My Mac Workflow – “How I Work”

I’ve seen a number of articles recently where people talk about their programming setups. Whenever people blog about their setups it always opens my eyes to some neat tips and tricks that end up improving my own workflow. So, I decided I’d post what I do. Hopefully that will give some people some ideas. Maybe I may even get some feedback on how I could improve things. For reference, this article was published in March 2009.

Ubiquitous Tools

These tools are typically Preference Panes or Menubar applications that I always have running. I asked myself if I could remove any of them and I thought… no, I don’t think I can.


I have QuickSilver open 100% of the time I use my mac. If QuickSilver ever crashes I will drop what I’m doing and use SpotLight to reopen it. I occasionally use ⌘+Tab to switch between applications. However, typically I will use a custom global keyboard shortcut I have made to launch a particular application, or make use of the heavily weighted key combinations I’ve built up to open commonly used applications. I even use QuickSilver to browse though my hard drive for files!

QuickSilver with the HUD Theme

Key Settings for my QuickSilver are:

  • BezelHUD Theme
  • ⌃+Space Activation

  • ⌃⌥⌘N => Launch TextMate (therefore brings to the front if open)

  • ⌥⌘T => Launch Terminal (therefore brings to front if open)

  • ⇧⌘D => Launch Dictionary (therefore brings to front if open)

  • “w” => WebKit, “saf” => Safari, “m” = Mail, “i” = iTunes, “ff” = Firefox

  • Added Indexing Important Directories. This is important for School files, etc.


I’ve attested to the awesomeness of TextExpander in the past. It truly is remarkably useful and someone telling you how useful it is just never seems to be enough. You have to experience it. You also have to take control and make it really be an extension of yourself. Which I recently did.

I added a number of generic commands so that I can type ⇧⌘⌥⌃⌫⌦⌅⎋⏎♥ and more with exceptional ease. This has not only made me very happy that I didn’t have to search through the special character, but it also makes my messages to other mac users much more expressive and accurate. “cmd+alt+S” is hard to read. ⌘⇧S is not. End of the story. I have hundreds of other uses for this little gem but I won’t bore you with the details.


There are two things that I find with TextExpander. I never correct my spelling errors, because the words I find myself misspelling so often are auto-corrected!!! So I never learn… its now easier to type the typo! But seriously TextExpander isn’t have 100% perfect for expanding when you want it to. That can be customized and I’ll be trying these customizations soon.


The ability to take a picture of anything I can see on my computer, have it automatically uploaded to the web and a direct URL be put in my clipboard is so undeniably awesome that I can’t even mention this application without smiling. I struggled with this exact concept for years on Window, created such elaborate hot-key schemes to get it done. With GrabUp, its just the usual ⇧⌘4. I can’t recommend this enough.



I’m a heavy laptop user. I have my settings set so that my laptop will dim quite quickly if it gets no user input. Sometimes, like watching videos or reading PDFs or long blog posts, I don’t want it to dim. A simple click on the menu bar icon and I know my Mac will be dim-free for as long as I want it.


I mention this application because it truly is part of my workflow. It has its place, and I wouldn’t get rid of it. It gives me a super simple switch that I can “flip” on or off when I want to maximize my power usage, or when I don’t. That is important to me.

Spaces and Hot Corners

I’m spoiled. I exploit the crap out of Spaces to keep myself organized. I currently use 6 spaces, 3 for business, 3 for personal. Applications like Mail, iTunes, iCal, Adium are all tied to particular Spaces so I can find them without blinking. It is my favorite feature of Mac OS X Leopard.


Secondly I make use of Hot Corners for Spaces, Expose, Dashboard, and Show Desktop. I make use of all four corners of my screen. Every corner has a purpose and every corner gets heavy usage. I also have a few shortcuts on my mouse for Spaces and Expose, but more then 90% of their usage is triggered by a wicked fast flick of the cursor to a corner. I’m told people are intimidated by it.



I’m a huge TextMate fan. Its my editor of choice. I’m not one of those people who wants to force you to change to “my editor.” I’ve learned that its just better to encourage people to choose an editor they like and put forth the effort to customize and enhance it for themselves. TextMate gives me plenty of room to write my own commands, add features, and make customizations to that make me look like a wizard doing any task.


Shown above, what stole my heart with Textmate was that it could correctly syntax highlight php, javascript, css, and html all in the same file according to their respective languages, and it looked amazing doing it!! My jaw dropped, my neurons fired, and I’ve never looked back.

It normally goes without mentioning, but this is the “how I work” blog post so I should mention it. Learn the hot-keys and shortcuts for every application. Invent your own hot-keys. Customize, customize, customize. Find out what you do over and over, and automate it. Figure out what bothers you and fix it. 20 minutes spent customizing an application or learning its features can save you hours and hours in the long run. When you finally dedicate yourself to using an application, especially an editor, customize your environment!


I always have a terminal open. Normally more then one, with different kinds of shells (bash, ruby, and javascript). Like I’ve mentioned before I have invested some time into making customizations that help make my terminal more comfortable.


Above are just some of my aliases, but my really good aliases are my single character ones. Click on the image above to check out my GitHub repository for my dotfiles (.bashrc, .bash_profile, .irb_rc, etc). I keep this updated frequently as I find more and more tricks to my liking.

As always here is a link to a site showcasing the scripts I’ve written that I use all the time. I call it my ~/bin. Its all free, so take a peek and dig in.


The most recent addition to my must have toolkit is ExpanDrive. I was fortunate enough to get this application while it was discounted and I’m really glad I did! I’m almost always connected to this web server (bogojoker) and my college account!


With ExpanDrive and TextMate I can edit the live files on my webserver. Or seamlessly copy files from my local hard drive to my webserver in the terminal using a `cp` command. It just makes sense! I even hacked together a script that knows when I’m in an ExpanDrive directory and properly opens the file in a browser.

I try to tell other people that connecting to my web server is as though I just plugged in an external hard drive. I don’t think they believe me… but its true. I lied. Its easier.

Flow and Cyberduck SFTP

When I have larger SFTP requirements it helps to have a dedicated client. The two that I use are either Flow or Cyberduck.


Nothing really special to say here. Actually I’ve had some rough luck with Flow lately and I’ve had to swing back to trusty old Cyberduck occasionally.

Some Go Without Saying

Really, what Mac User doesn’t use Adium and Growl? Its 2009…

Hot Keys. Seriously, learn them.

Sure, I ranted about it up above, but I’m sure a few people didn’t get it yet. Learn shortcut keys. Its irresponsible of you not to. I’ll run over the ones you should be comfortable with. Not the dull ones but the ones that probably confused you years ago when you first saw them. Read them, slowly put your fingers on the keys so you realize what the keys actually are (not what you read on this page but what you feel on the keyboard) and most of all start using them:

  • ⇧⌘] and ⇧⌘[ => Move between tabs. Safari, Adium, Terminal, …

  • ⌘] and ⌘[ => Indent and un-indent text. Mail, Text editors, Development editors, …

  • ⌥⌘T => Special Characters. Pretty much always, unless you’ve overloaded this (like me).

  • ⌘P => If you can Print, then you can save as PDF or save to Web Receipts folder. Good!

  • ⌘, => Open Preferences. Made you do it! Now set start customizing other apps!

Now I’ll walk through how I use some of the other everyday apps.

WebKit and Safari 4

I use the WebKit nightly. I personally find developing with the most bleeding edge features of HTML/CSS exciting. The Web Inspector is so cool that is even inspired me to download the Web Kit source and start contributing (more later). It keeps me on top of the changes and issues affecting the entire web development world.

Aside from the developer aspects, there is no doubt that WebKit/Safari is the primary web browser for Mac Users. So I’m not going to bore you with what has already been said, but try to explain my browser work flow. Its essential to be able to open Webkit, make a google search and display the results in a new tab in under a second. Why? Because I do it a hundred times a day. So here goes some of the Safari specific strokes:

  • ⌘L => Select/Goto the URL bar (the location bar). Essential for copying URLs.

  • ⌥⌘F => Select/Goto the Google Quick Search. Essential for quick google searches.

  • ⇧⌘⏎ => When in the Google Quick Search this runs the search and opens in a new tab.

  • ⌥⌘I => Open the Web Inspector.

  • ⌥⌘C => Open the Web Inspector Console.

  • Right Click → Inspect Element => Open the Web Inspector on that Element

  • ⌘ + Click link => Open in a New Tab in the background

  • ⇧⌘ + Click link => Open in a New Tab in the foreground

  • => Previous Page. Like Back one in History.

  • Drag and Drop file from the hard drive onto a file upload => Sets the file upload to that file!

Again, the problem with seeing these in bulk like this is that they don’t sink in unless you actually try them with your fingers. Muscle memory is way more powerful then visual memory (I have no evidence to back this up other then my own evaluations). Don’t get intimidated, just go character by character, press them on the keyboard, and you’ll actually start remembering and wanting to use them!

I still test in Firefox and most of the above work in Firefox as well.


There are a few alternatives for free Mac OS X feed readers. I’m a big App guy so websites like Google Reader just didn’t cut it for me. My favorite design wise, NewsFire, just didn’t cut have the proper user interface and keyboard shortcuts. I’ve been very happy with NetNewsWire for years. It has all of the features I need a nice free package.


I have tons of feeds. I wouldn’t recommend so many feeds for most people. But if you do decide to use NetNewsWire, learn how to use the arrow keys and space bar to traverse everything with unbelievable simplicity!


I almost always have music playing, and recently I’ve felt the need for a little variety. So I use iTunes and’s player. I was also lucky and got SRS iWow, which is a really awesome improvement to iTunes normal sound output, even on my laptop. Finally, I use Twitterrific for my Twitter needs.

Ahhhh, Finally! In Closing

So, its taken me months to write this article, and its nowhere near the quality I had hoped it would be. But I’m too exhausted to entirely proofread this to the extent I normally do. I just hope that this article will inspire some of you readers to look at the apps that you use, and learn a new keyboard shortcut, or make an effort to tweak some settings that may have bothered them but they were too lazy to look into.


Paetec Co-op

This last week has been intense. I was entertained by 3 finals during finals week at RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology). However, a few days after my last final I started my first full time co-op position as a software developer at Paetec.

Paetec has been in the news recently for going public and merging with another Telecommunications company, US LEC. A description of the recent excitement can be found here. I will admit that I am very excited to start a real programming job and am honored to be working at Paetec.

The employees have all been accepting and helpful. I have already started writing some real code and digging into the system. I look forward to the next few weeks, right now I am really soaking it all in and learning everything I can. I am already getting more and more comfortable at the company.

I welcome reader comments on their co-op experiences. Where/How were your first co-ops or full time jobs? What were some of the ups and downs or highlights of the position?