I’m a sucker for these posts and after a recent refresh of my daily driver apps, it seemed only appropriate that I share my own list with the world. Buckle up.
Raycast seems like just another launcher but the power is in the wide variety of extensions that “supercharge your productivity”. I was able to drop a number of single-use apps for clipboard management, text expansion, window management, and video meeting launching using the built-in extensions. I also picked up extensions for faster emoji and gif pasting.
However, the killer app for me was the Authy extension. I have a high tolerance for bad UX but the Authy desktop app is quite bad. With the Raycast Authy extension, I can copy a one-time passcode into my clipboard without touching my trackpad. It still gives me joy every time.
BetterTouchTool solves a few problems for me.
First, I map f-keys to control my music without pressing the fn key. Second, I map f-keys to switch between speakers for music and headphones for meetings (I use switchaudio-osx for this). Third, I map two-finger swipe in electron apps to forward and back navigation like a browser. Finally, I map my caps lock to a hyper key.
What is a hyper key? It is a pattern for preventing conflicts between keyboard shortcuts. The modifiers cmd + opt + ctrl + shift are rarely used altogether because it is a pain in the butt to press all of them. However, you can remap a single key to trigger all of them. This is a hyper key.
I use the hyper key as the basis for all of my global hotkeys I don’t conflict with other shortcuts. (For Vim users you can configure BTT to have caps lock by itself triggers Esc and caps lock with another key act as a hyper key)
For the longest time, I used Karabiner-Elements to create these keyboard mappings but since I picked up BetterTouchTool to “fix” navigation in electron apps I have moved all of my mappings into one place.
Menu bar weather apps are a dime a dozen. What I love about DatWeatherDoe is that it can show the weather in both Fahrenheit and Celcius. Leading remote teams means teammates in different countries. Being able to talk about the weather without asking someone to convert units in their heads is the least I can do.
Another entry in the “critical tools for distributed teams”. This is a visually identical replacement for the stock mac menu bar clock but when you click on it, it displays a current time in whatever other cities you have configured. It also allows for a global hotkey for the same functionality which lets me keep my hands off my trackpad as much as possible.
On the theme of replacements for stock mac apps, this calendar replacement is a minimalist joy. Again with a click or better yet a hotkey you get a quick glance at the month as well your list of events for the day. It is great for some quick calendar math (is the 24th a Tuesday or a Wednesday?) or a quick schedule review (do I have 20 minutes for a nap before my next meeting?)
Horo is a menu bar timer that fits nicely into the theme of simple apps with global hotkey support (if you upgrade to pro). I primarily use this for steeping tea but with its simple-to-use tagging and reporting, it would be a very nice Pomodoro app if I ever go deep on that method.
Maybe it's just the aspiring hacker in me but I can’t live without visibility into my hardware’s behavior. Stats exposes all the details you would want, is visually pleasing, and is open source to boot. While most of the time the graphs are just nice to look at, they do come in handy when I notice performance issues or hear the laptop fans spinning up.
Bartender does two things for me. I picked it up to quickly hide and show menu items. This lets me keep my minimal menu bar aesthetic while indulging in my love for more menu bar tools. With my recent downsizing of menu bar apps tools, this isn’t as necessary, but I keep it around because it fixes the terrible menu bar spacing choices that Apple made in Big Sur.
I’ve been a markdown enthusiast for years now. When I got into it I went looking for an editor that was distraction-free, reasonably priced, and available across Mac and Android. I found all three in iA Writer and I have been relying on it ever since.
These days most online document tools like Quip, Paper, and even Google Docs have serviceable markdown support but I still love and rely on the simplicity of local markdown files, synced with Dropbox, and edited with iA Writer regardless of which device I’m on.
I came late to the Vim world and while I don’t touch code and config files as much as I used to I still rely on MacVim when I do. I try to lean on the keyboard as much as I can but as my skills get rusty it is nice to know that I can mouse around from time to time with the Mac-native niceties like selecting, copying, and pasting text that MacVim brings.
In distributed teams, strong written communication is critical. I’ve built up strength here over the years but I also owe a lot to Grammarly. I can rely on it to catch all my spelling and grammar mistakes in just about any online text box and when I’m working offline I turn to the desktop app for the same.
Hemmingway Editor is a relatively new addition to my toolbox and I’m loving it so far. It covers the spelling and many of the grammar issues that Grammarly does but its real focus is on writing strong and clear prose. It can require some personal judgment, trying to resolve every last suggestion can be a bit too much, but my writing is stronger for the process.
Audio / Visual
This is another new app for me this year. In fully remote teams screenshots and screen recordings are critical communications tools. Until recently, I was piecing things together with a hodgepodge of single-use apps. By switching to CleanShot X I consolidated down to one polished app, with some nice new features, and at less than the cost of the apps it replaced. Again downsizing feels great.
Webcam Settings fixes the problem of absolutely terrible webcam software. With Webcam Settings, you can configure almost every aspect of your webcam from zoom, to focus, to white balance, to exposure, and more. And, unlike almost all other webcam software, it will remember your settings even if you disconnect the webcam or restart the computer.
Setting your camera's focus manually so it isn’t constantly searching for your face is maybe the single best improvement you can make. I also use it to zoom in just a touch and to add a little more punch to the image.
While most video meeting software has filters, none can hold a candle to Snap Camera. Built by Snap, this app brings all the filter power of Snapchat to the desktop for use with the video meeting software of your choice. It works as a virtual camera that you can pick in your meeting software and provides an extensive set of filters to choose from. It's great for some team fun and particularly useful for events and holidays.
This app is a bit more unique to my personal setup. I recently upgraded my desktop speaker setup and while I love the sound I was left wanting a bit more bass in my music. While it is overkill just to add bass to Spotify, Sound Control does the trick, and without any audio artifacts that other tools tend to create.
I am an infrequent mind mapper but when I need to get a lot of thoughts out and organized there isn’t a better tool. I’ve tried a number of different mind mapping tools over the years and MindNode is a perfect balance of simplicity, function, and style that I quite appreciate.
If you are like me and trial a bunch of apps only to remove many of them then AppCleaner is for you. Drop an app on AppCleaner and it will find all the cruft (preferences, caches, etc.) that are associated with that app and let you delete all of them. You can also set AppCleaner to automatically launch when it notices you have put an app in the trash. As a bonus, I’ve occasionally used AppCleaner to essentially “factory reset” an app that is misbehaving.
If I’m going to keep an app I want it to be up to date and that is what Latest does. It scans your apps, compares them against the latest versions, and lets you trigger an update right in the app. It doesn’t find everything but it keeps a majority of my apps up to date with the latest improvements.
I enjoy the “change of scenery” that a regularly changing wallpaper provides. For this, I use Irvue which regularly changes your wallpaper by pulling images from Unsplash. You can configure the interval and the Unsplash collection to pull from and Irvue does the rest.
But What About …?
Clipboard Manager / Text Expander / Window Manager
I replaced all of these with Raycast. See why I’m so jazzed about it?