Tools to Make Life Easier

There’s a few tools that I really like having handy for me on my Mac. These are things that don’t necessarily enable some wonderful new capability, but make my life much easier on a day-to-day basis. So, I figured I’d share them and why I like them:

  • Alfred . A glorious successor to the old Quicksilver . I don’t remember exactly why I switched the first time. I think it might have been stagnation on the part of Quicksilver, but I’m quite happy with it. I happily pay for the “Powerpack”. A few things I especially like out of it:
    • Quick app launcher. You can do this with Spotlight, but Alfred is more flexible and faster.
    • Quick calculator. The number of times I need to do some basic calculations and don’t want to start an app just for that. It even has some more advanced capabilities due to including GCMathParser .
    • Contact list lookup. Sometimes I just need someone’s email for something, or a phone number. It will also display it in an enormous font, which makes it easier to read.
  • Dash . A nearly universal documentation repository for all the software, libraries, and frameworks I have to deal with. In addition to including all the documentation and having lightning-fast search, I really like the snippets and annotations that I can use to keep track of thoughts and additions. It also can plug into whatever development environment you want, including all the JetBrains products, Visual Studio Code, Emacs, BBEdit, etc. I cannot express how wonderful it is to have docs that easily available for everything. It’s allowed me to page out so much trivia.
  • Hazel . An automation tool to help keep things “cleaned up” on your Mac. Some things I use it for:
    • Cleanup old downloads so they don’t just sit around forever.
    • Cleanup after deleting an app I was trying out.
    • Automatically adding photos to my library with custom tagging and organization.
    • Color-code things in Finder based on where they came from and how old they are.
  • KeyboardMaestro . The all-singing, all-dancing automation system that really can do everything. A few things I like using it for, but there’s probably a billion others as the flexibility is mind-blowing:
    • Automation with my Stream deck . Super smooth integration lets me do way more advanced things.
    • Lots of Google Meet-related automation, like finding the tab buried somewhere in 12 windows with 150 tabs, and muting the microphone. There’s some supporting Applescript .
    • OCRing (right?) things on the clipboard.
    • Run some simple cronjob-type things in a slightly more easy way.
    • (No longer). I used to have a macro that would download financial data PDFs from my bank, including grabbing the MFA codes correctly. Alas, Apple stripped Applescript support out of some things, and this no longer works. Boo!
    • Reconfigure some things when I’m on my home wireless, and differently when I’m not.
    • A bunch of global text expansions.
  • Tailscale . Just shut up and use Tailscale if you’re doing anything VPNish with your personal environment. It’s fast, simple, elegant, and just works. They have support for just about every platform, including mobile devices, and it’s free for most personal use (although I pay for the pro plan).
  • Magnet . A wonderful tiling window manager. We have strayed too far from tiling windows, and with the availability of inexpensive high resolution displays, being able to quickly tile things is great. It plays great with multiple spaces , which lets me contextualize my main monitor to whatever I’m focused on, and keep my laptop display for “common” things like Slack or email.
  • Fantastical . Seriously, I don’t know where I’d be without it. If you deal with multiple calendars (e.g., work and home), this is so much easier, and it works properly with Google Calendar.

Again, none of these are unheard of tools, but I do find people often don’t know about them. Just about all of them cost money, but I prefer to pay for software to ensure 1) it’s maintained; 2) it’s not built on privacy invading surveillance.