Our Favorite Productivity Boosting Apps for macOS
Rystedt Creative is powered by Macs. Whether you like them or hate them Macs have remained a favorite of creative professionals since Apple and Adobe brought vector graphics to laser printers in 1985. Today you are likely to find at lest a couple of Macs in the offices of graphic design freelancers creating logos and business cards out of their homes; print-shops sending items to the presses; and web developers and writers (like us) delivering the creative online content you need. Currently all of the creative professionals who work with Rystedt Creative use Macs.
I (Joshua) have been a pro-user of multiple platforms and there are pros and cons to every operating system available (don’t be surprised if you catch me with a machine that has multiple operating systems installed). Yet macOS has become Gabrielle’s and my daily driver. We have spent a lot of time developing productive workflows with powerful apps to get us through our hectic schedules. To help our fellow Mac users here are Joshua’s favorite productivity boosting apps for macOS.
On Linux or Windows? Consider my alternative recommendations under each app.
Work faster, use more of your screen and keep your fingers on the keyboard using these apps:
macOS’ Spotlight may be the best native search app of any OS (mostly because of the speedy UNIX-like file indexing). Yet, it has some limitations. Searching files, apps, contacts and the web all at once may be convenient but it isn’t organized. When a search returns a lot of results it can become downright clunky. Spotlight learns what you look for over time but it cannot (and probably will never) do advanced searches that you launch right from your fingertips.
That is what Alfred is for. Alfred is a them-able, extensible and customizable Spotlight replacement for macOS. Just want to search your files? Google? Your gmail? No problem! Just use the hotkeys. Launch apps, navigate your file system, copy contact info, search your email, open a file in a specific app and much more all without lifting your hands from the keyboard.
It is a little known fact that computer users are quicker at accomplishing tasks the less they need to use a mouse. This is especially true if you are using a large or multiple displays. Multi-touch gestures help but don’t eliminate the mouse productivity drain.
Alfred also allows users to write custom scripts and workflows to extend Alfred’s capabilities.
My instance of Alfred has been extended to show info about my Mac, tweet, toggle bluetooth and wifi, show available disk space, copy Bible verses, search gmail, forcibly kill hung apps, tile windows, open recent downloads, show top processes, empty the trash, do unit conversions and more.
Alfred has the power to replace multiple parts of your workflow and keep your hands on your keyboard.
Alfred is only available for macOS. Get it here.
Linux users can get a Spotlight-like app with Cerebro and Windows users with WoX.
Whenever you move from one OS to another there are features you miss. Thankfully, you probably aren’t the only one and sometimes a developer has attempted to add that very feature to the OS you are moving to. That was my experience when moving from Windows to macOS. Microsoft’s windows previews and snap window tiling are features that are difficult to live without when first leaving Windows. HyperDock fills that feature gap.
HyperDock installs as a preference pain in System Preferences. Once there (and given the appropriate permissions) it provides those functional Microsoft style window previews and window snapping a la Vista to your Mac desktop.
Although I have extended Alfred to do most of my window tiling this app is still useful for peeking at an open app.
HyperDock is only available on macOS. Get it here.
On Linux? Use Compiz to generate windows previews.
Google Chrome currently accounts for more than half of all desktop web browsing. It may be power and battery hungry but it is also stable, extensible and theme-able. Yet Chrome isn’t Chrome just because of proprietary Google code. Chrome is built atop of an open source Google project called Chromium. Chromium powers a few other excellent browsers but Vivaldi bests them all. Vivaldi is the new web browser project of former Opera leader Jon von Tetzchner (hear the operatic connection in naming scheme there?).
Vivaldi does everything Chrome does and even supports most Chrome web store apps and plugins. Add to that solid browsing experience color coded browser history, in browser notes, millions of customization options (like side tabs with window previews), tab stacking and tiling (like window tiling for your browser), adaptive theming and quick commands. If you like Chrome Vivaldi is a safe bet. If you like getting more done in your web browser Vivaldi is a must-have.
A first for this list: Vivaldi is available for macOS, Linux and Windows. Cross platform geeks rejoice! Get it here.
Perhaps you write code. If so, Atom editor is for you – even if you only write the occasional BASH script or HTML markup. Atom Editor is another extensible and customizable app on this list. It touts itself as a “hackable text editor” because it is open source and it is easy to edit or extend on the fly.
I wrote this blog post in simple Markdown syntax, previewed the HTML output live while composing and exported it for publication – all using Atom. I also use Atom for writing Python and BASH scripts or for quick edits to Swift files I intend to incorporate into an XCode project later.
Atom Editor is also available for macOS, Linux, and Windows. Get coding. Download it here.
Apps you probably already have installed but don’t use enough
48 years ago in AT&T’s Bell Labs development began on what would become known as UNIX. This versatile OS originally lacked a graphical user interface (GUI). The first GUIs were also being developed in the 60s and 70s but a GUI wouldn’t be released for UNIX until the 80s. Three decades after UNIX development began Apple released a UNIX based OS – macOS (then called OS X).
All of that geeky history is to remind all of us that personal computing had rich functionality long before any of us knew what a “window” was. Operating systems like UNIX still serve as the foundation for our modern systems and their “terminals” and “command lines” are still included.
The macOS Terminal app is a combination of rich UNIX functionality and modern macOS commands. It can do most of what your computer does but without a GUI – and it does it very well.
You don’t need to be a geek to boost your productivity (and personal troubleshooting prowess) with Terminal.
Even the most casual of users can use Terminal to navigate the file system quickly (even hidden directories), disable unwanted drop-shadows in macOS screenshots, view file system usage and see how much free disk space is remaining.
You can take a mere 20 minutes of your time to learn some basic UNIX commands here.
Or some essential Terminal commands specific to macOS here.
Alright, I admit it, this isn’t an app. This is a system setting and one that (depending on your current Dock settings) could give you roughly 5% extra of vertical screen real-estate. The macOS Dock by default resides on the bottom of your screen. Our 16:9 displays give a preference for multimedia consumption over web browsing and document composition. Those latter activities are best done with as much vertical screen real-estate as possible.
If you don’t like hiding your Dock consider placing it on the side. This will give you extra vertical space even when the Dock is visible.
Scroll less fellow Mac users.
This built-in Apple feature is underused by coworkers on Apple devices. AirDrop allows Apple users to drop files back and forth via bluetooth and wifi. Some snippets of my day:
Me: “Here’s a proof of that logo we discussed. What are your thoughts?”
Gabrielle: “Check out this document about millennial entrepreneurs.”
Me: “What do you think of this revision to the proposal.”
If we aren’t in a shared Google Drive folder we are dropping files back and forth from across our office.
This won’t only save you time – it’ll also save everyone data. Instead of uploading data to servers and having your coworker download them (and back and forth and on and on) consider just dropping them to one another and avoid the Internet altogether. The environmental benefits of reducing our data usage alone is worth it.
“I love Excel so much now I have to doodle on graph paper” – Gabrielle.
Well Excel is more than fancy boxes to fill but you see how much we love it.
Excel is included in every copy of Microsoft Office but a depressingly small percentage of users open it regularly – and even fewer use it well.
Excel spreadsheets should really be thought of as a basic local database solution. Create graphs of data, track your funds, compile statistics, do basic error reporting and more.
If you have Microsoft Excel but are not using it regularly consider learning some more about this powerful software at a site like GCFLearnFree.
Make your workflow more productive
Whether you are on macOS, Linux or Windows you can turn your machine into a productivity powerhouse. You just need to know what software to use. We have spent years building our list of useful apps and tweaks but we aren’t done yet. A computer workflow can always use improvement.
What are your favorite productivity boosting apps? Let us know in the comments below.
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About Rystedt Creative Services
At Rystedt Creative, we believe your web experience should be simple and straightforward. Whether your life’s calling is to make custom lawn gnomes or host conferences for pushing the boundaries of scientific knowledge, we can help you handle the details of maintaining your online influence.