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My Mac Apps, 2014 Edition

So, two years ago, I thought I’d start an annual series on the apps that I use on Mac OS and on iOS. I didn’t update either of them at the end of 2013 because not much had changed. On the Mac side, that’s still surprisingly the case.

So, instead of re-iterating the whole list, which hasn’t changed much (go read that first), I want to highlight what’s new to the fold and what’s been dropped.

New Hardware
Only two changes, but they’re pretty big

• It was finally time to get a new home machine, so I’m now on a shiny still-feels-new late-2013 Mac Pro that I still call “the wastebasket.” It’s gotten more stable with each update of Mavericks (I finally just upgraded to Yosemite yesterday) and I’ve gone from being mostly unhappy with it (despite the blazing speed) to now tolerating it. Still flaky for a lot of USB things from time to time, but overall most of the kinks are out.

• I’m now using a CODE Keyboard, the model with the Cherry MX Clear switches (105 keys). The feel is very good. It’s still not as quiet as I’d like, but it’s tolerable. I actually still keep the old Logitech DiNovo Edge around for when USB dies on the wastebasket or when I’m on a telecon and really need a quiet keyboard. I wasn’t sure how I’d like this, but within a week or two of having one at home, I had to buy a second one for my campus office.

• The one downside to the CODE keyboard is the lack of, or rather somewhat klunky solution for, media keys. Thus, I un-mothballed my Griffin PowerMate for handling audio controls. Works fine under Yosemite, too.

New Software
Again, surprisingly little has been added to the fold here over the last two years. The Big 5 are still BBEdit (now at version 11, which is a highly-recommend upgrade), OmniOutliner Pro (now with the useful OmniPresence and hopefully with an iPhone version coming soon), LaunchBar, Keyboard Maestro, and Dropbox (though I rely on this slightly less now).

However, there are a few new things that have made appearances:

• DEVONthink Pro Office. Probably overkill for what I use it for, but it has its uses. In particular, I use it to archive old email, to manage my PDF library of academic journal articles, and as a storehouse for scanned documents.

Evernote. Last time around, I was using SpringPad for cross-platform storage of notes and snippets, because the Evernote TOS were horrible. They’ve changed their TOS and the software has improved a lot as well, so I’ve been using this a little in place of the defunct SpringPad. Again, this seems like a powerful tool that I’m only scratching the surface on.

• ReadKit. I’m one of those holdouts who still reads a lot of Web content via RSS. With the death of Google News, I needed a new client, and this was the one I went with. Nothing to rave about, but no complaints, either, and since I am indeed one to complain about crappy software, that’s saying something.

• Bartender. Laptop displays just aren’t big enough for all the crap in my menubar these days. Well, with this, it’s all good.

Software Gone or on the Way Out
In addition to the small number of new things, there are pieces of software on the 2012 list that I either don’t use anymore or am in the process of getting rid of. I’ll provide a brief explanation of the issue with each one.

• Yojimbo. Ahh, Yojimbo. This is actually one of my favorite pieces of software—so why drop it? Because, essentially, data stored here is trapped on the Mac. Technically, there’s a version of Yojimbo on the iPad, but it is, unfortunately, not very good and it never syncs properly with the Mac version—and the sync is manual rather than automatic. Bare Bones offers a sync service for Yojimbo but that’s only between Macs and has a monthly fee. This is just not a tractable situation, so I’m going to be migrating to a mix of other applications: 1Password for software serial numbers and passwords, DEVONthink for PDFs that I don’t need mobile access to, and probably Evernote for short notes and other miscellany. It’ll be a very, very sad day when I complete all this, but I think it’s necessary. When I travel not for work I don’t bring a Mac, and I’ve just had too many recent episodes where there’s data I need, but it’s stuck in Yojimbo and I can’t get to it. Sad but them’s the breaks.

• RStudio. I use R more than ever (but still not for big repeated measures analysis, alas), but I have given up on RStudio. Basically, while I like the IDE framework and some of the tools, the editor is just a piece of crap that has years-old known bugs in it that I just couldn’t stand anymore, so now I just use BBEdit and the raw R software. There are things I miss about RStudio, but not enough to justify going back to it.

• NetNewsWire. My favorite old RSS reader just would not keep up with the times. No Feedly or any other form of cross-machine/cross-device sync? Really? In 2014? Bye.

• OmniGraphSketcher. When the company that makes it stops, it’s time to give up. Not much of a loss, though, really.

• Interarchy. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with it—I haven’t replaced it or anything—I just find that I never use it anymore.

Under Consideration
While I still like MacJournal, it’s a little limited as a blogging tool when you want to mix images and things like code snippets, so I’m thinking about taking the plunge with something like MarsEdit or Desk.

The other thing that I’m still searching for is a good to-do list manager—just like I was at the end of 2012. I own OmniFocus but I basically never use it because it’s just so klunky. It’s tied to the GTD productivity cult, which I guess is OK, but I’m not really into that, so it’s just extra hassle. I’m told Things has similar issues. Basically, what I need in a to-do list manager is:

  • Hierarchical lists that can be re-organized by dragging (not by “priority values” or due dates whatever OmniFocus uses)
  • Dated, recurrent items (but dates don’t force order in the list)
  • Automatic sync between Mac, iPad, and iPhone
  • No GTD cruft, or at least the ability to ignore that stuff
  • It would be nice if it didn’t cost a small fortune like OmniFocus (and Things)

Right now I basically just use OmniOutliner to keep a list because it’s the best hierarchical list editor I have access to, but it doesn’t have recurrent items and doesn’t sync invisibly with my iPhone, so that’s why I’m still looking. I’m planning on checking out Todoist and Clear. What else should I look at? I tried Wunderlist but it doesn’t handle hierarchy in a way that works for me.

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How Do You Like Your New Mac Pro?

2014.02.06 1 comment

Recently, my desk acquired a new wastebasket:

wpid-pastedgraphic-2014-02-6-13-48.png

Oh, wait, that’s not a wastebasket—that’s a new Mac Pro! I’ve had the same machine at home for a little over three years now, and of course computer years are like dog years, so after over two decades, it was time for something new. Plus, the Dean’s office owed me a new machine anyway. I keep getting asked how I like it, so I thought I’d present a little review. I’m going to do this in Q&A form.

Is it really fast?
First, the machine I was coming from was a 2.66 GHz 12-core monster from the 2010 line. The wastebasket is a 3.5Ghz 6-core CPU. Is it a lot faster than the old one? Well, for the most part, yes. Certain operations are stunningly fast, like waking from sleep, which feels nearly instantaneous. When running something that really seriously taxes the multicore, the fact that it has six fewer cores means the difference is barely noticeable. But for a lot of normal things, especially anything that hits the internal SSD, which is just stupid quick, it blazes. Here’s how fast it is: Even Word and Excel launch quickly, which seems like a violation of the natural order. So, I’m totally satisfied with this.

Wow, pretty.
OK, true, that’s not actually a question. In principle, yes, it’s a pretty piece of hardware. But that’s the view of it on my desk, and that’s the way I see it. What I’d really like to be able to do is turn it around so that I don’t have to look at all those cables and can just see the glossy black aluminum in all its glory. However, that’s not feasible, because of where the power button is. See that little glowing spot near the bottom, just to the right of the center? Yeah, that’s the power button. Fantastic placement, Apple. (That’s sarcasm in case that’s not coming through adequately in writing.) Seriously, not only do I have to dodge all those cables to actually push the power button, but it means I have to keep what sure looks to me like the back of the machine facing me. This is a totally inexplicable bit of industrial design. Yes, I understand that I’m not actually supposed to have use the power button all that often, but, unfortunately, I’ve had to use it rather a lot so far, so I’m not optimistic on that score.

What about storage? Didn’t your old Mac Pro have four filled drive bays in it?
This is my single least favorite thing about the wastebasket. Yes it’s small and pretty and everything, but there’s almost no on-board storage. Yes, you get a single SSD, and upping the size of that is something you pay dearly for. This is one thing the Pro towers did better than any other machine I’ve ever owned. Those four sleds that allow you to slide in bare SATA hard disks, and space for a full four of them without having to sacrifice optical drives was just excellent design. I loved that. So, my old Pro had about 6TB of storage on board. This was internal storage so it ran at full SATA speed for the time, 3Gbps.

Well, you can’t get 6TB of SSD storage on a new Pro, and if you could, well, it’d probably cost the GDP of Estonia. So, one of the four disks in my old Pro could be copied onto the internal SSD, fine. So what to do with the other three drives? This is my fundamental frustration with the new Pro. What did Apple think current Pro owners were going to do, fit everything in their old bays into the on-board SSD? I think not. So why doesn’t Apple sell, or strongly lean on some third-party vendor to sell, a three-bay Thunderbolt enclosure with no disks in it? Would that have been so hard? Apparently.

So, before considering a wastebasket, one must consider what to do about the other three disks. They have to be external enclosures. There are three possible options:

  • FireWire. Affordable, but even FireWire 800 is noticeably slower than 3 Gbps.
  • USB 3.0. Cheap, probably not quite as fast as Thunderbolt, but should be fine.
  • Thunderbolt. Very fast, but bloody hell, external Thunderbolt enclosures are expensive. Consider the same two-disk enclosure with the same basic feature set: one Firewire, one Thunderbolt. I get that the Thunderbolt chipset is more expensive and the black paint is very chic, but $190 more? Seriously?

So, I had a plan: put the one drive that has stuff on it that really needs to be fast in a Sonnet Echo dock, which I had on order, since that would give me both an optical drive (which I still need), and a Thunderbolt-speed access to one of my old hard disks. I figured I could take the FireWire performance hit on the other two drives since one of those is just my iTunes library.

However, because Sonnet decided that they’re still not shipping the Echo until “Summer 2014” (originally slated to ship “Summer 2013”), I had to ditch that idea. So, FireWire means anything disk-limited would actually be substantially slower than on the old machine, so I had to (a) order an optical drive separately, and (b) try a USB 3 enclosure for the drive I wanted to run a little faster.

Well, I don’t know what the story is, and maybe it’s because I have a bad machine, but I tried two different USB 3.0 enclosures from different manufacturers, and neither worked. The machine either couldn’t see the disk at all, or thought it had to be initialized, or it’d crash during a read, and the whole machine would hang. (This is why I the power button had to be within reach, as I had to hard reset the machine multiple times.)

OK, so Thunderbolt. Look, I generally like Apple, I do, but sometimes… grr. Thunderbolt is definitely a grr-inducing Apple kind of thing. Sure, yes, it’s really fast, and it’s nice to have one small cable over which you can run anything. But, wow, are Thunderbolt enclosures expensive. And nowhere could I find a Thunderbolt enclosure that didn’t already come loaded with disks I don’t need.

So, I finally settled on the CalDigit T3, despite the fact that you cannot buy it empty of disks. So far it seems really nice, but it was a really smack in the pocketbook. The sad thing is that I don’t really need the RAID functionality, I’m just using it JBOD mode anyway. So, yeah, grr.

So, side note: it is now two days since my T3 arrived, and I just saw this on the OWC site: a 4-bay Thunderbolt enclosure not already loaded with disks. As of this writing, it doesn’t actually seem to be shipping yet, but it seems like just the ticket, and “only” $500. Yay Thunderbolt.

Is it really quiet? Doesn’t it use less power and generate less heat?
Yes, actually, it is amazingly quiet. I can’t hear it at all, and it most definitely draws less power and generates less heat than the old Pro. My UPS typically said 25-30 minutes of run time for the old Pro, and the wastebasket plus the T3 yield 45-50 minutes, so it’s clearly using a lot less power. I’ll be able to say more (almost certainly good) things about the heat issue once we get into the hot months here in the Houston area, which should be pretty soon now, it being February and all. The power and heat performance are all significant improvements.

However, in practice, while the machine itself is quieter, it hasn’t made my computer setup quieter. Why? The external drive enclosures and optical drive all have fans, and the total of all of those fans is actually subjectively louder than the old Pro was. Part of this is probably because the old Pro went under the desk, rather than on it. Also, this might be slightly improved once I get all my data onto the T3 and off the OWC FireWire enclosure. One of the reasons I got the T3 is that it’s rated at a nice quiet 17 dB, and the fan on the OWC enclosure is a bit louder.

Still, the less power and heat thing is nice, but don’t get too excited about the quiet.

How about connectivity?
One of the nice things about the old Pros is they had a lot of ports on them. Oodles, front and back. While the wastebasket has a whopping six Thunderbolt ports, which is good, it still has only four USB ports. This means hubs, and in my experience USB is a slightly flaky technology and sometimes hubs don’t quite work properly—some things just seem to only work right when plugged directly in to the machine. It would have been really nice if Apple had put on a few more USB ports.

Also, there’s no optical audio in jack. Why on earth not?

On the other hand, props to Apple for the Bluetooth. I use a Bluetooth keyboard and trackpad, and the old Pro had recurring problems staying connected to them (particularly the keyboard), especially through multiple sleep/wake cycles. Absolutely no problem with that here, so whatever Apple did differently in terms of Bluetooth, it’s certainly working for me.

Any compatibility issues?
Directly, so far, no. Indirectly, yes. The wastebasket requires Mavericks, which is not exactly Apple’s best effort on the OS stability front. I upgraded to Mavericks before the new Pro arrived so I’d be ready, and it’s just a pain. First, Mavericks seems to have taken away a few things, is seriously buggy in multiple places, does certain things very slowly (AppleScript, in particular, seems really sluggish), and breaks certain other pieces of software, sometimes in subtle but annoying ways, and other times in really serious ways—I can no longer print to the departmental printer at work, for example. (This is, however, the first time I can remember where a .x upgrade to OS X didn’t break SPSS, so that’s something positive, I guess.) I thought Mountain Lion was one of the best updates to Mac OS ever, since it broke almost nothing and provided useful new functionality. Almost nothing that’s new in Mavericks seems of any use—I had high hopes for the “Maps” app but then I remembered that it still uses Apple’s map data, which is very dated—and the bugs and missing/broken functionality are simply not worth it. I wish I could have stated with Mountain Lion.

But still, it’s really fast, right?
Yes, yes it is. Is it fast enough to justify the major expense and the storage hassle? Frankly, no. Maybe I’ll have a better attitude about it once all my data are actually migrated to the T3, but right now it’s been a very expensive and time-consuming process with insufficient upside. It might have been better to wait a while for better third-party storage support and another round of bug fixes.

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My Mac Apps, 2012 Edition

2012.12.23 1 comment

Introduction
Maybe I’m weird, but I like articles where people review what software they actually use and recommend. A few people seem (like Justin Williams and Frederico Viticci) to now do it on an annual basis, and this seems like a great idea to me. Williams is a software developer and Viticci is a blogger and editor, and I’m a slightly odd duck academic who does still occasionally program, write papers, do data analysis, blog, and generally spend way too many hours a week parked in front of my Mac. So, I thought I’d add my own setup to the fray. I would love for more people to do this, as I routinely find new things for this list to at least consider when I do. Maybe you’ll find something you want to try based on this list.

Hardware
I actually do more actual work at home, my office is more for meetings and administrative stuff, though I do occasionally get work done there and on the road. My home machine is a beefy 12-core 2.66 GHz Mac Pro with 24 GB of RAM. This is overkill but there was a time when I was doing some heavier simulation work and that level of horsepower was vaguely justifiable. I have a 480GB Mercury Extreme Pro SSD as the startup volume and a full set of bays. I have three Apple monitors: a 27” Cinema LED, a 24” Cinema LED, and an old 20” LCD Cinema on the wall that mostly just has things like Twitter and album cover art on it. My work and travel machine is a 2.5 GHz quad-core15” MacBook Pro (last generation pre-Retina) with 8GB of RAM and 512 GB SSD. I have this connected to a 27” Thunderbolt display. Key accessories:

  • I use a Logitech DiNovo Edge bluetooth keyboard in both locations. My favorite keyboard of all time was Apple’s Extended Keyboard II, but even if I could still get one of those, it’d be too loud. I like that the Edge is quiet. I used to not care about this, but I’m not on enough telecons that a quiet keyboard is a necessity. The only problem is that Logitech no longer makes this keyboard, and so the next time one of them dies it’s going to cost me a small fortune to replace it.
  • I use an Apple Magic Trackpad as my primary pointing device. For years and years I used a monstrous multi-button Logitech mouse, but the trackpad has taken over. Every once in a while when I’m doing something really fiddly I break out the mouse, but this has become my device for almost everything. Note that BetterTouchTool is critical to making this really work properly, as that way I can define the gestures I want. (In particular, I need to have a single gesture that maps to “close window” because I got used to having a mouse button that did this.)

5 Must-Haves
There are a few programs I just cannot live without, or at least without something close to them:

  • BBEdit. I handle ASCII a lot. I find writing in ASCII–err, I mean, raw UTF–is often the best way to start things off in order to focus on the content, but it turns out that I handle raw data with this, write code with this, respond to student questions on class blogs, and all kinds of other things with this. Every couple years there’s a bunch of people pushing for some alternative (Smultron was hot a couple years back) but I have yet to find any compelling reason to change. BBEdit doesn’t suck, and for me it’s like 20 years of not sucking.
  • OmniOutlier Pro. I naturally think about a lot of different kinds of things in terms of hierarchies, which means outlines. I never write anything important (including this post) without generating an outline first. If I’m going to take a lot of notes on something complex, it’ll be in outline form. My checklists are all outlines. This is the king of Mac outliners, and again I’ve been using it for like a decade. It is getting a little long in the tooth and Omni is promising a new version in Q1 of 2013, but they’ve been saying “next year” on the new version since like 2007. Still a great tool.
  • LaunchBar. I used to use QuickSilver, but it was just too buggy and unstable. I switched to LaunchBar years ago and haven’t looked back. Now, it’s not free, and the free Alfred is very good as well, but I’m just too vested in LaunchBar to switch to anything else, though I admit that I immediately install Alfred on any account on any machine that isn’t mine (like in my lab or the Mac in the kids’ room). The thing about LaunchBar that keeps me really stuck is that it’s also a great clipboard manager, and to replace it properly I’d need two things. Not likely anytime soon.
  • Keyboard Maestro. This is a recent change for me. I used QuicKeys for years, but the development for the venerable macro editor died (literally) a couple years ago, and it didn’t really work properly under Lion, so I switched. So far the Maestro isn’t quite a perfect replacement for QuicKeys, but it’s very good and works great on the latest OS.
  • Dropbox. Are there really people out there not using DropBox? I can’t even imagine not having this available. iCloud is very nice and all, but it’s no DropBox. Especially with multiple Macs and iOS devices, DropBox is a godsend.

Productivity
I don’t know why this software category is called this, as pretty much anything that isn’t explicitly a game is designed to increase productivity in one way or another. Here in alphabetical order are some of my key apps (in alphabetical order):

  • GraphicConverter. Let me just come right out and say it: I have basically no artistic talent. I have no Photoshop skills. But I often need to edit, print, and convert formats for images. This does all of those things really well. I have tried more slick modern tools like Acorn and Pixelmator, but I keep coming back to GC.
  • Apple Keynote. I teach from slides. I give academic talks. Thus, I spend a lot of time in presentation software. PowerPoint, to put it bluntly, sucks. Keynote isn’t perfect, but it’s about a thousand times better than PowerPoint.
  • MacJournal. Both this blog and my personal blog live here. I also use this to take notes in telecons and keep track of miscellaneous personal stuff. This is just an excellent piece of software, and has a nice iPad version as well.
  • OmniGraffle Pro. I have to make diagrams from time to time, mostly flow diagrams for research, and this is the best tool I’ve used for this purpose. The folks at Omnigroup might be slow in producing OmniOutliner updates, but they make quality stuff, and this is definitely a quality tool. A little spendy, though.
  • Apple Pages. I hate Word with something approaching violence. It’s slow, bloated, the style sheet implementation is horrific, and figures move of their own accord. I only use it when I absolutely have to. Instead, I use Pages. It’s no MacWrite Pro, but it’s the closest thing out there.
  • PDFpenPro. Adobe Acrobat is the Word of handling PDF documents. PDFpen Pro does pretty much everything I need Acrobat to do at a small fraction of the cost, and with a lot less hassle.

Notable here is the lack of a to-do list manager. I actually have OmniFocus for this, but I don’t really like it very much and don’t use it very often. It’s much too heavyweight for me, covered with a lot of GTD cruft that I neither want nor need. Now that Things supports cross-device syncing, I might check that out. I may also give Taskpaper a whirl. Half the time I just make lists in OmniOutliner, which is OK but not great since there’s no iPhone support. I don’t know what the right answer is here—any suggestions?

Statistics and Data
Being a psychologist (sort of; I’m also a computer scientist and part statistician and industrial engineer, I guess), I handle data from experiments and from simulation models. I need to deal with those data and present them. Here are the tools I use, some of which just for lack of good alternatives. Still alphabetical:

  • DeltaGraph. Years and years ago, there was an amazing Mac program for making graphs called CricketGraph. It died. The closest thing around when it died was DeltaGraph, which I still use. It’s desperately ancient, but it still makes better graphs, including error bars, than anything else I’ve yet tried, and I have so many legacy graphs around, that this is still my plotter of choice.
  • G*Power. When you need to know how many subjects you need, this is still where I go to do power analysis.
  • MathType. Not exactly data analysis, but I still don’t use LaTeX, and I need to set a lot of equations, particularly when I teach graduate statistics. This is my equation editor of choice, and it nicely integrates with Pages and Keynote.
  • OmniGraphSketcher. Yes, another OmniGroup product. For line graphs with no error bars, I am slowly starting to prefer this to DeltaGraph. I desperately don’t like the way this handles the raw numbers, but it makes nice-looking graphs with a minimum of fuss. Error bar support is still crap, though.
  • RStudio. I am slowly weaning myself off SPSS, though less slowly than I’d like due to the crappy way R handles repeated-measures ANOVA (if you don’t know what that is, be glad), but RStudio makes working with R a little nicer.
  • SPSS. The ancient stats package is still alive, barely. The Java-based UI is horribly clunky, and SPSS does many things in incredibly stupid ways, but at least it handles repeated-measures ANOVA sensibly.

Notable in its absence here is a spreadsheet. I don’t use spreadsheets all that much, and I refuse to endorse any extant spreadsheet. In practice, when I need one, I mostly use Excel, which is the least hateful of the Office products. Apple Numbers is a train wreck. I want to like it, but it’s impossible to do so. Don’t even get me started.

Development
As noted, I still write code from time to time. I don’t do professional software development or anything. Half of the code I write these days are shell scripts, so I just use BBEdit, or R, for which I also use BBEdit or RStudio, as mentioned. However, there are some other tools I use from time to time.

  • ClozureCL. I work with a human performance modeling framework called ACT-R, which is written in Lisp. Don’t get down on Lisp, it’s awesome. The best Lisp around currently is ClozureCL. I dearly miss MCL, still.
  • Script Debugger. It turns out, the other code I write is… AppleScript. Hunh? Well, if I want to automate a Mac app, it turns out that shell scripts don’t really get the job done, and AppleScript still does. Apple’s script editor is a joke, though, if you want to actually debug any code that isn’t working properly. This is the tool that gets the job done. (Also, if you use AppleScript at all, you should also check out FastScripts.)

Top Utilities
I admit it, I’m a utilities junkie. This list could be much longer, but I’m restricting it to the “can’t live without” set. I’m going to run another category of “nice to haves” later. These are the ones I really depend on, noting that I’ve already mentioned BetterTouchTool and FastScripts. Still alphabetical:

  • ChronoSync. I use this almost every day. This is how I keep my home desktop and my laptop in sync with each other. I have a couple ChronoSync scripts set up that handle it, and I trigger them with AppleScripts, and with only the very rare glitch, it just works.
  • DefaultFolder X. Every time I work on a Mac that doesn’t have this installed, my mind boggles. How else to people actually navigate to anything inside open/save dialogs? It’s a mystery to me.
  • DiskWarrior. This is a utility you never, ever want to need, but when you do, you need this one. Still the best disk recovery software I’ve ever used.
  • iStatMenus. A new entry. Back in my grad school unix days, I got really used to seeing a load monitor in the menu bar. This the right way to handle that for MacOS, and has some nice other pieces I love as well. Maybe this one isn’t critical, per se, but I’d hate to not have it.
  • Yojimbo. I know people love Evernote for this kind of thing, but Yojimbo was first for me and it’s still my catchall place to dump links and PDFs and little bits and pieces I don’t want cluttering up my hard drive. This is actually one of the things that makes DropBox so essential for me, as it keeps Yojimbo sync’d across my machines. It’s kind of too bad the iPad version is not really up to scratch, and syncing between Mac and iPad has never really worked for me.

Communications
I’m always amazed when I’m off the grid how many things break, besides DropBox. That internet thing is pretty powerful. Here’s what I use to deal with different aspects of it.

  • 1Password. I have 373 passwords, at least according to 1Password. No way I can possibly remember them all. Here’s where they live for me. Critical that this has a decent iOS implementation as well.
  • Interarchy. Sometimes you just want to upload or download stuff and a Web browser isn’t the right tool. Interarchy is my tool of choice for this. I guess the kids more often use things like ForkLift for this, but I haven’t seen a need to switch.
  • Little Snitch. I like to know what’s coming and going on my machine, and LittleSnitch keeps me appraised.
  • Apple Mail. I used a BareBones product, MailSmith, for years. I gave it up when I got an iPhone and had to switch to IMAP. I do not use Google Mail, because I don’t believe for a second that Google isn’t reading people’s mail to figure out how to show them ads. Mail is a decent mail client, though nothing special. It does require two other tools to really function well, those being MsgFiler and SpamSieve, both of which are products that I cannot believe that Apple hasn’t bought and just incorporated.
  • NetNewsWire. I hate reading RSS feeds in a Web browser, and while I use Reeder on my iPad, I still use NetNewsWire on the Mac. Still free, still fast, still easy to navigate quickly through feeds.
  • Safari. My Web browser of choice. It’s not perfect, but I cannot stand the almost-weekly updates for Chrome, and Chrome has always been kind of crash for me. I will admit that I do use Firefox a fair bit as well, but it’s not my preference. The deal-sealer for me is the iCloud functionality that allows me to see what tabs are open on my other devices and just navigate to them. I love that, and that kind of thing is what keeps me coming back to Safari.
  • TweetBot. Half the reason that I wanted to write this section is just to plug this program. I’m a bit of a Twitter junkie and I just love TweetBot. For a long time I refused to even consider paying for a Twitter client, but once I got TweetBot on my iPhone there was no going back, and the Mac version is almost as great. Great piece of software.

Other Utilities
I use a lot of other little utilities. None of these are things I couldn’t live without, but they are all nice things that I appreciate having and recommend if you’re into little utilities as much as I am.

  • Amadeus Pro. I used to tinker around with sound files a lot more than I do now, but if you have to edit big sound files, this is a good tool for the job.
  • FinderPop. When you want to drill into a folder without actually opening it in the Finder, this is the tool.
  • Fission. For smaller, more quick-and-dirty edits to sound files, Fission is a great tool. Much less featue-rich than Amadeus, but quicker to use for small jobs and great for things like ringtones. Also, the best company name ever, Rogue Amoeba. You should visit their Web site just to see their logo.
  • PCalc. When I was an undergraduate engineering student, I had an HP RPN calculator. I have been damaged for life and can no longer use regular calculators. This is the best RPN calculator for the Mac. I don’t actually use it that much anymore because of the calculator built into LaunchBar, but it’s awesome to have it when I do need it. (I actually use the iOS version more often.)
  • PlainClip. Really good Mac editors have a “paste and match style” command, but not all of them are really good. This little utility strips the style information from whatever’s on the clipboard. Really handy.
  • SuperDuper!. This is the best disk-cloning utility around. Costs more than the free CarbonCopyCloner, but it’s faster and less fiddly, and has great support.
  • The Unarchiver. Sometimes on the Web you find weird archive formats. Sometimes students send me things in weird archive formats. The Unarchiver handles them all, and for free. Cha-ching.
  • TimeWorks. At a glance view of my upcoming calendar? Sounds good. Very nicely done, too.

One of these days I’m going to get around to checking out Bartender, which seems like a utility with a lot of promise as well.

So, what’s on your list? What did I miss?

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