My Top 10 Mac Apps

This is my list of "must haves" applications for the Mac. I use them everyday, and have tried most variants and competing products before settling on these for one reason or another. (If you have have a favorite not mentioned, please let me know! I love trying new apps). While not all are "Amazing", they satisfy their intended purpose perfectly and with more class or efficiency than others. Often it is one small little feature that can make or break it for me.

1) Things. My daily task list manager. It has an iPhone partner app (which I mentioned in my Top 10 iPhone Apps blog entry) and it synchronizes perfectly and effortlessly. It is simple to use and understand, with just enough features. There is NO FASTER way for me to enter in a new thought, idea, or ToDo: I simply hit one Fkey at any time (even when working in another program) and the quick entry window pops up. I start typing my thought and hit enter. It goes away and is filed automatically in my "inbox" where I can categorize it later. This is absolutely the most efficient way for me to work as I can capture every thought and idea very quickly.

2) SOHO Notes. While there is some overlap between SoHo notes and Things, I use them both. SoHo Notes is a much more powerful and feature rich note, media, website, bookmark, photo, everything organizer. In fact, I'm writing this list up in SoHo notes and will keep it archived here before posting it to my blog. I can easily search everything in my entire SoHo notes collection from a single hot key (even when working in other programs), and I can quickly enter a note with another hot key. There are "templates" you can save and recall when using other programs too. For example, I have a template for my email address which I can recall by simply typing CMD-SHFT-E. This comes in handy when filling out forms online and you have to type your email over and over. You could also save "Thank you very much for contacting me. I am a robot and this is automated text. You will never ever speak to a real human. FYI." and enter that in to every email reply automatically. I would never DO that, however :-) SoHo can do everything that Things does, but Things is just so neat and clean for projects and task lists and SoHo notes is for everything else. SoHo Notes doesn't currently have an iPhone app, but when it does....

3) Screenflow. This might not be useful to everyone, but for those that need to make movies of their computer screens, this program tops all. While it's definitely not perfect, yet, it is really easy to use and makes it simple to create professional looking tutorials. It's much cheaper than getting in to Premiere or Final Cut Pro, and easier to learn. We use this for all our video "how-to's" and product promos.

4) Default Folder. A quiet little program that sits in the background and modifies the Open/Save dialog boxes. It lets you keep lists of favorite folders and remembers your recently used folders, and many other little features. It doesn't sound that exciting, but after you have used it for a while you wonder how you ever got along without it! A big time saver for me.

5) Skype. Unless you've been living in a cave, you've inevitably heard of Skype. Everyone should have a skype name! Besides free voice calls around the world, you can chat, share files, video chat, etc. You can even get a "skype in" phone number that anyone can call and if you are not logged in to Skype when they call it can go to voicemail or transfer to your cell number, or any other number. If you do any amount of communication with other countries, Skype is invaluable - and free.

6) SuperDuper. The best and easiest to use Mac backup program out there. Period. Setup automatic backups and create boot up disks for emergencies.

7) LaunchBar. Another one of those "How did I ever live without this?" apps. Via a hotkey combo, I can pop up a little search window that will allow me to type "CS4" and a list of matching apps pops up - with Photoshop CS4 at the top of the list. I just hit ENTER to launch it. LaunchBar "learns" from your key habits too, so future matching is even faster. For example, I might type type "PS" and at the top of my results list is "Poetry for Schmoopy" (it searches by initials too). But, that's not what I want PS to stand for. So, I scroll down through the other results and find Photoshop. I select it and it opens. Now, the next time I type "PS", LaunchBar knows I want it to mean "Photoshop", so Photoshop appears at the top of the list. There are many more very cool time saving things LaunchBar can do, but even if you just use it to find and launch programs or documents, it's huge. I find it to be faster and more accurate than using the built-in Mac Spotlight search for most things.

8) Skitch. Ahh, how much fun can making screen captures be? You'll never know until you try Skitch. Everybody in my office uses it and loves it. It's simple, powerful, and useful almost every day. Grab photos of your screen or part of the screen and easily add text, arrows, circles, etc. to highlight certain areas. Great for showing people what you are talking about or where to set a preference or option. You'll find a jillion uses for it. Skitch keeps all the screen snaps in it's own searchable catalog for future reference. You'll love it. Trust me.

9) 1Password. An awesome program for storing and generating passwords. It watches and remembers all the websites you visit that require login information and it will autologin for you if you want, create a new super secure password, fill in form basic info, and more. It's better than storing passwords in web browsers, and it has an iPhone companion app that makes all your passwords available from the iPhone if you need them. The idea behind 1Password is that you should have different and secure passwords for all the sites you visit, but how would you keep track of them? 1Password can generate and save crazy secure and unique passwords for every site you visit and keep them safe in the program. You just have to remember your one master password to open 1Password and let it autofill the unique passwords for you. If you've ever had a account hacked because of an insecure password (like I have) then you'll appreciate 1Password.

10) Disk Warrior. THE de facto standard for fixing mysterious problems on your Mac. There are MANY programs out there to repair and recover, and save your ass when the system goes bad, but none have been more effective for more people than Disk Warrior. There have been numerous times when I've tried everything to fix a disk, and only Disk Warrior gets it back to working order. You won't realize how much you love it until you actually need it - kind of like insurance ;-)

11) ScreenSteps. My little bonus here as it's not for everyone, but I use it for making step-by-step tutorials of different procedures or techniques. When you need text and pictures, rather than screen movies, this is perfect. You can make screen captures, add text, other photos, etc. and easily export a nicely formatted PDF file for anyone to view and use. Many other cool features too, but I keep all my various tutorials in ScreenSteps and modify or export them as needed.

Others that are taken for granted, and I assume most photographers are using already:

1) Photoshop

2) Lightroom

3) iTunes, iCal, iMovie, iDVD, iChat (Chax is a GREAT free plugin for iChat!), pretty much all the "i" stuff, Mail.

4) Firefox (although the new Safari 4 beta is looking kinda nice too)

5) The iWork suite which replaces most of the Microsoft stuff - Numbers, Pages, Keynote (which replace Excel, Word, Powerpoint). All of the Mac variants are far easier to use, more stable, more fun, and import/export to the common PC formats.

So that's my list for today. I'll surely update it if/when I find something else I can't live without :-) Don't forget to leave your own favorites too in the comments!