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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 & Form filling
    • 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 $3 per month)
  • Trackpad configuration
  • Productivity: shortcuts and automating tasks
    • I’ve been using Butler.
      • Butler makes it easy to perform many different, potentially recurring, tasks. For example, launch certain apps with keyboard shortcuts; add new menus; run scripts with a certain mouse click.
      • When moving to a new mac, see more at How do I move my full Butler installation to another Mac?
      • I use it to give keyboard shortcuts to commonly typed phrases, like my email address, or common email sign-offs. See my related post at Butler: text shortcuts
      • I also love the copy and 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 Butler does it well. See my post at Butler: Copy & paste buffer  or the Butler docs on “Recent Pasteboards” Smart Items.
      • Cost: Free trial; $20 to buy (totally worth it). Note that the developers Peter and Rob donate most of their proceeds to charity.
    • Alternatives: I will admit that Butler’s configuration can be perplexing though. This article talks about alternatives such as Alfred,  LaunchBar and Quicksilver.
  • Screenshots:
    • TLDR: Cmd-Shift-4
    • The free built in Screenshot App that is included on Macs works just fine
    • See the keyboard shortcuts
  • Bookmarks: Sharing bookmarks across machines is always useful. I now use Chrome synch.
  • 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!
    • Update: The soureforge site that hosts PaintBrush has been down recently, and I have found Preview’s Markup functionality (View -> Show Markup Toolbar) to be a useful simple but easy editor.
  • 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.
      • Update: It seems this can no longer open to iterm2, only the default Terminal app, which makes it less attractive to me…
    • 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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