Thursday, May 31, 2007

MacBooks on the Rise: Tools revisited

More and More of my friends, colleagues and acquaintances turn to Mac OS X so I think its time to revisit my list of essential tools.
The List is based on personal experiences and my starting point were:
Lets start with some picks from Stefan's list (for a detailed discusson of the applications he used to like at the time see his list):
  • Stefan's Emacs is (of course) replaced by vim/gvim on my list - unfortunately not as nicely ported as on Linux and Windows - but it still does the job for me.
  • Quicksilver definitely is a must - when working on windows one the the shortcuts I use the most is Windows-R (Run a single "Command"). Quicksilver goes far beyond that and is indispensible on a Mac when you're a keyboard addict.
  • Terminal (iTerm) omitted - no advantage for me. I'm happy with the built-in
  • The Omni Group's productivity suite was also very basic (not as in "simple", but as in "need to have") stuff - at least if you have to organize thought and discussions (OmniOutliner) and draw expressive diagramms and pictures effectively (OmniGraffle). The browser (OmniWeb) was a nice add-on but tends to interfere with my powersaving options so I switched back to Safari (the built-in browser). Unfortunately the productivity suite seems to be no longer available - wich makes it easier to focus on the important products.
  • Talking about browsers: Of course different browsers like Camino and Firefox come in handy if I use any Web2.0ish sites (and how could I avoid them nowadays)
  • Instead of ecto I went for Qumana for blogging - and ended up using a texteditor, and OmniOutliner for the job ;-)
  • I always preferred Addium over Proteus, but since AIM- and ICQ-user can also be reached via the built-in iChat I don't use any of them any more. For more compatibility with windows users Skype (> 2.0) comes to the rescue.
  • Ssh-keychain: well - yes i use it too.
  • And allthough I do very little development on my Mac Eclipse really does a great job for those little chunks of java that come along.
Now lets look at my ~/"Application" and the main "Application" folder.
Here we've got (noteworthy only):
  • Productivity
    • I can't work without a mindmapping tool. My Choice is Freemind - a java based application that runs nicely on Windows and OS X. And with a little finetuning it even shows the brushed metal look and feel of OS X.
    • Another "promiscuous" application as Larry Ellison might have said in the early eigthies is GanttProject which also runs on windows allmost as well as it does on a Mac. A simple but effective tool - for those situations where you just have to visualize your plans in such a way - that is written in java..
    • Every once in a while I have to make a little note. Using quicksilver I usally just start up a texteditor, make the note and save the file to the desktop. But I'm trying to change to sidenote - it would be so much easier...
    • AquaPath (again a recommendation from Stefan) to play with XPath expressions.
    • I'm quite happy with vim/gvim (I think I mentioned that already ;-) ) but sometimes a more GUI-ish editor is helpfull. That's where Smultron enters the scene - I'm not yet in the need to get Textmate.
  • Not necessary but nice
    • The MBPs are known for there "offensive" thermal behaviour. And even though I know that there is little to worry about I still like to check with Temperaturmonitor.
    • WordPod is a nice little tool to transfer textfiles to an iPod for reading - not heavy in use but usefull.
    • AudioRecorder as a lightwight alternative to firing up GarageBand just to record a few minutes. Saves directly to an AIFF, Apple Lossless (M4A and MOV), MP3, MP4 (M4A and MOV), or WAV file.
  • The office stuff
    • Pages and especially Keynote are some great alternatives to the standard MS-Office apps. So iWork was one of my first aquisitions (actually I ordered them together with my Mac)
    • But still - since most of my clients are hooked on Microsoft MS-Office is a must.
    • And for those who try to avoid the MS-Office trap and turn to OpenOffice NeoOffice is my choice of interaction.
    • Whenever I have to fiddle with graphics that I can't handle with OmniGraffle or the built-in apps (iPhoto does it for 99% of my photo editing whishes) Posterpaint and Seashore come to the rescue.
    • The essential tool for web development of course is a texteditor! ;-) But the way CSSEdit lets me fiddle with css styles is unmatched by anything I've seen before. Coda might turn out to be a great addition, but im not yet sure.
    • Being the lazy person I am I try to avoid typing as much as I can. RapidoWrite helps me by replacing abbreviation with any text I like (as long as I've defined the abbreviation of course)
  • One of the nice things about OS X is the fact that pdf is a native format. Still some tools come quite handy for some Tasks.
    • PdfMergeX gives a little more flexibility to the handling of pdfs.
    • PDFView is an alternative to the built-in Preview application and is in some ways more "natural" to the eye.
    • Although many printer drivers allready support "brochure" layout CheapImposter is my tool of choice if I want to be able to create brochures on not-so-smart printer without duplex capability.
    • With Yep! there's a great alternative to searching pdf all over my harddrive - and I really should use it more ...
  • System tools
    • SyncTwoFolders does exactly as the name implies - great for keeping USB-sticks up to date.
    • Going back in broser's cache is not always easy - but Retrospective makes it easier.
    • Even a nnn-GB drive gets stuffed after a while. With Filelight and GrandPerspective it's easy to identify the hotspots - actually I use almost exclusively GrandPerspective - Filelight is just an alternative for "special cases".
  • Connectivity
    • As always the Mac (at least mine) just works when it comes to wireless networks. But sometimes I want to now why and how. iStumbler doesn't tell me to much about my system - but it tells me all (almost) I want to know about the WiFi networks in my vicinity.
    • And once I'm connected to a network Flame tells me wich bonjour services are available. (Run in an airport lounge just for fun - it's amazing how many people intend to share their music and printers whith everybody. Especially considering the fact that you deliberately have to turn on sharing in OS X)
    • The built-in does almost exactly what I want - but sometimes I just want to check my mailbox just to see if it's expedient to burn bandwith (think of UMTS/GPRS in aforeign country) by really accessing my Mailbox. Thats where MacBiff - an IMAP-savy menu extension is exactly what I need.
    • Even Apple doesn't always get it right - to really get the best compatibility with my Palm I needed to install the MissingSync. Now everything works fine.
  • Multimedia
    • VLC - any questions? Handles all the video formats out of the box.
    • But when I use Quicktime I sometimes would like to run it fullscreen. Thats very easily possible by sendig AppleScript command to the player - even without the "Pro" version. Fullsceen4Free does exactly that and includes a (nice?) GUI.
    • Before CoverFlow was integrated into iTunes i definitely liked it better. May or may not be available in the future. Last download possibility I knew was at MacUpdate
    • One of the esential tools for iTunes is of course beaTunes. This tool analyses Songs not only by BPM but also by "colour" - kind of representing the overall mood of the song - and really helps building better playlists.
And - last but not least - the system extensions I use
  • Although not really necessary, Growl is very helpfull when many application are running in the background and their user notification shall appear at least somewhat co-ordinated.
  • As you might have guessed by my use of Temperaturmonitor I really like to know whats going on inside my machine. MenuMeters provides exactly the information I want.
  • Even though the MDI-Interface is the standard for OS X applications there is no standard way to acces all the windows vie the keyboard. Witch gave me back the capability to "tab" through all open windows. (Arguably thats not really necessary once one gets used to exposé)
Oh - did I mention dashboard widgets?
But it's getting late, my battery is almost empty and I still got a lot of other work to do - so here's just a taste...


Anonymous said...

Hi Michael,

thanks a lot for that list. As one of those who's going to switch, it will be very helpful for me.
Maybe I can give you some useful amendments soon :-)


Dr. Gernot Starke said...

interesting - we both converted around a year ago - and don't have too many tools in common :-)

Add MarsEdit, NetNewsWire, RapidWeaver, CocoaMySQL, MAMP, MenuShade, Think, Booxter, BurnXFree, Gimp, iBackup, ImageWell, JarInspector, Mozy, NoteTaker, Parallels, SuperDuper, RapidWeaver, svnX, YamiPod and Zipeg...

(I cannot live without Quicksilver and OmniOutliner, but dropped OmniWeb in favor to Firefox). Freemind imho sucks - prefer kGTD plus Notetaker, currently evaluating DevonThingPro plus Scrivener... If you need REAL mindmaps, fire up parallels and run Mindmanager-Pro on Windows. Sigh.