We read articles like “Top 10 [insert adjective here] Apps” on Digg at least once a week. Well, I decided to out together a list, not because I think I know better what is best, or I am discontented with the few thousand other top 10 articles out there, but because I wanted to put a list together of what I use most and often to make my life easier. In fact, there are not even 10 apps on this list, nor do I claim that these are the best designed, or the best for the job. They are simply the ones I have found and use almost on a daily basis. I will provide a brief description of each one, why I use it, and a link to where you can get it. I will also indicate the cost, though most of these apps are free. Keep in mind, I use Mac OS X, so the PC users are out of luck unless the developers make a Windows or Linux version of these apps I don’t know about it. Also, I am running these on 10.5.6, so if you are running older versions of a Mac OS, they might not work. (Look, if you are using 10.3, 10.4, or below, it is time to upgrade. If you are still using system 9 or below, it is definitely time to upgrade, and I am surprised you can actually view this site on that system.) With that said, here are 6 applications I use pretty much daily to keep my life in order and running smoothly.
Think (freeware, 10.4.9 and up)
Think, by Freeverse, is an application to help you focus on the matter at hand on your computer screen. Open Think, select an application to use, and Think puts a dark (or colored, if you want) screen behind your current application window so other things on your computer screen do not distract you. You can bring another application into Think temporarily by clicking on it on the dock, but once you select the original application you were working on, it goes behind the screen once again. This application is particularly helpful when I am writing papers, because it is easy for me to get distracted by other things on my computer screen. Also, since you can bring in other apps, it is easy to use Dictionary (which comes pre-installed on OS X) to look up words or synonyms without getting distracted by other things. Also, if you leave an IM client up, you will still know when you have messages because Think keeps the Dock viewable.
Anxiety (freeware, 10.5 and up)
Anxiety is a lightweight to-do list app written by Tom Stoelwinder of Model Concept. It sits on your desktop and allows you to quickly add tasks and check them off when finished. Best of all, it syncs with Mail and iCal to keep your to-dos all together and viewable without having either iCal or Mail open. You can sort the to-dos by category (calendars in iCal), or list them all together. I set this application to launch on startup and to stay viewable in all of my spaces so I am constantly reminded of what I need to do.
Timer (freeware, 10.4. and up)
“Timer is a complete and professional stopwatch, alarm clock, countdown and clock utility” made by Apimac. It is free and has an easy-to-use interface, like most Apimac software. I only use it for the countdown and alarm, though I can see the benefits of using its other features. The countdown is especially helpful when doing laundry, which I just did yesterday. Other uses include cooking, napping, or taking a break while working. Just set how much time you want to spend, set which alarm you want, and go about your day. What’s helpful is that you can launch an application after the time period is over. If you are really resourceful, you can write your own application to launch which quits all games or time-wasting applications at the end of the time period so you can get back to work. I have not had to go to this extreme, but I know people who would certainly benefit from it. If this is you, but you don’t know Applescript, I can write a custom app to do this for you at a low cost. Contact me.
1Password ($39.95 USD, 10.4.11 and up)
1Password is a secure password managing, form-autofilling, password generating, and award-winning utility made by Agile Web Solutions. 1Password integrates directly into most browsers (Safari, Firefox, Flock, Camino, OmniWeb, DEVONagent, Fluid, iCab, and NetNewsWire) to securely manage and auto-fill web forms. It also has iPhone/iPod Touch and Palm support. You have to unlock 1Password when you open an internet browser, but this one instance saves immense amounts of time if your normal browsing includes logging into multiple sites each session. You can also access your information through 1Password’s UI, and this also requires unlocking it before use. Essentially, this is a much better version of Apple’s Keychain Access if you already use that. It saves me immense amounts of time and makes my online experience progress quickly and smoothly.
iClip ($29 USD, 10.4 and up )
iClip, by Inventive, is a multiple clipboard and scrapbook utility. It allows you to store virtually unlimited items from your clipboard to recall later. I use this daily for copying multiple items and keeping them on hand for later use. For example, if I am writing an email and sending someone multiple URLs, I find them and copy them one right after another, and then paste them all in the email afterwards instead of copy and pasting them individually. It saves a great deal of time, especially if you are looking for something three hours later. iClip saves a predetermined number of your clipboard items until you clear them.
Spaces (included with Mac OS 10.5)
For those of you who use Leopard and do not know about Spaces, it is time to be enlightened. Spaces allows you to have multiple workspaces at once so your windows do not pile up. You can easily toggle between these spaces by keyboard commands or by clicking on the application, but either way, it saves an immense amount of time. No longer do you have to move windows around to find what you were working on––just open different tasks in different spaces! I set certain applications to open in certain spaces so I always know where they are, which is very helpful. With this, I use Expose, also included in 10.5 (and 10.4). Expose allows you to see all of your windows at once, or temporarily show your desktop by simply moving your mouse pointer in a predetermined corner of your screen or by using a set hotkey. If you have 10.5 and are not using these applications, open up System Preferences and enable them (the fourth icon from the left on the top row). You will be glad you did. In fact, I think Spaces is enough of a reason to upgrade to 10.5 if you haven’t already done so. Of course, there are many, many other reasons to upgrade.