stuff i use – macos
I’m ruthless when it comes to the apps and tools I use. I could have used a piece software for a decade but if it becomes unmaintained or lags behind an alternative I’ll drop it. I’ll also try anything out in the name of a potential productivity or minimalism improvement. Here are the applications and software that have made the cut. For now.
I used the indispensable Homebrew package manager to install most of the software on this list. I don’t like the way it tries to update everything before running the command I want it to. Otherwise it’s perfect.
The latest in a long line of utilities I’ve used to arrange my window panes across my monitors. It’s Open Source and great! There are subtle, anal reasons this is better than paid alternatives like Spectacle.
Karabiner-Elements + Hammerspoon
These have made it very easy for me to launch applications with simple keyboard shortcuts. They’ve also enabled me to use my CapsLock key as ESC on press and ^ when used with other keys.
I’m not sure how it’s happened but my ⌘+TAB muscle memory has been miscalibrated to fail me almost every time. It could be because I often use ⌘+W to hide an application window which then makes it impossible to un-hide from the ⌘+TAB.
I found AltTab last week and it’s a game-changer. Another Open Source tool, the aim of the software is to replicate the Windows Alt-Tab pane but it’s the most feature-complete and responsive application switcher I’ve ever seen.
The thumbnail previews are nice but overall my favourite feature is preventing the pane from showing applications which don’t have any visible windows.
In defiance of the name I’ve mapped it to ⌘+TAB and I’m never looking back.
Keeping You Awake
Useful for when you want to keep a recipe or similar open without the screen dimming after a while.
Better Touch Tool
I’ll say it: the MacBook Pro Touch Bar is an abomination. I despise the way it flickers back and forth when you change apps. Even more egregious I hate the way a simple press of fn/⌘ will also make it flash.
My core use-case for Better Touch Tool is to wipe the Touch Bar clean of context-specific actions.
It also provides nice multi-touch gestures for volume, brightness changing although whenever I drag 3 fingers across the Touch Bar I get a sad reminder of how hot my MBP is running.
I’ve used 1Password for over a decade and at this point I’m too lazy to migrate over to anything else—I guess my laziness is no match for my ruthlessness.
I sometimes find myself marvelling at some of the odd design decisions in the app. It seems way too hard to just add an existing login & password. It also seems to be getting quite sluggish.
A customizable replacement for the stock battery indicator. I can’t remember the core reason I started using this but it’s nice.
This helps me keep track of a number of timezones and has a dispensable keyboard shortcut for quick-at-a-glance checks. Just like Battery Indicator it’s very customizable and works well.
The product design restraint on this tool is remarkable: it has a single feature.
Aware keeps a running total of how long you’ve been actively using your Mac. That’s it. It doesn’t force you to take a break or shame you for getting lost in some code, it’s just a simple reminder of the time you’ve invested in the current task.
I used to use Vanilla but Dozer is an actively-maintained Open Source alternative. It allows me to hide all the menu bar cruft that I don’t always need visible.
I’m not sure why I insist on making the menu bar as clean as possible but this helps me with my #goals.
After extensive evaluation of other notetaking tools I always slip back to Workflowy — and for good reason. The multi-platform app now houses, as a non-exhaustive list, my many todo lists, nodes, writing outlines, meal plans & newsletter planning.
The keyboard shortcuts are a little janky and the iOS experience leaves a lot to be desired but the reliability, collaboration, minimal interface & longevity puts it ahead of alternatives.
The slow decline of the multi-platform browser landscape is depressing. Despite some missteps, Mozilla’s Firefox is still a competent choice and Nightly has a sweet logo.
This could be a separate post but my “couldn’t live without them” add-ons are: uBlock Origin, Intention, Hide Feed & Auto Tab Discard.
I use the menu bar mini-application for Fantastical and almost never the main application. I suspect there are better alternatives out there but it’s served me well.
There are thousands of “text expanders” or snippet tools out there. My pick is aText for the one-time cost and flexibility. This has saved me countless hours of typing: any text I copy-paste more than once goes into aText.
I was a Sublime Text user for years and a VS Code hold-out for quite a while. Sublime is blazing fast but it reached a point for me where the package ecosystem and developer tooling just wasn’t keeping up with VS Code.
I don’t love how VS Code handles searching (tiny sidebar pane, sticks around longer than I want it) but otherwise it’s pretty nice.
My use of Sublime Text for years led me to use Sublime Merge on release. I love the keyboard-oriented interface and native app experience. As a mediocre git user who often resorts to fresh clones to avoid reading the docs Sublime Merge is a dream to use.
Is it necessary? No. Does it feel nice to use good software? Yes.
My daily driver for years, iTerm2 is feature-complete. I use the hot-key shortcut option for a Quake-like drop down terminal on demand.
I’ve been seduced by the raw speed of this GPU based terminal emulator. I didn’t notice the latency when typing with iTerm2 but now it’s painfully obvious.