The Mac universe is filled with cheap (or free) little pieces of wonderful software. Here are some that I would not want to work without:
- Quicksilver. Whenever someone asks me why I don’t just use Spotlight, I know that they still haven’t discovered Quicksilver’s ability to shuffle around files. Quicksilver is so seamless and useful that I feel handicapped whenever I push Ctrl+Space on a Mac without Quicksilver installed.
- TextMate. A lovely text editor, which I use both for writing (I collect fieldstones using Jerry Weinberg’s “fieldstone method” and organize them in a TextMate project) and for manipulating text. For example, I sometimes export a list of people from our sales system. It usually comes out as a comma separated list of values. In TextMate, it’s easy to create a simple macro to wash away everything I don’t need, and keep only – for example – email addresses.
- Dropbox. Speaking of gathering fieldstones. Because I wanted to access my fieldstones both from my Mac Powerbook and from my Linux machine at home, I set them up on a Dropbox account. Dropbox is very transparent, and simply shows up as a regular folder on both machines. Anything I drop in my Dropbox folder on one machine is automatically synchronized to the other machine as soon as I turn it on. Simply lovely.
- 1Password. Remembering passwords is a nuisance. With 1Password, the need to remember them pretty much goes away. The program stores my passwords in an encrypted file, and automatically brings them up and fills out login forms when I tell it to. 1Password integrates even with the Safari 4 Beta I’m using. Whenever I want to login somewhere, I just click the “1P” button, and it digs out the right username and password combination for the site I’m currently on. Once in a while, I switch over to Firefox. When I do so, 1Password tags along and helps me out there too, since it integrates with that browser as well.
What makes these particular programs so great? Below are some of the properties I associate with these successful pieces of software.
- Transparent. They never pop and disturb me, and when I use them, they simply do what I want them to do without any hassle.
- Specialized and Useful. They aim to help me with some specific thing, and do it very well. They also solve actual problems.
- Elegant. They do what they do with style. Because of this, I like them even more than I would if they where ugly but useful.
- Fitness. These are all examples of software that integrates seamlessly with the system it lives in. For the developer, this could be less than positive if Apple decides the functionality fits in so well that it ought to be integrated into the operating system itself. Apple: if you do – buying the software from the people who made it or hiring the developers is the only right thing to do. We’re talking about software that is so good that it helps sell the Mac itself.
What’s your favorite Mac software, the kind you wouldn’t want to work without?