Sidestep »

via @joemccann “When Sidestep detects you connecting to an unprotected wireless network, it automatically encrypts all of your Internet traffic and reroutes it through a secure connection to a server of your choosing, which acts as your Internet proxy. And it does all this in the background so that you don’t even notice it.”

Gitbox »

"a Mac OS X graphical interface for Git version control system. In a single window you see branches, history and working directory status."

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.

Replacing the Save Icon

Floppy Disk IconThe Save icon – that little ol’ floppy disk that exists in nearly every application sitting on your computer and on the Web. A representation of a piece of technology so utterly out of date that it’s meaning has shifted away from its physical existence into a concept of safety and permanence.

As a means of storage it was convenient by the standards of the day, but not necessarily that reliable and yet we’ve held onto it as a symbol, in large part because everyone who uses a computer recognizes it. So I recognize the fact that we’re unlikely to actually change it any time soon, I thought it would be fun to explore alternatives, so I asked the members of Refresh Austin, those who follow me on Twitter and my friends on Facebook for their ideas on a replacement. Those conversations generated some great ideas, which I present to you.

The Question

I asked “If it were up to you to change the old floppy disk as the “save” icon across all Web and desktop apps, what would you choose?”

The Answers

Physical Representations

Hard Drive icon Several responses recommended a hard drive, replacing one form of physical media with another, more accurate version. Though as William Yarbrough noted, it may not work as well for apps in the cloud.

safe-icon.png Keith Aric Hall was the first of many to recommend a vaults or safe. I like this idea as it reinforces the concept of “save”. As Frank Robinson noted, those also imply encryption or file-locking, so he suggested a two-drawer filing cabinet.

Terry Brown brought up the idea that since the Open icon is often an arrow pointing out of a folder, then having an arrow point into the folder would make sense for Save.

entry_saved.png Michelle McGonagle recommended a document with a checkmark and then took a larger step outside of the normal bounds by suggesting a treasure chest or empty jar, both of which are technology-agnostic. Keith noted that many CMSes use the document with a check icon to denote “Approve for Publishing”, which could be problematic.

Mental Concepts

box_address.png Clouds and Boxes proved popular, often accompanied by an arrow.

Diana Dupuis suggested a red “S” in a thin black circle.

The response from Steven Harms is too good to not quote outright:

The notion that is important is the locking of bits into a static form: stored in a cloud, stored on a disk, stored on a CD. The trouble is that those icons would be “lock” or “frosty-ness.” The former is visually synonymous with “security” and the latter with Wendy’s, so neither has quite the right visual glyph-set.

Other Notes

Annette Priest brought up some great points, including the fact that we’re on the verge of needing to replace phone icons as well. She also noted that perhaps we should look at a shift towards gestures for the action instead of an icon. Follow a certain pattern with your mouse or device and your work is saved.

Ryan Joy brought up the point that sometimes “save means ‘save draft’ or state and other times it’s intended as ‘publish’”. So, a bigger question may arise as to how and if we differentiate those concepts via icons.

What Do You Think?

A definitive answer was never the point, rather the conversation is the key, and it has been great so far. I’d love for you to jump in with your ideas to keep this going!.

Credits

All icons except for the safe, which is from VisualPharm are available as a part of the Flavour Extended Icon set by Oliver Twardowski.

CoRD: an Alternative Remote Desktop App

I downloaded CoRD yesterday to see how it stacks up to Microsoft’s RDC client and am very happy with it, so I thought I’d spread the word. While it’s not a perfect app, the differences are enough to make me switch. I’ve found it to be much faster than RDC and it implements ClearType beautifully (make sure you choose a good resolution), so reading Word docs and e-mail is a much better experience. For those who hook into multiple desktops at a time, it’s specifically set up to make it easy to run multiple sessions.

The only real downside that I’ve noticed so far include cursor artifacts when moving around Word docs and Outlook messages, but they go away as soon as you type.

CoRD Example

CoRD Example

If you’re on a Mac and need to regularly access a Windows box, check it out. It’s free, so you have nothing to lose.

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.

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.