10 Mac software apps for increasing productivity

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As the opening post in this blog, I’ve decided to write about something that may actually be useful to people instead of just rambling on about my intentions or grand plans. I hope you find it useful and I’d love to see some comments about the software you use to get things done.

1.WriteRoom – Demo
As soon as I heard about this program, I had to try it out. For me, working on a computer is both a blessing and a curse. Being connected to the internet means that I’ve always got access to unlimited information and it is tempting to stop what I’m writing and wander aimlessly across the web landscape, soaking in the atmosphere. WriteRoom is an app that has enabled me to get past some of this and get some writing done. WriteRoom blocks out all other content on your screen and creates a minimalist writing environment – a sort of virtual room for your writing. I use a black background with green text for an old school feel but if you’re doing a long session you may think about doing something a little kinder on your eyes. Luckily, you can customize all of that. If writing is important to you (it is to me) or your work and you’re easily distracted, give this or the free alternative JDarkRoom a try.

Other minimalist writing apps: JDarkRoom – Free

2. Evernote – Free
Evernote is something which is fairly new to me, but I’ve been seeing a lot of these apps springing up. I like the idea of being able to access my data even if I’m not at my computer. The cloud computing thing is a very good thing (I’m a big fan of the various Google apps) in my eyes, and I like that Evernote allows you to take a photo which includes some text and it will somehow mysteriously recognize this text and make it searchable. If you have problems remembering things, you’re tired of carrying around scraps of paper, always leave important info on your computer at home or you want a gigantic scrapbook for your life, Evernote is probably your thing. Have a look at the video on the site for a good idea of how things work.

Other human memory replacement apps: DEVONthink – Demo, SOHO Notes – Demo, Yojimbo – Demo, Notebook – Demo, Journler – Demo

3. Eventbox – Demo
Eventbox is a great application. Essentially, it combines all of my RSS feed reading needs with all of my social networking needs. Eventbox supports RSS, Twitter, Digg, Reddit, Flickr, Facebook and Google Reader. With the upcoming release, it will also support Identi.ca. This means that when I want to get up to date with all of my news and social networks, I can go to one place and concentrate on plowing through it. I can see recently uploaded photos from my Flickr contacts, read news, update statuses, search, etc. Another great thing about Eventbox is that the developers are actively listening to the desires of the web community. A handful of us started out asking for Identi.ca support and 6 months later, they’ve put it in.

Other all-in-one feed and social media apps: skimmer – Free (Beta)

4. Think – Free
The concept behind Think is very similar to that of Writeroom. The whole purpose of the application is to get the user to focus on one window at a time instead of being distracted by things going on in the background. Think dims everything except for the current application and in order to switch to separate applications, you have to use the built-in application switcher. It would be nice if you could use the OSX switcher or something, but overall I find that Think helps me to concentrate on doing one thing at a time. It’s worth giving a try, at least. It is free, after all.

Other concentration by deprivation apps: Isolator – Free, Backdrop – Free

5. 1Password – Demo
I’ve been using 1Password for a while and I really like that I no longer have to waste my time and brain power remembering passwords. The problem with having a strong internet presence is that often we end up having many accounts on many different services and while it would be nice to have one universal login for everything, I can see how that would be a real bummer if it got hacked. The alternative is something like 1Password. It’s a pretty slick system with plugins for Safari and Firefox and it allows you to save all of your accounts, passwords and web forms in one central repository which is protected with encryption and a central password. It also included a feature which allows you to create extremely strong and complex passwords. Since you no longer have to remember them, it means that you can increase the security viability of each of your accounts. The only problem I’ve encountered is that if I forget to bring along a USB stick or a device with my exported password file, I end up not being able to get into my accounts from a public terminal.

Other password management apps: Wallet – Demo, Password Repository – Free

6. Quicksilver – Free
I’m sure most people have heard of or used Quicksilver if they own a Mac. It’s on so many of the “software you must have on a Mac” lists floating around on the internet that I’d be surprised to hear if someone hadn’t heard of it. Quicksilver is in its most basic form an application launcher. With a keyboard shortcut, you can bring up the menu and start typing whatever app you’re looking for. It finds the app, you hit Enter/Return, and you’re done. It pretty much does away with the need to keep lots of apps in your dock and it can also do a lot more than find apps. It will do a whole range of actions quickly and more productivity can be added with plugins. It really a must have if you want to do things quickly and you aren’t content with Spotlight.

Other quick launching apps: LaunchBar – Demo, Switchblade – Demo

7. OmniFocus – Demo
OmniFocus is a one stop shot for all things task and project related. The best way to get an idea of how it works is to watch the video on the site, but it’s basically a way of organizing your life as a series of projects, actions and contexts. You can drag, drop and quickly add new entries and organize tasks in extreme detail. If you’re having problems organizing your life this app seems like it could sort anything out. I’ve tried it out a little but I’m looking forward to seeing if anyone has had any luck with any free options that may be floating around. Comment and let me know if you have.

Other project/task management apps: Things – Demo

8. Sidenote – Free
I use Sidenote a lot of the time when I don’t want or need to save noted in Evernote or in a full fledged task manager. If I’m looking to just store something for a few minutes or a few hours, I’ll stick it in Sidenote. It’s handy and it works well and it doesn’t clutter my screen like stickies do, which is important for my mindset. I don’t know about you, but I hate having a cluttered workspace. It just makes me feel that the tasks are insurmountable and I’ll never get through all of them. Sidenote gets out of my way when I want it to and it’s there for me to dump and grab information when I need it.

Other minimal/lightweight note/task taking apps: SlidePad – Demo, Sketchbox – Free

9. iCal (comes with the OS) with Calaboration – Free
There are probably a lot of ways to keep track of events and appointments, but I like iCal. That being said, I don’t find it perfect. Sometimes I’m not at my Mac at home and I want someplace to store my events and appointments. That’s where Calaboration comes in. It lets me synchronize my iCal with my Google Calendar. That way if I made a change on my Google Calendar it will appear on my Mac later or if I make a change on my Mac then I’ll see them later on my Google Calendar when I’m at another computer. It works great and it keeps me organized.

Other desktop calendar apps: Lightning or Sunbird – Free

10. TaskMate – Free
TaskMate is pretty simple. It does tasks. That’s pretty much it. Sometimes you don’t want to have to use something big like OmniFocus just to make a quick To Do list. Sometimes you just want to make a quick list of things and check them off quickly when you’re done, without lots of fuss. TaskMate does this perfectly. It’s small, quick and does tasks perfectly.

Other lightweight outline/task management apps: DoIt – Free, Omni Outliner – Demo, TaskPaper – Demo

Other stuff you may like:

Nocturne – Free – Switches your color scheme around for a nicer night viewing environment
PTHPasteboard – Free – Buffs up your clipboard for when you wish you could copy multiple items
Text Expander – Demo – Creates custom keystroke sequences to automate your frequently used text and images
Flow – Demo – FTP client with awesome interface, QuickLook integration and much more. Supports a wide array of protocols.
Witch – Demo – Allows you to switch easily between specific windows which aren’t in the same application.
iMindMap – Demo – Mind mapping software. Very useful for studying and learning information for visual learners.
Synergy – Free – Allows you to share a single mouse and keyboard between multiple computers with different operating systems, each with its own display.

Extra stuff or developers:

Coda – Demo
I’ve got a license to this product. As I said before, it’s not common for me to buy software but in this case I got hooked. Using Coda is like web development as it should be. First of all, everything is cleanly presented in one window. A wide variety of programming languages are supported, there is a built-in tab system and reference books, shell and ssh access, and FTP/SFTP/WebDAV connectivity.

Other web development apps: Espresso – Demo, cssedit – Demo, textmate – Demo, BBEdit – Demo, TextWrangler – Free

Paparazzi – Free
Paparazzi is a small utility which makes screenshots of entire webpages, regardless of visible content. You can type in a url of any website, specify the resolution of the screenshot you’d like, etc. By default Paparazzi includes some resolutions but you can add your own if you’d like. This app is small and quick and does what it claims, which is why I like it. It also helps that it is free and that you can capture the content which runs off the page, like one of those huge blogs.

Cyberduck – Free
Cyberduck is an FTP, SFTP, WebDAV, Cloud Files & Amazon S3 Browser with seamless integration with external editors. I use this as my SFTP client 100% of the time and I have no complaints. Updates come quite often and you can easily enable or disable features to customize your experience. There are some other paid clients out there which some people may like better (Transmit is fairly popular) but for me there is no real reason to switch to anything else. I love that it has QuickLook integration and the ability to expand TAR and ZIP files remotely over SSH. Check out the site for more features and information.

That’s it for now, but if you have something to add, just add a comment. Thanks for taking a look at my first post and let me know if you have any suggestions for posts.

  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Slashdot
  • Twitter
  • Identi.ca
  • Ping.fm
  • Technorati
  • Facebook
  • MySpace
  • LinkedIn
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Live
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Yahoo! Bookmarks
  • FriendFeed
  • Mixx
  • Netvibes
  • NewsVine
  • blogmarks
  • BlinkList
  • Simpy
  • Add to favorites
  • email
  • Print

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