By Six Colors Staff
December 22, 2015 12:38 PM PT
Our favorites: Mac apps
Note: This story has not been updated for several years.
Even as the iPad gets more and more capable, the Mac remains the beast of burden for much of our days. Whether it’s a MacBook or an iMac, we spend a fair amount of our days behind a keyboard and trackpad. And, more importantly, to get that work done, we need apps—lots of apps. Here are a few of the ones without which we simply can’t get things done.
Jason and I have both written more than a couple of novels, and the most recent ones have all been composed in our novel-writing word processor of choice: Scrivener. If you’ve spent any time at all around writers, you’ve probably heard the name, but ask a dozen writers what they find so compelling about the program and chances are you’ll get twelve different answers. For me, it’s the ability to break my story into discrete chapters, make notes and comments to myself where necessary, and export quickly and easily to a variety of different formats, including PDF, Word, and ePub. But that’s just me: there are also some great outlining tools, templates for noting down character and location information, and some pretty robust scriptwriting tools. And that’s just scratching the surface. Now if only the long-awaited iPad version would arrive…—DM ($45)
I’m a bad Mac nerd. For years my Menu Bar was crowded full of various icons, and I didn’t care. So much for the famous attention to detail and desire of a lack of clutter that is rampant in the world of people who write about Apple for a living! But after adding a few new cool Menu Bar items, I realized that the icons were nearing the midpoint of my monitor. (And I’ve got a 27-inch 5K iMac, so that’s saying something.) So I finally caved in and bought Bartender 2, a utility that lets you hide many Menu Bar items beneath a single item. My Menu Bar is all the better for it.—JS ($15)
Much as social media has begun to dominate the news landscape, I still have yet to give up my trusty RSS reader, the appropriately named Reeder. It makes skimming headlines a snap and allows me to quickly send stories to Safari if I want to delve further into them. I particularly appreciate its keyboard-shortcut support, which helps me make fast work of my reading, mark things as favorites, or save them to one of many read-later services, if I want. On the backend, it supports my preferred service, Feedly, as well as several others, and it works well on iOS, too.—DM ($10)
On iOS, apps can behave differently when they’ve got access to wi-fi than when they’re limited to a cellular data connection. That’s smart. But the Mac just wasn’t built that way, and Apple has made no attempt to change the situation. So if you’re often using your Mac tethered to a metered cellular connection, you might want to use TripMode, which lets you monitor how much data is being used by every app on your system, and lets you bar certain apps from the network. I also use TripMode when I’m podcasting, since the last thing I want to do when I’m on a rickety Skype connection is have some rogue app downloading stuff in the background.—JS ($8)
Pretty much as long as the Mac has had a clipboard, there have been those longing for a way to store multiple items on it. Even today there are plenty of different solutions; I like Collective, because it looks great and is easy to use. It does lots besides, but I confess, I barely use much more than the basic features. Still, if you’re in to application blacklisting, favoriting certain snippets, and searching and filtering your clippings, well, Collective can handle all of that, too. —DM ($2)
My primary email account is in Gmail, and for the last year I’ve been using Mailplane as my window into Gmail on my Mac. Mailplane puts my mail in a separate app, so I don’t have to manage it when I’m in my web browser, and it adds a bunch of Mac-specific features that the web-based version of Gmail can’t or won’t. It’s a strange combination of Mac app and web page, but I really like it. —JS ($25)
I’ve spoken of my love for Edovia’s Screens before. Even though OS X has its own built-in screensharing client, I often prefer this third-party option, because of its integration with Screens Connect (a more reliable Back to My Mac-ish service), the ability to handle tunneling over SSH, and syncing my servers with the iOS client. Add in custom keyboard shortcuts and disconnect actions, and well, what’s not to love? I do a lot of remote management of my Macs—especially my Mac mini media center—so a solid remote desktop client is a must-have for me.—DM ($30)
Look, I’m a writer, which means I spend a lot of time on words. Not so much when it comes to pictures. But in this line of work dealing with images is still unavoidable, whether they be photos, press images, screenshots. Flying Meat’s Acorn has long been my go-to image-editor, because it packs a lot of power into a package that doesn’t require an “Acorn for Dummies” book. I use it to crop images, blur text, mash up images, and more. It may not replace Photoshop for professionals, but for everyday users who just need to do a few simple things, Acorn more than capably handles the job.—DM ($30)
In addition to all this typing I do, day in and day out, I also spend a fair amount of time talking about things on all those podcasts. There is no shortage of recording tools for podcasts—I’ve used OS X’s built-in QuickTime Player pretty regularly for episodes of Total Party Kill—but when I’m talking to folks via Skype, as I am more often than not, I rely on Ecamm’s Call Recorder for Skype. That’s because it captures both ends of the conversation, letting you easily split out just your audio if you need to, and couldn’t be any easier to use: just hit the big red record button to start.—DM ($30)
BitBar is a free utility by Mat Ryer that’s got an extremely simple premise. All it does is put the output from a script or program in your menu bar. That’s it. It’s a downloadable project on GitHub that seems to have been set up for people who are really into Bitcoin, but I use it to run a script that queries my home weather server for the current temperature and puts it in my menu bar. That’s it. That’s all it does. And it’s plenty. —JS
Who can make do with just a single program for typing into? Scrivener is ideal for fiction writing, but when it comes to work, Jason and I both turn to Bare Bones Software’s BBEdit. Support for Markdown is critical, since that’s what I use to write pretty much all my professional writing. But I think what I appreciate the most about BBEdit is that it’s basically bulletproof. Sure, I’ve had it crash on me, but in those cases I’ve never lost more than a sentence or so of work—even when I’m writing, perhaps foolishly, in an unsaved document. I also use it to edit my website template, thanks to its handy built-in SFTP functionality that lets me open and directly edit HTML files from my server. I’m not sure there’s another tool on my Mac that’s quite so indispensable.—DM ($50)
This app is such a one-trick pony that it’s best used as an extension inside of Photos for Mac. Tonality is a photo editor that helps you make gorgeous black-and-white (or subtly toned) versions of your images. If you think that making a black-and-white image is as simple as desaturating the color, you’re missing out—there are innumerable ways to transform color images to black and white, and Tonality’s catalog of presets makes it easy to find something that looks spectacular. And if you want to dive into the geeky controls, it’s got them. Of all the Photos extensions I tested when El Capitan came out, this was by far my favorite.—JS ($20)
Social media is, by necessity, a personal thing, though it’s definitely a large part of my professional life as well. Tweetbot remains my Twitter client on iOS and on OS X, thanks to its handling of multiple accounts, syncing between platforms, mute support, and general handsomeness. It doesn’t yet have all the bells and whistles of its mobile counterpart—I look forward to the Statistics pane making an appearance at some point—but I have few real complaints. In particular, its multiple-column view is super helpful for those occasions when you need to liveblog a financial call.—DM ($10)
How could I forget Audio Hijack? It’s my favorite audio utility. If you need to record audio on a Mac, you won’t find better.—-JS ($49)
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