A lot of startup founders work on Mac machines now because the unix-like enviroment simplifies conflicts and command line workflow, and the portability and quality of a Macbook hardware is very good. However, OSX does not do everything well in the productivity department. Some commonsense features are missing, like the enter key for opening files or Command+X shortcut for cut-pasting. This is my list of little tweaks and utilities that help me manage some menial but important tasks a lot easier and end up saving a lot of time over the course of a day - I’ve focused on hidden gems, not mainstream productivity boosters like Dropbox or Evernote.
Clipboard history and copy-paste search with Clyppan is a breeze. Someday, someone is going to elegantly solve managing multiple copy paste buffers at once. In the meantime by using Clyppan you can have a history of your previous copy buffers in a lightweight and simple to use interface. With search functionality and customization features that allow you to exclude applications, this text oriented copy-paste utility helps with keeping track of your copy buffer.
I’ve got a nice mouse with two convenient thumb buttons that I use to navigate back through web pages and windows. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to bind buttons to the mouse in OSX as the bindings tend to reset any time I unplug the mouse. A utility called Steermouse lets me customize my mouse via a lightweight but powerful interface – this much better than the horrible customization software that comes with the mouse I’ve got. It lets me bind my mouse’s thumb buttons to go back and forward in browsers, something that makes managing browsing a lot simpler.
If you’re using a modern text editor like Sublime Text, you’re familiar with cutting and pasting via Command+X. Unfortunately, OSX’s Finder app is incapable of the cut paste operation except via the Command+Option+V shortcut. I believe in keeping shortcuts and UI/UX workflow as similar as possible across different enviroments, and so I’ve found an app called iCanCut that simply adds the Command+X shortcut to finder. iCanCut sends the commands to Finder, so undo via Command+Z works too.
Another gripe with Finder: the default action for the Return key when selecting a file or folder is to enter the “edit name” mode. This is contrary to browsers and every other application out there for which hitting the Return key while highlighting something performs an action like visiting a link or using a button. The somewhat unfortunately named KeyRemap4MacBook (it actually works for all OSX based computers) allows you to set the Return key to perform consistently in Finder by opening files or folders. There are a bunch of other configuration options, too. It’s one of the best $10 I’ve ever donated for an app.
OSX’s window management is a bit shaky (why does the mac’s zoom (+) button often only maximize in the vertical direction?), and so there are a lot of window management tools and helpers out there. My favorite is BetterSnapTool, simply because not only does it allow me to quickly manage my windows easily, but it adds the ability to stretch apps to full screen mode via both a shortcut and by double clicking the title bar. There are lot of other improvements too, so the flexibility offered by this window management tool is a great time saver.
Finally, since I’ve got a retina Macbook Pro with an SSD hard drive, between multiple databases and software the hard drive can start filling up and space can become an issue. Grandperspective lets you view your hard drives’ folders and folder hierarchy in a snazzy visual form where the area of each file represents the size it takes up. This makes figuring out and removing files that take too much space a breeze.
These are some of the hidden gems that I’ve found greatly reduced the frustration I have while working. There are other things I use that help, such as LastPass, Dropbox, Skype, Evernote and Sublime Text, but many people have covered these tools before and they’re quite popular besides. Command line tools and unix wonders such as awk, grep, sed, sort, tail etc. are also extremely important, but they’ve also been written about endlessly. Often times, a small thing like being able to save a second off going back on a web page or being able to open files with the enter key can add up and make your experience much more smooth.