With the invention of the Mac App Store (MAS) it seems that more and more useful little utility apps are becoming available, perhaps because they are becoming more discoverable or perhaps because there is now finally a market place for these apps that makes them worth writing?
Either way I have a number of apps running on my Mac now that I never actually see because they have no dock icon, no menu bar icon and only really do something in certain situations. In a way these apps are invisible extensions to my computers operating system, perhaps one day they will be built in, but until then I am really happy with paying a couple quid for a little utility app that makes my life easier.
Here are a few of those apps:
I’ve written about this app before back in 2009 and I still have it installed now, it’s just brilliant and I really don’t know how I would work without it. I liked it so much I have bought it twice (once before and once after the MAS release).
Cinch makes resizing windows easy, simply drag the window by it’s title bar to the top of the screen and it resizes to fill that screen, or drag it to the sides of the screen to have it fill that half of the screen. Recently I suggested to the developer that they mirror the other aspect of Windows 7 where resizing the window to the bottom or top makes it resize the height to the full height of the screen without changing the width, he seemed pretty interested so perhaps we will see an update?
I haven’t written about this app before but it is really rather useful, the idea is it provides a drop zone for you when performing drag and drop operations, all you need do whilst dragging some files is shake the mouse and up pops a small black window for you to rest your cursor After which you can open up the destination and then drag from the black window into your destination folder.
I find it especially useful as when copying an image from one window in Google Chrome or Mail into WordPress for upload the files don’t seem to be recognised by WordPress’s uploader, however after dropping it into the black box and dragging it again there is no such issue and it just works!
DragonDrop has the ugliest icon ever but thats okay because you never get to see it!
I don’t use this app as much as I once did but it still has a permanent place on my menubar just in case! Caffeine is simple and free, it allows you to keep your Mac from falling asleep, one click and it’s on, another and it’s off. The screen neither goes to sleep, screen saver nor dims when this mode is enabled so it is very useful on my MacBook Pro when on battery power and the screen keeps dimming.
CheatSheet is a free app which I only wish I had owned when I first had a Mac. I am a keyboard nut, I love my hotkeys (shortcuts) and this app lays them all out right in front of you just by holding down the Command key for a few moments! It’s brilliant, and shows you all the different command options in one place, and even shows the alternate options when holding the alt or option key down. Unfortunately I don’t think it has a way of showing system wide shortcuts, and it is quite annoying when you are just being slow to type a hotkey as it opens up this big ol’window but for beginners it’s a must!
CommandQ is one of my most recent discoveries, however it solves an age old problem I have with my hotkey madness! Sometimes I will confess that I do things too quickly and accidentally hit Command + Q rather than Command + W or will still be holding down the Command key when I type the next letter. This causes me to loose all my windows especially in Chrome. Now Chrome has an option built in to require you to hold down the shortcut for a few moments but it only works in Chrome so its annoying as you aren’t use to it.
This application allows you to set a period which you must hold the Command + Q keys down in order to quit, it also gives you a fancy screen showing you a progress bar animation until it quits.
This application gives iOS style popovers when highlighting text, this is truly a genius application, although some of the UI design is a little questionable in the settings area. It has 50 extensions and growing which can add new features but basically allows you to perform a special operation on the highlighted text, the best is calling telephone numbers using Skype, something that I’ve wanted for ages and is the main reason I bought this app, but you can also use it to search Wikipedia, send tweets, and loads more. There is a free trial of PopClip on their website and it’s pretty cheap to buy on the MAS.
No list of utility apps is complete without TextExpander, and what sold me on it was actually the shortcut feature in iOS which is probably copied from TextExpander. It allows you to specify a few letters which when typed are expanded out to the full thing, for example if I type myt then it will expand it out to my telephone number, I have loads of them for my email address, username, telephone number, postcode, full name, home address, etc… I have others which type in server IP addresses, short terminal snippets and more.
The best bit about TextExpander is it tells you how useful it has been, on my iMac alone it claims to have saved me 6,240 characters of typing in the few months I have been using it, my laptop is at a similar number.
I said before that Caffeine was the oldest app I have in this list but Clusters is older, although it had a better name before, but I can’t find out what it was called. Clusters does one thing: enables the operating systems built in and totally transparent file compression technology.
By default your computer will compress among other things the Applications folder, this speeds up loading and reduces file sizes. Today computers are so fast that it’s quicker to decompress a file than wait for the uncompressed version to be loaded by the hard drive. The result is smaller files, faster loading.
This sounds ridiculously complex and prone to fault but your Mac already does this, it just doesn’t do it to everything on your computer, and really there is no reason not to, it won’t make it difficult to share files, read external drives on different computers or anything like that. Just like Spotlight and many other features in your Mac it just works!
Right now Clusters is saving me 134GB of storage space, with the majority of that (113GB) coming from my main hard drive. Every now and again I get a system notification saying ‘Clusters has saved you 1.34 GB of space.’ which is brilliant!
The other great thing about this app is that it just updates it’s self! I have never been asked to update ever and I am fairly sure it wasn’t on v1.6.3 when I first installed it. I have no idea when I first bought this app but I I think $12.95 (currently) is a fantastic price and I have had it for ages without paying extra.