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Invaluable Mac tools

After setting up a couple of macbooks recently, there are a few tools that I just need to install before I can feel at home (although not all are Mac specific).

  • Passwords & Forms: There are several tools to assist with password management and forms. My personal favorite is LastPass.
    • Cost: Free for basic, Pay for premium (e.g. mobile support; currently only $1 per month and well worth it)
  • Better touch tool: Allows you to configure gestures for your Trackpad.  Worth adding as a login item. Cost: Free!
  • Butler: This tool makes it easy to perform different, potentially recurring, tasks. For example, launch certain apps with keyboard shortcuts; add new menus; run scripts with a certain mouse click. When you start using it, you’ll wonder how you lived without it! Some example I frequently use are:
    • Copy & Paste buffer: Why be only limited to have a single item in your buffer?! There are several tools out there that can do this, but my old friend Butler does this also! See my post, or the Butler docs on “Recent Pasteboards” Smart Items.
    • Use shortcuts to enter commonly used text. See my related post here
    • Cost: Free trial; $20 to buy (totally worth it). Note that the developers Peter and Rob donate most of their proceeds to charity.
    • Notes
      • the settings file can be found at /Users/your home directory/Library/Preferences/com.hegenberg.BetterTouchTool.plist . This is useful for exporting settings from one machine to another. It can even be out under source control.
      • I always like to disable the control-space shortcut that Butler uses by default (for “Enter abbreviation…”) since I use that shortcut elsewhere.
  • Screenshots: I find the Grab tool invaluable for taking screenshots. You can also take screenshots using just keyboard shortcuts but I find Grab very intuitive to use.
    • Cost: Free (included with Mac)
  • Bookmarks: Sharing bookmarks across machines is always useful. I now use Chrome synch. In the past, I used to use XMarks, which has now been shutdown.
  • InVisible: Menu bar app that lets you easily view hidden files in Finder.
    • Cost: Free!
  • Image Editing: While Macs do come with free text editing software (e.g. TextEdit), they surprisingly do not come with even basic image editing. PaintBrush fills this gap. A free app that is similar to Windows Paint, and useful for basic editing such as cropping and resizing of images.
    • Cost: Free!
  • Vimium: Vimium is a Google Chrome extension which provides keyboard shortcuts for navigation. Great if you prefer keyboard over mouse.
  • GPG. For encrypting emails and files. see
  • Misc
    • iTerm2, an improvement over terminal
      • Useful shortcuts: ⌘+D and ⌘+Shift+D to split the terminal vertically and horizontally.
    • Sublime, an improvement over TextEdit
    • cd to, a Finder Toolbar app to open the current directory in the Terminal (or iTerm, X11). Basically the reverse of open . from the command line.
    • Itsycal – a tiny calendar for your Mac’s menu bar. I have also in the past used Day-O, a simple menu bar clock with a pop up calendar the inbuilt one is missing. Both are free.
    • Enable view full directory path in my Finder (View Menu -> Show Path Bar)
    • Window placement: Stay from Cordless Dog “ensures that your windows are always where you want them to be, even as you connect and disconnect displays”. Cost: $15
    • Configure apps to start at login time:System Preferences -> Users & Groups -> Login Items

For info on how to have some of these apps start at login time, see Setting up Login, Startup items.

Note that some of these tips came from this talk.


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