5 Useful Mac Apps

I’ll admit it, I am a big fan of applications and an even bigger fan of Mac OS X applications. I even spent months researching which applications I would download and purchase even before I got my MacBook Pro (I’m thinking especially of TextMate).

This article is going not going to recommend the usual list of applications that you find being recommended like QuickSilver or TextMate. Instead I’m going to recommend those applications that I didn’t really hear of before I found them by luck. All 5 of these I use very often and I love them. They are not ordered from best to worst, that would be impossible given the different purposes and different areas that these apps address.

In the words of Bryan Hansen, the developer of Jolt (the first app I list):

The biggest problem for mac apps like this is getting the word out that they even exist.

Here are the players:

1 – Jolt – Bryan Hansen – Free or $5 donation
Jolt Icon
Jolt is a beautiful tool for all laptop users. Its goal is to temporarily prevent the power saving dim that we all experience. You might be watching a video or reading a long article and your Mac will interrupt you by dimming. This simple program solves that problem without interrupting your workflow at all.

The interface is strikingly simple. It sits in your menu bar and with a simple click it will activate. It defaults to 5 minutes but you can set multiple levels from 3 minutes to forever. To access its preference just right click the icon. I found this app useful just a few hours after I downloading it.

2 – cd to – Jay Tuley – Free
I’m a developer who really loves the terminal. I write Ruby/Perl scripts all the time. I have a terminal open 150% of the time I’m on my laptop (that means I have on average 1.5 terminals running at all times).
cd to icon
Seeing that I do so much in the terminal, Jay’s Finder Application is a godsend. Again, a perfectly simple interface, “cd to” is just a button you can place on the Finder’s toolbar. Right now it’s look and feel is just like Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger’s Finder window, but it fits in just fine on my Leopard Finder’s toolbar. With just a click it opens up the Terminal, changes directory to the current directory the Finder was in, and clears the screen so you have a fresh terminal. How awesome is that!? If you can’t think of how much time this will save you, then this isn’t the application for you. But, if you’re sitting there and already struggled this very day trying to find the current path to a directory in one of your Finder windows download this tiny app and struggle again.

3 – Desktoptopia – Desktoptopia Team – Now Free!
I am passionate about my desktop wallpaper. Until I bought Desktoptopia I would spend hours (it makes me cringe thinking about it) looking for that perfect wallpaper on my Windows laptop. Well, now I just click the menubar icon and in seconds I’ll have a really great wallpaper downloaded and set for me. This small investment has been a huge time saver and therefore a very smart purchase for me. You can freely check out most of my wallpapers for the last six months, I am proud of all of them: http://myskitch.com/joep/
my desktoptopia wallpaper

The interface for Desktoptopia is again very simple (seeing a trend with these great apps?). It is a preference pane where you can set general settings to choose the categories of wallpapers and if you want you can have your background change every few minutes. You can enable a menubar icon from which you can choose “Next Background,” rate the background (1-5 stars), and even visit the artists website.

In case anyone is interested the Wallpapers all download to ~/Library/Application Support/Desktoptopia/.Backgrounds/ so you will always have a hard copy. Still many of these wallpapers are submitted by users and so I would be hesitant about freely spreading the Wallpapers without the artist’s permission.

4 – Skitch – plasq – Free (Beta, if invites are not immediate then just leave a comment)
Skitch is simply phenominal at what it does. Skitch takes screenshots using crosshairs, fullscreen shots, iSight pics, simple but useful and fast editing like arrows and text, the list really goes on and on. Those are normally just the basic run of the mill features of image editors but Skitch makes it dead simple. Thats not even close to the good part.
skitch logo

The highlight of Skitch is the fact that it comes with your very own myskitch account. When you sign up with Skitch (very simple) you are given webspace to store your images. The desktop application, again a phenominal interface from the menubar, has a single button you can click that uploads (“web posts”) your image to your myskitch page. From there you can distribute that image freely, share it with friends, make it public, allow people to comment, or use them on your webpage like I do.

The superfast drag-and-drop feature to “Save” the image is integrated right into Skitch’s window design. To give the image a nice name and choose the format (jpg, png…) you don’t even have to open up a dialog box! Its almost too simple and intuitive. There is also a robust history, insanely easy cropping and resizing images, the list of feature just keeps going on and on.

You won’t believe me if you don’t try it yourself. This is one of the few apps I could have really benefited from having on a Windows machine but no such app existed. Lets just say that this little gem has seriously altered and improved my workflow in more ways then one.

5 – TextExpander – Smile on my mac – Free (Donationware)
This slogan is so true it actually isn’t funny:

If you’re not using it, you’re wasting time.

TextExpander example
Since downloading TextExpander I have grown so accustomed to having a shortcut type out my name that when I had to use a Windows computer the other day I had difficulty typing my name. This is not a bad thing, instead it is proof that this little program does what it does so well that I count on it, I depend on it, and it rewards me by making me smile every time I use it and hear the little chime of saving time and keystrokes. (run-on sentence?)

TextExpander makes a short snipper of text like typing “nname” expand to “Joseph Pecoraro” or “bjcom” expand to “http://bogojoker.com”. I have a bunch of snippets for personal things but the most common have to be your name, address, phone, already prepped and ready to go once installed. Adding snippets is a breeze, and to top things off TextExpander even keeps stats on how many characters and how much time it has saved you. I have used just about 700 snippets, expanding to about 7,000 characters saving me about 2 hours worth of typing at 100 Words Per Minute. I can now no longer misspell “tomorrow” (because I just did and I had a snippet fix it for me).

So there you have it. 5 apps that you can use today that I think will directly impact your relationship with your computer. They will make certain things simpler, make you happier, and finally you will be more productive. Enjoy.