Around the beginning of 2018, I made the switch to using a MacBook for virtually everything I do. I had been a fan of the iPhone for some time and after a long history with Linux and Windows, I developed an interest in giving the Mac a try. Since then, I’ve been using a MacBook Pro pretty much exclusively.
Over two years later, here’s a list of the apps that made it onto my MacBook and stayed.
In no particular order:
Okay, this one might actually be in particular order. Things is possibly the nicest app I’ve used in my entire life. It has near-perfect synergy with how my brain works and it sparks joy every time I use it, which is constantly. Absolute beauty, keyboard shortcuts, a just-right organizational system, start dates (oh, how many tasks managers don’t have start dates!), a helper (for creating todos from anywhere on your system and automatically adding a link to the page, email, or whatever that you have open), and the list goes on.
Everything goes into Things. I add articles to read, questions to answer, things to check on, and minuscule reminders. If it comes to mind, I get it out of mind, and into Things.
Other task managers I’ve tried: Taskwarrior, Todoist, Apple Reminders, markdown checkbox lists
1Password is another app that sparks joy. It’s quite pretty and both the Mac and iPhone apps quickly handle passwords, OTPs, credit card info, and other sensitive bits with minimal friction. Every other password manager I’ve tried feels noticeably worse and doesn’t work as well (or as often).
Other password managers I’ve tried: Dashlane, LastPass, pass, KeePass
iTerm, you just have to use it. If you’re using the built-in Terminal.app, you’re missing out. That’s all there is to say. Install iTerm, get yourself a nice theme, and learn some shortcuts.
I used Tmux with iTerm for a while since I was used to in on Linux. I eventually dropped it because iTerm can do all the things I used tmux for, plus OS-native window and tab management.
Other terminal emulators I’ve tried: Terminal.app, MobaXterm on Windows, and many of the Linux offerings
The Alfred Powerpack was a huge value purchase. For about $25 I got so much more than a supercharged launcher. Through built-in features and open-source “workflows” (extensions), I locate and manipulate files, access clipboard history, quickly enter snippets like my email address and the ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) face (my word, Lenny doesn’t look great in this font), grab contacts, look up and spell words, do calculations, access 1Password, run commands in iTerm, open GitHub repos, search Stack Overflow/Exchange, control Spotify, search Smart Folders, and paste emojis.
Other launchers I’ve tried: Spotlight, and assorted Linux and Windows launchers that completely pale in comparison
Backblaze, paired with Time Machine, is the core of my backup strategy. It’s fantastic software that backs up your entire machine with absolutely zero effort on your part. The best backup system is the one you actually use. And you’d have to actually try to not run your backup with Backblaze. And because it backs up everything except the files you tell it not to, there’s super-low friction.
If you’re interested, sign up with this link and we both get a free month. Otherwise, just use one of the links above.
Other backup systems I’ve tried: I rolled my own backups on Linux and Windows.
TripMode is so nice for absolutely any travel or public wifi use. You can easily control which programs have access to the network, and how much data you want to go through. I use it every time I’m working from somewhere other than my house or office.
It looks a bit dated (and it is), but Calibre is a good way to manage your eBook and PDF library. I mainly use it for converting files between PDF, EPUB, and MOBI formats, which it does to my satisfaction. Apple Books looks more modern, but Calibre beats it in usefulness.
Other eBook managers I’ve tried: Apple Books
Dozer is a free and open-source alternative to Bartender. It tidies up your menu bar by hiding the icons you don’t want to see. I use Dozer to hide everything but wifi, battery, and the time.
MacOS doesn’t have a built-in equalizer, and sometimes I like to use one, especially when playing music on speakers. eqMac is open-source and does what it says on the can.
I tried Safari for a while, but I’m a Firefox guy at heart. What can I say. I love the concern for privacy, and Sync is great.
I know there are sexier disk usage analyzers out there, but GrandPerspective is free, and it gets the job done. Sourceforge throwback.
Other disk usage analyzers I’ve tried: WinDirStat on Windows
Insomnia is both sexier and faster than Postman, and most developers need a good REST client.
Other REST clients I’ve tried: Postman
Most of the time I’m using my customized Vortex Pok3r, but when I’m on
the built-in keyboard, I have to make some changes. Most importantly,
Karabiner-Elements lets me map
caps lock +
l to arrow
keys. Critical stuff.
Sometimes you don’t want your computer to go to sleep. Unfortunately, macOS needs a little extra help with that. Amphetamine is free and does the job.
The music might not be lossless (Dear Spotify: I’d pay extra!), but Spotify has reasonable audio quality, and the selection and convenience is hard to argue with.
Sometimes, Mac’s built-in options don’t cut it for media playback, so I use the tried and true VLC.
Xnip is the nicest screenshotting tool I’ve tried. It’s smooth, has plenty of free features, and Just Works™️.
Everyone and their grandmother uses Slack now, so that means I do, too. It’s alright, though I wish it was native and not Electron.
Other messaging tools I’ve used: IRC (Remember IRC? It’s still around. We could go back; it’s not too late. Anyone?)
Questions, comments, or tips for me? See a mistake in this post? Send me an email.