I'm a bit of a tech ninja as many of you know. The truth is that I haven't always been that way, but a number of years ago I recognized that finding and learning to use the right apps was essential to productivity and quality of work. Below is a big list of essential tools in my Mac toolbox. I hope you find them helpful, and hopefully I can introduce you to something new that will improve your Mac experience.
(full disclosure: most of these are affiliate links, and if you purchase through the link, I receive a small commission. If you do, thanks!)
- 2Do: 2Do is my task manager of choice for Mac and iOS. Everyone should have a to-do list. If you prefer paper, go for it. For some, Mac's built-in task manager may be enough, but I personally need some more power, which is why I use the great 2Do.
- BreakTime: BreakTime is a simple menu app that turns on a timer and reminds you to take a break. For me that means doing a few things elsewhere in the building, walking the hall for a few minutes, or doing a few minutes of exercising in my office.
- Antisocial: I've blogged about this before. This is a great app for those like me who sometimes need to block the time wasting sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
- Focus@Will: While I don't love that focus@will is one of those yearly payment type of things, nor does it have a Mac app, I continue to love listening to it as I work. It is music to help you focus. If you like it too, you can do what I did and use the free Fluid app to make the focus@will website into an app.
- Coffitivity: Do you work well amongst the busy noise of a coffee shop? Coffitivity will give that to you right from your menu bar.
- PopClip: PopClip is a very simple and handy app that quickly appears when you highlight text with your mouse, allowing you to copy, paste, cut, or if it is a URL, to open it.
- CheatSheet: One of the best things you can do for productivity is rely on your mouse less - this means using shortcut keys more. For those times that you can't remember (or are learning) shortcuts, CheatSheet is there to help. Simply hold down the command key for a few seconds, and a list of all available shortcuts pops up.
- LaunchBar: Launchbar is an absolute essential on my mac, I can't live without it. I simple keystroke brings up launch bar, which then allows you to launch apps or files, open URLs, even do quick calculations or add to your Contacts or Calendar. Another very popular alternative which I may transfer over to at some point is Alfred, as Alfred is in the Mac App Store and does the same things.
- aText: aText is a cheaper alternative to the popular TextExpander, and works just as well. Everyone should have this type of app. What you do is create an abbreviation that will instantly turn into the full thing. So, for instance "@gm" for me changes to my full gmail address. I have created tons of these abbreviations - it is a real time saver.
- Air Display: Although this is an iPad app, it really is about helping your desktop experience. This app, along with a connector app for your Mac or PC, makes your iPad a second screen.
Word Processing & Document Creation
- Mellel: Mellel is my word processor of choice for Academic writing. It is fast and powerful, with a great auto-titling feature, cross referencing, seamless integration with my reference manager, and great control over paragraph and character styles.
- Pages: I love Pages interface and sync with my iPad. It can't do the heavy academic lifting I need, but for everything else, I love it.
- Swift Publisher: Swift Publisher is for flyers, posters, etc. It comes with great templates and is very easy to customize. For those pastors out there who find themselves making way more posters than they ever thought they would, check Swift Publisher out.
- Keynote: I can't praise Keynote enough, nor can I overemphasize how much I use it. Keynote is what I use for teaching; it is one of the main tools for video creation and screencasts; it is a beautiful layout editor; and it is often my main picture creation software as well. If you ask why I don't use Powerpoint the answer is simple, I hate Powerpoint :-)
- Sente: This is my Reference Manager of choice, and I continue to really love it on both my Mac and iPad. (for more on reference managers see my post 1 and post 2 on this)
- Devonthink: While I am using this less and less, Devonthink is still my digital filing cabinet, and has excellent searching ability within the database.
- Evernote: The main thing Evernote continues to have going for it is its ubiquity - it syncs great and is everywhere. I am right now thinking about moving over entirely to Notability (Mac and iOS) or CP Notebook (Mac and iPad), as both are now available on Mac and iOS. This wasn't the case even a year ago.
- Logos: I don't need to say too much about this - most know about Logos Bible Software, the biggest name bible software on the market. It is a powerful app with a huge digital library and it is open constantly on my Mac.
- Accordance: While Logos is now my primary Bible Software, Accordance still does a number of things much better. Its search capability, especially in the primary languages, is way superior, and the resulting data from searches is much easier to work with. In fact, I simply could not have created my mobile apps FlashGreek and ParseGreek without the help of Accordance. Especially if you are an academic, having both apps is great.
- Olive Tree and Glo Bible: You may be someone who wants a Bible app but doesn't need the power of Logos or Accordance, and aren't interested in a large library. If you are one of those, Olive Tree Bible app is probably the nicest interface on the market, and still offers enough good resources for a lay user. If you want something more media rich, check out the Glo Bible.
Media Creation (photo and video)
- Pixelmator: I don't do a ton of photo editing, and certainly don't need the power of Photoship. But when I do need to get into more complicated photo editing, Pixelmator is a beautiful app that works great and can deal with pretty much every file type.
- Picturesque: Do you want to add just a little magic to images? Picturesque is the app to use. Crop, add shadow, do some perspective shift, round the corners.
- Art Text 2: Art Text 2 is all about creating lettering. It comes with tons of templates and really easy to manipulate.
- OmniGraffle: Every once in awhile I need to create a mind-map type of image and I need a little more flexibility than Keynote can offer. In this situation, OmniGraffle is the place I go.
- Toolbox for Keynote and Pages: If you are a heavy Keynote or Pages user, You need to get Toolbox for Keynote and Toolbox for Pages. I can't say enough good about this, particularly Keynote for me. It includes a lot more themes, beautiful layouts, and tons of graphics and clipart to make use of.
- Screenflow: You'll see on my YouTube channel some screencasts (here is my latest example). For these videos, Screenflow is the app I use and is really the standard screen capture software. It can record your screen, webcam, mic, and computer audio. You can crop, and annotations, effects, etc. Highly recommended.
- HiddenMe: This is a really simple app that is great for screencasts. With a click in your menu, it hides your messy desktop.
- Video Converter Ultimate: There are so many video and audio files types out there, and for the most part you can get them to play with an app like VLC or Quicktime. But for those times when you want to convert, this is the app I use. This is the fastest converter I have, and can also combine videos, and crop, etc. This is an awesome app.
- GarageBand: Most Mac users have GarageBand right on your Mac already. This is the app I use when doing podcasts. When I want some better sounding mic recording, as well as other audio clips, etc., this is what I use.
- 1 Password: This app is part productivity, part safety, and part backup. Available on my Mac and iOS, 1 Password creates a encrypted and secure database for your passwords, credit cards, bank accounts, and any other notes you want. All of it is secured behind the 1 master password you create. What is so great is that it works right in your browser, and with the 1 master password, fills in the details you need on the page. When you create a new login, it will automatically store those as well. This is an essential app for me.
- Dropbox: Everyone knows about DropBox, but just in case you don't, DropBox is free for 2GB and sticks a folder on your computer that is securely backed up. Also very handy for sending large files to others.
- BitCasa: I started using BitCasa for work because I needed a place for large online storage at a good price. I think once the new iCloud drive comes, I may switch over as that is even cheaper, but time will tell.
- YNAB (You Need a Budget): Back when people were paid in cash, it was a little easier to use envelopes to manage your money. Now that debit and credit cards have removed the visual of how much money you have, a good app for budgeting is a great thing. A number of my friends who are number and data geeks, they have complicated spreadsheets for budgeting. For the rest of us, there are apps like YNAB for your Mac and iOS device. I've tried 6 different apps over the last few years, and YNAB is the absolute best - a simple interface and a great mobile app for quickly adding transactions. If you aren't budgeting, you really should be, and YNAB will be a great help.
- Pocket: Pocket is a great free app on all platforms. It is a "Read It Later" service, where you click a quick button on your browser to save it for later. Pocket also allows you to then permanently save the page in Evernote, or share it on social media.
- BetterZip: Mac is great for having the right-click compress option built right in. But sometimes you may get a zip file, and you only need 1 or 2 items from the zipped file. Windows users are used to this ability to look inside the zip file, not so much with Mac users. BetterZip gives you this ability. It also allows you to add to already zipped folders, remove files from zip folders and save that way, and lots of other things too.
- iTelePort: Available for Mac or iOS, iTeleport is the VNC app I use. If you don't know what VNC means, it is a way to quickly connect to another computer over the next. While my job doesn't necessitate me using this all of the time, once in awhile it comes in extremely handy. An alternative that I've read great things about is Screens for Mac and iOS. If you need an app like this, I'd probably go with Screens.
Did I miss any that you use that you want to tell me about? Let me know in the comments.
photo credit: geerlingguy via photopin cc