Friday, December 15, 2017

Massive Mac Info Dump

Feel free to share with Mac enthusiasts (or add your own tips in the comments). I won't polish this at all (hopefully it's coherent); I just want to toss the know-how out there. See also My Favorite iPhone Apps

Open Apps, Folders, Files With Crazy Speed and Ease
There are a zillion ways to launch apps, docs, and folders. I don't like to take my hands off the keyboard, and I don't like going through third-party control center thingees. I want to be able to type, for example, command/option X and instantly launch (or return to) Safari. I've been doing it this way since System 7, and it's still the fastest and most efficient approach. However, the apps I've used to get this behavior keep disappearing. Currently, I use Alfred.

It's actually crazily ironic, given that Alfred is the ultimate "third-party control center thingee". You trigger an Alfred box, then type commands. But if you pay Alfred a few bucks for their powerpack, it unlocks un-Alfred-like behavior, allowing you to create "launch app/file hotkeys", totally independently from Alfred's interface. I have it set up, with custom keystrokes, to launch all my most frequently used apps (including Finder), all my most frequently accessed folders (downloads, documents, applications, current project), and documents (food list, tip of tongue list, etc). Properly set up (and Alfred is, alas, an infuriating ballbuster to configure), I become a wizard, wielding my Mac at lightning speed. I don't need "Spaces" to distinguish work spaces. I just type a keystroke to launch or return to whatever I need. I also set a shortcut to launch Isolator, which allows me to see ONLY windows of a given app against a black background (note: Isolator doesn't work in the latest MacOS Catalina. Use, instead, HazeOver.

The Hit List
I raved in "My Favorite iPhone Apps" about "The Hit List", which has a Mac desktop app as well as the mobile.
I live in this app, both for Mac and for iOs. Nominally it's a to-do app, but it's so freeform that you can use it for nearly anything - notes, text, etc (no graphics, though). And the custom paid synch is a dream - the best synching experience I've had on any platform ever. This is my preferred way of transferring info between phone and Mac. Rock-solid app, always updated for latest OS.

File Renaming
I've tried literally every file renaming app. This freebie is by far the best.

Two Cool Little Reference Apps
KeyCue gathers all your keyboard shortcuts in an app-sensitive window you can always bring up by holding the command key. Expensive for what it is, and I don't really grok some of the deeper power stuff, but I find it super handy.

Dashkards takes another approach.

Beloved Software Companies
I'm loyal to quality. The following are all ingenious and beloved software publishers. Not all produce perfectly polished wares, but they're all lovingly developed and clever/useful in some respect. Each one of them makes me say "Show me how to send you more money," because I don't want to live in a world where they no longer do business, and I want to be surrounded by quality and cleverness.

Pangea Software produces game apps that look sort of juvenile at first glance. But give them some time. Gameplay is so, so, smart and thouthfully produced. Even the music. Try Bugdom 2 on your Mac or iPad. And give it some time - like at least a half hour - to really discover the subtle goodness. Not enough people do these days (the company was more popular years ago), so this wondrous company appears to be fading.

Bruji, mentioned below for their "Pedias" series (though if they produce anything else, I will buy).

Sanford Selznick of "Selznick Scientific Software" has been around as long as the Mac. His interfaces are homely and inefficient, and it takes him at least to an x.4 release to get bugs out. But his apps are deeply loveable. Like many people, I use 1Password in-browser to unlock sites. But I use Passwordwallet to store all confidential stuff, including that same website data. And nobody out there is developing great stuff like his SmartWrap anymore.

Everyone uses - and complains about - TextExpander, which has somehow become the default app on Mac for auto-expanding short bits of text into canned outcomes like email sigs, mailing addresses, salutations, etc. It's expensive and greedy about constantly knocking users for upgrades, including bug fixes, and I don't love the app to begin with. But Typeit4Me from Ettore Software has been around or decades, fairly priced, and still works great. I registered this back in 1995, and Riccardo Ettore is still going strong. I'll buy anything he produces.

Irradiated makes RecUp, which I raved about in my iPhone round-up. I haven't had time to dive deeply, but I trust anything they make.

I don't understand why Napkin isn't super famous. It's so honed and perfect that they've never needed to release a followup to their initial v1.0. It's basically an environment for marking up images in useful ways. Awesome for brainstorming. I don't save or export the final napkin....I just screenshot it and distribute a web link to the uploaded PNG (I auto-upload to Imgur via an app that unfortunately is no longer're on your own!).

Odd little app that does one thing beautifully. Hate to read on your Mac? Don't just reflexively send everything to Instapaper or Pocket. Consider letting Tofu make it more elegantly readable on-screen.

Also in that "My Favorite iPhone Apps" thingee, mentioned that
I catalog all my books, CDs, and DVDs in Bookpedia, CDpedia, and DVDpedia, respectively. These are Mac programs from a great company called Bruji.
Get all these apps. This is a scrappy little company, totally sincere about building great stuff and helping out. Great support. Their stuff is fun to use (the inevitable outcome of really thoughtful app design), and you can even use bar codes (scanned via your phone) to enter currently owned items into the database, which is totally fun.

Screencasts Online
For years I've enjoyed the Mac and iPhone/iPad tutorials at Screencasts Online, hosted by the affable and comforting voice-of-sanity, Don McAllister (who I can't help thinking of as Wallace, from the "Wallace and Gromit" films). A few of Don's associates host screencasts, as well, but they're good-not-great. Eventually I couldn't come up with an excuse to not join and pay and support the effort. I'm glad I did. Not just for the big epic explainers, but for some great little tips. Like the one about PicoText (here's an App Store link). I won't describe it to you. Instead, check out the screencast, fall in love with the site, go absolutely cuckoo-for-cocoa-puffs nuts about PicoText (which is something you've always wanted), and send Don your money.

Stop Using Word Processors
Word processors are archaic for nearly everyone. You don't need WYSIWYG treatment in this century; html and markup tags rule the roost, and the best way to work with them is via a text editor, not a word processor.

Best of the lot is BBEdit, perhaps the most loved Mac app there is, and it's free unless you want to upgrade for higher functionality (mostly programmer stuff). BBEdit offers insane power re: text (best of all: life-changing GREP, which allows you to search for patterns of text, rather than just exact text strings)

But it's built for coders, which makes it very intimidating for writers. However, here are steps you can take to make BBEdit windows look and behave like more familiar text composition windows. I use BBEdit for all my writing, and below I describe how I've set up the app.

To proof the output of your html or markup tags in real time, use BBEdit alongside the essential "Marked 2"

Prefs: Appearance
Deselect line numbers and gutter

Prefs: Application
Deselect “Always Show Full Paths in Open Recent Menu
Select “When Bbedit Becomes Active, New Text Document”

Prefs: Editing
"Show Text Completions Only Manually"
Deselect “Display Instances of Selected Text

Prefs: Editor Defaults
Select “Softwrap Text to: Character Width: 70 (if you want to see more text per line, try 80).
Default Font: I like Optima Regular 14

Prefs: Printing
Deselect “Print Page Headers”
Deselect “Print Full Pathname”
Deselect “Print Line Numbers”
Deselect “Print Color Syntax”
Unfortunately, we’re stuck with either time stamp or "date saved" stamp
Consider printing from Mark 2 (see above), or other apps that show the output of markup or HTML tags. BBedit will, obviously, not print styled text.
Prefs: Text Files
Select "Make Backup Before Saving"
Select "Keep Historical Backgrounds"

Prefs: menus and shortcuts
Choose "Simple Menus" (button at lower left)
Deselect #!,

View Menu Hide Navigation Bar
Text Display: Hide Page Guide
Text Display: Hide Gutter

1 comment:

plam said...

Loved your comment about word processors. I don't use word processors either. (But most often I use LaTeX, which I wouldn't recommend unless you're writing scientific papers).

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