This is the software counterpart to my previous article in which I looked at my workstation’s hardware setup. Some of these are unique or best-of-breed, others may have been sherlocked but I stick with them anyway :)
Since writing the draft of this post a month ago I had to put my laptop in for repair, and in getting the loaner machine set up how I wanted it I realised that some of the tools that I originally listed below I could do without. So I’ve split the list into
Mac Essentials 🔗
I’ve used Alfred for years, and it’s one of the first apps I’ll install on a fresh Mac. It’s like the Cmd-Space search integration that MacOS has, but so much more than that. I started out with listing a few features here but it soon turned into a love letter to Alfred so head there for full details :)
Excellent utility for using the keyboard to move windows between desktops and resize to pre-configured places. I used to use SizeUp, this is like that on steroids :) It’s worth the learning curve of training muscle memory for repositioning and resizing windows, especially if you have more than one monitor. It’s probably the first tool I really missed when I got a new laptop - I was just so used to the ease with which it let me manage and manipulate windows on the desktop.
Nice Terminal replacement. Within my terminal I run
bira theme. Some important tools to install for a happy life in your shell:
Great tool for quickly changing display resolution on different monitors - really handy when doing online talks etc and you want to make sure the screen resolution isn’t too tiny for sharing
OMG Keynote! Reason alone for getting the Mac, so that you don’t have to use Powerpoint 🤣
I know some people get somewhat evangelical about their software of choice (vi vs emacs, etc), but generally I am happy enough to use whatever’s and hand if it’s not crap. Which is why I won’t use Powerpoint ;-) This is the one thing I won’t compromise on. Keynote really is head and shoulders above Powerpoint in usability. I’m not a fan of Google Slides either, FTR. I’ll use it if I have to (in preference to Powerpoint) - but I’ll complain about it cos it’s not Keynote.
Very handy tool for taking and marking up static screen captures. See also Skitch (cheaper—free—but less functional).
"Nice to have" Mac tools 🔗
These are ones I’ve used for ages, but didn’t find myself rushing to install when I got a new laptop.
After a while your menu bar starts to look like this:
Bartender is a nice little tool for rearranging the order of the icons, or even hiding them entirely! Particularly handy when you’re presenting from your screen or recording a screencast. Plus you can customise its icon which is cool:
CPU, memory, network, etc usage displayed on your menu bar, with hover-over drill-down visualisations. Neat!
Very powerful way to monitor, and optionally block, specific network traffic for each process on your machine.