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!

May 11, 20181 Comment

Making Your Phone a Tool, Not a Distraction

While I was first transitioning back into working from home a few months ago, a bad habit I realized I had was checking my phone constantly during breaks. I use a Pomodoro technique where I work for 20 minutes and then take a 2–3 minute break and every break I had I would reach for my phone.

It is a break after all though, so what’s the harm in checking my phone? Well for me personally it didn’t feel like a break. It distracted me; left me thinking about posts I saw on Instagram or how many notifications are waiting for me on Twitter. A break should be a reset from work, not an additional element on the mind. A few weeks ago I got fed up with checking my phone for no reason and decided to do something about it.

A phone should be a tool, that’s what made it such an innovation when smartphones with touchscreens came into our lives. How could I reset the way I use my phone and gear it more towards a tool? Here’s how I approached it:

  1. Only have necessary apps on the main home screen of my phone that I use daily.
  2. Turn of all notifications except phone calls, texts, and Slack messages (only during work hours).
  3. Delete social media apps that have a desktop alternative so I only use them on a computer (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.).
  4. Hide apps in folders that didn’t have alternatives but I still needed at times (Instagram [mainly to post], Uber Eats, Strava, etc.). This provides friction in comparison of just one tap on the home screen
  5. Make my phone feel plain (black backgrounds, only a few apps in plain sight, no red notification icons).

After all this, this is what my home screen ends up looking like. I use each of these apps every single day and none of them have immediate distractions to them. Even a black background (I made a thin color gradient around it to make it a little nicer) to have what I need from and center and no questions as to what I need and where it is.

This setup is more of a tool for me in which I am able to easier accomplish things in both work and personal life as well as passive tracking and even photography. I keep random apps you need to have and apps I mentioned above in another folder on the second screen to keep them from being in plain sight. I also keep miscellaneous apps like banking apps, Lyft, calendar, and email tucked away since I do need them but not front and center like these that I use every day.

I recommend doing the same with your phone if you relate to the feelings I had towards my phone. While social media, games, etc. have nothing inherently wrong with them, I think there is a time and place for these and probably not the best to have them sitting at arms reach 24/7.


Shortly after I went and did this with my phone I found this great post on making a “dumber phone” if you’d like more: https://nomasters.io/posts/dumber-phone

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