Categories
HOWTO Tech

The 10 Must-Have Apps I Install on Every New Mac

Following my recent post about what’s on my iPhone home screen at the beginning of 2016, I decided to do the same for my must-have Mac apps.

I consider these apps requirements when setting up any new machine — essentially, I feel that I need them to use the computer effectively.

Hopefully this will give others who are looking for new or useful apps some ideas.

1. 1Password

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1Password — my password manager of choice for many years. (This one’s also on my iPhone home screen, you’ll recall.)

Strong passwords, of course, are key to protecting yourself online. You should use a different, complex password for every important account. This can be hard, though, if you’re trying to store all this info on your head.

With a password manager like 1Password, you can remember just one strong password, which you use to open the app. Then you can automatically generate ridiculously strong passwords for every account you have within the app, and access those on the fly, no matter which device you’re using.

2. Dropbox

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Dropbox — Confession time: I once ruined a one-month-old MacBook Air by spilling a full bottle of Stella Artois beer directly on the keyboard.

It’s a long story. But, BUT! I had saved all of my important documents, images and other files in Dropbox, so I lost nothing — except money and my pride, that is.

Dropbox lets you stores your files in the cloud, so that they’re accessible on various devices.

For example, I’ve long kept many of my basic lists in plain text files, and use Dropbox to keep them synced across my Mac, my iPhone, and my work machine.

3. Chrome

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Chrome for Mac — I was a loyal users of Apple’s browser, Safari, for many years. But a while back I switched over to Chrome, which, in my experience, is faster and more reliable, even though Safari looks prettier and is obviously built for the Mac.

One caveat: Some say Chrome is more resource-intensive than Safari, meaning it will drain your battery faster.

4. TextExpander

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TextExpander — this app, which I’ve been using for many years, lets you use abbreviations for frequently used bits of text.

For example, if I type “eemail,” the app will instantly insert my personal email address. If I type “eeemail,” it will insert my work email. If I type “ddate,” it will insert “February 8, 2016,” etc.

I also have so-called snippets set up for my home and office addresses, various email signatures, and much more. It’s the kind of tool that is totally indespensible.

5. PDFpen

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PDFpen — let’s get this out of the way: at $74.95, this is not a cheap app. But the ability to manipulate PDFs by typing and writing on, and signing them, is nearly magical, and makes the app well worth the price.

I’ve used PDFPen, which is made by the same folks behind TextExpander, to fill out and send back any number of forms, applications and the like.

Forget about printing out and manipulating physical documents — you can do it all digitally with PDF Pen.

6. Evernote

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Evernote — Somewhat sadly, I hardly ever use what had been my go-to writing app since 2007: Scrivener.

I used Scrivener to write my graduate school thesis, composed hundreds of stories on it, and even used it to tackle Nanowrimo many moons ago.

The problem: While it’s great if you only ever use on computer, it’s not so great if you want to be able to work on the same documents across machines or devices. (The company behind the product has been saying for some time that they’re working on an iOS version.)

So I’ve increasingly been using Evernote — it’s designed not as a word processor, but as a catch-all for tons of different digital material, from text and images to audio and more. But you can certainly use it for writing.

7. TweetDeck

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Tweetdeck — the best way to access Twitter on your Mac. I have several columns set up so that I can access my various Twitter lists — accounts I don’t want to miss, fellow WSJ folks, notifications when people respond to or like my tweets or stories, and more.

Note that Twitter recently released a new version of its Mac app, but I’m sticking with Tweetdeck for now.

8. Spotify

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Rdio was my streaming music choice for several years, but when it shut down last year, I switched to Spotify.

I like it a lot — especially the excellent Discover Weekly feature, in which the service automatically generates a playlist of new music for you based on your listening habits.

I mostly use Spotify on my iPhone, but the app also works well on the Mac.

9. Caffeine

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Caffeine — this tiny little app does one thing and does it well: it keeps your Mac from going to sleep.

The app lives in your menu bar, and you can simply click it to keep your machine awake if you’ll be away from it from an extended amount of time, or don’t wait it to dim or go to sleep when you’re watching a movie, for example.

  • Cost: free
  • For more and #Protips: that’s all you need to know — it simply keeps your Mac awake!

10. Noizio

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Noizio — like Caffeine, this is a small app that lives in your menu bar and has a singular task: to provide background noise.

If I’m being distracted by various sounds when I’m working on my Mac, I simply throw my headphones on and choose one of Noizio’s ambient sounds — I especially like “Paris Cafe” — and work away.

  • Cost: Free.
  • For more and #Protips: that’s all you need to know — it simply provides background noise!

 

Categories
Misc.

The iPod-ification of Khao San Road

I was in downtown Bangkok’s Banglamphoo district yesterday afternoon, and I figured I’d drop by Khao San Road to see how it’s looking these days. You may remember that I penned a New York Times travel story in 2007 about how Khao San Road, long a gathering spot for backpackers, has become increasingly upscale.

I hadn’t visited the area in about six months, and at first, everything seemed normal: There were vendors selling offbeat T-shirts, various travelers were drinking beer at outdoor cafes, and a young woman was sitting on a curb, getting her hair braided.

But then I saw this, which I must admit took me by surprise:

Yes, that’s a recently-opened iStudio shop — a Mac re-seller — on Khao San Road. I went inside, and can report that the shop sells the full range of Apple gear: routers, desktops, laptops, iPods, and even the iPhone. Here’s another pic:

I also noticed, further down the street, that in addition to pirated music CDs, which have been available on Khaosan Road for many years, there’s now at least one vendor selling bootlegged computer software.

And then there’s this:

There were at least two stalls where vendors were selling movies and music that could be downloaded directly to iPods, mobile phones, or computers. You can see, here, that the sign says “Music & Movie — Load to iPod.” (For the record, this practice may not be particularly new. And it may not be unique to Bangkok: A friend in the know tells me that this downloading service has been available in Phnom Penh for some time.)

So these new, digital offerings — the iPod-ifcation of Khaosan Road, if you will — means that if you’re a backpacker and you want to upgrade your aging iPod, let’s say, or even purchase a new iPhone, you can do so at one end of the street. Then you can wander a few hundred meters down the road and load the device up with pirated flicks and tunes. And there you go: You’re set for the rest of your journey.

Depending on your perspective, I imagine this is either scary, surprising (or not), or totally cool. Maybe it’s some combination of all of those.

Categories
Misc.

iPhone 3G coming to Thailand on Jan. 16

This story came out nearly two weeks ago, but I thought it would be of interest to readers here in Thailand.

Reuters: “True Move to unveil iPhone 3G on January 16”

BANGKOK, Dec 24 (Reuters) – True Move PCL, Thailand’s third largest mobile phone firm, said on Wednesday it planned to sell Apple Inc’s (AAPL.O) 3G iPhone in Thailand from Jan. 16, a key driver which should boost revenue next year.

The deal will make True Move, a subsidiary of True Corp TRUE.BK, the first operator to sell the new phone in the fast-growing Thai market.

Shares in True Corp TRUE.BK, which owns 75.26 percent of True Move, surged 17 percent to close at a near two-month high of 1.65 baht. The overall Thai market .SETI was down 0.3 percent.

True Move will sell the 8GB model for an upfront payment of 6,999 baht ($202) and monthly fees of 1,199 baht. Customers are required to use True Move services for at least 24 months, it said in a statement.

(Thanks to BL for the tip.)

Categories
Misc.

Happy iCal Day

Caution: Mac Geekery Ahead

Today* is iCal Day: the one day of the year** when the iCal icon’s default date, July 17, is accurate. iCal is Apple’s calendar application; some call it quirky, but I love it for its simplicity.

*It’s also my pal Lee Lefever‘s birthday. Happy birthday, Lee.

**Insert joke about Macs being “glorified Fisher-Price activity centres for adults” here.

Related Newley.com posts:
10 Tips for New Mac Users
iPhoto Tweaks: Getting the Most Out of Apple’s Image Editing Application
Scrivener in the New York Times Magazine

Categories
Misc.

iPhoto Tweaks: Getting the Most Out of Apple’s Image Editing Application

I generally like using iPhoto, Apple’s default image management and editing software. But with nearly 8,000 images in my library and limited RAM and hard drive space, opening the application and its accompanying 20 gigabytes of data was taking an eternity, and even basic tasks were becoming unwieldy.

I’ve now figured out a better way to manage my images using iPhoto. The solution isn’t revolutionary, but it’s working well, and I figured I’d share my new setup in case you’re facing a similar issue.

First, I bought an external hard drive and moved all of my photos off of my PowerBook. This was a no-brainer, and I should’ve done it a long time ago. Here’s Apple’s official description of the process. It’s pretty simple. (Note that I’ve got iPhoto version 5; I understand the newer version of the app makes this task even easier.)

Then I used a helpful add-on called iPhoto Library Manager to create a new library that I now store locally on my machine, while the album that holds my thousands of other images lives on my external hard drive. This Macworld article describes, with screen shots, how iPhoto Library Manager works. One thing I like about this application is that it’s very lightweight, and you can launch it and fiddle with your libraries without actually opening the resource-intensive iPhoto itself.

And finally, I happened upon an excellent little app called Image Capture, which I didn’t even know I had it on my machine. It’s a straightforward app that allows you to review, delete, rotate, and save images from your camera or memory card without opening iPhoto at all. This way, you don’t automatically import huge batches of images and then sift through them in iPhoto. Instead, you can simply delete images directly from the memory card and choose the images you want to keep. Then you decide where to save the good pics and then import them into iPhoto.

This detailed overview of Image Capture provides instructions for making the application open by default when you insert a memory card, rather than having iPhoto spring to life automatically.