My essential Mac tools and apps
- xGestures - I’ve used mouse gestures on all my computers since 2003 when I discovered the awkwardly named “StrokeIt” for PC. It allows you to swipe a shape on the screen to make your computer do a thing. For example swipe left “backwards” to Undo. xGestures does the same on a Mac. Thsi ones not free but well worth anything you spend on it.
- Isolator - I find it hard to focus when I’m using my computer. All around the edge of the screen menus and reminders keep telling me about other things that I could be doing. So every 2 minutes I’m checking email, checking twitter, checking GMail and in the end, nothign gets done quickly. I do everything in bits.
So I use Isolator to hide everything I’m not using right now. It’s like magic, it balcks out everything but your current window, making it much easier to focus on a single task.
- OmmWriter - When you just want to write, with no distractions, this comes in handy. It hides all toolbars and windows, plays a soothing soundtrack in the background (if you want) and lets you just write. I’m using it right now. You should too.
- MenuMeters - Being a geek, I like to keep an eye on the performance of my Mac. I just like to know stuff about Network throughput and Memory performance, Like I said, geek stuff. Menumeters just puts little numbers and graphs in my menubar so that at a glance, I can do stuff like check what’s going on with my internet speeds.
- OmniDiskSweeper - From the awesome Omni Group comes this sweet piece of code that shows you the sizes of all your folders in one view. That is all. When I want to know where I’ve got excess baggage, this little thing quickly shows me the culprits.
- Sublime Text 2 - I write code, for fun. It’s weird, I know. Python if you must know. Anyway Sublime Text 2 gives me the power of shortcuts and some great plugins without any sluggishness or UI overdose. It also has some really neat features like multiple word editting. The only thing I’d like to see added to the core featureset is FTP access.
- TVShows - The internet’s a great place for watching TV from other countries. But finding all the right files and series takes time, skill and effort. TVSHows makes it simple. Just pick the show you want and it will pick find the right torrent files and send them to your torrent app, automagically. As stuff becomes available, it get’s downloaded.
- Tunnelbear - Sometimes you want to browse the web like you’re in another country so that you don’t get blocked from doing things like browsing the www.zappos.com catalogue. I’ve tried several solutions, but Tunnelbear comes out tops, mostly because of it’s simplicity. Just select a country, and turn it on.
I also use the usual stuff like Growl, Dropbox etc. but I think those have been spoken about at length. Try something new, especially xGestures, see if you like.
I worked with a dude called Darrell Wilkins at specialmoves, my best job ever. D gave me grief about writing: he’d make me write and rewrite project briefs, emails proposals, basically any written thing formally used by the company. I didn’t get it, and it pissed me off.
At the time, even though I loved reading great sci-fi like Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson and The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons, I failed to make the connection between great writing and great experiences. In my mind, only authors needed to fuss about the words they wrote.
Only when I started focussing on creating UX experiences did I get that the quality of writing has a huge influence on the final experience we produced. I saw how a badly written client brief, or a literal abomination of a feature specification, destroyed our chances of delivering a great experience. And of course how poor copy and labelling, made our products unusable.
Since then, I write everything at least thrice. From emails to SMS’s. I try to write in e-prime, English with no instances of the verb “to be”. And I read anything I can about writing, like this thing I found via @brainpickings today, advertising legend David Ogilvy’s “How to Write”, a memo he sent to all employees of his ad agency back in ’82:
The better you write, the higher you go in Ogilvy & Mather. People who think well, write well.
Woolly minded people write woolly memos, woolly letters and woolly speeches.
Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well. Here are 10 hints:
1. Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing*. Read it three times.
2. Write the way you talk. Naturally.
3. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
4. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.
5. Never write more than two pages on any subject.
6. Check your quotations.
7. Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning—and then edit it.
8. If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.
9. Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.
10. If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.