Day One 2

One of my favourite app’s across Mac and iOS got a really nice update this week. Day One is a journaling app that I’ve used for the last few years and version 2 brings quite the upgrade.

On first launch on either platform you’ll notice that you can no longer sync using iCloud or Dropbox. Instead Day One uses it’s own sync platform. Import your entries from Day One, setup an account and then sync. I found the process to be fast considering I’ve over 800 entries within my current journal.

The previous version had support for only one journal and relied on tags to separate out entries. I had tags for work, movies and runs. Version 2 still supports tags but now supports up to ten journals which can be individually coloured so I’ve setup individual journals and it makes for a much better experience.

Journal entries haven’t seen much change but each entry can now have up to 10 photo’s which is Day One’s 2 ‘finally’ feature.

These are paid updates and both versions are available for 50% off for one week only. iOS is fairly priced but Mac feels a bit steep for relatively little change – £14.99 rising to £29.99 in a weeks time. Future upgrades are promised though.

Day One 2 is an admittedly pricey app but one I can’t do without. It’s polished and if you value journalling of any kind it’s well worth a look.

Todoist

I lasted 4 months. Omnifocus was too rich for my needs and Wunderlist not enough. I switched to Reminders as it synced between iOS and Mac and app’s like Fantastical displayed the todo’s alongside my calendar. It was working well apart from one thing – iCloud. Last weekend saw my Reminders yet again get out of sync. iPhone different to iPad and different to the Mac. So frustrating and coupled with some annoying usability issues it was time to look elsewhere again. After looking at the usual options I plumped for Todoist and one week later it’s working out well.

Todoist - Karma
Todoist – Karma
The most attractive feature of Todoist is that they have clients on every platform. Every doesn’t just mean iOS, Android and Mac. Web, Windows, Outlook – in total there are 13 different platforms and devices from where you can manage your to-do’s. Thankfully the sync works quickly and I’ve had no issues with entering, updating and closing off to-do’s across all platforms.

Unlike so many applications at work, Todoist works well on Windows so I can keep on top of things no matter where I am and what device I’m using. On all platforms Todoist provides a clean interface and a quick way of entering to-do’s. Date support is great and also understands plain english so entering a recurring task is as easy as writing ‘every 7 days starting next wed’. You can also write ‘due date after 6 months starting 15 March’ which means the to-do will recur not every 6 months from the March 15th but 6 months from when you completed the task that was scheduled on the 15th. A small detail but one I really like.

Karma is Todoist’s way of showing how productive you are being. A bit gimmicky but coupled with colours against projects it provides a nice overview of what you complete and when. Labels and filters across all platforms also allows you to implement a fairly comprehensive GTD workflow if you are that way inclined. Projects can be nested as well as tasks so you can break down a to-do into as fine a detail as you want.

Todoist on iOS
Todoist on iOS

I particularly like the iOS interface. Easy to add/edit a to-do with quick access to labels, priorities and reminders. Making a change to the date brings up some common options too – switch to tomorrow, next week or pick another date. Very nice and Android is much the same, just not as pretty.

While Todoist is free and allows you to sync across all clients there is a paid element which add’s Reminders, Notes and Labels & Filters for $29 a year. After a couple of days use I paid for the year to get the three features and it does take the flexibility of Todoist to another level. Reminders can be received via e-mail, SMS or push notifications and have worked flawlessly over the last few days. As mentioned, Labels and Filters allows you to build a sophisticated GTD workflow if you want to…or just add more relevant filtering. Again the filters are available across all platforms making it easy to stay on top of tasks. Multiple Notes can be stored against a to-do which is nice for tracking progress on a task and you can also attach files to the to-do.

One aspect I won’t use is collaboration with others on projects and to-do’s but overall I couldn’t be happier with Todoist. I’ve finally found a to-do manager that has flexibility coupled with speed without being overly complex.

Apple in 2014

I use Apple products every day. iMac, Macbook Air, iPad and iPhone with a little bit of Apple TV thrown in for good measure. I love the hardware, it’s design and performance and the surrounding application ecosystem. As a combination they still can’t be beaten in my opinion. There is a growing problem though – Apple’s own software and services. The software isn’t as good as it used to be, the cloud services are buggy and unreliable and Apple seems to be doing very little to address the slide in quality over the past 2-3 years. This has to change.

A quick list of issues that have affected me over the past few months include:

iMessage
– Inconsistent as to which device will receive a message.
– Read once, mark everywhere – worked at the start of Mavericks but now only works sometimes.
– Sometimes slow delivery, sometimes none on a certain device. No pattern and easiest way to fix is sign out and in again on the affected device. That isn’t a solution.
iCloud
– Reminders – sometimes syncs properly and other times it feels like I have two separate todo lists and have to mark off completion of tasks in two places. Then a few days later they are back in sync.
– No faith that contacts and calendars are actually being synchronised correctly.
– Third party dev’s moving away from iCloud as a sync platform.
Mavericks
– Mail is awful. So many Gmail issues compared to Snow Leopard. The new fixes issued by Apple have addressed some but not all of the issues. Every few days I need to stop and start Mail just so I can receive new Mails that are flowing in fine on the iOS devices. Part of that may be down to Google not using standard IMAP?
– I want to use Safari as it’s fast and thanks to App Nap it will save battery life on the Macbook Air but it’s so fucking crashy. I can’t believe how unstable it is.
– Reminders, iCal, Contacts – still a poor usability experience from these core app’s.
– iBooks was new to the Mac and moved books from iTunes to iBooks but only those that you’ve purchased. Anything added manually has disappeared. Nice update.
iWork
– Updated across iOS and Mac by removing key functionality so that all platforms are in sync. I don’t have a problem with that approach, more the lack of any updates for 3-4 years and then someone hit’s a reset button this year. But don’t worry, some of the old features will return. Some? Any?
iLife
– Lot’s of love on iOS but hardly any on the Mac. The new Garageband also removed Podcast functionality.
iTunes
– Crashes often, library easily corrupted and I’ve no faith that it won’t happen again.
– Moved podcasts to Instacast which syncs properly across all devices and has had the side effect of improving iTunes.
iTunes Match
– A paid for service from Apple that when it works is brilliant but I’ve had a handful of issues since starting the service that requires me to stop the service on all devices and restart.
– Album art on iOS corrupted. Different covers for different albums. Small beer when I write it down but it frustrated the hell out of me. The only known solution – switch off iTunes Match, wipe any music from your iOS device and start again.
– Duplicated playlists – fine on the iPhone but duplicated 10 times over on the iPad. Solution – switch off iTunes Match, remove any downloaded music and start again.
– iTunes Match will randomly switch off on the iMac. No notice, it just does.
iOS
– Springboard in iOS 7 is really unstable. I see frequent Springboard restarts when I use the iPhone and the iPad has a couple of no icon app’s that work fine but don’t display the icon. It feels like an iOS beta on the iPhone at the moment rather than an OS that has been out for months.
– Apple really need to address some fundamentals like inter app operability as URL schemes aren’t a scalable solution. Let me choose my defaults app’s too. Mailbox and Chrome would be better iOS app’s if they could be treated as the default app’s for Mail and Web Browsing. Android is becoming a far more appealing option.
– iCloud backup doesn’t scale. The most you can buy is 50GB for £70 per year, yet I can buy a 128Gb iPad. Cloud backup should come free with each device and not be tied to an iCloud account. Buy an iOS device, get complementary cloud backup for free. Keep it simple.
– Newsstand – some magazine issues will auto download, some won’t. I see the badge indicating a new issue but opening Newsstand I see nothing against any of the news applications. Apple should kill Newsstand and publishers should just have their own stand alone app’s. Newsstand is broken.
– App Store – doesn’t scale, reviews are an issue and Apple seem to be doing very little about that.

Quite a list. Everybody wants Apple to launch a new product category in 2014 – a true TV solution, a smart watch, a larger iPad. I’d rather see them address the software quality issues that can be seen throughout their portfolio before they jump onto something new and I’m not alone. Unfortunately it will never happen – the market demands new hardware and software rarely gets attention, but it’s critical. It’s the lifeblood of the platform and it’s disappointing that Apple’s are often the poor option on a given platform. I look at the Verge investigation into webOS and what could have been with envy. Not just a striking similarity to the visual leap that iOS 7 made but real forward steps with usability on a mobile platform. Maybe in iOS 8 but I doubt it.

What stung the most in all this was a blog post about Evernote. Jason Kincaid posted a couple of days ago on Evernote, the bug-ridden elephant. As an Evernote user myself I’d noticed a dip in quality too particularly with the browser snapshot extensions. The next day saw Evernote’s CEO, Phil Rubin, reply on the Evernote Blog – On Software Quality and Building a Better Evernote in 2014. Time will tell if Evernote’s quality will improve but it was a great response in public acknowledging and committing to resolving software quality. If only Apple were as open and honest.

I used to tell people ‘it just works’ when discussing Apple products. Not any more.

Mac Apps

So a new Mac and a couple of questions about what Mac apps I use has lead to this post. Scarily I looked back to when I last did a Mac app list and it was 2007. Thought it was only a couple of years ago – time flies when your having fun. So, on with the list in no particular order.

Alfred
http://www.alfredapp.com/
Free, PowerPack for £15

For a longtime I used Quicksilver and then Launchbar as a keyboard launcher but I recently moved to Alfred for a number of reasons. Quicksilver died from a development perspective and I moved to Launchbar as it covered much the same features as Quicksilver but a lot more too. However I found it bogged down from time to time and didn’t index as I would like. Alfred launched last year and I loved the features, the extensions but also the openness of the developer. Alfred allows you to drive your Mac fully from the keyboard – launch app’s, search the web etc. Buy the PowerPack and you can extend via scripts from the Alfred community or ones you write yourself, control iTunes and access a full clipboard history and also snippet library. A lovely app that will become your most used app if you let it.

Dropbox
http://www.dropbox.com
Free with paid options

I think everyone has a Dropbox account so there’s not too much to say with this one. I store all my documents in Dropbox so I can get them anywhere – Mac, iOS or on the web. Its great for sharing podcasts and files with the folk I work remotely with. Although there is only 2GB free, you can earn up to 18GB free and with so many app’s plugged into Dropbox via it’s API’s it’s a great way of sharing between desktop and mobile.

SuperDuper!
http://www.shirt-pocket.com/SuperDuper
$27.95

Still my goto app for backups. What do you mean you don’t backup? Criminal. SuperDuper! creates a fully bootable backup on a drive of your choosing that should your drive or computer fail allows you to fully restore from that point in time. As it’s a bootable backup you can also boot from it should you find yourself in trouble. I’ve certainly needed it a couple of times and it’s never let me down. Backups can be scheduled and once the first backup is complete daily/weekly incrementals take no time at all.

Evernote
http://evernote.com/
Free, Premium account £35 per year

I finally moved to Evernote last year as my digital filing cabinet. Notes, images, pdf’s, web pages, receipts, bills, contacts, recipes, lists etc etc etc all go into Evernote. The client finally allows for rich enough text editing, images are OCR’d to allow for some great searching and there are good options for notebooks and folders. The web clipper works really well and they’ve also bought a number of smaller companies like Penultimate to grow their portfolio and I can only assume improve their note and sketching functionality on iOS. I upgraded to Premium which allows for 1GB of uploads per month, secure notes, collaborative notes and also a history of changes. One niggle – exporting from Evernote still not great so I’m tied into the service more than I’d like.
Continue reading “Mac Apps”

2009 - Products I Can't Live Without

Read this post on Techcrunch describing the app’s that Mike Arrington uses day to day and would be less productive without them. Thought it would be fun to do my own and revisit every year to see what changes. So without further ado and in no particular order:

  • Google Reader – all my regular website/blog reading is done in Google Reader. Quick, feature packed and a great iPhone interface make this a winner.
  • iPhone – it’s become the essential gadget for me. A web browser that works well on a mobile, a touch interface that makes the phone and it’s app’s easy to use and a suite of app’s that extend the usefulness of the phone beyond any other I’ve used before. The positives far out way the negatives and it’s by far the best phone, maybe even the best gadget I’ve yet owned.
  • Firefox – use it at work and at home. Great browser on PC’s and Mac’s and combined with Foxmarks it’s currently unbeatable. Chrome once released on the Mac supporting plugins could change that in the future.
  • Remember The Milk – use it all the time to manage my to-do lists. Great web interface now supplemented by a wonderful app on the iPhone.
  • WordPress – used on this blog, newly updated and still hard to beat due to the large plugin library and community that surrounds it.
  • Toad – used every day at work for SQL Development. Essential, too many features to mention although UI isn’t the best with powerful features often lost or hidden within a multitude of menu’s and forms.
  • Notepad++ – I finally found this great Windows text editor this year. Great features and free.
  • Evernote – Note management on steroids. Windows client at work, Mac client at home on desktop and laptop, web based interface and iPhone client all in sync with ability to add and edit notes on any of these platforms. Smartest feature is OCR of any image uploaded to server. Can also store PDF’s and files attached to notes. I use the free option and can’t recommend it highly enough.
  • Twitter – can be seen as frivolous but more and more it’s becoming a great platform for communicating and also watching/responding to real world events far quicker than blogs/websites/traditional media can.
  • Tweetie – makes the most of Twitter on the iPhone. Could be my most used iPhone app and is certainly the best iPhone client by quite a margin.
  • iTunes – it has it critics but it works well for me, and it gives me great access to my local content, podcasts and also app’s and music via the store.
  • Mac OS X – while I can happily live without Windows I would be far less productive at home with Mac OS X. Windows 7 looks to be an interesting future release that offers a viable alternative to Mac OS X, something that can’t be said for XP or Vista.
  • Flickr – where I post all my images and where most of my friends post to as well. Still like the look and feel of the site, the features it offers and the community aspects that are hard to find elsewhere.
  • Textmate – used almost daily on the Mac. Similar feature set to Notepad ++ although slightly better laid out and for me quicker in operation.
  • Google Search – used every day. Can’t see anything breaking Google’s hold on the search market.

I use lot’s of other app’s and websites but they could easily be replaced whereas with this list I would be far less productive or have struggled to find a product as good as these. Anything missing – I do use Gmail but to backup my websites. It’s blocked at work so limits it’s use. I could access it on the iPhone but it’s own e-mail client is good enough. I do feel I may be missing some good tricks with Gmail though. I’ve also dabbled with Google Docs and Zoho but yet to settle on one. I’d like to move a few more docs onto these platforms in the coming year.

I’d love to see what others use day to day to see if I’m missing out on anything. Feel free to comment or link to your blog posting.

iPhone 2.1

Two months on from it’s launch, the iPhone today got it’s biggest software update so far. My thoughts on the upgrade are below:

– Backup does work a lot quicker than before. It now doesn’t get in the way of syncing
– Application installs on the phone via Appstore are so much quicker – 10 times quicker, or so it feels. Makes installs so easy and quick to do
– Syncs are overall more speedier
– Contact list scroll lag has gone
– Text and keyboard lag seems to be fixed
– Updating app’s will remember their screen position
– New 3g and edge icons
– Signal strength meter at home is now 4 bars instead of the 1 that I’ve had since i got the phone. Speedtests are much the same so it looks like the bars are just a fix to more accurately display connection rather than being a better connection
– Mail – failing to get some mail content tonight which was allegedly one of the issues fixed…an issue I didn’t previously have
– Genius playlist is nice but due to size of iPhone and amount of music it’s not as useful as it is in iTunes
– Battery life – who knows. Too early to tell but I have zero expectations of any sizable improvement to battery life

The biggie for me are the third party application crashes as I’ve suffered this problem for the last 4-6 weeks. Is it fixed? No idea! First install of firmware and no app’s worked. I then tried syncing again and some worked. Decided to start fresh and do full restore without using an old backup. All app’s installed but none would work. I then wiped all the app’s, sync’d, re-downloaded the app’s and sync’d. Still no joy. Then I installed an app from the Appstore on the iPhone – yay they all work. Or so I thought. Some didn’t. Tried them all and around half were still failing. I then downloaded another app from the Appstore and now all the applications are working.

While this sounds like problem solved that is the same behaviour I’ve seen up to now so it will take a few days/weeks before I’m convinced that particular issue has gone. It also seems there’s a couple of things missing. No background notification feature which was supposed to launch this month. I’m also disappointed that after boasting of 3000 app’s and 100 million application downloads that there is still no easy way to see only new additions to the Appstore. iTunes 8 and the new firmware should have had this feature added at the very least.

Those negatives aside it’s good to see the iPhone has lost it’s beta feel. Basic functionality now works well and with all the app’s back up and running it feels far more useful again. Lets hope it stays this way over the coming weeks.

The iPhone I've Been Waiting For

Another day, another keynote. Some thoughts…

  • iPhone 3G. Roll on July 11th. An iPhone with 3G, GPS, better battery life, no recessed headphone socket, an App’s store full of software and all for…something less than today’s price. O2 are promising more information tomorrow. Hurry up please. Cheaper American prices come with a 2 year contract.
  • No upgraded camera, no video chat, 16GB max. Nice to see there’s a reason to buy a new iPhone every so often.
  • The updated design looks good. I like the thin edge’s and don’t mind the plastic back. Still undecided though – black or white? Black = better looking but more obvious scuff’s and scratches?
  • MobileMe. Nice upgrade to .Mac which is no more. Option to use me.com e-mail address. The push updates from the cloud look excellent. Not so sure on the web app’s which look slick but how do they perform?
  • With the GPS will locational app’s really take off? If only the camera res was upgraded as taking geo tagged photo’s is a really nice feature. Missed opportunity?
  • Nothing much on Snow Leopard, the next version of OS-X. Quality upgrade and not a feature upgrade. Mmmm. Ok. Surely that’s a service pack?
  • Can’t wait to play Super Monkey Ball. For all the people that say iPhone is meh….show me software on your phone that look, runs and plays like that. Thought so. Band looked pretty cool too. $9.99 for Monkey Ball too. Sounds like a bargain.

I think that it for now. Great announcement, a new phone for me soon. Can’t wait…unless O2 tamper too much with pricing. Surely not.

Evernote

I’ve been trying out Evernote for the last couple of weeks and thought it was time to share an opinion or two. Since moving to Mac I’ve relied on Yojimbo for my note taking needs. It doesn’t just take notes but also store images, pdf’s, secure passwords and links. It also sync’s across mac’s. So what does Evernote offer?

Mac Client

At it’s heart Evernote allows for the storage and searching of text and image based notes. Most impressive is that image searching isn’t just based on image title or tags but on the image content. Images are scanned by Evernote for text and not just of the typed kind. It can pick up hand written text and if you search for a word that it’s found the image will be returned with the search term highlighted. Very impressive and it scans the content quickly too. Notes can be typed in, copied in via cut and paste, snapped in via the helper app allowing you to capture a screen or by using the web browser plugin capture a web page. Every note can be tagged and created in different notebooks within Evernote. Each notebook has privacy options. The default is private but if you want to make a notebook available you can set it to pubic – this content will also be picked up by search engines. Another Evernote feature is that you can get at your content on any platform. Mac, PC, Web, iPhone and Windows Mobile. Searching on the web client produces the same result as desktop which is really nice.

Web Client

Synchronising between desktops and web has worked well so far and getting access on Mac and PC t same content is very nice. The windows client is more stable than the mac version and has a couple of extra features but nothing that get’s in the way of syncing and the same content everywhere.

So overall a very nice set of clients and a useful service. Adding ability to store pdf’s and making them searchable would be a very nice addition. I’d also like to see what the final cost of the service is going to be as it’s only free during beta. At the moment I’m using Evernote for mostly work related content and sticking with Yojimbo. It does more for me at the moment and it’s software I already own. However the ability to see notes on web, PC and iPhone could outweigh Yojimbo’s extra functionality. If anyone else want’s to try Evernote I’ve got some invites. Leave a comment or drop me a mail and I’ll sort you out.

Macworld Predictions

So what will we see this week?

  • Apple TV 2. Bigger hard disk and support for HD. iPhone as remote?
  • iTunes movie rentals…and movies now available in HD.
  • iPhone – new firmware, new features, talk on the SDK but no 3G.
  • Leopard update with some new (small) features and fixes.
  • One more thing…small form factor Mac. Touch screen only. The new features in Leopard are geared for touch although it’s maybe too early to announce this yet.

If it lives up to last years keynote which unveiled the iPhone then it will be something pretty special. But Apple can’t keep the fanboy’s and shareholders happy forever, can they? We’ll find out at 17:00 Uk time on Tuesday. Also looking forward to some new software releases this week. A lot of dev’s keep releases back until Macworld so hopefully there will be some new goodies to play with soon.

Recommended Mac Apps

When I moved from Windows to Mac I set aside some cash to purchase apps that I’d admired from a distance or those that I really needed. Some also came free which is a bonus but the cost of buying app’s when moving platforms shouldn’t be underestimated. Where possible I’ve added links to helpful resources that will get you up and running quickly with these apps. Anyway – on with the list. Many of the app’s have featured on other lists so I’ll start off with some lesser known app’s.

Unsung Hero’s

delicious.jpgDelicious Library
http://www.delicious-monster.com/
$40

I’ll admit this is a very non-essential app but was the first I bought for the Mac. Delicious Library allows you to catalogue, store, rate and search your music, films, games and books. There are many other media cataloguers out there but none look so good as Delicious Library or carry out the task with such elegance. Using the iSight I can scan in media barcodes for easy compiling of the library. The virtual shelf allows for browsing of titles, the app comes with spotlight support, a widget for easy title searching and option to export the library to iPod. There isn’t much in the way of web exports though (although the DeliciousSQLExport utility allows for exporting of the library to MySQL) and you can’t add your own media types. Hopefully these features and more will be addressed in version 2.

kit.jpgKeep It Together
http://reinventedsoftware.com/kit/
$24.95

This is an app that groups together miscellaneous items into one place. The developer describes it as a magic scrapbook which it is but I think of it like a big swag bag. You can easily create a category and drag in images, audio, video, text, web links – it’s ideal for small to medium projects. You can also add your own text notes within the app and media images can have text descriptions added to them to help searching at a later date. It could be argued that this info could easily sit in a folder and be found by using spotlight or just directory browsing but I had loads of little text files with info on windows and I didn’t really see a way around it on the Mac until I started to use Keep It Together. The categories work like tags and I find it great for grouping connected but disparate files together. Has certainly helped me in getting more organised and in building up info for blog posts like this where I’ve done some digging around over a period of weeks and want to collate the information.

connect360.jpgConnect360
http://www.nullriver.com/index/products/connect360
$20.00

One of the great features of the 360 is media sharing. Via Windows Media Player 11 or Windows Media Centre you can view music, photo’s and WMV video’s on the 360. It’s great to switch on your own music instead of some of the guff you find tacked onto games. I always wanted to see my iTunes playlists though – not something you could do easily without copying playlists over to Media Player. When moving to the Mac I’d assumed I would lose media sharing altogether – that’s where Connect360 kicks in. This allows you to share music, photo’s and video from the Mac. Not only that it supports iTunes, so playlists are available and playing music on the 360 updates play counts. It’s a great little app that’s essential for all Mac and 360 owners.

I had some small problems with sleep modes with this program – I had to set it to disable sleep mode when accessing Connect360. This has only happened recently (maybe when the software was updated to support WMV) and it’ a small price to pay for getting access to my music. You also need Flip4Mac installed to access WMV content.

Usual Suspects

transmit.jpgTransmit
http://www.panic.com/transmit/
$29.95

If you need an FTP application on the Mac then this is the one I’d recommend. It’s been 100% reliable since I switched and is bursting with nice features. I frequently update to a couple of sites. Instead of loading up the application, signing into the server and then navigating to the folder I want I just drop the files on the dashboard widget that Panic provides – files transferred with ease. I can edit files directly on the server with either Transmits built in editor or any editor that I’ve installed locally on the Mac – another step and time saver. That’s not just text files – images too. Folder synchronization is supported allowing you to sync your local files with your remote server as well as linked folders – browsing a folder locally also moves the remote server to the folder assuming they share the same structure.

Quick to connect to servers, easy to edit file permissions, ability to calculate folder sizes and in general very easy for a new user. One slight snag was that I couldn’t see .htaccess files on my servers. Goto View and click Show Invisible Files – problem solved. Highly recommended even over the free Cyberduck.

unison.jpgUnison
http://www.panic.com/unison/
$24.95

While this newsgroup app provides lot’s of functionality it does one key thing (for me) very well. NZB support. NZB files downloaded from sites like Newzbin allow for easy downloading of binary files from newsgroups. Unison has really great NZB support and has been trouble free over the last couple of months. The app provides lots of feedback on files outstanding, transfer rates, problems with files and does so via a clear interface. Message support, whether reading or writing is there but I’ve used it only once as I tend to use Google now for non binary message browsing.

To help with NZB downloads grab MacPAR deLuxe which supports PAR2 files and unrarring and Split & Concat which MacPAR makes use of when joining downloads together. All three apps provide a great newsgroup user experience.

textwrangler.jpgTextwrangler
http://www.barebones.com/products/textwrangler/
Free

A great feature rich text editor which is also free – Textwrangler. Has met all my needs bar none although if I was doing more hacking (which I plan to be next year) I think Textmate would give this a run for it’s money. Nice support of regular expression pattern matching and grep from within the editor, integrated support of Perl, Python and Unix shell scripts and also syntax colouring depending on file. Far more flexible than Mac’s built in Textedit.

superduper.jpgSuperDuper!
http://www.shirt-pocket.com/SuperDuper/
$27.95

Backup. Everyone should do it but how many really do? I was always a bit dodgy when it came to backups. Every so often was my motto and luckily it turned out ok. Moving to Mac and I decided to do backups a bit more regularly. SuperDuper! helps in that explains what it’s doing in plain English, supports backup to many different devices and allows for incremental backups.

Firstly you can download and run the app for free. Using it you can create an image file or just backups of various files. As mentioned it’s explanations at each step of the process demystifies backups which in all honesty should be straightforward to run. However the free version doesn’t support the smart (incremental) updating of an image or scheduling of a backup. The smart update makes a massive difference. My first backup (to a NAS device) took around 11 hours. My weekly smart update of that image only takes around 1/2 an hour – a massive difference. Scheduling takes the chore out of backups. You can also have many different backup routines running (if you wish) so copying data to different volumes. I’ve used it a couple of times to create a separate backup of media only and it’s worked a treat. There are some excellent support forums and while I’m happy with the product so far I’ve yet to actually use my backup image to restore my machine. If that day ever comes I hope it works 100%.

disco.jpgDisco
http://discoapp.com/
$14.95 (Beta price)

This ones maybe a bit controversial but I’m sold on it. Disco lets you burn cd’s and dvd’s with ease, all for a fairly cheap price. It does so through a lovely interface although many Mac fans are unhappy at the non Mac like gui that has been developed. Who cares – it looks good and more importantly works well. Supports burning and creating of images and also has a couple of useful features. You can span burns across multiple discs with Disco working out how to best fits files across those discs. The Discography feature allows you to search across your burned discs to easily find files and the discs that they were burned too.

The one feature that got everybody blogging was smoke. As the app burned, 3d smoke would spew from the top of the app which would move with your mouse cursor or as you blew into your mic. I think this is the real reason there was a lot of scorn around Disco – why add this to a disk burning app? I had no real intention of playing around with it but it would have been nice to see…however nVidia graphics cards aren’t supported at the moment. The real clincher for me is that at $14.95 it massively undercuts Toast. Well worth a try and if you download it you get 7 trial burns. The interface is clutter free and after spending years watching Nero drown with new feature upon new feature that I never used it’s great to get back to a simple, quick burning app.

quicksilver.jpgQuicksilver
http://quicksilver.blacktree.com/
Free

A unified, extensible interface for working with applications, contacts, music, and other data.

That’s how Quicksilver is described on it’s website which doesn’t really sound like much. What does it do? It allows you to search for data but more importantly act on that data quickly and in a variety of ways. Through plugins it’s easy to find a file, search for a contact and send him the file. No app’s need to be launched part from accessing Quicksilver itself. I have it installed and accessible via a mouse click and like much of the Mac system it lets me get things done quickly and easily and reduces the time taken to think about how to do a task. It’s one of those apps where words don’t do justice. The overview docs give you some idea of what you can do but if your not convinced or need some help to get going with Quicksilver try these youtube videos – Quicksilver Tutorial 1, Tutorial 2 and Tutorial 3. Macrumours has a great guide, 43 folders has many Quicksilver tips including a good setup guide and Dan Dickinsons QuickSilver – A Better OS X In Just 10 Minutes really sells the app well. Like all my really favourite app’s there’s a healthy support forum too. I found it took some time to adjust to Quicksilver but now that I’m there it’s the one app (apart from Expose) that I miss on the pc at work.

mainmenu.jpgMainMenu
http://www.santasw.com/
Free

Although the Mac is easy to use, it’s built on Unix and it does need some maintenance especially if you don’t reboot frequently. Log files can grow and from time to time index’s may need to be rebuilt. MainMenu takes the pain out of maintenance with daily, weekly, monthly clean-up scripts and the ability to repair disk permissions, rebuild the spotlight index, clean user and browser cache and a number of other low level clean-up utilities. This is more feature rich than MacJanitor and has been pain free over the last month of use.

appzapper.jpgAppzapper
http://www.appzapper.com/
12.95

This app hurts. One of the many Mac myths is that applications don’t leave files all over the O/S removing the need for an uninstalling app like ‘Add/Remove Programs’ in Windows. Bollocks. Look around after removing an app and you see folders in your user directory, libraries etc. The reason the app hurts is your paying $12.95 for something that should be included on the O/S and should be free – a way of uninstalling the mess that an application leaves behind. Rant over. AppZapper is a great tool that fills the gap. Drag an app to AppZapper and a list of files will be shown. One more click and the app and it’s associated files are in the trash. You can also generate a list of app’s so that you can see what’s installed and what can be removed. Needs no more explanation – it’s just a shame you have to buy something like this to remove applications fully.

vlc.jpgVLC
http://www.videolan.org/vlc/
Free

A great cross platform media player. If Quicktime struggles with a file then try VLC. Also supports streaming media which can be handy for pushing media across you home.

Others

Other apps well worth grabbing are Flip4Mac (allows you to view WMV’s via Quicktime), DivX (allows you to view DivX encoded files via Quicktime), Adium (if you use more than one chat protocol) and Flock (read my views on this great browser).

Don’t forget the widgets

Finally some handy desktop widgets. Screenshot Plus which takes the pain out of capturing desktop snaps, iStat Pro which details a wealth of information on your Mac and Twidget which makes for far easier Twitter updates. Both are only a mouse movement or F12 away.