: OS X 10.7.4 or later
Developer: Ambrosia Software

Meanwhile, I have ScreenFloat for quick last-minute snaps and for floating reference material. It’s particularly useful for this second function, with screenshots floating above everything as you hop between apps or enter information into a full-screen app. My opinion of the app stands unchanged since my glowing review from July last year (I’m noticing a trend here that I didn’t before).

ScreenFloat’s great for floating information above full-screen apps.

Price: $5.99
Requires: OS X 10.6 or later
Developer: Eternal Storms

Acorn and Phatch

So what happens when I need to edit one or more of these screenshots? Or what if I need to do a custom graphic for an article header? For anything quick and small, I just stick to Preview, but if I need anything more sophisticated — like batch processing or messing with composites or advanced filters — I have two favorites.

Phatch is a cross-platform photo/image batch processor written in my favorite programming language, Python. What it lacks in style it more than makes up in power and grace, effortlessly resizing, cropping, and applying filters to my images. All I have to do is set up the rules and away it goes.

It doesn’t look like much, but Phatch is serious business for batch image processing.

Price: Free
Requires: Python 2.5 or later and wxPython; here’s a precompiled Universal Binary
Developer: Phatch Team

For the more finicky tasks, like compositing multiple images into one or cleaning up bad lighting, I turn to Acorn, a much cheaper alternative to industry standard Photoshop. It’s not as powerful as Adobe’s juggernaut, but I’d say it’s enough for 90% of the tasks you’d do in Photoshop — at a fraction of the price.

Price: $49.99
Requires: OS X 10.6 or later
Developer: Flying Meat

CuteClips

Clipboard management apps are a dime a dozen — even to the point where most launcher apps have integrated the feature. But I stick to a little menubar tool called CuteClips, which I can summon with a quick Command-Shift-V shortcut, then pick the stuff I want to paste with arrows and Return, a mouse click, or a tap of a number key (if I’ve assigned it to a specific clip). On top of that, tapping the space bar enables concatenation of multiple clips, one after the other.

There’s more to CuteClips than meets the eye.

Price: $15
Requires: OS X 10.5 or later
Developer: BrikSoftware

TotalFinder and TotalSpaces

I didn’t believe the hype surrounding TotalFinder and TotalSpaces until I picked them both up in a bundle late last year. But now I’m a total convert. TotalFinder adds tabs and a bunch of other cool features to your Finder windows, along with a pop-up floating window that can be called at any time. This has saved me hours in hopping between the Finder and other apps to grab specific files.

TotalFinder’s two killer features — tabs and a pop-up window.

Price: $18
Requires: OS X 10.7 or later
Developer: BinaryAge

TotalSpaces returns the grid layout to Spaces, along with custom transitions, a separate overview grid, and more robust options. Like TotalFinder, it changed my workflow for the better — pushing me to finally split independent tasks into separate spaces, vastly reducing window clutter.

TotalSpaces brings the spaces overview grid back, among other things.

Price: $15
Requires: OS X 10.7 or later
Developer: BinaryAge

The Hit List

I tried using several different reminder, planning, and task management apps, but none stuck with me. I’d set them up, force myself to keep things updated, then give up entirely a week or two later. They did nothing to improve my workflow; I just got annoyed at the extra overheads.

The Hit List hits just the right features for me in a planning/scheduling app.

Then I found The Hit List, a lightweight task/to-do list that avoids the complexity of OmniFocus and Wunderlist while retaining my three must-have features — start date, due date, and tags. I use it to help me keep track of freelance assignments and to give self-imposed deadlines for pitching ideas.

Price: $49.99
Requires: OS X 10.6.6 or later
Developer: Potion Factory

What About You?

Those are the apps essential to my daily routine. What do you use? And what should I consider switching to? Let us know in the comments below, be sure to check out Jacob’s and Reid’s lists, and stay tuned for the upcoming workflows from others on our team!


  • David

    I used CuteClips for a few years before switching to CopyLess. CopyLess has a free version (which limits your copied items to 10, I believe) and a paid-for version that allows you to scale up to 100 stored items; the paid version is still cheaper than CuteClips. I feel that CopyLess is a bit more versatile (copied items can be reordered, it shows you what you’ve already pasted, you can have the list reorganize based on what was pasted most recently). More importantly, I like that CopyLess has a function to paste in plain text. I use the keyboard shortcut for plain text pasting regularly (command alt v), but it’s difficult – perhaps impossible – to do that with copy boards. Having a switch that can be toggled on and off is terribly useful. Just don’t forget to toggle it off. I don’t know if CuteClips may have had similar functionality – perhaps I just missed it – but CopyLess made it very easy to see and access.

    I give credit for AppStorm for introducing me to CopyLess, by the way – this site was how I discovered it.

  • Sunny

    Alfred also has clipboard memory features and since I already use it for app launching, calculating, and more, it’s nice not having a stand-alone app for that single feature.

  • http://iamjenxi.com Jen Xi

    I’m surprised that Sublime Text 2 was not mentioned here. I work with text files a lot, usually typing HTML and Markdown for WordPress. I used to depend on TextWrangler but since I started using Sublime Text 2, it’s become the only app I want to use for text files. Simple things like automatically closing tags and placing the cursors between the tag just makes the whole typing experience a lot smoother. Another very useful feature is the drop down list of suggested tags. The app can guess what I want to do next based on what I’ve typed so far. When I worked with CSS, my custom classes appear in the suggested list too.

    • http://archive.vg Richard Moss

      It was not mentioned because I haven’t used it. :P I certainly like the sound of Sublime Text, but I’m rather turned off by the high price tag — especially considering the simple use I would have for it.

      If I were to switch to writing primarily in HTML and/or Markdown, I’d give it serious consideration. I suspect that in that case I might end up with BBEdit, though.

  • http://www.christophergrant.net Christopher Grant

    Nice run down of apps, will check a few of them out again. Thanks!

  • Eleanor

    Thank you for writing the bit about Firefox. I know I’m not alone in having tab “issues” now. Wahey!

    I usually have about 150-200 open (on Chrome, and it’s memory leak hell, but I’d have to actually read them all to migrate to another browser, so the vicious circle continues), and my husband has long suspected that it is clear proof that I’m unhinged. My only defense is that it’s the modern-day equivalent of my granddad keeping hundreds of old newspapers in the attic because “he hadn’t finished reading them yet”. Right…?

    But you, sir, have outdone me even in my sickest phase, with your 378. I salute you!

    Any other members of tabs anonymous out there want to stand up and admit they have a problem? Um. Okay, I’m going to try to close at least 5 today and claw some RAM back.

    • http://archive.vg Richard Moss

      I’m down to 369 now, with another 10 about to be chopped off.

      Good to know I’m not alone in my tab hoarding ways.

    • Alistair

      Safari user here, and I have the exact same browsing habits as the two of you (the highest number of tabs/windows I recorded having open at once were 32 windows and 278 tabs). Dealing with the sluggishness of Safari was also an issue for me in the past with all those tabs open, but it isn’t anymore; ever since I discovered the Sessions extension for Safari , it’s far easier for me to say, “Okay, I’ve got too many tabs open, I think I’ll quit Safari and start off fresh”, since I know I can easily restore an old session later or individually open any of those tabs I’ve been meaning to get to at a later date.

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  • TooMany Tabs

    If you have more than five tabs open on your browser, you are a damn idiot. There is no excuse for that. When I read that, I knew that the rest of your advice would be crap, and it was. If I were your boss, I would have just pink slipped you for being so stupid as to open hundreds of browser tabs.

    • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

      There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

      I’m the editor, and if I was limited to 5 tabs, I’d be pulling my hair out. I don’t keep as many open as he does, but to each his own.

      I bet we’d each think something about the way someone else works is crazy, but it takes each of our crazinesses to make the world.

    • http://danthornbury.com daniel

      I tend to agree that more than a dozen, or so, tabs is far too many and I wouldn’t heed the app advice of someone who has such a poor workflow. It’s akin to have a billion icons on the desktop and calling that good workflow.

      I reckon opening tabs in the foreground also suggests poor tab management and I should point out the Safari has the option to make this default (look under “Tabs”) and that Chrome does it if you hold shift when opening a new tab. But it sounds as though you’re substituting tabs for history/bookmarks and read later services.

      However, I’m interested to read that you’re not alone in this affliction!

      • http://archive.vg Richard Moss

        Yes, I don’t bother with browser history or bookmarks any more—I found that I never remembered to go back to things, no matter how I organised myself. I use Pocket for read later, but only on long-form articles.

        I wouldn’t expect people who don’t write multiple complex documents/reports/features in parallel to understand the need for many tabs, but the fact is that when I work on a multi-thousand-word feature (which is all the time) I need to reference material from 20-50 tabs.

        Multiply that by three or four, factor in the whole bookmarking/read later thing I just explained, and then you have around 200-250 tabs—a typical number for me. It’s all actually very organised—I use multiple windows and move tabs around, sorting them into groups.

        • Chris

          I can also say that “Pocket” (application name) is great and one that I have used quite a bit! If you tend to have a lot of tabs open as “read later” items, this is a great application that integrates well in to most browser and workflows, so you should definitely check it out!

          Pocket
          https://itunes.apple.com/app/pocket/id568494494?ls=1&mt=12

          Chris
          FA1LURE

        • http://pauladupont.com Paula DuPont

          That makes a lot of sense to me. I keep a lot of tabs open when I’m writing, too, for easy reference. I don’t want to constantly close and reopen the 10-20 sites I’m looking at for a project just because I want a “cleaner look” for my browser window.

          I move them around into groups and use a Chrome extension to save sessions, so I can open multiple tabs at once.

    • FA1LURE

      I tend to believe that people who are so quick and willing to over generalize someone’s entire workflow and recommendations to follow in such an article, based on one aspect thereof (said tab-addiction) would be considered similarly “idiotic” if judged by the same childish, judgmental and hollow arguments used to come to such a determination.

      I tend not to believe that any one person’s workflow is perfect, for that individual or others to whom it may be shared. It’s typically a constant evolution of personal obstacles and finding the right-fit of applications, the modification of personal habits and introduction of new applications and concepts to achieve the next-level of workflow results. A cycle that continues endlessly. The endless nature of the process matches the continual changes often found in our work environment, changing corporate and company standards, responsibilities and tasks, job role(s), new applications or application developments used in our production workflow in addition to the nature of our personal interests and development as they change and expand. Each of these numerous changes not only has the potential to interact and impact other areas of our workflow possibly creating an opportunity for improvement that previously did not exist, such as a new job role and need to use a different application creates a deficit or need that was not present previously which cascades throughout the manner we accomplish what is necessary.

      So while some may be hyper-critical of Richards use of tabs, whether this can be improved or not is beyond simply a decision of what is “smarter” or what other options are available to manage said tabs. This is currently what works for him and as such was shared openly, indicating that such activity is a bit “crazy” and was clear with recommendations for which this behavior impacted his opinions and recommendations. This for me points to a open, honest and humble reviewer – which are all attributes of someone from which I like to look at suggestions from, regardless of whether his use of tabs and choice of browser and/or browser behavior and workflow align with my own. So we may differ there (whether this is true or not doesn’t matter)….

      What matters is as stated, there are numerous elements typically found in one’s workflow with application(s) discussed relative to each of these areas. Though you may, or definitively differ in how you work in one area as some have suggested; this does not preclude you from the potential to finding similarities with the struggles in other areas and recommendations, tips and applications that may offer some benefit(s) and help in achieving improvements in *this* area for you.
      I don’t believe anyone is to read any “like” articles of what others use and replicate their workflow to become more efficient and effective. I don’t believe the author of any such article believes that to be the likely outcome. The general idea is to simply gain knowledge of different applications and options that may apply in one of the many areas of one’s workflow, leading to a discovery that will help take you one step closer to achieving a more tightly-integrated workflow that minimizes the overhead of both costs, time and inconsistencies in use while providing smarter, cheaper, more efficient alternative implementations to accomplish tasks more quickly with potentially more options and versatility in doing so.

      Give the guy a break. So you don’t agree with him in one area. If everything after was going to be garbage, but you continued to prove yourself right by reading and spending time commenting needlessly on such an article to call him an “idiot” then I believe that there may reflect an opportunity in your own time-management and/or workflow indicative of behavior that is not too far from what some may also consider “idiotic” (this could be extended as a comment on the reflection of your personal character, though it’s best to keep things relevant in the interest of time.)

      I am both an idiot and someone who has incredible amounts of opportunity in my own time management – true or not – this admission will allow you to reply (if you should so choose) with something of substance more than a mindless misdirected attack on my desire to respond to such unnecessarily harsh comments of both the author and his editor.

      On the other hand, I appreciated the article – so thank you Richard for the time spent in providing us the insights you have and doing so in an easy-to-read manner that was both open and honest. If we all had the applications that did everything we desired and the personal habits that mirrored one another I believe the available applications and marketplace would be far more desolate and boring. What if any tips will be used is yet to be seen, but I thought the article was well-written and to the point and the ultimate goal, achieved – which for me was the exposure to new ways of doing things and applications I may find beneficial with their implementation of my workflow.

      Thanks,

      Chris
      FA1LURE

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