The Mac has tons of small useful programs that make your job easier and faster. The best ones are those that you don’t even think about but that you sorely miss if they’re not there. I am reminded of this whenever I have to help someone else with a problem or question about their Mac. I find myself trying to perform certain actions and wondering why it doesn’t work and then realizing, oh yeh, that’s one of those programs I use but that not everyone has on their Mac. Here’s my top five Mac app I miss the most when using someone else computer.
1. Default Folder X
I’ve been a long time user of Default Folder X going back to before there was an X in its name. It is one of those apps that works great and stays out of your way until you need it. I’m really surprised that Apple hasn’t built this functionality into the system. It modifies the open and save dialog box to give you shortcuts to a bunch of useful things such as recent folders, favorite folders, and the folders currently open as windows in the Finder. All of these make it far easier and faster to get files or save them in their proper place. Anytime I see someones desktop clutter with tons of files and folders, I tell them about Default Folder. You can find more information on Default Folder X on the St. Clair Software website. Here’s a short video showing Default Folder X in action
Besides the Open and Save dialog box the next most frequently used area on your Mac is probably Copy and Paste. If you’re anything like me, you find your self switching back and forth between applications copying and pasting and copying and pasting. I don’t do that anymore now that I have Clipboard History installed. It lets me copy information and copy again without leaving the app I’m in and then switching and paste each of those pieces of information where I want in the next application. It also lets you search for clips you’ve used in the past as well as save those frequently used snippets. You can download Clipboardhistory from the Agile Route website.
I don’t know what I’d do without Launchbar. Really, it’s the first app I realize is missing when I sit down to use someone else’s Mac. While Apple has Lauchpad, it doesn’t hold a candle to Launchbar. It has many features but by far my favorite is ⌘-spacebar. This brings up a box at the top our your screen right beneath the menubar. You can then type in a few letters for any application on your Mac and it will find it and let you launch that applications. And you don’t have to type the letters in order, you can type in the first letter of each word of an app and Launchbar still finds it for you. As an example, you could type SP and have Launchbar pull up System Preferences its name is shown, just hit enter to launch the application. It will give you some choices of what it thinks you mean and it learns as you use your own abbreviations. And it works for things other than launching applications; it can find contact information, bookmarks, and more. It’s more difficult to explain in words than it is to just see it in action so here’s a brief video that I think does a better job showing you what it is capable of. You can find out more about Launchbar at Objective Development’s website.
4. iStat Menus 3
iStat Menus is one of those utilities that serves a great purpose. It sits in your menubar and gives you information about your system such as how hard your CPU is working or what the temperature of various components inside your Mac is. The two task I use it for the most are the ability to show me the battery life left in my Macbook Pro and as a shortcut for launching Activity Monitor when something isn’t quite right and I need to investigate more (of course I can also type ⌘-spacebar followed by A and M to bring it up using Launchbar). You can also see what apps may be hogging your memory. Again, here’s a brief video that shows it in action.
5. PopChar X and Typinator
Popchar X and Typinator from Ergonis are utilities that been on my Macs for years now. A long time ago, I was trying to find some special characters that I knew exists in a given font but I couldn’t for the life go me remember how to access it. It was then that I found PopChar. It lets you find those pesky keystrokes such for copyright, trademark and even the ⌘ key. I used it several times in this post to get the cmd key, ⌘. Typinator allows you to set up codes that when typed get expanded into a full set of words or phrase. It can also automatically correct words that are commonly mis-typed. You can find out more about both of these on the Ergonis Software website.