June 19, 2020No Comments

Apps That Make MacOS a Better Operating System to Use

Even as an Apple fanboy that loves MacOS and iOS, I know that like any software, it isn’t perfect. Not to mention the lack of customization options and (at times) a cluttered interface.

Over time, I’ve found a few apps that replace default Mac apps that make MacOS a better operating system to use. I happily pay and advertise how useful they are just because of the sheer influence and impact they’ve had on my digital workspace and workflow.

In this article I’ll happily share them with you and (hopefully) dodge the dozens of questions I get every time I post a screenshot of something and happen to include one of those apps. Kidding! But no seriously, I need a place to direct people that ask this over and over ?

Bartender

https://www.macbartender.com - $15

Example of how the Bartender interface works

I’m the type of person that likes to have the least amount of visual clutter and items in my view when I’m working. I tend to get easily distracted by icons and notifications and have geared my digital workspace to avoid that.

Bartender has been one of the best apps for this quirk that I have as it takes those 10–20 icons that show in your top bar and hides them in a secondary bar you can toggle on/off easily. No more having to get distracted by random red notifications and status updates!

Alfred

https://www.alfredapp.com - free or $19 for full

Alfred spotlight search interface

To be honest, I’m still baffled that Apple’s Spotlight feature is as poorly made as it is. It has become quite unpredictable, doesn’t accept keywords to better filter what a user wants, searches unusable files, mixes files with apps in search, etc.

This is where Alfred comes in. Alfred is basically a customizable version of what Spotlight should be. Not only can you customize the look of Alfred, you can also add and create “workflows” to make your own shortcuts that make your life easier. Alfred also uses certain keywords to better understand what you’re looking for and what actions you are trying to take. For example, if you just type a name it will search for apps, but if you type “open” then the file name, Alfred will switch from looking at your apps to looking at files you can open.

uBar

https://brawersoftware.com/products/ubar - $30

uBar dock interface

I get asked about this app the most and I can understand why if I’m being honest. While MacOS default dock gets the job done, it doesn’t try and do much more outside of that (possibly for better battery management). uBar takes your dock up a notch while also making it quite nicer to use, while customizable and nicer to look at.

uBar creates a smaller dock that can hold favorite apps you have, provide better context on notifications, generates window previews on hover, lets you choose which window to open to, lets you see a calendar on hover, and gives shortcut access to your main Finder folders and preferences just to name a few. I personally like that it feels more out of the way than the original dock and still feels in place in adjacency to the top bar. You can even change where it is positioned and the style of dock you’d like.

CloudApp

https://www.getcloudapp.com - free or $8 for Pro

Process of a screen recording in CloudApp

Just like Alfred, CloudApp makes the original MacOS screenshots ten times better. With CloudApp you can use a keyboard shortcut to take a screenshot (or record a gif!) and instantly get a link that you can share with others.

This app has been super helpful for me in my work life for sharing screenshots of design and code items I’m working on for instant feedback and no hassle of uploading. CloudApp is super fast and makes recording gifs when showing animations or click throughs very easy as well.

VEEER

https://veeer.io - free

Overview of the VEEER user manual

While there are quite a few window managers out there for Mac, I personally use VEEER because of how lightweight it is. It does what I need it to without using up RAM and slowing down what I’m working on. It also has a few small unique shortcuts like the way it alternates full screen and minimized windows.


Hope you found this valuable and I hope you try out the apps I mentioned. Got other apps that make MacOS better? Let me know which others I need to try out!

June 8, 2018No Comments

Ways to Use an iPad for Product Design Work

Apple’s iPad is advertised as a stand alone device that can replace a laptop, but for many this definitely isn’t the case yet. For example, as a Product Designer, I can’t open Sketch or Abstract and go to town on my design files. Or as a developer I can’t reliably code and run a local server to work on a project.

As someone who bought a 12.9" iPad Pro a couple years back, I was hoping this would change. While I can’t do exactly what I mentioned above in the way I would like to, I’ve been able to find ways to bring the iPad more and more into my workflow for design work.

Research and Notes

A spot where the iPad can really shine is in the research phase of work. Research typically only requires a web browser and a way to document your findings which makes the iPad’s split screen perfect for the job.

Image courtesy of Apple.com

My setup consists of a Chrome browser open on the left of my screen and default Apple Notes on the right. You can of course switch these out for whichever replacements you’d like (Google Docs, Dropbox Paper, etc). The side-by-side apps lets me enlarge and shrink windows as I need and even lets me drag and drop both text and media from my browser on to my Notes. This lets me seamlessly mix documentation with my own thoughts and findings. Throw my Apple Pencil into the mix for drawing extras on notes and I’m set for getting my notes complete and organized.

I’ve used this method on countless projects as I really enjoy the mobile aspect of an iPad versus a laptop. Working on the couch or outside or at a coffee shop with a smaller form factor is great. Not to mention mixing touch with writing and drawing (Apple Pencil) is a delight that I think is tough to find in products.

Wireframing

By far my favorite part of design work on an iPad. While there are definitely different ways you can do this depending on your style, I’ll give some recommendations based on my preference.

Photo courtesy of Pattern

Pattern is a favorite app of mine for wireframing. Despite some limitations (no zooming, some tedious editing aspects), Pattern is great for basic wireframing of design screens. The app provides a minimal but useful interface with some delightful interactions for creating interfaces. I personally enjoy the Apple Pencil capabilities as well for making notes directly on your wireframes.

Procreate, while considered more of an app for art, is great for wireframing as well. It’s definitely more difficult to create refined shapes and lines like you can in Pattern, but the layering and editing capabilities can make up for this depending on what you’re looking for.

Inspiration

While producing work is important, consuming of inspiration and other subjects is an paramount in your creative process as well. Luckily, there are a plethora of ways to do this with an iPad. Using a browser the same way you would on a computer to browse you bookmarks and favorite websites is a sure way to do this.

In terms of apps to use, Pinterest is an obvious one for most folks and happens to be a favorite of mine as well. While following people on Pinterest has become pretty obsolete nowadays due to their home feed changes, Pinterest does a great job of feeding relevant posts related to pins you have saved before.


While there are other apps to use such as the Adobe suite, the apps and methods I listed above are the way I personally use my iPad within my product design workflow on an almost daily basis outside of hifi work. Hopefully we’ll see this change in the future and be able to do full-fledged design work but for now this is the method I use.

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