Transfer Mail.app’s Junk Filter to Another Mac or Account

Close Mail.app on both machines, and then find the file ~/Library/Mail/V2/MailData/LSMMap2 on the old machine and copy it into the same location on the new machine.

This is useful on those occasions when you need to copy or move OS X’s Mail’s rules for filtering spam from one account to another, or from an old machine to a new one when you don’t want to use Migration Assistant.

The same can be done for any Rules (copy MessageRules.plist) or Smart Mailboxes (SmartMailboxes.plist) you’ve set up.

Accurate as of OS X 10.7 (Lion)

Set a File's Modified Date to the Future in OS X

Just a quick note for myself, that I hope others will find useful.

To set the modified date of a file in OS X to a value in the future (useful if you want something to always be sorted at the top or bottom of a date listing), use this command in the Terminal:
touch -mt 201212120000 [path to file]

The date format is YYYYMMDDHHMM (Year-Month-Day-Hour-Minute), so in my example above, I’ve set the modified date to midnight, 12/12/12 (December 12, 2012).

Bonus tip: if you don’t want to type the full path to the file, type touch -mt 201212120000 and then drag the file onto the terminal, which should write out the path for you.

Bonus tip #2: the command will work on any *NIX system, though I don’t expect the same holds true for the drag-and-drop file path.

Apple, Flash and the Web

this whole saga is much more about Apple’s ability to control its own destiny than it is about revenge, cynicism, or pride. Apple nearly died in the 1990s. It was so far gone that it took money from Microsoft and had to pray that second-class ports of Internet Explorer would keep the Mac relevant in an increasingly online world.

Apple is not going to let anything like that happen again.

Matt Drance – Cocoa, Flash, and Safari

Matt’s article Cocoa, Flash, and Safari, provides insight into the current battle pitting Apple against Adobe on the iPhone and iPad. I highly recommend you take two minutes to read the piece to gain an understanding of the present and future of the platform and the business behind it.

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

OmniGraffle

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 – Mail.app’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.

Browsers

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.

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 LastFm.app
    • 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.

Spaces

  • 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.

Keyboard

  • 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.

Finder

  • 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

Could Google Quick Search Replace Quicksilver?

Nicholas Jitkoff, who created one of my most used Mac utilities, Quicksilver, now works for Google, which has just released Google Quick Search. I and many other devoted users lamented Nick’s decision to stop development on his popular app. Now we know why he took that step and more importantly have hope that something better than Quicksilver is on the horizon. Lifehacker has provided a nice writeup of the current capabilities, but if you’re in the mood to just grab it and give it a whirl, you can download it on Google Code.

Google Quick Search already contains a lot of the QS functionality, but uses Spotlight for its indexing, which should provide a significant increase in search speed while reducing the processor requirements. Hopefully, by offloading the search indexing to Spotlight, privacy advocates don’t need to worry about Google synchronizing the index of every file to their servers, but I haven’t seen word one way or the other as of yet.

Google Quick Search is young, but promising, and I truly hope it will pick up the Quicksilver banner and advance it.

Creating and Remembering Complex Passwords

My buddy Christian recently asked me about my personal password creation algorithm, which is something I’ve mentioned a few times (including once or twice at a Refresh Austin meeting). After doing a quick walk through with Christian over IM, it seemed appropriate for me to write it up in a more legible format so others can benefit.

The Concept

It all comes down to this: you want a memorable, but complex password to use on the Web. Ideally it isn’t the same on every site you access to ensure that one compromised Web site doesn’t leave every one of your other accounts open to nefarious evildoers.

Short & Sweet

This post is longer than I anticipated, so here’s the bit-sized version.

KindofBlue
Start with a memorable phrase.
kind0fBlu3
Strip spaces, substitute a few characters (‘e’ becomes 3) and play with letter case. You will use this base to create the same foundation for each site’s password.
akind0fBlu3n
Use part of the domain to modify the base, creating a unique password. This example uses the first and last letter from www.amazon.com. Ignore subdomains (‘www’) altogether. Every site will use this same pattern (first and last letter, no subdomain) to fill out it’s password.
22-akind0fBlu3n?
Add some complexity. In this case we add a number (’22′) and a dash at the beginning and a question mark at the end. This becomes a part of the base for all passwords, just like the initial phrase.
22-mkind0fBlu3t?
22-fkind0fBlu3k?
22-akind0fBlu3e?
Examples from different domains: www.microsoft.com, www.facebook.com and store.apple.com.

I recommend you read the full post as I give other examples and provide a couple of usage tips throughout.

Details

There are a few simple steps to achieve these goals.

Start With a Phrase

For this first example, we’ll use the title of a seminal jazz album, Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue“.

Formatting and Substitutions

Let’s begin by removing the the spaces as most login systems won’t accept them in your passwords. We now have KindofBlue. Next, we’ll do some simple substitutions of numbers for letters (the capital “O” in “of” becomes a zero and the ‘e’ in “Blue” becomes a three) and play with capitalization, which results in kind0fBlu3. This isn’t that complex, and the number-for-letter substitutions is easily recognized (and broken), but it should be easy for you to remember.

Making it Unique per Site

This is where it gets more interesting and more secure – we’re going to take a bit of the Web site to use in our password. In this example, let’s take the first letter and last letters of the domain and insert ‘em at the beginning and the end of our password. So for www.amazon.com the password is akind0fBlu3n. For the Apple Store (http://store.apple.com/us) it is akind0fBlu3e. You’ll notice that while they are similar (the only difference is the last letter), they are different, so if someone learns your Amazon password, they can’t get into your Apple account unless they deduce the overall pattern.

Ignore Subdomains

You should only use the main part of the URL (amazon.com, apple.com). Ignore subdomains (“www.”, “store.”) as you will likely only have one account on a domain, but the domain may have several subdomains. This keeps life much more simple for you.

Rounding it Off

I like to add a couple of extra touches to make my password a bit more complex and to make it more difficult for someone to recognize that there could be a human-readable pattern. Continuing with our example, we’ll add a number (22) and a dash at the beginning and a question mark at the end, which generates 22-akind0fBlu3n? for Amazon. These latest additions don’t change from domain to domain, so you don’t need to memorize a bunch of different patterns. For example, the password for Microsoft’s site would be 22-mkind0fBlu3t?.

A note: Some login systems don’t allow punctuation, so it’s handy to stick it at the end or at a specific spot. For a domain that won’t let me use the dash or question mark, I know to delete the third character and the last character of my normal pattern resulting in 22akind0fBlu3n for Amazon.

Additional Examples

The sample I used above is pretty simple, and easy to recognize as a word or phrase. A better pattern would be to use a sentence or phrase and take the first few letters of each word as your base and/or shortening words. Sticking to our musical theme, here are a couple of ideas:

“Dance Me to the End of Love” by Leonard Cohen

We could take the first two letters of each word: dametothenoflo which with some substitution and additions becomes 9+adam3tothenofl0n! for Amazon and 9+mdam3tothenofl0t! for Microsoft.

“Little Red Corvette” by Prince

We can get a bit more creative here and substitute “Lil” for “Little” and only use the first three letters of “Corvette”: LilRedCor. As before, finishing out the pattern could result in 00=aLilredcorn! for Amazon.

Other Variants

Of course you don’t have to choose the first and last letters from the domain, you could choose the second and third (assuming the domain is longer than two letters) or you could take the first letter and put it at the end and take the last letter and put it at the beginning.

A Couple of Notes

Credit

I didn’t come up with the idea, and I no longer recall where I first learned of it, so while I have adopted it wholeheartedly, someone smarter than me deserves credit for it.

Security

This is not foolproof and I am not a security expert. Following this pattern means your password is not truly random and someone who has access to your account on one system and is clever enough, could determine how it works and get into other systems. That said, it is at least more secure than not using a system like this.

I recommend creating and using a few of these patterns to reduce the risk that breaking one will allow somebody to access every account you have on the Web. For truly important sites (your bank account, anywhere that stores your credit card numbers), you should go with a random password generator paired with a secure password manager, like my personal favorite 1Password (Mac only, I’m afraid).

Your Ideas

So, how can we improve this practice and how do we ensure that this is something that non-technical people can use to be a bit safer online?

Quick « » in OS X

I accidentally inserted a double left angle quote («) this morning, which lead me to discover that OS X provides a handy way to insert it and of course it’s match, the double right angle quote (»). This may not sound like much, but given how often I use these characters (especially ») in my wire frames and other docs, these shortcuts will noticeably improve my efficiency.

Here are the keyboard shortcuts to use in OS X:
Double Left Angle Quote («) – ALT \ (hold the ALT key and press the backward slash key)
Double Right Angle Quote (») – ALT SHIFT \ (hold the ALT and SHIFT keys, then press the backward slash key)

Note 1: this doesn’t insert the HTML equivalent of either character (« and » respectively), it inserts the actual character as if you were to cut and paste it from the character palette.

Note 2: the ALT and OPTION keys are equivalent. so if you don’t have an ALT key, use OPTION instead.

Thoughts on A Complete Experience

I recently posted a quote from Steve Ballmer discussing a key difference between Apple and Microsoft, which I titled A Complete Experience. Having spent a bit more time thinking about it, I thought I would capture some of those thoughts here. This is basically a brain-dump, so it is by no means comprehensive, or for that matter a fluid discussion.

For Ballmer to claim that Microsoft is committed to choice doesn’t match their past business practices. I’d love to see them truly commit to changes that support real user choice and a better end-to-end experience. The subtle knock of Apple (a “narrow” experience) is to be expected, though again it stretches the truth.

OS X, Apple’s computer operating system is not as broad as Windows in terms of configurations and options (six versions of Vista to choose from – two for OS X, one of which is targeted for servers – no confusion there), but that’s a very good thing for the people who buy and use computers. Windows provides every possible configuration option just in case one person out of 10,000 may want it. That’s pretty cool, except for the fact that it often clutters the experience for the other 9,999 folks.

Apple has gone the other route, making a vast majority of decisions for the users – focusing on normal people instead of edge cases. Power users can dive into the command line and utilize the full power of the BSD subsystem. They both have to strike a balance, but have chosen vastly different ways to do it. I’ve come to love Apple’s way of doing it.

If the experience were truly “narrow”, you wouldn’t have the wide swath of user types – students, lawyers, parents, kids, entrepreneurs and hard core developers. That last one is important – many dedicated techies who write programs and Web applications that millions of people use day in and day out switched to the Mac. These are the people most likely to tweak their system, to be that one out of 10,000. They chose the focused end-to-end experience over the bucket of options.

The experience is so much smoother on the Mac and my levels of frustration are amazingly low when I work on my computer. Hell, frustration doesn’t tend to crop up very often. I should say that my level of contentment and the occurrences of elation are rather high compared to any other product or service that I use on a regular basis.

A Complete Experience

In the competition between PCs and Macs, we outsell Apple 30-to-1. But there is no doubt that Apple is thriving. Why? Because they are good at providing an experience that is narrow but complete, while our commitment to choice often comes with some compromises to the end-to-end experience.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

The quote is from a memo that Mr. Ballmer sent to Microsoft employees this past July outlining the company’s strategy for 2009. Aside from the not-so-subtle “narrow” swipe, it’s a concise summation of why so many of us have switched to Apple products (not just the computer) after years, if not decades using PCs running Windows.

The experience matters.

Burning Chrome

Google Chrome Comic

Google Chrome Comic

Google plans to release a new browser soon, based on Webkit, but with a new JavaScript engine, which is expected to be significantly faster than most browsers and will be sandboxed to ensure that a crash in one tab doesn’t take out the rest of the browser.

In addition to the blog post, they’ve created an introduction to the browser in comic book form.

While there are a lot of questions about it and some interesting discussion points, I am curious to see how, or if it changes the way we design and develop Web apps. It will also be interesting to see how they design the interface and flows within the browser, having stated that one major goal is to streamline and simplify the UI. The beta Windows version is to be released today, with Mac and Linux versions coming soon.

I am also very curious about the privacy implications inherent in this release. Google has reached a point where they have an insane level of information about the interests (Google search, AdSense), browsing habits (Google Analytics, DoubleClick), events (Google Calendar), personal and business plans and finances (Google Apps) and personal connections (gMail, gTalk) of nearly everyone who uses the Web. While I love their motto of “Do No Evil”, I can’t bring myself to trust that it will always hold true, whether by internal decisions, or by outside pressure from stock holders or governments (wow, now I’m starting to sound like the other Alex Jones).

I will definitely test the browser, and I look forward to the concepts they are introducing. A shakeup in the market will be useful, even if it reignites the browser wars, and causes consternation amongst those of us who build Web apps and sites. We’re pushing forward, which is a good thing, but we need to temper our excitement (or annoyance) with the impact this will have on the Web and be wary of what we as consumers and users trade for the new browser.

SproutCore: Apple's Flanking Move?

SproutCore LogoI wasn’t all that familiar with Sproutcore, Apple’s JavaScript framework prior to reading this article, but after thinking the arguments over, I think Apple has been flanking the other players in the application marketplace (both online and desktop) for a while. The article Cocoa for Windows + Flash Killer = SproutCore provides some very good reasons for Apple’s moves onto Windows with Safari and other apps; I highly recommend you read it if you’re the least bit interested in development on the Web, the iPhone and/or Rich Internet Applications (RIAs).

Being based on open web standards and being open source itself means SproutCore will enable developers to develop cross platform applications without being tied to either a plugin architecture or its vendor.

Sitting on top of web standards will also make it easy for Apple and the community to push SproutCore ahead without worrying about incompatible changes to the underlying layers of Windows, a significant problem for the old Yellow Box or some new Cocoa analog. SproutCore also lives in a well known security context, preventing worries about unknown holes being opened up by a new runtime layer.

Daniel Eran Dilger – Roughly Drafted

These developments are exciting for oru industry, but also for the world as a whole – a solid platform that can be as portable and accessible as the Web, yet have the power of the desktop has long been sought. We may finally have it in our grasp.

Cake on OS X with Headdress

As I’ve been testing CakePHP I’ve run into an odd issue on my local OS X development environment. I couldn’t get the system configured to properly render the site I was building. It didn’t even show the default documentation properly – the CSS and images were missing. After digging around the Web and trying many different options, including mod_rewrite modifications and changes to MAMP, I discovered that I hadn’t properly configured my local dev site in Headress.

The issue was my choice of document roots within Headdress. I had chosen the main directory (Dev/MySite/), but what I needed to choose was the webroot directory a couple of levels down (Dev/MySite/app/webroot/). That small change fixed the appearance and redirection issues. Easy as Cake!

A Reminder – QuickSilver Style

So, I ran across a little QuickSilver tip which may be old news for the QS power users, but was new to me: QuickSilver is a a great timer for reminders. So, say you need to call someone in 30 minutes, but you don’t want to have to keep monitoring the clock as you are working on a project, writing e-mails etc. You could use a dashboard widget, or a kitchen timer, but why not use QuickSilver? It’s pretty damned easy:

  1. Open QuickSilver (cmd-space) and type a period (.) to open the QS text box
  2. Type your message (Call the restaurant to confirm tonight’s reservation) and hit the tab key to move to the commands pane
  3. The first option is to display as large text, make sure its highlighted and hit ctrl-enterto save that command to be used in conjunction with the next command:
  4. Choose ‘Run after Delay’ or ‘Run at Time’
  5. To have your message appear on screen in half an hour, type ’30m’ (30 minutes) in the box and hit enter.

It take about five seconds to do, and in half an hour, you’ll see a large box reminding you to “Call the restaurant to confirm tonight’s reservation”. Give it a shot, it’s a very useful feature! You can of course use other time options, seconds, hours etc.

Thanks to David Hayes for publishing the tip on his site, where I stumbled across it.

My OS X Software Setup

It’s been about 13 months since I detailed various OS X apps and software packages that had caught my eye as I transitioned from Windows to OS X, so I believe it is time to review that list and expand upon it. I would definitely appreciate your recommendations of other applications to check out , and am also more than happy to answer any questions you may have.

I will add detail where I can, with the goal of publishing this post quickly and expanding upon it over time. I may make this a series if it grows long and/or detailed enough to warrant it.

Pre-installed / Part of OS X

Every Mac comes pre-installed with some amazing software, and I highly encourage you to check it out. Here are some of those apps that I use regularly.

Mail.app

MAil is surprisingly powerful as I noted when I made the switch from Thunderbird. I haven’t looked back since.
Cost: Free

iTunes

Simply the best music player on any platform. If you haven’t played with Smart Playlists you are missing out on one of the most important features.
Cost: Free

iCal

The built in calendar application is as simple or feature-rich as you want it to be. It interacts with the address book and many applications.
Cost: Free

The Keychain & Keychain Access

There is no need for a separate password manager as you can easily tap into the one that the system uses. Even better, you can secure other sensitive data such as credit card numbers, PINs or important notes.Check out this great walk-through to see the power of the Keychain. The important thing is to set up separate keychains with unique passwords to ensure that logging in, which will unlock the system keychain, doesn’t unlock the keychain you use to store other sensitive data. Using separate passwords will also ensure that if someone manages to get access to your machine in a logged-in state, or learns of your password, they are unable to get to other sensitive information.
Cost: Free

Address Book

The address Book is an unsung hero of the OS, as it unifies all of your contact information across applications, ensuring they all have and use the same data. It also ensures that your contacts are searchable.
Cost: Free

iChat

I don’t use iChat too often, preferring Adium’s capabilities for day-to-day instant messaging, but every so often its great to kick start a video chat with someone. IT is super-simple to initiate and works surprisingly well. This must be a wonderful tool for independents and small firms that do not have a single office.
Cost: Free

The Console

The console is an invaluable tool for developers of all stripes, and for the power user trying to track down a system problem. It can be found in the Utilities directory within the Applications folder.
Cost: Free

Boot Camp

This is solely for Intel-based Macs. Boot Camp lets you boot straight into Windows. Beautiful! That said, I’ve opted to erase the Boot Camp Windows partition, preferring to use Parallels, which runs within OS X. As I don’t need to run any powerful Windows-only apps, and I don’t run any Windows games, I found that I just wasn’t using the functionality.

General

Quicksilver

This is a must-have for anyone doing more than checking e-mail and browsing the Web. Quicksilver make it simple and fast to search for anything on your system and then do something with it, or to it. For example, I can keep things as simple as typing the letter ‘m’, which pulls up a quick search of anything on my drive with that letter in it (don’t worry, Quicksilver is smart, and prioritizes the list), which brings up Mail.app as the first result. I simply hit enter and my e-mail program is launched. Two seconds and done, without having to move my hands to the mouse. For a more interesting example, I can type a period, which brings up a text box in which I write a note. I can then hit the tab key to decide what I want to do – I can have the system automatically create a text document with the note, send it to my To Do list application, or display it on screen in a large font, so I can see it across the room. I can also use it to look up contact info without opening the Address Book. This really should be built into OS X.

Cost: Free

The Optimized Build of Firefox, a.k.a. Bon Echo

Cost: Free

Growl

This is another great utility that should be built into OS X. Growl isn’t actually used directly, instead it provides a platform for “applications to provide you with new information, without you having to switch from the application you’re already in.” It allows you as the user to customize the presentation and ensures the notices are consistent across all applications. Examples of usage are download notifications from Firefox and FTP clients, Twitter update notices and information about the song that just started playing in iTunes.
Cost: Free

Witch

Witch provides a granular alternative to the CMD-Tab combination of application switching, making it easier to shift to different windows within the same app or access minimized windows. It has other window-manipulation abilities too, though I haven’t tested them as of yet.
Cost: Free

Actiontastic

While I have read Getting Things Done, I haven’t gotten into the whole GTD habits as deeply as so many others, but I have picked up some tips that make life a lot easier. I now follow the core practices for my basic project management and to-do lists and lucked out when I found Actionatastic, a great GTD app that works well for me and works seamlessly with QuickSilver and iCal. This will be even cooler when actionatr debuts, providing the capability to modify the tasks on-line and synced up with Actiontastic.
Cost: Free

iTerm

I like iTerm over the built in Terminal as it has a tabbed interface which is invaluable in Web Development.
Cost: Free

Parallels Desktop

Parallels is simply amazing, and with each new release impresses me even further. Not only can you run another operating system (or multiple) within a window of OS X, you can eliminate the window altogether, eliminating the separation. This is great when I’m debugging a problem between browsers, as I can run copies of IE 6 and IE 7 right next to Safari and Firefox for OS X. For those folks in an environment that requires Windows-only apps, it is a perfect compromise.
Cost: $80

Adium

The best instant messaging client on any platform. I really wish it was available on Windows as I would drop Trillian for it in a second.
Cost: Free

NetNewsWire

NNW is a great RSS reader, though I tend to use the Web version far more than the desktop version as I can access it from anywhere. Luckily, the purchase of NetNewsWire guaranteed that the two are synced up.
Cost: $30

Twitterific

For those who use Twitter, this little app makes life much easier. With its integrated Growl support and ability to set the time between updates, you can see what your friends are up to whenever they post an update.
Cost: Free

iBackup

What a great backup application! I use it to run regular backups of my system. It allows me to choose what I want backed up, and it only copies files and directories that have been modified since the last backup. I’ve set up two tasks – the normal backup that ensures I always have a copy of my files on an external drive, and a rolling archive that takes a copy of the backup and creates a snapshot, allowing me to keep older versions of files around.
Cost: Free

PandoraBoy

As I discussed on my post Pandora on My Box, this is a great little app that brings the joy of Pandora out of the browser, encapsulating it in a small app.

Web Development & Design

TextMate

A powerful text and code editor that continues to reveal more features and capabilities as I use it. as their site puts it, “TextMate is not an IDE but by using its powerful snippets, macros, and unique scoping system, it can often provide features that even a language specific IDE lacks. It has enough project management features to keep most users happy, but is otherwise kept lightweight with a clean and minimalistic GUI.” Depending on how you like to work, TextMate may not be your cup of tea – it is purely a text editor, do not expect the ability to drag pictures around or resize DIV with your mouse. If you prefer a more visual interface, check out Panic’s Coda, which recently debuted and looks amazing.
Cost:

Headdress

Headdress makes it simple to work with virtual hosts on your Mac, which is invaluable when you are developing sites locally prior to pushing them to production. With Headdress you do not need to worry about file paths changing when you upload, as each site is treated separately, accessible through separate URLs (using port numbers). I used the demo version of Headdress for quite a while as I was only working on two sites at the time. Then I started to dig into other code branches and realized that the convenience that the app brings to my life was well worth the small amount of cash, so I bought it. Not only is this a great app, the guys at Twinsparc are genuinely good folks.
Cost: Free for two sites, $15 for unlimited

MAMP

MAMP is a handy package that allows you to effortlessly install Apache, Mysql and PHP on your Mac and start the servers with just a click of a button. It doesn’t screw with the built-in functionality that ships with OS X. This is an indispensable tool for PHP Web Development.
Cost: Free

Locomotive

Locomotive provides a super-simple way to install a Ruby on Rails development environment. It eliminated a lot of stress I experienced compared to the first time I set up RoR on my box and had to resolve all of the configuration hoo-hah. If you are interested in Ruby on Rails, download this app, it will make life much much much easier.
Cost: Free

Adobe Creative Suite

I currently run CS2, though I beta tested Photoshop CS 3 and was blown away by its performance on my MacBook Pro (the CS2 apps were never compiled for the Intel-based Macs, so they run slower than they should). The new palette system was a major step up for those of us on laptops.
Cost: Ranges depending on the apps/package you choose

Yummy FTP

I tried out a bunch of FTP apps early on, and as I wrote in my post about Yummy FTP, the app is “fast and has a wealth of features, including FTP Aliases with Autorouting to make it easy to upload files without opening a connection to the server and then navigating to the proper location. Sweet! The smooth integration with other apps (like TextMate for remote editing) and the command line are just a couple of other features worth the price. Yet, even with all of the functionality it packs, Yummy FTP feels good to use – unlike so many apps from my Windows past.”
Cost: $25

The Console

Yes, this is a repeat, but I want to ensure you see it if you’re a developer. The Console provides a handy way to keep an eye on your log files as you are writing/debugging server-side code. It works with all of the different log files you may deal with (Ruby on Rails, PHP, Apache etc.) I open it automatically when I start working on PHP or Ruby code.
Cost: Free

Subversion

I use Subversion for version control in my local development environment, and it has saved my butt a couple of times already!
Cost: Free

svnX

I use svnX to interact with Subversion instead of relying on the command line.
Cost: Free

FontExplorer X

This free font manager from the fine folks at Linotype, is much more powerful than the built-in FontBook and unlike the expensive font packages (hello Extensis), hasn’t given Sarah, nor I any problems.
Cost: Free

CocoaMySQL

A great MySQL database manager.
Cost: Free

Widgets

It took me a while to discover the usefulness of Apple’s Dashboard and the widgets it contains, but once I found a few of the truly useful little apps I was hooked. They stay out of the way but are available at a key-press. Please note, these are not all of the widgets that I’ve installed, just the ones I find useful. Also, I do not run most of these all of the time as each Widget takes up a bit of processing power, so I’ve indicated my “always on” widgets by making them bold.

  • Airport Radar is a “free and convenient tool for quickly scanning the area for AirPort and other wireless networks.”
  • App Update automatically checks for “updates to your installed software. It supports Apple’s software directory, MacUpdate and Version Tracker. It will present you with a tidy link list of all the updates found, enabling you to read release-notes and download the the updates quickly and painlessly.”
  • Calculator
  • Calendaer
  • Capture is a great tool for snapping screen shots.
  • ColorBurn displays “a new color palette every day, along with the hexadecimal color values for web designers and developers.”
  • ColourMod is a handy color chooser, which works with and convert between Hex, RGB, CMYK, and HSV values.
  • Corporate Ipsum “is a Lorem Ipsum generator Peter Gibbons might use in a TPS Report…if he were a graphic designer and had a need for a Lorem Ipsum generator.”
  • CSS Tweak provides “CSS optimization with the drop of a file.”
  • Dashalytics “offers quick access to Google Analytics statistics.”
  • Dashflix / Dashflix Mini provide a view into your Netflix queue – the only difference is the size of the widget.
  • Delivery Status provides an “all-in-one delivery tracker”for those of us who can’t wait for oru packages to arrive. “The status will update automatically for you, and even count down the days! It also works with Growl to give you pop-up message, email notifications, and more, whenever your package status changes.””
  • Dine-O-Matic is a “fun Dashboard widget for Mac OS X that randomly selects a place to eat out when you just can’t make up your mind.”
  • Gamer Card let’s you see “your XBOX Live Gamer Card”
  • Gas “delivers information from GasPriceWatch.com in order to provide you with the most up to date gas prices available.”
  • Image Shackle
  • iStat Pro is “the ultimate system monitoring widget, consisting of nine sections which can be shown or hidden.”
  • Kuler displays “color themes from kuler (kuler.adobe.com), an online application where members explore, create, and share color harmonies.”
  • MAMP Control makes it easy to “start and stop the Apache and MySQL server provided with MAMP. Also you can switch the PHP versions”
  • Minutes is a “countdown timer widget featuring simple interface, polished graphics and many functionalities”, including iTunes integration
  • Photo Drop let’s you “[d]rop or paste a photo, resize & trim it, and export to another application or widget directly by mouse dragging with outstanding 8 effects. You can also take a screenshot of windows behind Photo Drop (excluding your scattered desktop).”‘
  • SeeSS “is a quick and handy reference sheet for 140 CSS (1, 2 & 3) properties (proprietary extensions are not included). Each property includes information on its inheritance, CSS compliancy, Safari support, all values (including defaults), some examples and an extensive description.”
  • Stop Dashboard “allows you to stop the Dashboard. All running widgets will be removed from memory. Re-enable the Dashboard via F12.”
  • Symbol Caddy keeps “HTML entity codes at your fingertips. Just click the symbol to have the HTML code copied to your clipboard.”
  • Type Cast “allows you to quickly move through font families, styles and sizes using only your keyboard. In addition, Type Cast offers helpful information such as font type, family and can even reveal font files in the Finder.”
  • Unit Converter
  • Weather
  • Web Monitor “[m]onitors your servers or any other web site. The widget checks the response time periodically with a HTTP HEAD request ” I discovered this as I was writing this post, so I haven’t tried it yet, but it looks very useful!’

Apps that I Don’t Use, But Have Good Reputations

There are so many applications out there that it is hard to try every one that I hear about, plus there are certain apps that that app grabs you and there isn’t a desire to check out the others. So, here is a list of software that I’ve heard good things about, but do not have personal experience with, or that I have tried but opted for a different package (you’ll see some great freeware apps in here that I ultimately passed up for an application that I paid for). Give ‘em a shot if you have a chance.

  • Fugu – FTP utility [Free]
  • Cyberduck – FTP utility [Free]
  • Coda – Web development package [$]
  • Open Office – A multi-platform, open source office suite. [Free]
  • Delicious Library – This program harnesses a Web cam (in this case, the built-in iSight) as a barcode scanner. Simply point the camera “at the barcode on the back of any book, movie, music, or video game. Delicious Library does the rest. The barcode is scanned and within seconds the item’s cover appears on your digital shelves filled with tons of in-depth information downloaded from one of six different web sources from around the world.” I’ve wanted to play with this for quite a long time! [$]
  • VirtueDesktops – virtual desktop manager. [Free]

Handy Tips and Hacks for Working in OS X

Here is a list of good things to know in order to improve your workflow and/or enjoyment of the world o’ Mac.

Web Sites

Important Note

All prices listed are accurate at the time of writing, so don’t be surprised if they’re different by the time you hit their sites.

Pandora on My Box

PandoraBoy Screenshot
I’ve finally decided to give the Pandora music recommendation service a try and enjoying it thoroughly. The system is built upon the Music Genome Project, which assembled “literally hundreds of musical attributes or “genes” into a very large Music Genome… [capturing] the unique and magical musical identity of a song – everything from melody, harmony and rhythm, to instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement, lyrics, and of course the rich world of singing and vocal harmony.” All you have to do is type in a band name and it makes the connections to other interesting groups, streaming the music to you via an Internet radio station.

So why am I checking it out now? PandoraBoy. This handy little app eliminates the need to run a browser in order to use Pandora. So I can listen to the tunes without taking up a tab in Firefox. I am also able to control it with hot-keys and my Apple remote, so if I don’t like a song while I’m in my reading chair across the room, I can skip it, just like I do with iTunes. Add to that, the built-in Growl support and you have a ell rounded, focused app.

Thanks to The Unofficial Apple Weblog for introducing me to PandoraBoy and spurring me on to try it. Now, to add the ability for it to write out to SilverSpider Play List

Adium 1.0 Takes Off

Adium LogoAdium, my favorite instant messaging application for OS X has released version 1.0! I’ve been using the 0.x versions of the app for quite a while now, and each release has been a marked improvement over the last. This latest version, a year and a half in the making, has a host of improvements, as they noted on their blog:

New features include a shiny new default appearance, an installation setup assistant, improved account management, privacy management, iTunes Now Playing status, optional Dock-like hiding of the contact list, grouping of saved status messages, a redesigned chat transcript viewer with improved searching, and much more. Adium 1.0 includes service-specific improvements such as AIM file transfer and Direct Connect image transfer improvements, Yahoo invisible status, receiving of MSN custom emoticons, and Google Talk buddy icons and typing indication support.

So check it out if you’re on the Mac. If you’re in the PC world, I highly recommend you download Trillian, which, like Adium, supports multiple clients and has a great interface, solid core of developers and an active community.

Mmmm….iPhone

Images snagged from Apple
Images snagged from Apple
Just announced at Macworld: The Apple iPhone

iPhone combines three products — a revolutionary mobile phone, a widescreen iPod with touch controls, and a breakthrough Internet communications device with desktop-class email, web browsing, maps, and searching — into one small and lightweight handheld device. iPhone also introduces an entirely new user interface based on a large multi-touch display and pioneering new software, letting you control everything with just your fingers.

This is the ultimate device: beautiful phone with a ton of major feature and usability enhancements, iPod, PDA (running OS X), digital camera with Wifi, and Bluetooth in addition to the cell connections.

Coming in June, though sadly, only to Cingular. This is the first time I’ve ever been seriously tempted to leave Sprint for cell service.

Yummy

Yummy FTP iconI don’t know what it is about the Mac, but I actually get excited about software again. I’m not talking about the big packages like Adobe’s Creative Suite or games, which I loved on the PC. I mean the smaller pieces of software like TextMate, Parallels or iTunes. This is a very interesting time in the software market for those of us running OS X. The products coming out of so many small software shops is beautiful and highly functional. Hell, they’re fun! Point in fact, I’ve been evaluating FTP apps for the last couple of months – nothing intense, just checking out different ones as time allows. After reading a bunch of reviews, and trying various products, I downloaded Yummy FTP and was blown away. It is fast and has a wealth of features, including FTP Aliases with Autorouting to make it easy to upload files without opening a connection to the server and then navigating to the proper location. Sweet! The smooth integration with other apps (like TextMate for remote editing) and the command line are just a couple of other features worth the price. Yet, even with all of the functionality it packs, Yummy FTP feels good to use – unlike so many apps from my Windows past.

Plus, I lucked out and received a discount on the purchase via MacAppADay., taking the already-low price of $25 down to $10. Nice! I had initially downloaded a fully functional, though un-upgradable copy as part of that same MAAD promotion, but like so many others, didn’t realize that I had to register it immediately, so I didn’t get one of the 5,000 licenses. That said, after trying it out, I would have purchased a copy anyway to support the developer and get future upgrades.

Yummy indeed.