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6 powerful tools that make the Mac feel like home



I love using my Mac. And yet, when faced with a new, new device running macOS, I am amazed at the fat propagation that is the standard Mac experience. It's not on Mac, it's on me. I have become incredibly proud of some amazing tools that enhance the Mac experience in countless ways.

Occasionally I mention these tools to friends who are Mac users, or they see me using them, and they are often completely confused. This reminds me that it's pretty shocking that there are many Mac users who never use the tools to make the Mac far more powerful than it gets out of the box.

Here are some of the tools that make Mac feel like home to me.

Go beyond the launch of apps

A few years ago there was a surge of tools that gave quick access to your Mac apps by typing a few keystrokes. LaunchBar, Alfred and Quicksilver were the most prominent examples. Then came Apple and (rightly) quick app launch to Spotlight, eliminating the original reason why all the other tools existed.

No worries. The quick launch programs have been relevant by adding all other features. I know many people who trust Alfred, but I've been a user of Objective Development's $ 29 LaunchBar for years, and my Mac feels empty without it.

  Clipboard Clipboard

Among LaunchBar's many features is a clipboard history.

Yes, I use LaunchBar to launch programs and open files – its algorithm for guessing what you are looking for when writing, is still superior to Spotlight's but I would probably have dumped it if I didn't come to rely on so many other features. I use LaunchBar to find the right emoji device to insert into an iMessage, make quick flight math calculations, launch automation routines, and open specific Google Docs.

Perhaps most often I use LaunchBar as a clipboard. There are many apps out there that convert Mac's traditional one-time clipboard to a large, accessible stack of clipboards. Since there is a feature LaunchBar includes, I didn't need anything else.

Whether you're using LaunchBar or something else, I strongly recommend to use one of Mac's many great clipboards. Making sure that everything you copy to the clipboard is still available can be a huge productivity boost. Tasks that used to switch back and forth between different apps can be done in a more linear way. You copy everything you need one by one and then switch to the other app and paste everything in one for one.

Automate Your Tasks

I am a big fan of user automation, because if there is something that computers are good at, it does repetitive tasks that are totally boring to humans. If you're stuck, do a tedious, repetitive task on your computer, you're ripe for the time savings that automation can bring.

The problem is that many user automation solutions are very difficult for most to understand. When asked to write code, the jig is up. Fortunately, there are some easy to use Mac automation tools out there that provide amazing amounts of power without the need to write code (even if you can if you want to).

I'm constantly amazed at what Starways Software is $ 36 Keyboard Maestro can do. You can automate open apps, issue menu commands, or keyboard shortcuts, click buttons, and pretty much anything else you can think of. It does not depend on the built-in automation features of individual apps, either – if you need to automate something by clicking on a particular item on the screen somewhere, Keyboard Maestro can specifically tell what to look for and where to click. It's a bit like magic.

  keyboard maestro editor

Keyboard Maestro lets you build automations that interact with all Mac apps, even if it's not scriptable.

I've used Keyboard Maestro to automate repetitive actions I do on my Mac to start or end certain types of work. For example, when recording a podcast, I need to launch multiple apps, open specific pages in Safari, and configure multiple features in an app by clicking on various interface elements and typing related shortcuts. It's something like a 30-step process that I have to do more or less the same every week. With Keyboard Maestro, this process can be reduced to a single click or keyboard shortcut.

I expect that the time spent moving files around in the Finder will be timeless. But my files still have to be managed! So I trust Noodlesoft's $ 32 Hazel to manage my files for me. Hazel works by looking at folders on your Mac and making changes to files based on a number of rules. For example, I have a rule that looks at the folder where I store all my tech writing, and after a few weeks, unmodified stories are moved to an archive folder. Another rule takes old podcast files and compresses them to take up less space. And another looks at a shared Dropbox folder that is used to send audio files back and forth and delete some of them older than a couple of weeks.

  Hazel Editor

Hazel lets you set rules to move files around your Mac. 19659009] I used to do all that file maintenance by hand, but with Hazel I no longer need to. If you find yourself going through the mental gym to decide which files need to go into which places, you might be able to reduce these thoughts to a basic set of Hazel rules and let the computer work automatically.

Power in Menu Bar

I have highlighted the virtue of Mac's menu bar in this room before, but my menu bar is made much better by adding a few smart tools.

  Sound Source Menubar

SoundSource allows you to route audio from different programs to different outputs, all from the menu bar. (Also pictured: Other Useful Menu Bar Items.)

The bartender of $ 15 lets me clean up my menu bar, hiding icons I don't use as often under a single item. It provides space for more items that I really want to see, such as graphs from Bjango's $ 12 iStat Menus. iStat Menus gives you clear information about your Mac's current status, from processor temperatures to work done by some processor cores.

Rogue Amoebas $ 29 SoundSource gives me full control over where the sound on my Mac goes. I can quickly redirect iTunes from my external speakers to the headphones, and adjust the output volume right from the drop-down control panel.

And the free tool BitBar lets me put more or less everything I want in my menu bar, via an expandable plug-in system. I have current weather status on my weather station, the speed of my local network, and even the number of live listeners to my podcasts, all appearing in the menu bar via small BitBar extensions.

Yes, Mac is good without all these tools. But with them it's great, and it feels like home to me.


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