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End of The Year Mac App Roundup, Part 1

The end of the year is here and with that comes end of year mac app roundup posts of the best apps for productivity, games, and other popular app genres.

Here, at That Mac Nerd, it’s no different. I have moved from app to app this past year, looking for the perfect tool. That’s a fool’s errand: there is no perfect tool, just a perfect system 1 and that system is unique to your own needs.

Two Parts

While writing this post, I noticed how long it had gotten and that I had 16 apps I wanted to talk about. So instead of pumping out a very long article, I decided to break it up, two posts with 8 apps each. Same for the End of the Year iOS Productivity App Roundup.

My Best Productivity Apps This Year

So what apps I am using are the best this year? Here’s my list.

OmniFocus – This is a workhorse for those busy folks that need to manage their tasks. This is a GTD powerhouse though you can use it for a simple list. OmniFocus is the best of the best and the app most entrepreneurs use if their on a Mac. Pricey, so make sure you’re going to commit.Spark – I know I wrote about Spark before:

and then I switched to Airmail:

on Mac and iOS. Spark’s Mac app was in beta and I didn’t really want to test it– I was pretty happy with the power of Airmail. Spark is powerful as well but not quite as powerful as Airmail– the OmniFocus share extension is much, much better with Airmail. I switched over to Spark after I looked at their Mac app. It’s beautiful and fast. On iOS I keep Airmail around just for that share extension but on Mac it doesn’t make a difference. Spark is almost as good as Mail.app and it’s free.Alfred – This is a must-have app. I don’t know what I’d do without it, and I am not even using its full power. It’s an app launcher, a web and website searcher, and with web APIs, AppleScript, and things like Python and JXA, you can script workflows for the apps on your machine or access web services. And with the revised workflow maker screen, you can think up and create all kinds of relevant workflows for you. You will need to pay for the PowerPack, which is around $30. Upgrades are cheap– I got my upgrade to version 3 for $10.Keyboard Maestro – Keyboard Maestro is an app that once you play around with it, get a few macros made2 you won’t know what you did without it. I have made, and downloaded, 184 macros that do things behind the scenes that I no longer have to think about. It has a learning curve, so make sure you are doing repeated tasks often enough to justify the time and monetary costs of this app. But, if you’re willing to take a little time to learn it3.Hazel – If you are constantly moving files across your Mac and maybe a few external drives, or even into closed file formats like Evernote4, Hazel should be your first choice for this. In fact, I am pretty certain Hazel is the only choice for this currently. Hazel saves me so much time, and it doesn’t have to be a slog to setup. Just a few rules can get you going. I wrote about my Hazel setup on Mac Automation Tips blog:

Check it out for how to get started with Hazel. Check out Katie Floyd’s Evernote Hazel rule as well.Evernote – I absolutely love Evernote, despite the team’s flaws, despite its warts, despite the uproar over their pricing model. Since Phil Libin left, the Evernote team has since regained focus, shuttling their ill-advised store and some other products that weren’t at the core of who they are. I tried the plain text system of storing information, as well as a DEVONthink Pro Office system of storing info, but at the end of the day, nothing is as malleable to GTD and productivity as Evernote. I keep and use DEVONthink Pro Office as an archival database for books, videos, and pdfs that I may need to refer to later. But for my everyday, I still use Evernote. I am currently writing a book on Evernote so stay tuned.Scrivener – With the recent release of their iOS app, Scrivener is back on my radar as a worthy tool to write non-fiction in, as well as the sundry school research papers I’ll need to write. It is, in all its cluttered glory, a behemoth– it does so much, so many bells and whistles– but it does it in ways other software can’t match. When Scrivener launched for iOS I immediately bought it and have since started two book projects. It syncs with Dropbox only: for some reason the developer said iCloud Sync didn’t work correctly, however Ulysses, which also uses package files, works flawlessly with iCloud Sync. In any case, this is a must have if you’re doing any type of long-form writing.Ulysses – Ulysses is the markdown app for serious writers. I write practically everything in Ulysses that isn’t going to be extremely long form or things like journal entries or goals. You can put that stuff in Ulysses, but that’s really not taking advantage of its power. I am currently writing this blog post in Ulysses on my iPad Pro with Logitech Smart Keyboard but the Mac app is always in my dock, always accessible. I write all my blog posts, newsletters, and scripts in Ulysses. It’s an App Store app and quite pricey, like Scrivener but one of the best apps on the store.

Stay Tuned for Part 2

Part two has some web apps that have integrations locally on your Mac and a few utilities. The next post should be out by the end of the week.

In the meantime relax, stay motivated, and keep productive.

macOS Sierra: Siri for Mac Is Practically Worthless

Let me preface this with a caveat:  for MacBook Pros with 256gb of storage of less.

Siri for Mac is worthless for people with MacBook Pros with limited storage. Click To Tweet

Why? Because she doesn’t search, or grab the index from Spotlight on external drives, at least not yet.

I am not the only one who needs this. From the Apple Discussion Forums:

Hiya:

Just updated to MacOS Sierra, and I am trying to use Siri to find files on my computer and like the title says, Siri’s not coughing up files on my external drives (both connected via USB 3 through back of iMac). I’ve tried turning Siri on/off, Spotlight doesn’t have any excluded folders, I tried signing in/out of my iCloud account. I’ve tried creating a new user account on my Mac (which won’t find anything at all). Permissions on my external hard drive seem ok: Read/Write is enabled for Me, Everyone, and admin; “ignore ownership” is turned on.

I’m starting to think this is a design limitation of the software. Anyone else using Siri able to get her to fetch files on your external drives?

The response from dialabrain:

As near as I can tell, unlike Finder search and Spotlight, Siri will not search external drives.

Will We See This at All?

I would assume so. It seems like a big oversight to eliminate searching external drives when Apple laptops have such little internal storage. But seeing as there is more outrage going on today:

I’ll let it go. For now.

Evernote or DEVONthink?

Evernote or DEVONthink?

evernote   vs.    DEVONthink

Recently I was reading an article by Joe Workman about his experiences with Evernote and DEVONthink. He is a convert, now, from DEVONthink to Evernote, with 17 GBs worth of data in Evernote, most of which he dragged into his Evernote notebooks from DEVONthink. So Evernote or DEVONthink? You can read the article here.

Once I get to use more of DEVONthink, as I said before, I will follow up with a post about my impressions about it over Evernote.

DEVONthink

 

I am currently playing with DEVONthink, the 150 hour free trial. I’ve heard a lot about it; a lot of academics use it and swear by it and I decided to give it a go. It is touted as a powerful alternative to Evernote, however, you don’t have the cloud component. So while you can sync between and iPhone or iPad (those apps have been trashed throughout almost every blog I’ve come across so I’ll hold off on those) it isn’t an everywhere you are app which is attractive to many.

The upside of this is that it is local so harder to hack or get your data. The syncing happens over your wifi (so make sure to secure your wifi) so there is no cloud middleman.

DEVONthink relies on databases to organize your data. You can import data into DEVONthink by dragging and dropping folders into the sidebar. Which, folders and hierarchical structures are the main way DEVONthink works. With DEVONthink Pro you get multiple databases…for a price. If you are a student (which this blog is specifically for students) you get a good discount on Devon Technologies apps. DEVONthink Pro is $80 without a discount– not a cheap app. With the student discount it is $50.

DEVONthink really isn’t essential unless you’re doing massive research. I am still playing with it, and I will update once I get a real use-case for it in school. Currently waiting for an admissions letter for Pitt and I hope to put DEVONthink through its paces during my stay there. For now, I’ve only got 6 databases with three or four of them empty. Stay tuned for more info.

Until then you can find people talking about DEVONthink here.

New Screencast App Review: Contacts & Calendars

BusyMac

Being a non-traditional student, you may have a job and other commitments, more so than your younger compatriots. So, how do you take care of the day job, the night class, interviews, who’s who and who you just met? You need contact and calendar managers (if you’re not adverse to tech, which if you were, you wouldn’t be reading this).

So the two big players in these two categories on the Mac are BusyCal and BusyContacts by, well, BusyMac. BusyCal has been around a long time and it seems to be the favorite among BusyPeople. BusyContacts is version 1 but it is robust and, while it could stand to have some features, I love it.

I will be doing a screencast on each and publishing them to Vimeo and sharing them here. Stay tuned.