On Technology

My must-have OSX products of 2015

My desktop, with a fantastic background (thanks, Wallcat)

I became a heavy reader of the Macstories blog this year, both as an ardent Apple fanboy and as a proponent of good, honest, analytical writing about tech. With tech journalism being largely pandering clickbait these days, it’s nice to read Federico Viticci and his team’s insightful and personal writeups about the state of Apple tech, supporting independent developers and great ideas along the way.

Since he went full-iOS this year (and wrote about it like crazy), I tried to do the same. However, with my heavy interests in music production and learning to code better, I could not get rid of my Retina MacBook Pro — it’s just too deeply ingrained into my lifestyle and, frankly, is too damn beautiful and powerful to pass up. It’s also been a fantastic year for development of Mac products, not just for Macs themselves, but for hardware and software developers in the space.

Here are some of the most indispensable apps for Mac I discovered this year.

2Do for Mac. Federico’s write-ups, while great and detailed, only touched on the amazing new 2Do for iOS, but I wanted to call out this app as it relates to Mac OS X. I got 2Do for free earlier this year thanks to a great Apple promotion, and it got me more on top of my to-do’s than I’ve ever been before. Adding a Mac app into the mix (at half price, thanks to yet another promotion!) turned this helpful task organizer into a full-fledge productivity suite for me. I used 2Do for Mac similar to how Federico uses it on his enormous iPad Pro screen — bulk-moving, delegating and dating tasks with ease, relying on Task Actions to easily get to websites and emails I need to check on, and even multitasking split-screen in El Capitan. It’s a pretty fantastic tool.

Reeder 3. Reeder has been my RSS/news reader app of choice for years, but when v3 for OS X came out this year it gained even more value in my day-to-day. With new Instapaper API integration and a beautiful new look, I can get all my news updates and long-form reading done — without ever having to open a website.

Coda 2.5. This year, my fiancée and I launched Tone Deaf & Color Blind, a blog in which we try to explore more creative outlets in our lives (one of which is writing — hey!). I had done plenty of WordPress tinkering before, but this was the first website I built and launched fully by myself — from creating a local dev environment to hacking major blocks of PHP. I was originally trying to make sense of Sublime Text and all its plugins, but I wanted something that (1) was easy enough to manage without having to constantly tweak the program, and (2) something I could also use on the go. Coda overwhelmingly has satisfied my needs here, between the comprehensive and easy-to-use Mac app and the newly-revamped Coda for iOS.

Ulysses. Starting Tone Deaf & Color Blind, as well as realizing a need to write more in my life, made me want to seek out a good means to organize & execute upon my thoughts. I tried out a few different apps — Editorial, Byword, a few raw text editors — and none of them seemed to jive with my organizational style. I wanted an app that could both let me focus on writing things down and easily access different blurbs, notes, etc. and group them together however I wanted. Ulysses was that app — after getting over the slight sticker shock of its price, I’m happy to have added this app to my personal ecosystem. And now that Ulysses for iPhone is available in beta, I can even manage this stuff on the go.

Ulysses and 2Do split-screen. I can make a list, check it twice, and then write about it.

Tweetbot. I also tried to start building my personal brand this year on Twitter. Part of why I sucked at this previously was due to the lack of a good free Mac app. Twitter’s own app was never great, and Tweetdeck/Hootsuite were always too ugly and buggy for me to buy into. However, when Tapbots updated Tweetbot this year I decided to try it out — and between their Mac and iOS apps I’ve become far more interested in what’s out there in the Twitterverse.

Slack. We don’t use Slack at my day job, sadly, but it’s become invaluable to me — both as a water-cooler-of-sorts with some of my close colleagues and a vital means of bouncing ideas for my side projects. While I love the ability to quickly act on messages from my iPhone, I love having a full conversation thread on my MacBook screen while I research UX ideas or wireframing an idea.

Copyfeed. I used to think that my Mac and my iPhone were, other than some compatible apps, largely separate. I could sync photos and email, but text was elusive beyond text messaging to myself. Drafts and other iOS-only apps solved this between iOS devices; Copyfeed makes text (and images) easily and instantly shareable across my phone and my laptop.

Divvy. Sometimes I plug my MacBook Pro into an ultra-wide LG UM95 monitor, which is the best screen for managing large recording sessions. However, when I have many modules (or apps) open, the screen gets fairly chaotic. Divvy lets me easily organize things on the screen simply, either by dragging across a small grid or with keyboard shortcuts.

Alfred. Alfred has and will always replace the stock Spotlight function for me, if only for the ability to perform a Google search outside Safari. I’ve also become incredibly dependent on some awesome workflows for checking the weather, finding emojis, instantly create a note or search all my Trello boards, to name a few.

1Password. For as much buzz 1Password got for its stellar iOS integration last year, I think it’s integration into the OS X ecosystem is almost more invaluable to how I work. I absolutely love having constant access to my logins from the OS X menubar or any browser window, and I trust it as my main directory for all things private & secure. Now that 1Password can handle 2-factor authentication codes too, I can easily get into all my secure accounts without having to manage multiple apps in parallel.

F.lux. This thing keeps my eyes from going bloodshot far more often than I give it credit.

Numi. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had to do more and more math: for doing my own taxes, for settling bills, for budgeting a move and an eventual wedding. Each of these use cases require a lot of context beyond just the numbers — it’s necessary to know what numbers correspond to what in reality. Having Numi to both store this context and automatically perform complex mathematical operations has been absolutely invaluable, and I cannot recommend it highly enough for Mac users.

Wallcat. I’ve become obsessed with something incredibly mundane — my laptop’s desktop background — thanks to Wallcat. Every day I have new beautiful artwork from the wonderful folks at Unsplash, and every day I think, “This one’s lovely — I should stick to this one.” Then I forget to set it as my permanent background and get another amazing image to enjoy the next morning.

Logic Pro X. I’ve gone back and forth with a few different DAWs for a while for making music: Sonar and Cubase interchangeably in college, Reason once it could do audio too, Pro Tools for a minute, Presonus Studio One because I was begged to try it. But once Apple dropped the price of Logic Pro to $200, I was compelled to try it out. I haven’t turned to any other

Reason 8. Logic has unfortunately led to a drop in my Reason usage, but the Kong drum machine, Thor synthesizer and surprisingly great piano sampler (see: Concert Grand Piano Combinator preset) make this very much worth keeping around.

Balsamiq Mockups. This has been my wireframing app of choice for years now. I firmly believe in designing functionally and essentially, and not getting wrapped up in the visual details of a design. Balsamiq is intentionally ugly (sooooo much Comic Sans), but it allows me to explore a functional idea and focus on getting the most important elements into the right place.

Trello. For some reason, I hate hate hate web apps — I guess you could blame my browser tab anxiety. Trello is the one exception to this rule, and it’s become my go-to for project collaboration. Fortunately, someone made a Mac app called Xccello to contain its awesomeness.

There you have it. In the spirit of Perd Hapley, I wrote this to communicate something, and that thing was a list of products I relied on this year, and the story of those products is that I used them on a Mac.

Big thanks to Product Hunt, Twitter and some of my colleagues for sourcing most of these apps for me. Onto the next year!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *