Hidden Gems - Mac / Utility Apps

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by aaagat111, Jul 10, 2011.

  1. aaagat111, Jul 10, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2011

    aaagat111 macrumors regular


    Sep 12, 2005
    St. Louis, MO
    I just wrote up this article on the most useful Mac utility apps I use on a regular basis. The idea is to share what these apps are, how one might use them, and an example where needed of why it is different from an application the user already has installed on the their computer.

    I would like to hear people's responses and see if they have any suggestions to this list / just general comments.

    Here is a direct link to the article (includes links): http://alexagatstein.com/blog/story/?p=0&id=299


    Being a heavy Mac user for many years, I have picked up quite a few utility apps that have made my every day computing more efficient, fun, and useful. Some of these apps are text editors, password managers, or simply widgets that display the currently playing song from iTunes on your desktop. While there are many utility apps that are geared more for the developer, I have listed out below my top utility apps that every Mac user should grab!

    Warning: Once you start using these you will wonder how you ever managed without them…

    File Management

    TotalFinder – This application add-on allows the ability for tabbed browsing within a Finder window. Try, just for a minute, to imagine going back to web browsing without tabbed browsing. If your response to the previous sentence was anything along along the lines of, “no, anything but that!” you should probably look into setting yourself up with TotalFinder.

    CloudApp – This small application brings a personal file server only a drag away. Once you create a free cloudapp account online you have instant access to your own private file server. The beauty of this service though is cloudapp has designed a menubar add-on, so that when you are ready to upload your document, picture, or song to your online account, no web browser is needed. Just drag and drop onto the menu bar symbol and voila – your document is up in the cloud, accessible by any device!

    Window Management

    BetterSnapTool – This utility app allows you to assign shortcuts to window positions. For instance, you can set a keyboard shortcut to make a window fully maximize on your monitor, take up just the left half of your monitor, or even switch monitors (if you are running a dual monitor setup). Instantly “snap” your windows to split screens so you can browse the web while taking notes, or watch a video while also playing your favorite online game – whatever content you decide to multitask with, I leave it up to you, just use BetterSnapTool to do it.

    Password Management

    1Password – Every day you read news articles of someone’s Facebook account getting hacked, someone’s email being compromised, or a whole database hacked and published. While many of these attacks can’t be prevented on a user level, one thing is for sure – if you use the same password for multiple account (which many of us do / used to do), you can bet the intruder will quickly switch from trying to access your Facebook or Tumblr, to trying to access your valuable bank account.

    So how do you protect yourself – create unique, appropriately sized and complex passwords for each online account you have. But how are you supposed to remember all those different passwords – you’re not. Welcome to 1Password – the password manager for online and local accounts, as well as wallet information such as credit card numbers, and driver’s license information.

    1Password is a secure application that stores all your passwords and sensitive information, yet is versatile enough where its security doesn’t become an obstacle to usability. For instance, 1Password has an elegant and simple Chrome add-in to automatically fill in account log in fields (once you enter in your master password set with the application) so you never have to fill out another tedious online login form again.

    For reasons of security, time, and most of all making your online experience as fluid as possible, 1Password will become your new best friend.


    Bowtie – This utility simply displays the currently playing iTunes track on your desktop in its own independently floated window. Themes for bowtie range from everything from plain text, plastic looking cd covers, or futuristic animation heavy widgets – something for every type of user.

    For some cool themes – check out this page.

    Text Editors

    TextMate – The simplest text editor for Mac that still has every advanced feature you would be looking for. For everything from quick note taking, document reviews, or web development, TextMate handles it all without a hiccup.

    Evernote – Are you a note taker? Do you constantly create todo lists? Ever wish all those short little notes you took on your Mac would instantly be synched with your phone and other computers/devices. Well now they can be, with Evernote. Evernote utilizes the cloud to instantly sync all your notes across all your devices – what more could you want for note taking. Oh yeah – Evernote also sports note organization (groups/folders as well as tagging), a complete in house text editor, and best of all it allows the user to upload attachments to a note.

    Just to demonstrate the power of Evernote – say you are creating an itinerary for visiting a new city. You can create a notebook within Evernote where you place all your notes related to this trip. Now, feel feel to throw in everything from notes on places to eat, packing lists, notes with attached pdfs of online discounts you found for the local museum/parking as well as the digital format of the visitor’s guide you happen to find online with a quick Google search. Now all your notes are safely stored in the cloud and accessible by virtually any device at any time. That made trip organization easy!

    System Management / Tweaks

    Caffeine – Caffeine does exactly what it sounds like – it keeps your Mac awake! Caffeine controls settings for the backlight, so you can keep your display on and bright for however long you want. For an example of where this comes into use – have you ever tried to watch a movie on your laptop while running off battery, well if next time you don’t want to get up every 15 minutes just to tap the trackpad to keep your screen at full brightness, install Caffeine today.

    Candybar – The standard icons that come with OS X are by no means unappealing, sometimes they just don’t allow that creativity that many of us like to express come into play. Plus, if you associate iTunes better with a pair of headphones than with a CD, who is to say you shouldn’t be able to change it. Candybar is a seamless solution to custom icons. Candybar not only allows the user to change everything from system and application icons but also comes built with an outstanding icon manager, very similar to the native photo management tool everyone loves – iPhoto. Now, you can keep your icons neatly organized, and put that unique spin on your system you have always wanted!

    Brightness Control – Have you even been sitting in a dark room and thought to yourself, “this is honestly the lowest brightness this screen goes….at this rate I’m going to burn a hole in my eyes!” Brightness Control allows you to adjust the brightness of your display to the finest tune, so that you don’t go killing those precious things we use to view much more important stuff than late night emails or YouTube videos.

    Disk Inventory X – Get a visual representation of your hard drive in terms of file sizes. See what’s taking up the most space, discover files you never new existed, and most of all make sure everything is performing up to par and there are no 10GB junk files preventing you from throwing a couple movies onto your laptop hard drive.

    WhatSize – For a non visual inspection of your hard drive check out this application. WhatSize also breaks down your drive for viewing in a hierarchical fashion.

    SecondBar – Do you dual monitor? If so, good choice. But, did you ever notice how the menubar is only on the display you choose to place the dock on. This can become extremely frustrating if you keep your dock on the opposite display that you do most of your work on, since you will have to mouse all the way over to that bar every time you want to select an option within the application. SecondBar replicates the menu bar on both monitors – problem solved.

    That rounds up my top list of hidden Mac gems!

    If you have any suggestions of other applications or questions about any of the previously mentioned ones, as always, feel free to get in touch.

  2. PatrickCocoa macrumors 6502a

    Dec 2, 2008

    Lots of good information there, thanks.
  3. MrSmith macrumors 68040


    Nov 27, 2003
    I'd add Quicksilver (app/folder launcher, etc.) That's the only one "I can't live without".

    Another I appreciate is F.lux, which changes screen temperature (in the photographic sense) at night. Mine is set to the default 3400k, which is great on the eyes.
  4. Mawal macrumors regular

    Aug 19, 2010
    Alfred - app launcher and...and...free
    Divvy - windows management using global hotkeys
    Quickcal - text based dates and ical preview

    all in the app store

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