The Apps We Use: Alex Arena

In the time I’ve been a Mac user, I’ve nailed down a pretty solid set of applications that get just about any job I throw at my computer done. For the most part, my Mac is used for reading and writing, podcasting, coding (web development, mostly), and your standard web browsing fare. For most of those things, I’ve found my current-generation spec’d out Macbook Air to be more than adequate, although coming from a 27 inch iMac, I actually need to conserve screen real estate, which plays a role in the applications I choose to use.

Before we continue, I should also warn you that I tend to be a bit obsessive-compulsive when it comes to the applications I choose to use: I’ll literally stop using an otherwise fine application if I think its icon is ugly. The end result is that each application on my Mac is here for a reason. So while I’ve tried out hundreds of different applications, only a select few have made the cut. If I’m not using it, it’s been deleted: end of story.


Did you know that Apple makes a 1st party task management app for iOS and OS X? It’s called Reminders and it does 99.9% of what I need from a task manager without ever feeling like overkill. Aside from it’s horrific faux-leather interface, I can easily recommend Reminders to any who isn’t too serious about their task management.

Price: Free
Requires: OS X 10.8
Developer: Apple


Apple also makes a Notes app for OS X and iOS which syncs perfectly over iCloud. Again, like Reminders, it’s not pretty but there’s something to be said for a app that just gets its job done. It basically acts as a dumping ground for all the things I couldn’t think to put anywhere else.

Price: Free
Requires: OS X 10.8
Developer: Apple


I’ve tried just about every mail app around, and I’ve recently settled on Mail as my go-to choice. It’s pretty speedy, and with a few customizations works well for multiple mail accounts. You also can’t beat it’s support for built-in OS X services like Notification Center. Oh, and unlike Reminders and Notes, it hasn’t been soiled by Apple’s skeuomorphic design obsession just yet.

Price: Free
Requires: OS X 10.8
Developer: Apple

Transmit 3

Transmit is an amazing no-frills FTP app which also supports Amazon S3. We use S3 to host all of our podcasts at Que Broadcasting, so this app is one I couldn’t live without. It also has little “droplets” which allow you to quickly upload to a predefined destination from anywhere. Version 4 has been out for awhile now, and from what I can tell, it seems like a great upgrade — I just haven’t seen the need to upgrade since Transmit 3 does everything I need and more.

Price: $34
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6.8+
Developer: Panic


Rdio is the best music streaming service around; it looks great and has a library that’s basically on par with Spotify’s. Moreover, its Mac app is stellar with support for things like the playback controls on your keyboard. I still wish that I could import my own more obscure MP3’s into my Rdio library, though. Also, you’ll want to change its icon.

Price: $10 /month
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6+
Developer: Rdio

Audio Hijack Pro

I record all of my podcasts into Audio Hijack Pro. It manages to strike the perfect balance between incredible simplicity and incredible power. You can record to just about any format under the sun, and its support for presets of all kind is unmatched. Seriously, if you’re a workflow maven, you owe it to yourself to give Audio Hijack a try.

Price: $32
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6+
Developer: Rogue Amoeba


This is my go-to example of what a Mac app should be. Pixelmator manages to best Adobe’s bloated Photoshop at 99% of the image manipulation tasks I perform on a daily basis, all while looking and feeling sleeker. Almost every graphic I make — including the show artwork for Que Broadcasting — is made in Pixelmator. Oh yeah, and it’s fifteen bucks; this is a no-brainer, people!

Price: $15
Requires: OS X 10.6.8+
Developer: Pixelmator

Honorable Mentions

The above was just a sampling of the apps I use on a daily basis. Below are a few more that didn’t get their own writeup but are by no means any less awesome:

  • Pages – Apple’s word processing tool seems to be superior to Microsoft Word in everything I use it for. I particularly love iCloud syncing with my iPad and iPhone.
  • Reeder – Even though Google Reader is going away, Reeder isn’t and it still remains my RSS reading app of choice.
  • Tweetbot – The best Twitter app for the Mac.
  • Sip – A cool little color-picker.
  • Preferences Quick Launch – Okay, this is a bit shameless given that I wrote the app, but I can’t live without the quick access to the sound preferences that it provides me with.
  • Coda 2 – If you do any sort of web development, Coda is a must-have tool. You can’t beat its interface and feature-set.
  • Alfred – A launcher that beats Spotlight in every way. I haven’t upgraded to version 2 yet, but I’ve heard it’s great.


When it comes to the apps we use, I try to have a “to each their own” mentality, although I’m particularly fond of my current setup. Still, I could seriously argue with someone for hours about something as basic as our color picker of choice. So, do you use and love (or hate) any of the same apps? Let me know in the comments below!