After three years, I finally replaced my old Intel MacBook Pro – and its cracked screen – with a new machine. I’m still holding back a bit with my excitement for this 16-inch M1 Max MacBook Pro, just because I was really disappointed with my previous Mac. But thus far, it has been amazing. While I’m writing this, I’m sitting in bed, with the computer on my lap, and everything is running so smoothly and blazingly fast. This is as close as it gets to working at the speed of thought – and all this without any fan noise.
Whenever I get a new computer, I use it as an opportunity to start fresh. It’s a bit like moving: you only take with you what you really need and want in your new home. That’s why I also like to reevaluate which apps I use or don’t use anymore and have a look at what other applications I could try to improve my setup. After all, that’s part of the joy of setting up a new machine, right?
Here’s a list of all the apps I installed on my Mac this time in addition to what’s installed on a new Mac already. I might install more apps and I’ll add them to this post later. I’ll also leave out all the chat and video conferencing apps like Slack, Discord, Zoom, MS Teams, Skype, WebEx, and so forth. Also, it’d be great to hear: which apps you can’t live without on your Mac?
Writing – and Reading
My writing app of choice. 😍 iA Writer is where I jot down rough notes, write shitty first drafts, and finish my final posts. Everything is synched across my devices via iCloud so I can write and take notes whenever and wherever I want. I’ve been using it for years now and can’t imagine working without it.
RSS! RSS! RSS! (Almost) every day, I start the day by opening Reeder to see what all of you wrote on their personal sites. You’ll find my OPML of personal sites here, by the way. The latest version of this neat RSS feed reader app even comes with sync via iCloud, so you don’t need an additional service like Feedly anymore to save and sync your feeds.
Workflow and Productivity
It took a bit getting used to Notion, because it offers so much flexibility in how you structure your documents and workspaces. But it has since become an invaluable tool for me to document and refine project information and workflows. Notion is like Confluence should be. ;) Notion is also completely free to get started.
In case you want to try it, you can use this link to sign up, by which you’ll also help support me and my content 🤗: Get Notion
Things is the task management tool I use to organize my days and projects. It is available for Mac, iPhone (and Watch), and iPad and it is just great to be able to access your lists of lists from everywhere. Although I’m not a practitioner of GTD (Getting Things Done) or any other productivity technique, I still use Things on a daily basis to keep track of the most important tasks.
Timery for Toggl
I track my hours across all my clients projects (and, as of late, unpaid side projects) with Toggl. It works really well in the browser, but the mobile app has always been a pain to use, especially when it comes to entering times manually. I recently came across Timery, which provides a great UI on top of free or paid Toggl accounts. Thus far, it looks like it might enhance my time tracking experience a lot, especially on iOS.
Cron is “the next-generation calendar for professionals and teams” with an intuitive UI built for speed and I wanted to give it a try. It currently only works with Google Calendar, which might keep me from switching completely as my whole calendar is on iCloud at the moment. But we’ll see how it goes.
I don’t function without music. It’s also my favorite productivity tool. 😉
System Tools and Utilities
Raycast is a launcher for MacOS. It replaces the default Spotlight search and lets you complete tasks, calculate (and you can hit ⏎ to copy the result!), search, and, of course, open apps quickly. You can also install various extensions for tools like the Calendar, Shortcuts, GitHub, Notion, VS Code, Zoom, and many more. My personal favorite: the window management extension that lets you define keyboard shortcuts for all kinds of window positions.
A neat little tool to unpack all kinds of archives, from ZIP to RAR to Tar to 7z.
Sometimes, your Mac just shouldn’t go to sleep. In a workshop or while presenting or teaching online, for example. Amphetamine takes care of that.
Just like Little Snitch, Radio Silence is a firewall app that monitors your internet connection and shows you every network connection in real time. This way, you can quickly identify whenever an app wants to “phone home” and block it with a single slick.
Aiko is a free app by Sindre Sorhus that provides high-quality transcription for audio files from meetings, lectures, podcasts, and more. It is powered by powered by OpenAI’s Whisper model running locally on your device.
If you’re running online workshops or recording screencasts, it can be really helpful to display all your keystrokes in a corner of the screen. KeyCastr is a free, open-source utility that lets you do this.
Pro Mouse is another useful utility when you’re presenting or running workshops online. It puts a circle around your mouse pointer and lets you zoom in and even draw on the screen.
Visual Studio Code
Well, it’s VS Code. ¯_(ツ)_/¯
Tower is my Git client of choice. It’s simple and a joy to use and makes some of the more advanced Git features easy to handle for people who don’t like to do everything via the command line.
Another Git client that some people recommended. I will give it a try and see how it does compared to Tower.
I still use SFTP regularly, and Transmit by Panic just gets the job done, fast and reliably, including rules (“don’t upload .DS_Store files, please”) and file sync.
iTerm2 is a replacement for the macOS Terminal with great features like search and autocomplete.
Sequel Ace is the “sequel” to Sequel Pro. It’s a fast, easy-to-use database management application for working with MySQL and MariaDB databases.
ImageOptim is an open-source tool to dramatically reduce the size of images using modern image optimization tools and encoders. Invaluable if you care about web performance or need to stay within a certain file size budget with your images.
Adobe After Effects, Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, Photoshop Beta, XD
For anyone working in the creative industry, Adobe’s apps like Photoshop or Illustrator are indispensable tools and many of them are effectively industry standards. In my work with agencies, for example, I use Photoshop, Illustrator, and currently also Adobe XD on a daily basis.
More and more agencies and clients of mine are using Figma, so that’s obviously a must-have as well.
Affinity Designer, Photo, and Publisher 2
If you’re looking for design and photo editing software that is easy to use and not subscription-based, Affinity’s apps might be for you. For €179.99, you’ll get three powerful apps that run smoothly on Mac, Windows, and iPadOS. You can also try them out for free for 30 days.
Audio and Video
Rogue Amoeba’s Loopback is an amazing, invaluable tool if you want full control over your audio workflow. With Loopback, you can combine audio coming from applications and audio input devices and turn them into as many virtual input or output devices as you need.
Blackmagic ATEM Software Control
My workshop setup also includes an ATEM Mini video switcher and ATEM Software Control lets me configure everything, including on-the-fly equalization of the microphone audio signal.
An equalizer for macOS for more oomph! when listening to RTJ, Kendrick, etc.
Reaper + Ultraschall
Reaper is a DAW (digital audio workstation) for recording, editing and producing audio. Ultraschall is a free extension for Reaper that turns the UI into an optimized podcast production environment.
iZotope Product Portal + RX Elements + Nectar + Neutron
iZotope’s audio plugins and software tools let you mix, repair, clean up, and improve your audio recordings.
HandBrake is a useful little open-source tool to convert video from nearly any format to a selection of modern, widely supported codecs and formats like MP4 or WebM.
Used by Hollywood, Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve is an all-in-one software for video editing, color correction, and motion graphics, much like Adobe Premiere or Apple’s Final Cut Pro. With one key difference: it’s free.
Alright, that’s the list for now. Let me know in the Webmentions below, for example by answering to this post on Mastodon, which apps you can’t live without and make sure to subscribe via RSS for the next blog post. 😉