My Must Have OS X Apps for Business

Application Icons - Copyright their respective owners

While I’m in the process of changing machines I’m going to document many of the apps and plugins that are on my “Must Have” list. I love a fresh start and given my proclivity for demo software and beta apps it’s positively refreshing to start with a clean Applications folder.

I’ve also collected my System Tweaks for OS X if you’re interested.

Productivity Apps


I plan to write a post with all of my must-have UX components, which will include many OG resources, so I won’t go into those here.

Microsoft Office

I use Pages, Numbers and Keynote on my personal machine, but their integration and support of the de facto workplace standard just aren’t good enough, so Microsoft Office is the suite of the day for work. Specifically, I use:

  • Word
  • Excel
  • PowerPoint
  • Entourage –’s support for Exchange is pretty decent, but the calendar integration is sorely lacking when you want to book a room or see your coworkers’ availability,
  • Entourage 2008 for Mac Web Services Edition – a free update to the Entourage client which adds some very useful functionality

Design and Development Applications

Adobe’s Creative Suite is indispensable. I spend a lot of my creative time in Photoshop and Illustrator, while others swear by Fireworks. I’ve tried many of the smaller, independent image editors, but I’m accustomed to the power and features of these pro tools.

Coda is one of many Web development applications that I’ve tried since switching to the Mac. While I used TextMate for a few years, Coda has replaced it with a combination of efficiency and beauty. It feels much more oriented to front-end development and flow than the spartan TextMate, and feels “right” to me. The built-in support for multiple sites, FTP, terminal, Subversion, preview capabilities and code snippets integrate with the code editor beautifully for a great experience. The only thing that it lacks from my point of view is code-folding, which is quite likely the most-requested feature, so I hope they’ll add it in the next release. For me, the benefits easily outweigh that one negative.

Versions is a beautiful and easy to use Subversion client, which says a lot as most SVN clients, even on OS X are convoluted and not much of a step-up from doing everything at the command line. While I have used the command line in the past, I really like having a graphical UI for interacting with version control.

MAMP stands for Mac, Apache, MySQL, PHP. It’s a self-contained install of those server technologies that I’ve found easier to configure and run than the native OS X installs. That said, I haven’t tried the pre-installed versions since 10.4, so it’s possible that my use of this app is purely out of habit.

General Utilities

LaunchBar is quite possibly the most used utility on my system. The app speeds the launching of other applications. With a simple keyboard shortcut, I open LaunchBar type a couple of letters and hit Enter to launch an application, start or stop music, find a file or even run a quick calculation (without the calculator app). It also has a setting that will keep track of multiple clipboard items, so I don’t have to run a dedicated utility for that functionality.

Evernote is my note-taking application of choice as it quickly and quietly syncs content between computers, the Web and my iPhone, guaranteeing access to information where and when I need it. The fact that I can easily add photos is killer, especially as Evernote will index the text inside the photos so it’s searchable.

Adium is a great instant messaging client that unifies the various networks, ensuring that I can communicate with anyone that I need to regardless if they are on AIM, Yahoo!, MSN or Jabber.

Things is one of countless to-do and GTD applications available for the Mac, but for me, it stands above the rest. I love its structure and the ability toe create projects, which can be grouped into areas. Additionally, being able to assign dates – both specific and general (“Someday”) – allows me to get ideas out of my head without being oppressed by an overwhelming task list.

Dropbox syncs files between computers, both Macs and PCs as well as my iPhone and does it seamlessly. Dropbox is elegant, powerful and amazingly enough, it’s free unless you need a very large amount of space. Many apps that lack their own ability to sync information can use Dropbox to add information sharing. For example, I use Dropbox to store my Things database, ensuring that both my work and home computers have the same list of tasks, without my needing to do anything extra to keep each up to date.

If you sign up, please use this referral link as we’ll both get an extra 250mb of space for free.

Skitch is one of the many screen capture apps released in the last year or two. It’s a great app that just works, making it easy to take a snapshot of part of the screen and annotate it if I need. Additionally, it makes it easy to upload the capture to online services, which is how I typically add interesting bits to my Web Detritus set on Flickr.

1Password is one of those applications that causes me to wonder how I worked without it. It is the best password manager I have ever worked with, hands-down. 1Password guarantees that I can use very complex passwords without risk of forgetting them, nor worry that they’re sitting around for someone to steal.


In addition to Safari, I install Google Chrome and Firefox, which are currently battling for supremacy in my daily workflow.

Fluid is another browser I use regularly, though it has a key difference. Instead of acting as a general Web browser, it turns Web sites into desktop applications, complete with icons in the Applications folder and on your dock. My most common use for this is for Google Reader, but I have also tapped it for Web-based mail and to-do lists.

And More…

For Preference Panes, please see my post about System Tweaks for OS X.

Back in 2006, I wrote Software for a Switcher.

What are the Apps You Can’t Live Without?

Please expand this list by adding your recommendations in the comments.

Links and Bits for February 22nd

A collection of my actions and interactions from around the Net over the last week.

delicious (feed #10)

"If I let users steer product decisions, the result would be a massive codebase producing a bloated, cluttered product full of features that hardly anyone used at the expense of everyday usability and polish on the features that matter."

delicious (feed #10)

via @atxryan

delicious (feed #10)
delicious (feed #10)
delicious (feed #10)
delicious (feed #10)
Shared ShrinkIt.

Shrink Illustrator-created PDFs via drag and drop.

delicious (feed #10)
flickr (feed #2)
delicious (feed #10)

"an application that stores and retrieves notes.
It is an attempt to loosen the mental blockages to recording information and to scrape away the tartar of convention that handicaps its retrieval. The solution is by nature nonconformist."

googlereader (feed #3)

Links and Bits for February 16th

A collection of my actions and interactions from around the Net over the last week.

delicious (feed #10)
Shared Scribe.

"SEO Copywriting Made Simple: Creating search optimized web pages, blog posts, and press releases used to be time consuming at best and mystifying at worst."

Links and Bits for February 15th

A collection of my actions and interactions from around the Net over the last week.

delicious (feed #10)
delicious (feed #10)
delicious (feed #10)
delicious (feed #10)
delicious (feed #10)
delicious (feed #10)

Start by answering the question, “If you ran the world, what would you do?” with a tangible, achievable goal: this will be your actionplatform. Then you’ll be asked to break it down into the microactions that need doing in order to complete your actionplatform. Think small, simple, tweet-able. So small, simple and easy to do, in fact, that anyone you invite to microact can only say, “I’d love to.”

delicious (feed #10)
delicious (feed #10)

via @asmartbear

delicious (feed #10)
delicious (feed #10)
googlereader (feed #3)
delicious (feed #10)
Shared $ cheat git.
delicious (feed #10)
flickr (feed #2)
delicious (feed #10)
delicious (feed #10)

Scarcity & Control

The real story in nonphysical goods is one of deflation. Value in once-scarce — well, once-controlled — commodities like news, information, and advertising decline as the internet explodes creation and competition. The internet also destroys the ability of many to control distribution and thus value. But at the same time, the internet drastically increases efficiency thanks to platforms and open distribution and the ability — no, the need — to specialize and collaborate.

Jeff Jarvis – Stop selling scarcity

OS X System Tweaks

As I’m switching to a new machine, this is the ideal time for me to list all of the tweaks and changes I make to OS X and various core apps.

System Enhancements and Plugins

  • FunctionFlip “individually controls your MacBook or MacBook Pro’s function keys, turning special keys back to regular F-keys, or vice-versa. FunctionFlip is a preference pane; you’ll find it in the “Other” category in System Preferences.”
    These are the settings I flip for the newer model MackBook Pro:

    • F8 for quick Spaces access
    • F9, F10 and F11 – To provide quick access to Expose functionality
    • F12 – To PRovide quick access to Dashboard
    • Set it to start at login
  • KeyRemap4MacBook
  • Growl is a must-have for every Mac.. It provides a platform for programs to notify you of activity.
    • Start at login
  • iStat Menus
    • The Blaqua skin with the Fire skin color
    • Disable checking for updates at startup, relying instead on checking every 24 hours
    • I monitor the CPU, combining multiple CPUs into a single graph
    • I monitor Memory
    • I disable monitoring of other stats
    • I enable Date & Time, using it as a replacement for the system time stamp in the top right because I like the compressed calendar layout
  • Witch Thanks to Flip for the link (The Developer appears to have disappeared altogether, so there isn’t a site to link to)
    • Set it to ignore the
    • Set it to “Ignore Windows that identify themselves as floating windows (tool bars etc.)”

Overlay Drawers for Dock Stacks are a nice touch, but do not provide anything beyond aesthetic pleasure
SymbolicLinker simplifies the creation of symlinks.

Preferences and Settings

  • Disable Bluetooth I don’t use any Bluetooth devices, so there’s no need to drain the battery and chew up processing power for it. I also take it out of the menu bar to reduce clutter.
  • Pair a Remote The Apple remote that used to come free with Macs can be really useful, to the point that I keep mine with the laptop wherever I go. You never know when a presentation will bust out in the street.
  • Sound Effects – I go with Submarine as I like it a bit better. Exciting huh?
  • Universal Access – I enable access for assistive devices, which provides hooks for a couple of other 3rd party tools.

The Dock

  • Enable Dock Magnification – I like to enable a subtle magnification, so the currently indicated icon has a bit more prominence.
  • Enable Automatic Hiding and Showing of the Dock – I don’t like the Dock cluttering the screen and using up pixels when I don’t need it.


  • Enable Spaces – I like to use four spaces to separate different types of activities. Additionally I select the box to show Spaces in the menu bar for easy access via Mouse.
  • Disable Switching Spaces Shortcuts – I don’t typically switch to a space, more often I switch to an app which happens to be in a space, so the shortcuts aren’t useful for me and occasionally conflict with application short cuts. I leave the activation shortcut (F8) as it is.


  • I bump up the default key repeat rate a notch
  • I do not check the “Use all F1, F2 , etc. keys as standard function keys” as I install FunctionFlip which provides the granularity to select which action is taken for each key. See below for detail on my settings.
  • Check Illuminate Keyboard in low light conditions and set it to turn off after a minute of inactivity.
  • I change the Full Keyboard Access to “All Controls” as it makes it easier to navigate through some applications without the mouse.


  • Customize the Tool Bar
    • I add the Path button to the left of the display options
    • Enable Use Small Size Icons
  • Enable the display of Hard disks on the desktop
  • Disable the display of iDisk in the sidebar
  • Select “Show all filename extensions”
  • Modify the search behavior so that Search defaults to searching the current folder instead of the entire machine

Links and Activity Bits for February 8th

A collection of my actions and interactions from around the Net over the last week.

delicious (feed #10)
Shared 2 links.
delicious (feed #10)
Shared 2 links.
delicious (feed #10)
Shared 6 links.
delicious (feed #10)
Shared 3 links.
delicious (feed #10)
delicious (feed #10)
Shared 2 links.
generic (feed #8)
delicious (feed #10)
Shared 2 links.

Inovative Children’s Furniture from Masahiro Minami

This lovely piece of furniture, especially created for kids, brings together a table or a mini-writing desk, a few elements resembling kitchen items and a dresser. Put them all together and you have a compact, organized and totally not messy toy for children. And if the “tidy” part of the project does not impress that much, just think how much fun and educational this kind of a project could turn out for the kids.

Inovative Children’s Furniture from Masahiro Minami

This lovely piece of furniture, especially created for kids, brings together a table or a mini-writing desk, a few elements resembling kitchen items and a dresser. Put them all together and you have a compact, organized and totally not messy toy for children. And if the “tidy” part of the project does not impress that much, just think how much fun and educational this kind of a project could turn out for the kids.

Easy = True »

How ‘cognitive fluency’ shapes what we believe, how we invest, and who will become a supermodel

Stop Complaining About IE 6

Image from flickr user bioxidImage from bioxid

Note: This is off-the-cuff. If know many will disagree with me. If you’re one, sound off in the comments. Of course, if you agree with me, I’d love to hear that too.

Internet Explorer 6 is a pain. Every Web professional knows this. Every one of us has cursed its name countless times. It mangles code and requires more effort to support than every other browser (including its siblings) combined.

It makes life hard. We know. Dear God we all know.

Nobody likes whiners.

If your site stats show a significant percentage of your users rely on that browser it’s your responsibility to support it. Stop complaining about it and just get the job done so you can move on to creating something cool.

Stop complaining and get back to creating.

So Alex, How Big is “Significant”?

Wow, that could come off a bit dirty… Anyway, the answer to that question depends on your (or your customers’) business and the users who access the sites and apps you build to contribute to it.

I recommend you make that decision before you look at your stats so you don’t skew the number in an unconscious attempt to wiggle out of support for the browser (we humans are great at justifying our way out of unpleasantness). If your “significant” number is above 15%, you better think hard about it as that is a large percentage. Double-check that decision if there is any form of commerce or conversion transactions on the site. The latter includes drives for newsletter subscriptions, contests and the like in addition to encouraging a user to contact the business for an estimate or more information.

Step Back and Think About the Numbers

Let go of your anger (that path leads to the dark side) and really think about how much time and effort you’re willing to trade for this number of users, the time they spend on-site, the revenue they bring in and their happiness level (which feeds into the site reputation).

If you work for someone else as an outside agency, contractor or employee, the business needs to decide how much money they are willing to spend (read: your time) to access that market, so it may not be your choice, but you do influence the decision.

Google’s Numbers Aren’t Good Enough

Just because [super giant site] drops support for a browser doesn’t mean you get to. You have your own numbers; no others will do. If you are building sites that are used by a lot of people who access it during the day from large corporations or government jobs, odds are good that you’ll be supporting IE6 for a while to come, even if Google drops support.

Hell, Microsoft wants everyone off of IE 6, but even they recognize that it isn’t feasible in one fell swoop. Think about that – Microsoft, who likely could force an upgrade past any computer that talks to their servers for updates and patches can’t make that switch even though they’d like to.

Encouraging Transition & Graceful Degradation

So, you’ve discovered much to your dismay that you do need to support the dreaded Internet Explorer 666. The site doesn’t have to work exactly the same on IE 6 as it does on the top tier browsers. There are a wealth of techniques that will let you present a subset of the overall experience for those users and you can gently (but firmly) encourage your users to upgrade to a browser that will better serve their needs.

Blazing Ahead

If your IE6 numbers are low enough that you are confident that you can drop support (sweet!), don’t forget that you’ll have a few stragglers. A polite note presented to that select audience may help to nudge them into a better world of browsing bliss.

“Forcing” a User to Switch

You don’t have that power. No, really you don’t. It sounds mean, but it’s a fact of life. You aren’t big enough. I’m not either. That’s the reality of the market. Online petitions, grand campaigns with slick icons and banners won’t force a change.

This will be a gradual process that is much slower than any of us want. Don’t you think we’d all be better off if we took all of that effort and vitriolic energy and applied it to creating something?

I do.

Stop complaining. Start creating.